Helsingin Sanomat article on refugees is an exercise in stereotyping

by , under Enrique Tessieri

One matter has always surprised me about Finnish journalists is how some of  them paint migrants with a single brush and allow their own prejudices get in the way of facts, especially when they write about migrants and minorities. A good example of the latter is a story by Jukka Harju, who not only mistakenly claims that the first refugees came to Finland over 40 years ago, but which national group adapted the best in Finland. 

Most of this type of writing is, unfortunately, an exercise in assimilation and the writers prejudices about certain national groups.

As mentioned in an earlier posting, the first large group of refugees numbering 6,500 came from Russia in 1921, not over 40 years ago as the Helsingin Sanomat article incorrectly claims.

Näyttökuva 2015-10-25 kello 23.52.33
Read full story (in Finnish) here.

The journalist cites a teacher and school psychologist, Liisa Kosonen, to vouch that the Vietnamese who came in the late 1970s were well-adapted to Finland.

“It worked out well,” she is quoted as saying. “It had in part to do with the Far Eastern character. The Vietnamese adapted well to such a situation, they were cordial. They valued education and their children got a lot of support.”

Is there such a thing as “Far Eastern character?”

If you tried to study such a stereotype you’d probably get into trouble methodologically. There is no such thing as national character never mind regional character as the story claims. Maragret Mead tried to study the “national character” of the Japanese during World War 2 and concluded that cultures are complex and comprise of many subcultures.

If an anthropologist like Mead knew this in the 1940s why is Helsingin Sanomat and Kosonen doing this in 2015?

The other question I’d ask is what does “well-adapted” migrant mean? Is it a person who is white and doesn’t complain?

If the Vietnamese were so “well-adapted” to Finland why do they suffer from 26.9% unemployment in 2013 when the national average was 8.4% in September, according to Statistics Finland?

These types of stories by Helsingin Sanomat do nothing more than reinforce myths about Finns and Finland as well as urban tales about migrants and minorities.



  1. D4R

    And they wonder why Somalians havent assimilated to Finland, Well let me answer you that dear Finns. As a Somalian i will tell you this, if you come to a people who have prejudices against you of you being less smart and have iq to that of great apes then, you really dont want to assimilate and you just drop out because what ever you do you will always be considered lesser human.

  2. D4R

    i doubt that Vietnamis people would have assimilated to Finland if they were picked on constantly and treated them like an ape as we Somalians are being treated. Vietnamis people and stereotypically considered as hard working and smart people plus people beein watching kung fu movies so naturally people tend to relate that to them. Well compering them to us is not really smart thing to do, i would expect Finns to be smarter than this. You do not compare people to eachother, everyone faces different circumstances and faces different treatment.

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