The kiss of death of Finnish right-wing populism

by , under Enrique

The election victory by the Perussuomalaiset could be attributed to a number of factors and bears all the signs of the same illness spreading throughout Europe these days: right-wing populism that is anti-EU, anti-immigration and above all anti-Islam. The PS could have never dreamed of such success in the last election without the help of Kokoomus, Social Democratic Party and Center Party.

The PS should offer gratitude to their usual victims: immigrants, refugees and minorities.

But all of this would not have been possible for the PS without the help of the ogre of xenophobia that has lurked relatively hidden in Finnish society. Politicians in this country have known about this social ill for decades but have rarely challenged it.

If you speak to some who have been long-serving MPs, they know about that monster but have preferred to distance themselves from it because they know it could destroy their political careers.

All those parties that were openly pro-EU or faintly outspoken on racism suffered. The Greens are a good example never mind the Center Party, the biggest loser in the election. Could  former Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi’s Center Party have suffered such a heavy defeat if it weren’t for her pro-EU and outspoken stance against racism?

Another factor that spurred the PS to new heights was a watershed statement in March 2010 by Kokoomus chairman Jyrki Katainen, who stated that being critical and debating immigrant issues in this country didn’t make you a racist. After that green light to racism was given, the Social Democratic leadership gave the PS another pat on the back with their infamous saying, maassa maan tavalla.

Like all major parties in Finland, each have their fair share of anti-immigration critics. No party, however, like the PS, has so many.

A good lesson to be learned from the election is that if you vacillate and offer flimsy leadership on an issue like racism you will become its prize.

Another matter that the election showed is that xenophobia is a social ill inflicting Finland.

Now is a better time than ever for concerned politicians and the general public to send that ogre back to where it came from: the gutter.

  1. Mark


    I applaud your blog and your posts and agree with almost 100% of what you write. Today though, I didn’t like the reference to ‘back to the gutter’. Having said that, I’ve thrown my own share of slander around to knucklehead racists who really don’t want to acknowledge any possible weakness in their racist ‘I’m not a racist, but…’ rhetoric. But I would say that xenophobia has its place in society, in that we tend towards ‘team-think’, and generally, ‘our team is better than your team’ is a fairly common and perfectly acceptable kind of mentality. When that kind of thinking extends to cultural identities, you get strong ‘national identities’ and much of that identity is not based on ‘what we are’, but on ‘what we are not – i.e. them’. I think there are understandable reasons why people can be xenophobic. But even though we can be this way, there is no reason why we cannot be honest about it too, and recognise when it brings more trouble than its worth. I think that is the argument to make against xenophobia.

    It made me smile yesterday thinking about how PS go on about keeping the Finnish identity strong, as they obviously consider themselves unique in the arena of cultures. Being allowed to be Finnish is the same as being allowed to be different from other cultures. And that is promoted as something so intrinsic and necessary to the personal identity of Finns that it must be enshrined by laws that preserve culture and keep ‘unadaptable’ immigrants out. And yet, this very same right to a national identity and culture is denied to those people who move here from abroad, they have to give up their own culture and adopt a foreign culture, simply because ‘Sä oot Suomessa nyt’. The very thing that PS consider fundamental to their political philosophy, the right to a national identity, is then denied to other people of other nationalities! There is only one word for this – hypocrites!

    • Enrique

      Mark, criticism is always welcome on this blog. I have made mistakes in this blog and I am not afraid of admitting them. What about if we substituted the term “xenophobia” for “racism?” Would it sound better to your ears? That particular term, the gutter, comes from an editorial I read in the Buenos Aires Herald a long time ago about the dirty war (1976-83). The editorial saw violence as an ogre that lived in the gutter.
      As long as we have nation-states xenophobia will be a quality that can rally people against a common enemy. I personally don’t think it has a place in our society. We have laws that state quite clearly what our actions and obligations to country must be if we are attacked. The xenophobia in Finland derives from low self-esteem and having been under the rule of the Swedes and Russians. You are a very sensible person Mark and I am certain you understand that if xenophobia hinders social equality in society then we have a problem.

      I want to say the following loudly and publicly: I am very happy that you have joined us and I enjoy very much your hard-hitting commentary. Thank you!

  2. Hmmm

    “Another factor that spurred the PS to new heights was a watershed statement in March 2010 by Kokoomus chairman Jyrki Katainen, who stated that being critical and debating immigrant issues in this country didn’t make you a racist.”

    Well, do you disagree with that statement? Or is it that some facts are not to be mentioned at anytime? What’s your point?

    • Enrique

      Hi Hmmm, I am not disagreeing about debating any issue in society. What I disagree is that Katainen did not condemn the racism on the net strongly enough. Racism, I believe, like any form of discrimination, is unacceptable. Maybe this is a better way of putting it: There is nothing wrong in debating immigrant issue on the net but it should be done without insults and racism, which there is too much these days. You should know better than I that Finns can debate an issue in a civil manner. What we have see on the net shows a very crude side of the coin.

      Politicians offer leadership. If they encourage racism and populism then we have a problem.

  3. Mark


    Thanks for your comments and I’m happy you like my contributions.

    First, I would say that xenophobia is generally perceived as milder than racism, but really, in the practical world of politics, it’s splitting hairs, even if the dictionary give quite different definitions.

    The problem with the word racism, as I’ve mentioned before, is that people equate it with only one interpretation, that of ‘racial superiority’. In this context of modern day Finland, the nationalist sentiment is presented as simply pride in one’s national identity. Accusations of racial superiority are rejected in favour of, ‘racial pride’, though the underlying belief in races having distinctive characteristics that define people remains, as does the charge that the rights of one race are preferenced (i.e. superior) to another. In other words, we have the right to be Finnish, but you do not have the right to be Islamic/Somali/Iraqi.

    Racism can easily hide under this banner and never have to look at itself for what it is. Moreover, the other equally important dimension to racism is the systematic abuse of the powers of control of the majority to inhibit the rights of a minority, where that minority is defined by race, religion, culture or political belief.

    This is where PS cry foul and say we ‘anti-racists’ are being racist by attacking their nationalist ideology. But they miss the point – criticising, especially from a minority position, is not the same as using the power of the majority to control the rights of a minority based on ‘cultural distinctions’. That is the fundamental basis of racism. It’s a theory about race as much as a defence of national identity. PS advocates that control of the majority to inhibit the rights of the minority, even if they have not yet achieved it.

    I think that arguing that xenophobia or racism is a kind of moral degeneration is problematic. First, it misses the point of why such beliefs become so popular if everyone, almost without exception, is aware that racism is bad, and hence we get all the denials. Clearly people see their cultural beliefs about race and nationalism in a different tone. It’s important at some point to bridge that gulf between formal and institutional definitions and the beliefs of the everyday person in the street. In that sense, culture is contradictory, building up nationalistic feeling on the one hand, but then defining elements of it as ‘bad’. In that kind of situation, defining ‘bad’ becomes a matter of interpration.

    I think you have it right that political leaders give permission to the populace to adopt pro- or anti-immigration stances that can also be an umbrella for clearly racist attitudes. It is the responsibility of the state to clearly define racism and also to ensure it doesn’t find a home at the institutional level.

    Controlling immigration is an issue, no-one can deny that. The question is what attitudes and beliefs inform the policy making on that issue. This is where PS have disqualified themselves from legitimate discussion of the issue, because it is informed not by concern for immigration, or for immigrants, but rather as a ‘cultural self-defence’, meaning that it is about definitions of race and ultimately, the racial majority surpressing the rights of racial minorities. This is where PS has managed to actually move the debate in a dangerous direction. I think that also answers your question Hmmm

    • Enrique

      Mark, you make good points. The key word is “moderation.” But what moderation may mean to some may mean a total different thing for others.

      Adding to your comment on the PS, let’s look at the latest news on Uusi Suomi, where Jussi Halla-aho wants the state to stop financing language classes for children with immigrant parents.

