HS.fi: CITY LIMITS: Pillars of salt at McDonald’s in Helsinki

by , under All categories, Enrique

Comment: Here is a very unfortunate case where a one- and four-year-old child got a taste of racism at a MacDonald’s fast-food chain in downtown Helsinki. HS.fi reports that a Finnish woman did not apparently like the family next to her table to speak in a strange language. Her reaction was totally out of line as she began to shout and hurl abusive language at the family. 

It is a positive matter that cases like these are reported and published in the media. 

In May, an African student got harassed publicly and hit by a Finn on the bus in Jyväskylä. While some customers slowly started to react to the enraged woman’s remarks at MacDonald’s, nobody stood up for the African on the bus. 

We called the police and after many phone calls we were able to speak to a policeman in Pieksamäki, who said that if you are harassed on the street you should not call the police but look the other way. The Ombudsman for Minorities had a different opinion than the police and recommended that the incident be reported.

Migrant Tales believes that that type of a response by the police shows that they do not take hate crimes seriously.  

One important matter that the police could so is state clearly what one must do if you are harassed publicly. That would be a good step in the right direction. 


Pauliina Grönholm 

A father of immigrant origin and his two little sons were eating at McDonald’s in Helsinki’s district of Hakaniemi two weeks ago, early on a Friday evening. The boys were excited about their new Happy Meal Smurf toys. They were being a little noisy, as one- and four-year-old children are often wont to be. A woman sitting at the next table did not like to hear the family speaking a strange tongue. She began to shout at them, using abusive language.

Read whole story.

  1. Jaakko

    The problem is always the same: whatever might happen to anyone, nobody dares to intervene. Sometimes the reason is the law (you might get sued for helping) or that people are afraid the attacker. As the police said: “he cannot recommend anybody to intervene in a threatening situation, as there is always a risk that things go badly with the person having a go”. This is sad, but unfortunately also the reality…

  2. BlandaUpp

    I’ve lived outside Finland for long periods of time and I can imagine how it must feel to be attacked or shouted at in an abusive tone by a native of the country you are in, especially when you are with your children like the person in this story. You dare not do or say anything in response for fear of violence or coming in contact with the police. For many of the foreigners/immigrants here, keeping a clean criminal record is of utmost importance since without one they could lose their work permit or lose the right Finnish citizenship down the line.

  3. Mark

    She poured her ice drink over the one year old child! That really is unforgiveable.

    Are there no security cameras in this Maccy D? I’m sure the man could ID her and her mug could be plastered over the papers.

    Quite sickening behaviour, with no justification, regardless of her views on immigration.

  4. justicedemon


    It has not been possible to expel a foreigner from Finland for reporting a crime since 1984, but of course some cases from before this time are still in living memory. Substantially the same has applied to refusal of citizenship since August 1998.

    • Enrique

      Hi Mark, that was before Finland’s first Aliens Act came into force. I remember asking a German what he’d do if he were jumped on the street and they’d hit him. He said he’d do nothing because he could get deported. Pretty sad. Back then, the treatment of the few foreigners that lived in this country was on an individual basis. The Aliens Office could make (give you a residence permit) or break you at their will.

  5. justicedemon

    One sentence of the HS article is particularly important:

    According to the father, his request was reacted to only after another customer demanded that the police be called.

    This fits the definition of institutionalised racism.

    References to inebriation and its implied exculpatory role in such incidents are par for the course in Finland. If you want to indulge in racist violence, then a few beers first can still cushion the resulting social opprobrium.

    The psychological aspects of incidents of this kind were splendidly described in an insightful short story called The Dry Rock by Irwin Shaw (Originally published in the New Yorker on 31 May 1941 and reprinted in Five Decades and various other collections).

    ‘The question is, Mr Tarloff,’ said the lieutenant yawning, ‘are you willing to go through all that trouble?’

    ‘The fact is,’ Tarloff said unhappily, ‘he hit me in the head without provocation. He is guilty of a crime on my person. He insulted me. He did me an injustice. The law exists for such things. One individual is not to be hit by another individual in the streets of the city without legal punishment.’ Tarloff was using his hands to try to get everyone, the Fitzsimmonses, the lieutenant, Pidgear, to understand. ‘There is a principle. The dignity of the human body. Justice. For a bad act a man suffers. it’s an important thing. . .

  6. justicedemon


    Unspecified undesirability was grounds for deportation under the 1958 Aliens Decree. The more ridiculous excesses and liberties taken by Finland under that policy are described in Matti Pellonpää’s PhD thesis “Expulsion in International Law”.

    The 1984 Aliens Act finally introduced the judicial review of expulsion that Finland had promised in 1967 with effect from 1975 (CCPR).

    Seven of the first ten appeals against deportation orders lodged after the Act came into force were successful.

  7. Mark


    – “Seven of the first ten appeals against deportation orders lodged after the Act came into force were successful.”

    That just goes to show the extent of abuse of the old system and the need for a culture change in how expulsions were carried out.

    I’m not sure you answered my question, though JD. Do those cases come under the ‘ridiculous excesses and liberties’ described in MP’s thesis?

  8. justicedemon


    This is all distant memory now, but the main reason for those successful appeals was that the deportee had not been heard before the deportation order was issued.

    One case noted by Pellonpää involved a foreign migrant worker who was deported for leaving an abusive boyfriend who had stolen money from her.

