Migrant Tales 2009: Being an immigrant in Finland – a letter from Ida

by , under All categories, Enrique

The Migrant Tales blog gets emails from people who speak with hand on heart about the challenges they face as immigrants or Finnish with international backgrounds in our society. Here is one of these published in November 2009. The real name of the person has been changed. Here is a letter from Ida:

The underlying problem in Finland is that [white] Finns can never fully understand what racism is if they have never played that role of being a minority. They can fill all the facts and knowledge of the books in their heads but still can never understand what the true meaning behind racism is.  And there is no arguing with them because they already know all the facts and figures.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I can’t change people’s minds about certain things [like racism]. They have their own mindset of things. Hell, it took me pretty long time to re-wire my brain to think differently after all that brainwashing in Finland. Imagine, I used to have prejudices against [my own group the] Chinese. It would take a lot more for  Finns to think more open-mindedly.

I spent almost all my adult life [trying] to find acceptance and proving to myself that I was one of them. I did all this at the expense of my identity. Well, now I am just tired. I am who I am and I don’t need their acceptance. I don’t need to be one of them. And I am happy that I have found a country where otherness is cherished and celebrated and where I don’t need to hide or be ashamed of being Chinese. Finland can never be my home because I can never feel comfortable enough to be myself there. And they will never see me as one of them either. So, that’s that.

  1. Sirpa

    I can understand Ida’s point of view but here we go again lumping all (white) Finns together as a 100% racist group who can never understand the “minority”. I can’t believe she never met a person who did not care about her origin but dealt with her as a person who she is.
    Personally, I have worked all my life in international context and met truly wonderful people of all colours and origins. I’ve also known some “not-so-nice” but that has nothing to do with their race, religion, or origin. I judge people on how they act, not what they look like. I’m sure I’m not the only Finn in five million who does the same.

  2. eyeopener

    Hi Sirpa. Good to see you here too. The start of your thread is disappointing becuase you immediately take a stand without questioning the lead. That’s a pity. What I am going to bring forward is that you put yourself in a position of “I know the world”. Well, who does??
    Secondly, you make yourself the center of judgement. When saying: “I have worked all my life ininternational context” should I be impressed?? My question then is:”Are you qualified to assess people”??

    For instance I can say, I have worked all my life in international business. I don’t go from any position of “right” or “wrong”. Especially not when direct contact with people is involved. Am I qualified??

    You state: I judge people on how they act. What are your criteria?? Your indicators?? Are you maybe using “hidden cultural approaches”?? Put yourself to the test!! Are you psychologist?

    I am sure that you mean positive. You do not need to apologize. However, I am quite negative about your “but here we go AGAIN lumping all (WHITE) Finns together……” Read between the lines and you will see some nuances in the statement.

  3. Mark


    Ida didn’t say ‘all Finns’ or 100% of Finns are a racist group. She said ‘that [white] Finns can never fully understand what racism is’. While she put Finns into a single group here, she isn’t accusing this group of being racist, just of not fully understanding what racism is. And there might be some justification for this.

    This feeling of whites not understanding what racism is is a very common sentiment. Part of the reason is the defensiveness of people as soon as black people start to even talk about their experience. I mean, take the example of your post:

    I can understand Ida’s point of view

    what was it that you understood, because the part you told us about was only the part you disagreed with. And you basically said, I’m not racist and I don’t think other Finns are that racist, so how can she say no-one understands? It so true, you are not a racist, and yet your first reaction is still very defensive. You don’t set out the common ground. You stretch out the hand of understanding, only to withdraw it quickly before it’s even made contact. And you are one of the good ones!

  4. Asian (Realy I am Chinese so I know my own reality)

    Tää on niin totta. Rasistien suurin voitto on että värilliset ovat alkaneet vihaamaan itseäänsä ja omiansa. Siihen ei edes skinheadit tai natsit pysty. Siihen tarvitaan rakenteellista rasismia ja liberaalien rasistien hiljainen hyväksyntä

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