      One of the big problems with the whole discussion on how immigrants should integrate, or adapt, to Finnish society is the following: to they want to adapt the way we like (assimilation) or should we give them the opportunity to adapt and keep a sense of pride in their background. Halla-aho and his PS cronies believe that identity has no role in a person’s adaption to a new culture. If we look at the United States, for example, an extreme example of this are the Native Americans, whose former culture was wiped off the map. If we take the PS route, we will be stacking up social problems in the future. Those that want to assimilate (even amalgamate if they could) immigrants this way will brand such people for generations as “half-Finns” because they will never be accepted as full members of society. What Halla-aho is saying is that Finland will not accept cultural diversity because we will be ethnocentric.

      Sofi Oksanen is a good example of hos these Finns with a foreign parent are the real activists against the policies of the PS. The children of immigrants will also witness and grew up seeing how their parents were pushed and discriminated. They will be rightfully pissed off and will change this ethnocentric view if it is implemented.

      In sum, it’s not what you think is best but what actually works. Assimilation does not work. There are countless of studies that show that assimilation does not work.

      What is the best integration model for Finland? I think the new integration law showed some light: It states that integration should be a two-way process. Halla-aho believes it is a one-way process. We will be perpetuating discrimination in Finland if we adpot the latter’s view.

  4. Hmmm

    I disagree. I don’t see it reasonable to always add such condemnations in every possible situation. E.g. Katainen and Kokoomus have clearly stated their stance on the issue and adding “disclaimers” everywhere only inflates the value of such statements. Such dilution has happened with certain words… So, as Mark put it, certain words should be more clearly defined and, also, not thrown around so carelessly.

    I don’t see anything wrong with the ‘cultural self-defence’, as long as it is not something that overrides every other issue. And I do believe that this will not be the case even with policies of PS.

    • Enrique

      –I don’t see anything wrong with the ‘cultural self-defence’, as long as it is not something that overrides every other issue.

      In a Western, democratic and liberal society we have a thing called acceptance. No group nor person can rob that term and use it as a benchmark for others. What is “culture self-defense?”

      Very simlistically some people in Finland see immigration as a threat, others don’t. Here is one place where there is a clear dividing line. The PS, for example, sees immigration as a threat. They have to take extra messures to defend Finland from such a threat. In the process, they exclude other people from society. I am a multicultural Finn, proud of it and will fight tooth and nail to keep my rights in this society.
      There are many people like myself.

  5. Mark


    I think you underestimate the nature of the debate here. ‘Adding disclaimers everywhere’ would of course be pointless and counterproductive, but in a statement that marks a significant ceding of ground to a political opponent simply because it’s clear they have garnered popular support for their position does not add up to ‘everywhere’. It was a very significant statement at that point in time, and clearly, any move to open up the debate or legitimise elements of it should also define the limits of that debate. That did not happen. That was the problem that Enrique rightly points to. But Kokomoos were on the back foot here, reacting to policy debate and not leading it.

    Cultural self-defence seems quite innocuous, but it misrepresents the true situation. To put it in the harsh language of sociology – ‘the perpetrators of oppression represent themselves as the victims.’ In the language of PS and other nationalists, ‘we are simply protecting our own culture in the face of cultural invasion’. There are so many problems with this stance it’s hard to know where to start 🙂

    First of all, the numbers simply don’t add up to an ‘invasion’. Only approx. 1500 applications for asylum were accepted last year and total immigration equalled about 6000. Correct me if I’m wrong. That’s about 1 more person for every square 20km of Finland. That’s an extra 1 person for every 56 km/square. Now that is hardly a strain.

    Secondly, since when do two cultures living side by side threaten the culture of either, unless one is deliberately suppressing the other? Are Finns going to start spontaneously speaking Arabic? Are Finnish women going to feel compelled to wear a Bhurkka? Are Finns going to give up their sausage in favour of Somali muqmad?

    You see, Hmmm, my question for you is, where does the threat exist here? Would you change your Finnish habits because a Morrocon moves in next door? Nope, I didn’t think so. So the cultural self-defence argument is rather spurious, especially if it’s used by the majority to invoke legislation that waters down the rights of the minority to practice perfectly legal elements of their own culture. One of the best restaurants in London is Ethiopian (Somali’s neighbour). It would be great if there was a more international cuisine available in Helsinki especially.

    I agree that immigration is only one plank of the PS political raft – but it is very important to their support. It was Toni Halmes nationalist comments that lifted PS out of a political slumber, and likewise, it has been the issue of the Portugese bailout among other things that gave PS a very convenient stick to beat the EU with. The nationalist rhetoric strikes a chord in many Finns. I’m not surprised if multiculturalism is presented as an ‘either/or’ kind of cultural battle. It quite clearly isn’t and doesn’t need to be.

    The other problem is that problems that are intrinsic to any culture or society become dressed up unnecessarily in racial dressings. This denigration of other nationalities and cultures is particularly distasteful on the part of some PS members. Would you condemn that Hmmm? And would do you think it’s important to condemn it?

  6. Mark

    I agree that cultural assimilation sets up many counterproductive expectations about immigration. First, the idea that an immigrant can be thrown into the dominant culture and simple ‘swim’ is laughable. Finding work and gaining language skills need to be supported. Secondly, the idea that an immigrant would be dumped into a foreign country and somehow ‘barred’ from mixing with other people of their own culture, so as to speed up assimilation, is also laughable. The isolation that many immigrants feel in the host culture is as terrifying as it is profound. That immigrants take comfort in being able to carry out basic social functions like sharing in ‘a community’ is no surprise and should NOT be criticised. It’s fundamental to functioning as a human being.

    Somewhere between multiculturalism and cultural assimilation lies the reality of immigrants lives. All these theories about what immigrants should do ignore the actual experiences of being an immigrant. The stupid thing is that in most cases, an immigrant is quite capable of telling the host culture what they need to be able to function effectively in the host culture. It’s very sad when people’s native skills become useless. In London, I knew doctors, dentists, economists and solicitors, as well as people of lower educational status, who worked as cleaners, because their qualifications were not recognised, and there was no recognised path to a quick transfer of those skills. For many professions, it amounted to complete retraining. I think things have improved on that score.

    My belief is that the host culture should do what it can to facilitate the immigrant, while also protecting their basic rights to culture. No-one tells Finns they can’t or shouldn’t learn or speak a foreign language, so why would we tell an immigrant they cannot speak their own language? Same applies to dress, to music, to beliefs, to political opinions. The only line of conflict is where native customs break Finnish laws, in which case, it is of course expected that they adapt to that new legal framework. At the same time, immigrants should have the same freedom to argue for changes in the law. We all have that right, and criticising that just because they are ‘foreigners’ is racist.

    • Enrique

      –My belief is that the host culture should do what it can to facilitate the immigrant, while also protecting their basic rights to culture.

      You are absolutely right, Mark. Mutual acceptance, respect, social equality and equal opportunities should put you on the right path. Even if some push for assimilation, its questionable if most of the people who are supposed to be assimilated ever will be. Like you said, when people move to a new home country they start to adapt immediately. A good example is hybrid culture.

      Finns have decades of experience in managing a welfare state. They know the problems that arise from exclusion. They are on the right track in many repects. And if they aren’t they will find the right path. But a warning: That path is not the one put forth by the PS.

      If I had to mention a big challenge for Finnish society as it becomes more diverse, it would be acceptance and inclusion. In order to accept those two far-reaching concepts it would mean a big shift on how we see ourselves as a nation and society. Can Finns do this? Certainly! Finns built a national identity after independence. The problem with that identity is that isn’t suitable for the new globalized century.

