Part 2: Mental impact and reality of everyday exclusion

by , under Sonia Maria Koo

In a Migrant Tales’ recent article based on a Maailman Kuvalehti report about the mental suffering of daily racism, we promised some “no filtered” outtakes from interviews with those affected.

You can read the first piece, Part I: Racism causes trauma and mental suffering,here

Eight cases, eight migrants, eight stories, about life in Finland: 

“You meet a shared cult-like mindset at every level of this society. Denial of anything considered unattractive is so widespread that it feels like state-sponsored gaslighting. People here have been taught and convinced that what Finland offers is superior. You eventually realize it’s hopeless trying to get even a closest person to consider ‘other’. This inherent xenophobia and the resultant increasingly hostile environment denied to you is extremely isolating. A double whammy”.

Nicola, UK

“What’s truly maddening is not the absolute absence of process. While abusively deaf and delayed, the process does eventually exists, superficially. It’s that as a Finn your accuser’s unquestionable correctness – and therefore as a non-Finn, your necessary guilt – is assumed a priori from the very beginning. And the show trial and mock process exist to give the fake appearance that this wasn’t simply decided beforehand. The stretched and contorted parodies of a process to which you’re exposed impose more harm than simply never being offered them.”

Ben, UK


Migrants and minorities are subject to Finland’s hostile environment. Source: Flickr.

“I have experienced how nationalism here goes well beyond national pride, extending to willful denials of reality even in Finland’s Supreme court. This brings an uneasy fear, an imbalance. Justice makes us feel safe but having no recourse, in an assumed developed European nation has a shocking and traumatizing effect.”

Alexander, Belgium

“After 7 years in Finland, for my own mental sake, I decided to leave soon. Having a cleaning job with two academic diplomas brings a hopeless feeling facing the xenophobe attitude.”

Anonymous, Hungary

“Trauma, specifically because of an ostracizing environment, can make you reject the language and commit it to memory as the parts of the brain required are busily fired up with fight and flight responses. Without the language, you are further shamed into feeling at fault.

The Finnish language has become a trauma trigger for me, often making it impossible to listen to media or leave the house and make any connections in society. Trauma treatment is not available as the therapists themselves are representatives of the state who’s rejecting you.

Once traumatized there is seemingly no way out.”

Anonymous, UK

“Being stared at would normally indicate some genuine interest or at least timid curiosity but here it is the ever-following exclusion, the othering.

Whenever one acts ‘out of line,’ for example, speaking notFinnish, smiling, sitting down next to a person on the bus, talking on the phone in notFinnish, greeting others, acknowledging the existence of babies or dogs, and many other notFinnish behaviors.

One expects it with time and effort to acclimate that this would go away. One would also think that with the mass influence and consumption of English language media, that Finns would not stare agape when you speak notFinnish to your children on the bus. But no, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been here, how well you speak the language or follow the customs, you will always be othered, you will always be notFinnish.

So how is the life of the notFinn in Finland?

Depression from lack of fitting into society is a well-studied phenomenon. We seclude ourselves and get pushed away even from online forums when we dare to speak the truth.

We are gaslighted by ‘Are you sure that happened, that doesn’t happen in Finland?’ or ‘They didn’t mean that.’ You question your reality daily and wonder if you are the problem.


Human beings around the world form social cultures and take care of each other physically, mentally, socially, spiritually, and psychologically. The VAST MAJORITY of the world’s population lives in a supportive environment. But obviously these 5 million people here have it right, and the rest of the world is wrong and we outsiders lack the power to change that.”

Casey, USA

“A psychiatrist has lied about me in reports, including that I ‘cannot be helped.’ I was asked why I lived here if it was so difficult to assimilate. I’ve been accused of ‘not trying hard enough.’ And frankly, I am tired of hostile attitudes towards me when this culture is just NOT immigrant-friendly in general.”

Chanel, USA

“Blending in? Assimilation was never my goal, authenticity is. I reached integration by my conduct, societal and fiscal contributions and deep understanding of history, language and culture, yet staying true to myself.

In my country immigrants have long belonged everywhere across society. My Finnish environment – only among themselves – shares my concerns about political and societal issues, but as an outsider, you are being put on the ‘you are so negative’ muzzle. Literally, even after two decades, you remain a “guest” who has to give in. But I won’t give in witnessing injustice.”

Sonia, Germany