  9. BlandaUpp

    I came back to this story after I saw the Nokia World conference presentation where they are showing the world their new phones. In one segment they featured the manager of the Salo plant. He was an Indian guy. I thought to myself, what if this crap happened to him. How would it reflect on Finland if people in India, one of their main markets, got word of it and started a boycott of Nokia products as a result. Where would it leave Finland and the racist person in this story who could possibly be unemployed and living on welfare? It would mean one of our main industries would make a lot less money and the taxes trickling down would also be less.

  10. Niko


    – How would it reflect on Finland if people in India, one of their main markets, got word of it and started a boycott of Nokia products as a result.

    So, you are saying that because of one racist person all Finns should suffer? I think people around the world are not as stupid that they would think all Finns are the same. I don’t see people boycotting Norwegian products either, even there was a one crazy person shooting people.

  11. BlandaUpp


    In Norway a Norwegian killed other Norwegians. This should affect Norwegians mainly.

    Look what happened when all those Indian students were attacked in Australia. It caused a huge drops in the amount of students from India going there and paying lots of money to study. Nothing happens in a vacuum.

  12. justicedemon


    Finland has always given me the impression of being a middle-class country with middle-class values. The highest moral compass seems to be “what the neighbours might think of us”, and coupled with much greater mobility of people and information this has a considerable impact on certain areas of public policy.

    I referred above to the delay of nearly 20 years between signing and ratifying CCPR and finally implementing the associated promises concerning deportation. This was in a time when Finland was broadly able to rely on a minimal circle of supporters abroad, virtually non-existent foreign investment, an inward-looking economy and a very widespread lack of knowledge about the country internationally. There was little risk that the neighbours would find out about the grosser excesses and arbitrary behaviour of the old Aliens Office, and virtually no risk at all that a government minister might be tripped up by a well-briefed journalist at a televised international news conference.

    The situation nowadays is quite different. News of negative incidents spreads much more quickly, and certainly comes to the attention of the consultants who specialise in helping businesses to plan their international investment programmes. The danger is that Finland comes to be viewed as a market in which leading professionals can work for a couple of years after graduating, and where they can safely make their pre-competence blunders before they move on to do their most productive work elsewhere. This translates into lower productivity, lower tax revenues and falling living standards: all part of what is now described as the business case for diversity.

    We could well reach a situation in which a quantifiable Finland premium emerges, in the sense of an additional cost of persuading adequately qualified and competent foreign staff to work in Finland and to remain in Finland. If this happens, then the bean counters working for major international investors will alert their employers, who will look sharply in Finland’s direction when the next round of downsizing begins.

    Finland would do well to trust its middle-class instincts in this respect and take care not to give the neighbours too much to gossip about.

  13. Mary Mekko

    I can sympathize with this fellow. I was often harassed as a white woman in San Francisco, just sitting and doing nothing. Did anyone jump up and defend me, call the police, or call it the hate crime that it was? I doubt anyone reading this even believes me, because we’re brainwashed to think that only nonwhites can be the victims of so-called “hate crimes”.

    Perhaps this Finnish woman had tried to openly write to the government about the immigration policies and was ignored. Perhaps she had been attacked by nonFinnish men and was taking revenge on just one who resembled an attacker. This was certainly the logic given regarding black boys and girls attacking me – I resembled all the “white” people of America whose ancestors had enslaved their ancestors, although I was an immigrant myself.

    Perhaps she had some justification in her mind, as the blacks here still claim to have. Why not interview a few Finns, especially when drunk, and find out what they are really thinking about immigration? WHy let a few officials make draconian decisions about Finland’s future population make-up without everyman’s input? It is unfair and undemocratic.

    I am sure that the Indians of India never attack and kill each other when they recognize each other as members of different faiths, ethnic groups, skin colors, and language groups.

    Oops, actually, they’re known for that. Never mind. Only whites are racist, I forgot. Retract!

  14. Mark

    Mary Mekko

    It seems that perhaps you haven’t read the full article. Not that I think it would make a good deal of difference in your case.

    I think the racism against you was horrible, and I’m very sorry that no-one stood up for you. I am a little surprised that this experience, however, does not make you more empathic to racism against anyone. The fact is, you only ever want to mention racism against whites, you only ever want to condemn racism against whites.

    I can tell you now that no-one attacking racism on this blogs thinks that there is no such thing as racism against whites. There, you are among friends, Mary. Now let’s hold hands and condemn all racism?

    I thought that your sympathy for this man and his very young family who where verbally and physically assaulted by this woman was good, but then I realised that your real sympathy was for the woman, who was was perhaps ‘ignored’ or more likely attacked by foreigners. You are right though, many things contribute to a person’s opinions, including bad experiences. However, some people who are racist have almost no experience of these cultures that they choose to hate, or of any genuine grievance. That’s a fact that should be easily acknowledged, Mary, even by you.

    So decisions to allow foreigners into Finland are draconian, undemocratic AND unfair? So when did elections become illegal in Finland? When did Finland become a dictatorship and who does letting foreigners into Finland seem unfair, when for example a country like the USA has let you, a foreigner, live there? Is that unfair too? Or is it again the case that you are only talking about non-white foreigners?

    And then finally, you move on to talking about Indians killing each other on the basis of race or faith, and that this somehow proves that whites are not the only racists. Hell, Mary, you are preaching to the converted here.

    I am amazed how you move to effortlessly from that first sentence of sympathy for the race-crime victim to focusing exclusively on racism by blacks, latinos, and indians. From love to hatred in the space of a comma. 🙂