  7. Niko

    You uses a lot the word “racism” and “xenophobia” in your blog. Maybe I think these words differently than you, so maybe you could clarify by examples what is the difference between “racism” and “criticism”. Can you please tell which of these sentences you find racist:

    1) Mandatory Swedish should be voluntary for Finns, because people find other language be more important for their future
    2) Islam is the most violent and women degrading religion
    3) Social benefits for unemployed Finn and refugees should be the same
    4) Finnish citizens unemployment issues must be taken care of before Finland can
    5) Swedish speaking finns and finnish speaking finns should have the same possibilities to get in the Universities
    6) Romanian beggars should be banish to Romania
    7) Foreigners should live in Finland by “maassa maan tavalla”
    8) Burkas should be forbidden in Finland as they are in France
    9) Muslims shouldn’t have their own swimming turn
    10) Immigrant criminals should be sent to jail and after that banish to their home country, even if there is a war ongoing

    Some of the sentences are actually racist even for me, but I’m curious if you find them all racist. No, I’m not try to bash you, but I want to understand where do you draw the line.

  8. Hmmm

    No, the threat does not exist here… at this time. And that, I think, is the leading idea of some PS members. It is not totally unfounded to be concerned about the future of Finland when looking at other European countries in respect to immigration and it’s side effects. It is only a good thing that Finland has the opportunity to see what might be in it’s own future. I would be more concerned if we blindly followed the route of other European countries without learning something from them. What there is to be learned is a matter of opinion.

    And I seriously doubt there is going to be legislation “that waters down the rights of the minority to practice perfectly legal elements of their own culture”… unless there is a good reason for it. E.g. the burkha thing in France has a solid and acceptable logic behind it.

    I don’t like the way some issues of some cultures are represented by some people. But some of the issues (many affecting the integration process) would never come up if it weren’t for the individual renegades who get the issues some attention, often with rude tactics. The PC culture of not trying to offend anyone is sometimes as counterproductive as offending some of the involved parties. So the answer to your question is yes and yes, but at the same time maybe that is what is needed to bring some issues up.

  9. Mark

    Good question Niko. One person’s answers are not going to tell the whole story, but you wonder where the racism lurks in these sentences and I will tell you.

    1) Mandatory Swedish should be voluntary for Finns, because people find other language be more important for their future.
    The actual situation in Finland is that there are areas that are Swedish speaking more or less, and other areas that are Finnish-speaking, more or less. Other areas are mixed with varying proportions. Numbers are not so important when you recognise that whole towns and regions are Swedish speaking. By supporting both languages and making all Finns learn both languages (the Swedish-speakers also have to learn Finnish, which they might actually thing useless too), a more level playing field is created. Both language cultures and all regions of Finland are respected. Anything less would be the majority dominating and oppressing a minority. If we were talking a small percentage of all regionalised populations, I’d undertand the merits of the argument, but we are not. Lastly, you talk about important to the future? For kids to spend a few years learning a language is not really a massive sacrifice to make towards cultural harmony in Finland. People have the rest of their lives after school to concentrate and perfect a third language, if that is more important to their future.

    2) Islam is the most violent and woman-degrading religion
    If this is used as a means to slur all people who are Islamic or to bar Islamic immigrants, this is clearly racist, and a racist slur. Arguments about ‘most’ are spurious. Any religion that is violent or degrades women would be illegal in Finland. Likewise, any argument about ‘most’ says nothing about percentages. If the least violence affects 1% and the most only affects 2%, then why would it be important to consider it signficant? Also, clearly Islamic cultures exist that show degrees of respect for women, and where women have led the countries politically, such as Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan etc. It’s a mixed bag. And meanwhile, in Finland, only 1 in 9 company directors is a woman. The words pot, kettle and black come to mind.

    3) Social benefits for unemployed Finn and refugees should be the same
    This is deciding social welfare on the basis of race, and that would clearly be racist. The point is, social welfare is decided on the basis of need. There are some Finns who need more welfare than other Finns, and likewise some immigrants who need more welfare than either other immigrants or Finns. Deciding welfare on the basis of race is not only racist, it’s quite stupid to be honest.

    4) Finnish citizens unemployment issues must be taken care of before Finland can
    Sorry, I don’t understand your point here.

    5) Swedish speaking finns and finnish speaking finns should have the same possibilities to get in the Universities.
    If you are talking about a Finnish-speaking or a Swedish-speaking University, I don’t think you can pass blanket judgements like this. I mean, would you say that engineers have the right to study in medical schools? What would be the point? Borderline racist, if it implies that no forms of descrimination are allowed, but then we aren’t going to allow Swedish to be taught to all Finns in school? A degree of inconsistency creeping in, don’t you think?

    6) Romanian beggars should be banish to Romania
    Finnish thieves should all be sent to Rovaniemi? The poor should be sent to the Siberian labour fields? Jews should be sent to ‘work camps’? Do you see a pattern? If a Finn was to beg illegally, then what would be the punishment? Then the same punishment should apply to Romanians living in this country legally. Simple! Anything else is racist.

    7) Foreigners should live in Finland by “maassa maan tavalla”
    This might be a good rule of thumb for ‘getting on with the locals’, but when it becomes a kind of thought control or a form of culture policing, then it becomes racist. Put simply, Finns have the right to wear whatever clothes they want. They happen to wear clothes that are vaguely ‘Scandanavian’ in style, but they are free to choose. To take that freedom away from other people based on their nationality is racist. I know this is a difficult one to accept, but it’s at the heart of understanding racism. Also, the ‘When in Rome’ ideology belongs to another era, where individual rights were not exactly top of the list. Citizens served the state in ancient Rome.

    8) Burkas should be forbidden in Finland as they are in France
    See above. If you are free to wear a grass skirt with dr martins, then I think someone else should be allowed to wear a bhurka if they want to.

    9) Muslims shouldn’t have their own swimming turn. If you are demanding that Muslims should have the same moral or ethical codes as Finns, then, yes, that is racist. If there are enough Muslims who want to use the baths, and it’s profitable for the pool to have Muslim sessions, then what is the problem? A gym opened in England, I think, recently that will cater for Naturists exclusively two days a week. Would you call that unusual? Women use their own toilets out of ethical custom – would you want to take that right away too in order to make us ‘the same’?

    10) Immigrant criminals should be sent to jail and after that banish to their home country, even if there is a war ongoing.
    See above. The law should punish according to the law, not according to race. Anything less is racist.

    Finally, the fact that you have brought up so many negative issues in relation to immigrants suggests very strongly to me Niko that you are a closet racist. Come out into the light, my friend!

    • Enrique

      —4) Finnish citizens unemployment issues must be taken care of before Finland can

      This is a common argument used by those who don’t want immigrants in Finland. We should first solve our problems and then, maybe, allow them to come. This is a discriminatory sentence. If I live in Finland as an immigrant I have by law the same rights as everyone. In other words, you can exclude me and set me aside from a job because we are hiring on the bases of nationality. Racists, I would say.

      Those immigrants that live in Finland have the same rights as everyone else. You cannot hire because of nationality or for a number of reasons. Check out the Equality Law (Yhdenvertaisuuslaki): “The Non-Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, ethnic or national origin, nationality, language, religion, belief, opinion, health, disability, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics. Both direct and indirect discrimination is prohibited, and so is harassment and an instruction or order to discriminate.”

      That law is pretty comprehensive.

  10. Niko

    Thanks for your reply Enrique. Now I understand how you determine “racism”. Seems that part of my text was disappeared in 4), but it seems you understood what was in the rest 🙂

  11. Juan

    In all of the debates about migration, the topic has always been very narrow: how to limit asylum seekers and work based migration (as if this is a significant number). There has been virtually no discussion about the situation of the spouses of Finns, the children of mixed Finnish lineage, and how to improve the work situation of those already here.

    Actually, a good debate on how to improve the employment of immigrants will also shed light on how to improve the job situation of unemployed Finns, which has always historically been very high.

    • Enrique

      Hi Juan, you are right: immigrants will highlight the weaknesses in our society. One of the big ones is employment in Finland.

  12. Niko

    I agree with Juan, we should improve everybody’s employment, Finns and immigrants. Probably the most worrying thing is the youth’s unemployment rate… if they don’t get the jobs soon after the graduation, it is ever harder to get it later.

    However, I don’t think there are any easy solutions for it…

  13. Allan

    So, Mark, how do you then explain this “white flight” phenomenon? It can not be xenophobia as it does not happen when strange people move into the neighbourhood, rather being familiar with the results?


