KOTOUTUMINEN #12: Integration is as easy as 1 + 1 = 2. NOT!

by , under Enrique Tessieri


Having taught many students about Finnish society for many years, two matters surprise me about this teaching line: Are the people giving these courses qualified and simple, 1 + 1 = 2, explanations to a complex matter as adaption.

If the integration model is overly simplistic, treat it with tweezers because its conclusions are suspect. Integration, adaption, or properly inclusion is a complex matter.

During my years as a teacher of these courses, I have requested material taught by other teachers. Not one white Finnish teacher has, however, has shared with me the material they teach newcomers about Finland.

I get the impression that the only requirement to teach newcomers about Finnish society is that you are a white Finn with some teaching background. Every white Finn knows what our culture is, right?

Telling newcomers about our society riddled with exceptionalism, ethnocentricm and even racism partly explain why, I suspect, that the majority of these people have no idea what kotoutuminen means or implies.

If you want an example of a 1 + 1 = 2 integration model, check out Perussuomalaiset (PS)* MP Kristian Sheikki Laakso’s tweet below, who affirms this is how you become a part of Finnish society.

Joy Aalto, who is a candidate for the upcoming municipal election in April for a party known for its hostile Islamophobic rants, gives us her recipe for integration:

  • “When I came to Finland I learned the language, got a profession and found a job;
  • This is how I became a Finn;
  • Finland is a good country. Let’s keep it that way.”

While I am happy that Joy Aalto has found her place in Finland, is there something important missing in her statements?

  • In 2019, there were a total of 11,288 native-born Thais in Finland, of which 78.9% were women most likely married to older white Finnish men;
  • Thai males, who make up a small portion of the Thai native-born population, are different from the seasonal berry pickers who too many times have faced exploitation by Finnish companies;
  • When Joy Aalto states, “keep Finland a good country,” does she say that people of color aren’t welcome?
  • Is she suggesting that racism and discrimination will disappear after we have learned the language and found a job?
  • Isn’t it suspect if a party like the PS, which spews racism left and right, is giving us advice on how foreigners should adapt in Finland?

See also:

*Kotoutiminen is a he Finnish term for integration. It came about in the late-1990s because there was no such term in the Finnish language.