Immigrant success stories in Finland (updated 30.1.11)

by , under All categories, Enrique

Migrant Tales will begin publishing short antecdotes of immigrants’ lives in Finland. Success can mean keeping one’s head above water in a very difficult labor and adverse political claimate that does not favor immigrants.

Please send your stories to [email protected] or post them directly as a comment.

Keep them coming!


1.  “I came to Finland from California in 1977. All these year that I lived here, I have worked as an editor-translator. In the 1990s I returned to California and got a law degree and returned to Finland. I have a family with children. I put in long hours from Monday through Sunday.  I have never been unemployed.  I would not even know what to do if I had to go to an employment office.” (29.1.11)

2. “I am from Turkey and I put in easily 14 hours a day of work. I own a pizzeria-kebab. My day begins when I wake up at 6am. Then I go to the market to buy the daily purchases. The restaurant opens at 10 am and closes as 10pm. I get a chance to be with my wife for a while in the evening before I retire.  Are immigrants lazy?” (29.1.11)

3. “I have lived in Finland for over thirty years. Sometimes I wonder if I could have had an easier career if I had moved back to the United States. Even though I have never been unemployed, I have never held a staff job in Finland. When I moved here, the big state-owned company, Neste, said that they do not hire “foreigners” even though my mother is Finnish.  I always got staff jobs abroad never in Finland. People who survive economically in this country are, in my opinion, immigrant success stories.” (29.1.11)

4. Tino Singh is another fairly prominent example. (s. 4. heinäkuuta 1971 Khambhat, Intia) on intialaissyntyinen, sittemmin suomalaistunut juontaja, tanssija ja muusikko. Hän toimi televisio-ohjelman Passi ja hammasharja (1996–1998) juontajana. Singh on myös näytellyt Tähtitehdas-saippuasarjassa (1998) Tuukka Valon roolissa. Singh on showtanssin maailmanmestari vuodelta 1993. Hän on esiintynyt myös muun muassa Hype- ja Spin-musikaaleissa. Singh on julkaissut kokkikirjan Tinos Delhi 1998 (Gummerus) ja nykyisin hän vaikuttaa mainostoimistomaailmassa sekä yhtyeessä Tino Singh and the Pimpdaddies. Singh on myös ollut europarlamenttiehdokkaana. Source:

5. Naseem Ahmed: Naseem on selkeästi pitkän linjan Squash-ihminen East-Squashin riveistä. Helsingissä asuva 65-vuotias Squash-halliyrittäjä on pelannut vuodesta 1975 lähtien, mutta jättää aktiivipelaamisen jo nuoremmilleen. Perheessä on vaimo ja 2 aikuista lasta, joista nuorempi Suomen squashpiirissä tuttu Hameed Ahmed. Hän opiskelee nyt USA:ssa ja on tällä hetkellä Amerikan opiskelijoiden CSA-rankingissa nro 8.

Naseem on aktiivinen monissa järjestötoimissa, kuten Helsinki International Rotary Clubin Presidentti, KANY ry:n (Maahanmuuttajien urheiluharrastusten edistämisyhdistys) puheenjohtaja ja 09Helsinki Human Rights säätiön hallituksen jäsen. Hän haluaa toiminnallaan edistää liittoa avoimena lajin edistämisjärjestönä, joka antaa mahdollisuuden kaikille kehittää toteuttamiskelpoisia ideoita. Toiminnan ei tule olla kuppikuntakulttuuria, jossa asiat hoidetaan pienessä piirissä. Naseem toivoo, että resurssit käytettäisiin mahdollisimman tehokkaasti ainoastaan ja vain lajin hyväksi.