    1. Swedish-speakers are marginalized populations in certain areas. Russian would be much more useful in Eastern Finland – I fully understand the obligation in bilingual areas, but would rather give a choice.

    2. Morals are cultural concepts bound to time. Women did not have a soul in medieval Europe.

    3. I did not know “refugee” was a race?

    4. Well, if the “need for immigration” is argumented by the “need for labour” where are the jobs? Looking at the building market with the EU labourers already we see a tax evasion racket, even in government buildings and OL3. Then we look at non-EU work permits and you get the Chinese stoneworkers and Bangladeshi cleaners cases and numerous smaller ones. The legislation should not make exploitation of foreign laborers an option. Fact is, you can have a person who is a resident in Finland from the same country trying to get a job, but they bring people from his home country as hiring a resident is too expensive. True story.

    5. Its a quota issue. You can get in the faculty with lower points due to Swedish language. At some point say to get boys study nursing or girls engineering you got extra points if you were studying “crossgender”, but at some point this was deemed dicriminatory by the equality people.

    6. But these Romanians are not “living in Finland” legally, they are visiting Finland. Thats the point here I think. All EU countries have rules about residence, the movement directive has a lot of small print.

    7. So coming from the UK this means I can drive on the left side of the road as well? I choose go to Finland where the locals have made an agreement to drive on the right, it is racist for them to demand me to do that? Might work until the first lorry comes.

    8. If we go banning clothing, then we should ban any 80’s revival fashions first.

    9. So its racist for the Finns to ask us to take the shoes off when we go visit their house? Might try that the next time but I doubt I will get invited for pulla the next time. Ethical customs go with number 2. – or where are the separate toilets in Parisian bistros?

    10. Again, I did not know “criminal” was a race. The question is about citizenship. Citizenship is a contract between the “State” and an individual. The state promises protection in lieu of certain obligations, these days this agreement can not be revoked. Resident foreigners make an agreement with a state as well, but this agreement can be revoked. It is freedom of choice, nobody forces people to commit crimes.

  14. Allan

    Now I understand how you determine “racism”.

    Everything is racism except multiculturalism, and if its not racism it is certainly xenophobia.

    • Enrique

      –Everything is racism except multiculturalism, and if its not racism it is certainly xenophobia.

      Now you exaggerate, Allan. Do you know what multiculturalism is?

  15. Mark


    “Everything is racism except multiculturism.” Hahaha. Funny.

    Seriously for a moment. Multiculturism has problems. But we all have problems, in our work, in our relationships and in our families. Would you really like to be defined in terms of your problems alone? Please understand, I am not saying these things cannot be discussed, but you must obviously realise that discussing them in the context of an ‘anti-immigration’ – those foreigners from Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan etc., – is very different to discussing it in the context of, there are these people who have Finnish residency, and have come from quite different cultures and from often very difficult circumstances. It would be like all the workers from Finland who work in Nokia UK suddenly being labelled a bunch of alcoholics who bring nothing but trouble to England! Why do people expect foreigners to come to Finland and then for none of them ever to commit a crime? It’s completely unrealistic.


    1) The issue of the Swedish language is far more than a discussion about ‘what is useful’. Seriously. It’s not useful for many people in education to study maths, sciences or history if they don’t plan on using any of them in later life, but we recognise that having a basic knowledge of them is important because it communicates a cultural legacy.

    2) I’m inclined to agree about your comment. At the same time, that does not invalidate the values that we have chosen to enshrine in the Finnish constitution, and among those rights is to have freedom of religion and freedom of language.

    3) “I didn’t know that refugee was race”. Well now you’ve been educated. Racism covers more than just concepts of race (white, black, African, European etc); it refers to people who belong to specific cultural groups. In this instance it doesn’t matter what the ‘other’ race is because the suggestion is that Finns as a national group should have preferential treatment. I mean, did you really miss the fucking point in my response? Social welfare should and is based on an assessment of ‘need’, not an assessment of racial, national, or other qualifications. That kind of ‘eligibility’ is taken care of by the police/immigration officials. Once eligible for welfare support, then that support should be decided on the basis of need. Nothing else makes sense. I mean, come on Allan, are you really saying that we should keep foreigners in abject poverty and then complain when they would then resort to crime? I mean, how can you ask them to respect Finnish culture if they are treated like second or even no-class citizens?

    6) If they are here as visitors, then I think there is every justification to send them home if they break the law. Once they are residents, I think they should be treated under the law like all other residents of Finland. Funny how you talk about contracts. If you break a ‘work contract’ are you suggesting that you should be deported? Why would a contract with the state be any different? And by the way, from what I know, there is no contract signed that says, if I break the law I have to leave Finland. Did I miss something when I got my permanent residency?

    7) It is not an ‘agreement’ that people drive on the right in Finland, it is a legal requirement. You are confusing cultural norms with legal norms. The issue becomes racist when the cultural norms of the majority are imposed on a cultural minority. Surely that’s not too complicated to comprehend or even to support. I mean, if Finland had been ‘annexed’ by Russia at the end of the war, I’m pretty sure that Russians as a ‘majority’ in the that country in which Finland is a part would try to impose its culture on Finland, and there would have been huge resistence to it. You see, it’s okay to talk about norms while your norms are the norms of the majority, you assume the right of privilege and entitlement. That is very normal in hegemonic relationships. That doesn’t make it right, though.

    9) Well, now you are twisting my words, Allan and I’m not particularly happy about that. I was very clear in saying that it becomes racism when it becomes ‘cultural policing’. It’s your house, you can demand whatever you want of people that enter it. It would not be racist. But that is very different to asking the State to institutionalise the norms of only the dominant group in society and to somehow make the norms of other groups ‘wrong’, or even illegal. I don’t think anyone has suggested that. But even without legislation, a lot of damage can be done to the idea of cultural pluralism by talking about what is the ‘right behaviour’ of foreigners. And anyway, what the fuck are people talking about? What are foreigners supposed to do to make Finns happy? Eat makkara, get completely smashed on a Friday night, take sauna once a week? I mean, really? It’s pathetic the whole notion that Finns cannot be happy unless foreigners are dying their hair blonde, putting in blue eye contacts and only ever telling someone ‘mä rakastan sua’ when they are on the verge of unconciousness! And before anyone complains, I know this is a horrible stereotype of Finns. But you get the point, surely. Finns are not one group with one kind of behaviour, regardless of stereotypes. So how can you ask a foreigner to adapt when really we have no idea what they should adapt to? I mean, it’s really simple – learn the language and know what the laws are. Everything else is up to you, surely?

    10) Like I said before, I did not read anything in the ‘contract’ about being kicked out if I commit a crime. And again, where have I said ‘criminal’ is a race? I have said that all citizens are equal in the eyes of the law. Once you have one law for one and one for another, based on ‘race/ethnicity/origin’, then you have created a two-tier society, where some citizens have lesser rights. Once a citizen, then you have the right to be treated in the same way as other citizens. To not be treated with equality on the basis that you are of a different ethnic origin is quite CLEARLY racist and should and thankfully isn’t tolerated in any country in the Western world. In fact, the opposite is the case. People’s rights to be treated equally are typically enshrined in law. Do you really think it was a fucking accident that politicians the world over decided to make those laws? Or do you just think it was a mistake? I mean, if you are racist Allan, why not just say it and say, actually, all you people who don’t want to be racist are the ones who have it wrong. But don’t try to redefine what racism is so that you can be a racist without having to suffer being called a racist! That would be a huge cowardice. In fact, I think it is a cowardice that afflicts of many members of PS.

    • Enrique

      Mark, it would be interesting to hear what Allan thinks or knows what multiculturalism is. Please enlighten us, Allan. We want to know.

    • Enrique

      I kind of guessed why Allan would not answer what multiculturalism is. Too many people criticize it but have little idea what it acually means. A clue: Canadian social policy, maybe, or pure demographics? I am certain that Teuvo Hakkarainen is in the dark about the term. I wonder what he’d say if we’d ask him to explain multicultualism to us?

  16. Mark

    Yes, Mr Hakkarainen wasn’t with the program, was he? He was under the impression that PS members could actually say what they really believed, after all, they were elected! lol. First bit of egg on their faces. These folks are just loose cannons flying all over the place!

    It’s a huge shame that leading politicians like Merkel of Germany and Cameron of the UK have come out and said multiculturalism is a failure, though both politicians are on the Right. There has always been skepticism, but really, this is more political posturing than a genuine assessment of it’s success or failure, as the Right can see very clearly how their support base is going to be further undermined by the rise of more extremist views. But in trying to fight off that battle from the Far Right, they have shifted their own parties policies further to the right on the issue. I felt very disappointed for the millions upon millions of people living in Europe who are immigrants or who know and care about friends and family who are immigrants to be told by a politician that their integration into European society has been a failure!

    The failure as ever has been a lack of political will and a lack of resources to fund a proper integration policy. That’s the flat, bottom line! We invite them in, abandon them to the most deprived areas of our cities and then moan when some of them don’t seem to succeed too well! Meanwhile, we ignore those that have fought tooth and nail to adapt, find work and give something back to their host community. Quite depressing.

    I totally agree Juan that the most obvious point is the huge oversimplification of the subject. That clearly is because it’s not really a serious issue from the point of view of problem solving – rather, it’s about ‘cheap’ votes!

    • Enrique

      –The failure as ever has been a lack of political will and a lack of resources to fund a proper integration policy.

      I could not agree more with you on this. There is NO effective integration policy. Those immigrants that came to countries like Germany and Austria were supposed to work for a few years and then leave back to their countries. And now politicians like Merkel wash their hands of the problem by blaming multiculturlaism.

      I challenge anyone on this blog to tell me what multiculturalism is. I suspect that those that criticize it the most are those that understand it least. The anti-immigrant Nuiva manifesto of the PS states that it does not want Finland to follow Sweden’s multiculturalism. LOL! Sweden isn’t officially a multicultural country nor is Finland. I asked Allan to elaborate but he didn’t.

  17. Mark

    Oh, it was good to see Juan and Nico both stating that employment is the key issue, for both Finns and immigrants. It crossed my mind that there is an important point associated with the unemployment issue that relates also to immigrants in general.

    The key strategy in Finland to reduce unemployment has been ‘activation policies’. This brings the unemployed person into the welfare office to draw up a ‘plan’ for finding work, and which they have to re-evaluate and commit to – literally, they sign the paper – with the idea that by making unemployed persons more active in their search, then the chances of success are in the job market are greater. I think there is some truth in that argument, BUT the key failure with the policy is that in spite of the activation measures, in many parts of Finland, there are simply not the jobs available in the market, or they are clearly not suitable jobs (computer techs cannot be expected to be hairdressers or vice versa).

    The whole policy has been criticised for one fundamental error. It overly individualises the problems. It says, here are these unemployed people who haven’t worked for several or more years. It must be their fault. So some, not lots, of money is put into these activation policies and then the result is, there are not enough jobs. The lack of jobs cannot be seen as an individual problem but as a societal problem – simply, a lack of growth. The question is how to stimulate more growth or bring more worthwhile jobs to the market through the public sector.

    The same is true of immigrants. Many times they are placed in very difficult situations, where in spite of their best efforts, they cannot find work, and yet the first thing that people or some politicians do is ‘individualise’ the problem, saying it’s their fault. That conveniently absolves ‘society’, and the government of the day, from having to do anything about it. And by that, I mean beyond investing the bare minimum in intergration resources or in activation policies. No amount of additional activation policies will add jobs to the market.

  18. Mark

    My wife wrote this to me in a text today and I have to say, it’s one of the most poignant things I’ve ever read. I’m proud of her strength and clarity and I hope that she does not feel forever that ‘her’ Finland is lost.

    “This sadness [about some old school friends flaming Facebook conversations with anti-immigration rhetoric] is not only about people being so wrong and neglecting other people – but also because it feels like my country is taken away from me. We all are some kind of nationalists, this is my nation and it does have a deep value to me just as it is the country I was born into. I love the places, I love the traditions. I love the language. I see value in small and big things around me maybe more than some do (or have the time). When same these people [old school friends now supporting PS] told our school Finnish teacher to ‘fuck off’, I was enjoying our language’s grammar, when our summer hymn played and a veteran told about the war moved me to tears, these same people laughed; when I walked in the forest or fell in love with the houses our grandfathers built, they couldn’t care less; when I was happy in my home town and in the countryside they thought I was an idiot; when this country made me happy by just being a home for me, I was a fool. They needed a black man to fall in love with this country. They needed an Elsewhere; they needed a fear and something they could not understand to see their own outlines. Now they want to be seen as the only ones carrying the flag; they took my flag and say that they are the true Finns. This actually makes me cry. I care. They needed a ‘nigger’ to be able to appreciate their home, to experience something like HOME. I needed a home to understand the love for all the homes, everywhere.”

    Rakastan sua, vaimoni! Ja rakastan soumalaisia henki!

    • Enrique

      Mark, those are very moving words. I couldn’t agree more. We are, unfortunately, part of this tragic-comic play watching clowns likeTeuvo Hakkarainen and others doing their thing.

      The Finns deserve much better.

    • Enrique

      Mark, all these sucking up to the PS by the major parties is a gamble. I would look at the economy. If it gets better, that’s bad news for the PS. If it gets worse, they can stoke more fear in the population. I think the tendency in Europe is to exclude such right-wing populist parties except for in special cases like the role of the Islamophobic DPP in Denmark. What do you think?

  19. Allan

    So Mark, where does the legislation come from?With a bearded man down the mountain written on stone?

    No, the laws of a nation are made by the people in that nation, and reflect their morals and their culture. So driving on the side of the street is maybe a custom that has at some point been coded into a law. But there are a lot of customs that are habitually observed by people that are in no law books – until there rises an objection to someone breaking these customs and its written down. But the decisions the legislators make are based on their morals and culture. So say in Singapore bestiality is a crime which deserves you the lash and in Finland there is no mention of such things in the law book but the locals still would be upset.

  20. Allan

    Mark, I think you should read the aliens act if you have some kind of illusions you could not be deported if you commit a crime.

    The notion about citizenship or relations with the state being a contract is from one of the French philosophers who inspired the revolution.

  21. Allan

    Enrique – do you know what multiculturalism means? Most people agree on a few aspects, but the definition is not set in stone

    I would say my definition of it is what Trevor Phillips calls to be scrapped, basically its cultural nimbyism, separation and segregation all too often self-imposed. And all this due to political reasons as “multiculturalism” is a political agenda

    • Enrique

      Allan, the reason why I asked you that question is because it took me a very, very long time to grasp what it meant.

      An academic definition could be something like the following: Multiculturalism refers to a view that ethnically or religiously diverse societies should protect and promote diversity and should be based on both individual and group rights. Peter Kivisto

      If you disagree with the latter definition, what should the role of the state be in a culturally diverse society?

      Here is something more from Tariq Modood: This (multiculturalism) is clearly not oppposed to integration… multiculturalism assumes a two-way process of integration but, additionally, it is taken to work differently for different groups.”

      And that is one problem when people look at multiculturalism. It means a different thing in Canada versus Australia.

      Canada: As fact, “multiculturalism” in Canada refers to the presence and persistence of diverse racial and ethnic minorities who define themselves as different and who wish to remain so. Ideologically, multiculturalism consists of a relatively coherent set of ideas and ideals pertaining to the celebration of Canada’s cultural diversity. Multiculturalism at the policy level is structured around the management of diversity through formal initiatives in the federal, provincial and municipal domains. Finally, multiculturalism is the process by which racial and ethnic minorities compete to obtain support from central authorities for the achievement of certain goals and aspirations.