Ensimmäisen Squash-seuran Naseem perusti yli 30 v. sitten keskusosuusliike OTK:n ATK-osastolle. Seurassa oli yli 70 aktiivista harrastajaa. Sittemmin hän on toiminut East Squash ry:n puheenjohtajana 6 vuotta ja saanut Suomen Squash-liiton kultaisen kunniamerkin sekä myös Lauri Tarastin merkin. Naseem on myös toiminut sekä miesten maajoukkueiden johtajana MM-kisamatkoilla että junioreiden EM-kisamatkojen johtajana. Hänellä onkin sekä kotimaisessa että kansainvälisissä squashpiireissä laaja tuttava- ja ystäväverkosto.(30.1.11)

6. Jeremy Gould: Jeremy is a Californian that moved to Finland in the end of the 1960s from Long Beach. After a long career in academia he was named professor of development and international cooperation at Jyväskylä University. (30.1.11)

  1. JusticeDemon

    Through his work at the University of Helsinki and a host of other channels Andrew Chesterman has clearly had a huge positive impact on Finland. One thing that I noticed about the biographical details provided in this article is that he originally came to Finland more by chance than design.

    This brings to mind the story of another very prominent modern immigrant, the recently deceased Tom GrosJean, who co-founded MPS Selection in 1975. MPS is now the market leader in Finland and operates in 25 countries.

  2. JusticeDemon

    George Woolston is a British-born architect who has become a leading authority on traditional Finnish rural construction.

    Articles and photographs by British-born Tim Bird have been turning up in quality Finnish publications for about a quarter of a century.

    British-born Fran Weaver is certainly worth a mention.

    Senegalese-born Silvain Sagne has been extraordinarily influential as a special policymaking adviser.

    British-born Leslie Hyde is Vice-Principal of Eira High School for Adults in Helsinki.

    Moroccan-born sociology professor M’hammed Sabour has provided a unique perspective on his subject at the University of Joensuu.

    Kenyan-born Wilson Kirwa is a household name in Finland.

    Zimbabwean-born Percy Mashaire has survived and even thrived in the teeth of prejudice and discrimination.

  3. JusticeDemon

    I’m still focusing on people who already have some noticeable public profile and prominence. There are obviously many more who remain beyond the reach of the public eye.

    One Russian biologist of my acquaintance holds an associate professorship at a Finnish government agency. He recently spent half a year in the USA after securing one of the absolute top research positions in his profession, thereby perhaps also impressing on his colleagues that we are very lucky indeed that such an authority has chosen to live in Finland.

    Then there is the professional pianist who has been a pillar of the Finnish Filipino community for more than 30 years. The Vietnamese refugee who spent most of his working career in a senior capacity at the Finnish land registry (his daughter is a consultant engineer for Pöyry now). The Egyptian-born doctor at my local health centre…

    We may wonder whether Finland would have even bothered competing in international football without the likes of Shefki Kuqi, Roman Eremenko and Alexei Eremenko, Jr.

    • Enrique

      Hola Chiva Congelado, un gusto de saber de tú. That is a great list you have on your blog. would it be ok to post it on Migrant Tales? That is the positive news we need to show those who still think that immigration is a threat to this country. Reading their stuff is a bit sad and “epic.” It’s as if they were reciting some verses from the last days of the Finns. In my opinion, we are living in denial in Finland because over a million people left this country and they are faintly acknowledged. Why? Because it busts wide open the so-called “monoculturalist” world view.

  4. Klay_Immigrant

    This is all a bit silly. No one has ever said literally every single immigrant is a failure and a burden. Concentrating on the success stories and forgetting the failures is rather misleading and gives a false impression. Let’s say you had 10,000 immigrants from non-EU countries arriving in a year and 1,000 were successful but the others were on welfare and jobless would you class that as a positive situation for Finland? When talking about a group of people you have to discuss the majority of people in that group or the average person not go for only one end of the scale.

    • Enrique

      –Concentrating on the success stories and forgetting the failures is rather misleading and gives a false impression.

      Far-right groups and the neocons like to stress the failures and leave out the success stories. However, the real success stories are the huge majority of immigrants, people, who survive and move forward. Do you know what the argument of the far-right is? All of them have the same message: these people are incompatible with our culture. So, go ahead, Klay bring it on.

  5. Klay_Immigrant

    -‘ However, the real success stories are the huge majority of immigrants, people, who survive and move forward.’

    If that is true Enrique explain why are the majority yes over 50% of Somalis, Iraqis, and Afghans, 3 of the largest non-European groups in Finland are unemployed and rely on benefits? Is that what you call a success?