      Australia: The freedom of all Australians to express and share their cultural values is dependent on their abiding by mutual civic obligations. All Australians are expected to have an overriding loyalty to Australia and its people, and to respect the basic structures and principles underwriting our democratic society. These are: the Constitution, parliamentary democracy, freedom of speech and religion, English as the national language, the rule of law, acceptance and equality.

      The only three countries in the world that are officially multicultural are: Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, according to Kivisto. In two of these countries, multicultural policy played an important role in keeping the country from falling apart (eg Canada Quebec, Scotland, Wales). Finland is NOT a multicultural country. Nowhere in our constitution and laws does it state that we are multicultural. At the best it has multicultural suseptibilities.

      One problem when people criticize multiculturalism they usually don’t tell us with what they want to replace it with. Assimilation? Doesn’t work. Integration? Maybe.

      I personally see it in the following manner: If we live in a diverse society one of the main priorities of each group is mutual acceptance. Just like a person can chose his lifestyle he/she can also chose his culture and when and how he wants to celebrate it. Such a person can “switch on or off” a culture. One can, like a light, dim the intensity to suit the person.

      Equal opportunity and inclusion play vital roles as well.

      Another fallacy is that some think that when people come from other cultures to a new one they don’t change. Adaption forces them to change (hybrid culture).

      As one can see, this is a complex field but maybe we can learn one thing from it: You can’t give simple solutions on how people adapt to society. So if you read an integration-for-dummies book by right-wing populist parties throw it away or put it on the fairy tale section of your library.

  22. Allan

    Yes Enrique I am on a very varied connection I am not on a computer 24/7

    “PS states that it does not want Finland to follow Sweden’s multiculturalism. LOL! Sweden isn’t officially a multicultural country nor is Finland.”

    Actually Sweden is to be officially multicultural with its latest constitutional amendments, its the clause with the Sami rights expanding it to other religions and ethnicities if I remember the draft correctly.

    • Enrique

      –Yes Enrique I am on a very varied connection I am not on a computer 24/7.

      Sorry Allan, I did not mean to be rude.

  23. Allan

    I think my red flag is to the “political multiculturalism” as you said theres a lot of definitions and each political group who has it in their agenda has a different definition and frankly some of them advocate discrimination.

    In Finland what I understand people from the UK have a totally different set of expectations and the Finns have a totally different understanding of multiculturalism. I would shoot the messenger as apparently some people were hiding problems and then claiming ” multiculturalism” while they did not understand the concepts and were trying to push Finnish policies at par with Sweden and UK. UK is now looking at what went wrong. Norway and Denmark have started to reassess their policies but Sweden is still claiming theres no problems whatsoever. Finland has always been bipolar in approach to new ideas but now the traditional slamming the breaks and seeing what others do is taking over.

    • Enrique

      Allan, because societies are made of people they will never be perfect. Our societies are now multicultural in a demographic sense. It’s the reality and a fact. We have to find solutions in order to make society inclusive to the majority.

      I wouldn’t buy the assumption that all societies that have immigrants “don’t work” in Europe. Certainly they work. The problem, as you correctly said, is a complex one. But take it from the countries in the big immigrant leagues, which aren’t perfect either: acceptance and opportunities. That won’t give you a perfect society either but it sure will put you on the right path. In Finland as in Scandinavia we have the welfare state that is built on a noble principal like equality for all. Certainly we are on the right track as a society. Those same principles have to apply to all. Why? Because it is a more effective and less costly to the tax payer.

  24. Mark


    – “So Mark, where does the legislation come from?With a bearded man down the mountain written on stone?”

    Can’t say I’m religious myself, but hey, it’s a good theory! I’ll have to remember that one.

    – “No, the laws of a nation are made by the people in that nation, and reflect their morals and their culture. So driving on the side of the street is maybe a custom that has at some point been coded into a law.”

    I agree

    – “But there are a lot of customs that are habitually observed by people that are in no law books – until there rises an objection to someone breaking these customs and its written down. But the decisions the legislators make are based on their morals and culture.”

    I agree

    – “So say in Singapore bestiality is a crime which deserves you the lash and in Finland there is no mention of such things in the law book but the locals still would be upset.”

    I agree

    Gosh, that was pretty painless. How did we ever get to disagreeing about anything? 😉

  25. Mark


    – “Mark, I think you should read the aliens act if you have some kind of illusions you could not be deported if you commit a crime.”

    Well, I don’t plan on commiting any crimes any time soon, but thanks for the heads up. I was also under the impression that if you have family in Finland, it’s different? However, I am giving my opinion, whether that is fully reflected in Finnish law, I don’t know. JusticeDemon would know, I’m sure.

    – “The notion about citizenship or relations with the state being a contract is from one of the French philosophers who inspired the revolution.”

    Well, if it was a french philosopher, it must be a good idea, yes? But that does get away from the question of why would foreigners have a different contract with the state than natives? I would also say that surely the concept of ‘contract’ here is abstract as no Finn has signed a contract on the occasion of their birth?

    So, have you been celebrating the wedding today, as you seem a little more incoherant than usual? Cheers to the lovely couple, if you have a pint in your hand right now! I know I do 🙂

  26. JusticeDemon


    I don’t think you have engaged with what we mean by culture.

    If we live in a diverse society one of the main priorities of each group is mutual acceptance. Just like a person can chose his lifestyle he/she can also chose his culture and when and how he wants to celebrate it. Such a person can “switch on or off” a culture. One can, like a light, dim the intensity to suit the person.

    This is a bit like saying that when bats and birds occupy the same bit of sky, each is free to extinguish or mitigate its chiropteran or avian character. That would be a very odd way of explaining the behavioural adjustments that are involved or required. Normally, we would instead understand that the bats and birds had learned new behaviour patterns that optimise their coexistence (e.g. enabling them to forecast one another’s movements when flying and thereby avoid collisions), but that the bats remain chiropteran and the birds remain avian.

    A human being can no more extinguish his or her culture than a bat can choose to be no longer a bat in behavioural terms. Your culture is basically everything about you that is not of solely genetic origin. It is the sum total of your learned behaviour.

    For example, if I say to you “silmät kiinni ja kuvittele maistavasi hapan sitruunaa”, then you are likely to have an immediate entirely physiological reaction. The same goes for telling you a funny joke in Finnish. You can’t “switch off” these specific reactions, even though fewer than one in 1,000 human beings shares this reaction to a certain sound pattern, i.e. when someone makes the air vibrate in a particular way. In a very real sense, you are what you have learned to become, and this is what we mean by your culture.

    What we can all do is learn to adapt. When the members of a community collectively adapt in this way we talk of cultural shift, but from the point of view of the individual, this is merely more of the same. It will inevitably be easier for younger individuals, as they do not need to modify learned behaviour patterns that have already become ingrained habits.

  27. Maria

    Justice Demon:

    Wasn’t Enrique the one who said that?

    “If we live in a diverse society one of the main priorities of each group is mutual acceptance. Just like a person can chose his lifestyle he/she can also chose his culture and when and how he wants to celebrate it. Such a person can “switch on or off” a culture. One can, like a light, dim the intensity to suit the person.”

    • Enrique

      Hola María, qué tal? A veces tenemos diferencias de opiniones. Y tú qué piensas de las elecciones de abril? Hay muchos que están muy preocupados por la situación. Tú no?

  28. JusticeDemon


    Yep – I think you are right.

    Ricky, put your anthropologist’s baseball cap back on the right way round. The peak will help to keep the sun out of your eyes.

    For your benefit, the example goes “shut your eyes and imagine sucking on a sour lemon”. If you say this to a native speaker of English, then you get a reaction that is largely involuntary and visceral. You get no such reaction from a person who cannot understand English. This difference is entirely cultural in the fullest sense. The assumption that you can “turn off” your culture simply indicates confusion as to what we mean by culture.

    A person does not wear a culture like a suit of clothes that can be changed. In a very real sense without culture there is no person at all. This is another way of saying that it is culture that turns a human being into a person. Individuals can expand and develop their own culture, but there is no way to understand this in terms of abandoning anything. Once you are a native speaker of Finnish, you will always and inevitably have a typical gut reaction to certain kinds of stimuli that are merely background noise to 999 people in 1,000. You will also retain this acculturation even if you learn another language to a comparable degree of proficiency. There is no way for you to kill this, as it’s part of what makes you who you are. At most all you can do is lull it to sleep.

    • Enrique

      JusticeDemon, true, culture is anything learned. It is also a key you use to adapt and have access to groups. Having grown up in three distinct cultures, I’d say I have adopted, or switched on figuratively, that culture that blends me into one. In a world that was more divided and less globablized than before, one had to do it this way. Now I say that I am all three of them. An example: in order to move without people noticing that I was a foreigner, I had to switch on certain cultural traits: speak Spanish with a porteño accent and enter the world, values and views of that culture. Swtching on meant for me adapting. When I’d be in the States, I’d switch back on the culture that adapted me the fastest; in Finland it was the same story. Switching on is perception and adaption. It is fitting in and forming part.

      María, who grew up in two cultures can probably give you similar experiences. So, yes, we can, figuratively speaking, wear cultures and turn them on and off. For how long is another question.

  29. JusticeDemon


    The crucial point is that you can’t switch off or extinguish your culture. Denying your culture means denying who you are and where you came from.

    • Enrique

      I said switching off a culture figuratively for a while when adapting. I am not saying forever and I think that would be impossible.

  30. Mark

    Culture can be thought of as the sum total of who we are, our reactions etc., but JD, isn’t it true that behaviour has an element of choice? There are elements of our ‘own’ culture we may not like and deliberately choose to leave out. But there is also a visible that every can see and understand, such as the colour of our flag, the food we eat, the annual celebrations, but then there are less visible parts of our culture, such as the status of our health, the degree of opportunity, the true situation of equality, whether that is in terms of rights, resources, opportunities, etc. There are many things in our culture about which we are necessarily blind, in part because we’ve simply never seen it done any other way.

    The problem with all definitions is that its a game of boxes, and which partly assumes that everything is in the open, when the truth is much is hidden and difficult to see.

    Of course, people have choices, and we can say they can choose to emphasize or demphasize parts of their culture, but you cannot switch off what you cannot properly see. I think that is JD’s point. Likewise, you cannot switch off what is ‘you’ as a totality.

    There is a similar parallel in linguistics where people mistakenly say, ‘I have no accent’. What they really mean is that they don’t have a ‘marked’ accent, such as in English Scouse, or Cockney or suchlike, that would be immediately recognisable. What they then probably have is Estuary English, which is nevertheless an accent and, like Enrique says, gives membership of a group all the same, though the group is the dominant group. It often happens that way that the norms of the largest group become so accepted that they become ‘natural’ to the point where people simply don’t see them as norms.

    I grew up in west Wales with a welsh speaking father and an English mother. At 12 I moved to the Isle of Man and lived there for 15 years before moving to London for 7 years and now in Finland for 8 years. I cannot say that I am Welsh, because I really don’t feel Welsh and have little of the language left. I’m not Manx, though I have a few relics in my own accent. And I don’t feel English. I definitely wouldn’t claim to be Finnish. But though I feel like i don’t have a ‘home’ culture, I most certainly do. It’s just it’s ‘nationalistic’ edges are very blurred. I’d fit into the ‘Brit’ category, but any lower than that and I’d struggle to find my box. But of course, people from outside the UK would see me very classically as a Brit. In fact, they would see things that aren’t even there, simply because they hear the accent and make assumptions. I’m really surprised the time and attention you get in high places in Finland simply because you have an English accent. I mean by that, I can very clearly see it’s cultural value in a place like Finland. Finland appreciates something about English culture which they don’t appreciate about African or Asian cultures. Perhaps it’s as simple as geography, perhaps it’s just that Africa doesn’t give us a quarter of our TV programming.

    Multiculturism is both a descriptive and a prescriptive label. You can approach it as something that exists and which you simply describe, or you can approach it as a set of goals and intentions and measure those. No wonder people end up discussing it in quite different terms. One can say that the goals are inappropriate, that the dreamed of level of integration or even co-operation and happy mingling of cultures has failed in a ‘so-called’ multicultural society. That would be one hell of a sweeping generalisation, though. It would be much more useful to say that some of the problems of multiculturalism have become intransigent. In England, there are areas that function as cultural enclaves, and people see that as a failure of multiculturalism, partly because the envisaged goal is not really multiculturism, but ‘bi-culturism’, where people are somehow see to embody both their native or ancesteral culture and the host culture. I think that is extremely unlikely at least until the 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants, where schooling and mixing and moving bring about enough shared experiences.

    What surprises me in this talk about cultural identities is that we seem to lose sight so easily of the fact we belong to a species, and that a vast swathe of our make up is completely shared. We are more alike than we are different, quite clearly. And sometimes, we only adopt a sense of our national character when we are actually talking about it, but then fall back to just being ‘human’ in ordinary life. I really don’t see Finns or Africans or Asians or any ethnic group that i have known as being anything but human. And the differences within groups seem far more significant than differences between groups.

    • Enrique

      A person who has been brought up in two or more cultures learns to travel in between them. Maybe that travelling is nothing more than a perception of one’s place in that group. It also depends when you were born and how people saw otherness. If they had a very rigid view of their culture, then the adaption would fall under rigid guidelines. I personally had the opportunity to grow up in three very distant counries simultaneously: US, Argentina and Finland. Being in those three cultures felt for me like traveling in between them. You adapted to one and then readapted to the other. This is what I meant by “switching on/off” a culture. The switch that helped me do that were langauge and knowledge of the culture. Maybe a switch isn’t the best description of what I am trying to say but I guess you nderstand what I mean.

      If one of those cultures or the groups you are with see themselves rigidly (or you think they do in your eyes), there isn’t very much room for hybridity. In a globalized world, however, where diversity may be accepted in varying degrees, there is no need to adapt under such rigid guidelines. What factor makes this possible? Acceptance. Culture gives us the tools to function in our group but it is wrong to state that we are its slave. This is the favorite arguments of those that demonize groups. These groups, no matter from where they are, state that that person’s culture is so different from ours that they will never adapt to our culture. Apart from exposing an ethnocentric view, the person making such an affirmation is justifying his/her racism and hatred.

      Humans can learn, we have free will and are highly adaptable. Some artists are good example of the latter. They have the ability to cross lines in culture. Culture could be seen as part mirage, comprised of our hopes and values, and part realty, a tool we use to adapt and survive in society. How much culture directs us is a matter of debate but it plays a vial role since we are social animals.

      I gave the following description of my cultural predicament in a book published in 1994: “Belonging to three cultures is like having three hungry children to feed. All three of them have expensive tastes. I must have spent a fortune on plane tickets during my lifetime. I am certain that I would be a millionaire today if I could turn the hours I’ve spent pampering these children into dollars.”

      Using hindsight, my mistake was seeing these three cultures as separate when, in fact, they were all one.

      Here is a neat definition of culture by Seyla Benhabib: “From within, a culture need not appear as a whole; rather, it forms a horizon that recedes each time one approaches it.”

      One person I believe would have a lot to say about this is María, who is Colombian but grew up in France.

    • Enrique

      An African teenager told me about what happened to him in Jyväskylä and I would like your opinion on what he should have done. On the bus, a young man pushed him twice as he was getting off. It wan’t a strong shove but a conspicuous shove anyway. He got off and then a group of started to make derogatory remarks: “Hey you are black but you have white teeth. Look at him. He has white teeth. You still look pretty,” one said.

      What was surprising was that on the bus nobody said anything about the shove, even though the African asked why he was shoving him. The bus driver was quite never mind the passengers.

      So what would you have done in such a case? Call the police? As the bus driver for help?

  31. Allan

    So, Mark, lets now continue on the logical path. If you agree that in a society the people have local customs that have been formed into a local culture, and some of these local customs are either unwritten or written down – howcome you claim it is ” racism” to expect people moving to that society to adhere to these laws and customs? If a person is rude you dont serve them, its not racism. It is racism if you deny service due to their skin color. Lot of people mix these things up. Especially dealing with bureaucracy, and thats nothing unique to Finland. Theres peculiar laws and practices all over the globe.

  32. Allan

    Enrique – I dont know about you, but I’d made myself very scarce very quick. Yobs and chavs on a bus is nothing the driver nor other people deal in anyplace these days. And how long does it take to get the police there?

  33. Maria

    Hola Enrique como estas? pues no sé qué pensar, no me parece que ellos solos puedan cambiar muchas cosas pues no son los únicos en el parlamento, hay más gente para controlarlos, me parece, pero la verdad yo no creo mucho en política, ellos como que hablan, hablan y hablan para obtener votos y despues como que no hacen nada. Si la cosa se pone muy dificil pues no devolvemos a Colombia, pero no creo que haya un cambio drástico la verdad. Con respecto a la immigración pues espero que lleguen a un terreno neutral, en donde controlen como han venido haciendo la entrada de las personas pero sin discriminar a ciertas pueblos. Tambien me parece como dijo Juan por ahi que cuando se habla de inmigración se hace referencia a ciertos grupos y no a todos los imigrantes, deberian ser mas claros en especificar a quienes exactamente se refieren cuando dicen anti-inmigración, no? (me refiero a los politicos) Feliz Vappu 🙂

    • Enrique

      Hola María, un gusto de verte por acá. Yo, personalmente, veo esto como un atraso (la elección de los PS) pero nos puede cambiar como una sociedad positivamente. Tú como colombiana como yo hemos visto suficiente guerra y odio. Todo lo que alimente ese fuego de la intolerancia es un atraso. Feliz Vappu también y gracias por responderle a JusticeDemon sobre nuestra cultura híbrida. Como nosotros no hay tantos pero somos más todos los días.

  34. Maria

    Hmmm for once I agree with Enrique and I understand what he meant with “switching on/off” a culture, I grew up between Colombia and France and I know that I don’t behave and react the same way when I am in either country, but then explaining it is quite hard, I think it is a subconscious thing, something that tells me how to behave when I am in France and in Colombia, I can’t really come up with a scientific explanation for it…. maybe it works for people who have been since childhood in the middle of two very distinct cultures, I don’t have French origins but I definitely consider myself French, it is part of who I am, alongside with being Colombia, though I would never dream of calling myself Finnish, maybe the short time living here and the lack of language explains it, even though as I mentioned in many posts Finns have been very welcoming and I’ve never had a “bad” encounter, actually before finding and reading this blog I was not aware of the staring thing 🙂

  35. JusticeDemon

    Ricky and Mark

    People who have learned to live in various parts of the world are what I call intercultural. A genuinely intercultural individual is living proof of the possibility of pragmatic synthesis between disparate forms of life.

    Intercultural individuals usually compartmentalise their subjective experiences to some degree, moving between various “modes”. However, I would avoid descriptions like switching off or extinguishing to describe this experience. It’s much more like the difference between behaviour in formal and informal situations. We know how to play various roles, but the person playing the role remains the same.

  36. Maria

    Hahaha, this is interesting, I think when Enrique wrote “switch on/off” he was writing in a figurative way, he said so actually, I believe this comes from his Latin background, we use very often the figure of speech, and I have had the experience here in Europe that people might not understand what we REALLY want to say because they interpret it literally. This might explain why I understood what he meant with the expression.

    Once I was talking to a group of Dutch people and one of them said he lives in the center and I immediately said: “Ohh I hate you”, the guy looked at me surprised and answered “but I barely know you, how can you hate me”, I blushed and said that I didn’t mean it that way, just that I thought it was cool to live in the center since I live quite far from it…that day I learned that figurative speech is not the best way for communicating in Europe.

  37. JusticeDemon


    I’d made myself very scarce very quick. Yobs and chavs on a bus is nothing the driver nor other people deal in anyplace these days. And how long does it take to get the police there?

    That’s an interesting and regrettably common response that combines pride and cowardice in roughly equal measure.

    I think a more edifying view is a synthesis of this and this.

  38. Mark


    – how come you claim it is ” racism” to expect people moving to that society to adhere to these laws and customs?

    Where have I claimed it is racism to have to adhere to the laws of that society? However, laws can be racist. Apartheid was a legal framework in S. Africa, but it was none the less racist.

    I’ve lost track of what you are really trying to say here, Allan, or what you really disagree with.

    Let’s seperate laws and customs for a moment, even if we both agree that laws are a formalisation of expectations based on customs.

    It is a custom to in Finland to eat Mammi at Easter. It is also true that not all Finns like mammi and so not everyone follows the custom. Are you saying that just because you are a foreigner, you do not have the freedom to choose to ignore the custom? However, if you are with a Finnish family for Easter and they offer you mammi, are you supposed to accept because it’s being offered? Many people would say it’s polite to accept, even if you don’t like it, others would say it’s important to be true to your own likes and dislikes and to be honest in saying you don’t like it and say you hope they are not offended.

    I think we can clearly see that for these kinds of customs, it’s not the end of the world if foreigners don’t do the same as Finns in general, if for no other reason than we don’t expect all Finns to necessarily follow these customs.

    Could you Allan tell me about a custom that foreigners are ignoring that is not illegal but which is still a problem? Then we can discuss whether we have the right to expect or even demand that they follow that custom. Likewise, are you talking about foreigners following their own customs, such as arranged marriage or such like?

    I really would like to get back to proper examples. And I don’t mean, driving on the left is a custom, because that is quite silly as an example of a ‘custom’. I mean, I really don’t know many foreigners who would really insist that they should be allowed to drive on the left. Do you?

    • Enrique

      –Are you saying that just because you are a foreigner, you do not have the freedom to choose to ignore the custom?

      Good question, Mark. Maybe the whole problem on a layman level is that when we speak of integration, we mean ethnocentrically “adapting to my customs, thinking and way of life.” Who does that? In our society there are many lifestyles and views to choose from.

      This idea, maassa maan tavalla, is a pipedream. I remember a case in Spain when the PP leader Mariano Rajoy stepped up the xenophobia in the 2008 by stating that immigrants should sign an agreement where they would promise to follow Spanish customs and laws. Did this mean going to bullfights, sleeping siesas etc. One Spaniard asked Rajoy to apply a similar contract to the Catalans and Basques. LOL

  39. Maria

    Hola Enrique, gracias 🙂 pues esperemos a ver como evolucionan las cosas, pero yo personalmente vivo muy decepcionada de la raza humana, como lo escribí en el otro post, es como si nacieramos para odiar, la inegalidad, la lucha de clases, la pobreza, etc. Por ejemplo me pareció un sacrilegio el despliegue y la cantidad de plata que se gastó en el matrimonio de William, imaginate la cantidad de gente que se hubiera podido ayudar con ese montón de plata que se gastaron ese día, sabias que UK dejo de producir 6 billones de euros por haber decretado fiesta ese día y que la seguridad costó alrededor de 80 millones de Euros, se gastaron lo que produce Somalia en un año en un solo día!!! y hay gente en Inglaterra que vive con apenas lo necesario que rayan en la pobreza, conozco una niña que trabaja acá para poderle mandar plata a los papas en UK, y son ingleses, no immigrantes! mi sueño es ser millonaria para despues irme a construir casas y colegios en donde se necesiten. Y bueno lo que escribí sobre las etiquetas, desde mi punto de vista si empezaramos a vernos como humanos en vez de “negros, blancos, judios, musulmanes, catolicos, ricos, pobres” tal vez el mundo sería un lugar mucho mejor, pero no creo que sea posible.
    Que estes bien.

  40. Allan

    “Correct me if I’m wrong. That’s about 1 more person for every square 20km of Finland. That’s an extra 1 person for every 56 km/square. Now that is hardly a strain.”

    Mike, the population density is even smaller in Iceland and Greenland. Now work on that idea, people can eat snow and rocks if they can eat trees.

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