Turning naivety on Finland into action

by , under All categories, Enrique

Like many second-generation Finns that lived abroad, I too hoped to move back to live in Finland one day.

While the decision to move back was an easy one, I encountered my first setback when I applied for a residence permit. In the late-1970s, Finland had a pretty draconian view of who was and was not a Finn.

Even though I had a Finnish mother and had spent most of my childhood and adolescent summers in the country with my grandparents, I was treated by the law like a foreigner with no rights. The first residence permit I got was for three months, then it was extended for six and later on for two years.

The treatment I got from the authorities, and those that were enforcing it at the Aliens’ Office, forced my naivety of Finland to vanish rapidly. A woman who worked at the Aliens’ Office once snapped at me, when I protested at the unfair treatment I was getting.

“You’re not a Finn!” she said, adding I had no bonds to the culture!

Certainly I wasn’t a Finn, officially, but that’s not how I felt.

Who is a Finn anyway? Who decides? Is it a passport? Language? What about if you’re deaf? Is it culture? Or does it boil down to a deep-rooted feeling of “where one feels he is from?”

Many challenges await Finland as we race deeper into the 21st century. One of the greatest of these is learning how to accept others from different backgrounds and use their synergies to strengthen and forge our sense of Finnish identity.

There is ample room for people from other national backgrounds to live in Finland and be accepted and encouraged to feel that they are a part of a noble project we call Finland. In this country of the future, Finland will prosper.

  1. Enrique

    DeTant, integration is a two-way street. As you know, Silvio Berlusconi’s strong anti-immigrant stance hinges on the ultra-nationalist Liga Nord. All this talk of strong government, get-tough stance on immigrants, is a red herring. Berlusconi’s government will fail on these matters because they are unrealistic to enforce. Here is a multi-billionaire media mogul who commits far greater crimes such as bribery and extortion than what illegal immigrants commit. He then passes laws to absolve himself. Who causes the greatest economic damage on the country — Berlusconi or illegal immigrants? Why doesn’t he pick on someone his size? The respect for the law is tantamount but can you tell that Berlusconi?

  2. Jonas

    If you are half-Finnish and that is how the Alien Authority treated you, then I am quite embarrassed on behalf of that woman. We aren’t so many as it is, we ought to be treating at least our own citizens and people a bit better. If we can’t even do that, we don’t have much hope for meeting the actual foreigners in an acceptable manner.

    If we’re going to increase the number of immigrants as we need to do in the future, Finnish people (both expatriates and their off spring) abroad are a good group to target. As you correctly mention in your latest entry, it’s going to be tough for Finland to compete for the best immigrants because of our unattractive climate and tough majority language etc – on this, at least Finns abroad and their descendants have a tie to the country that means they can see through the weather and probably already have language skills, and if not, they have a real incentive (self discovering?) to learn.

    Italy, under Belusconi, is frankly a joke. But what is so hard to understand is how on earth the Italian elecorate could vote for him in the numbers they did. It’s as hard for me to comprehend as the Americans reelecting Bush in 2004. Berlusconi’s government has now passed a law making it legal practice to give immigrants a 30% longer prison sentence than Italians. How this can be legal in European law, I do not know. He is also, shamelessly, using the parliament to pass laws to protect himself thus allowing him to get away with corruption. We have seen in the last days how EU has reacted to corruption in Bulgaria. I would hope they would have the same tough line on more established member states. My hope is sadly unrealistic.

  3. Enrique

    Hi Joonas, many thanks for your kind words. There is not reason to feel ashamed of what happened because it was not your fault — it also happened a long time ago. But it was a very big moment in my life as a Finn. I had thought that by moving back to Finland I would find the same wonderful and friendly country that I had learned to know during those summers.
    I agree with you that one of the human resources that Finland must tap are people who have Finnish ancestry. Many of us, who have lived most of our lives outside Finland, have a too romantic view of this country. Even so, it does not justify that type of treatment on a personal nor by the law. Even though we have the best education system in the world, it still does not address effectively racism and accepting others who are different from us. But I am an optimist – I believe that Finland will — hopefully — resolve these types of issue. As with Berlusconi, I’m just as surprised as you. I worked in Milan for a year and saw some of the marches by the Liga Nord. Some Italians joked about southern Italy, claiming it was “Nord Africa.” Incredible. In my opinion, one of the reasons why we’ve built such an exemplary society is because we must have high ideals and respect for others. The respect is not only for the “natives,” but should be transmitted to those who have come to live in our country. We cannot speak of social equality and on the other hand exclude others.

  4. DeTant Blomhat

    In the 1970’s that was totally different scenario. Now in the 2000’s when the nationality law changed allowing dual citizenship you could get the lost citizenship back with just submitting a paper. Thats lightyears different from Eila Kännö times in the 1970’s – back then immigration was a bad thing to have.

  5. DeTant Blomhat

    Yes well my point exactly is not letting just all kind of dregs of the society settle here acting as if they own the country. Because that will cause something like “liga nord” be established here as well. You want to make Finland into a similar cesspit as Italy has become where the rich people are untouchable and the only thing immigrants can do is live like slaves or in the garbage dump. This is exactly why we want immigrants to behave like Finns so this country would not become a cesspit like now what they are having the inter-immigrant violence like with the Chechens and Kurds in Norway.

  6. Enrique

    You are right in your assessment DeTant. But don’t you think people of different cultures don’t have the upbringing to live in a dignified manner? Tell me how you force people to be like Finns? Who would it be done? In an advanced democratic society as Finland, people make choices and take responsibility for them. Even though money is a good variable to make you do things you don’t want in society, like hold a job you dislike, in the end we like to feel that we can make choices in our lives that we take full responsibility for. Forcing people to accept a culture is pretty undemocratic. Is it the Finnish way? I don’t think so.

  7. Enrique

    DeTant, you are right about the Eila Kännö era. Thank goodness that matters have changed. In that bleak era that’s when foreigners were “forced” to respect laws even though they had little protection under the law. Back then, as you know, if a foreigner got into a fight with a Finn, the former could have been deported. That is now history.

  8. DeTant Blomhat

    Nobody is forcing the people to come here. They choose to come so they choose Finland and Finnish culture. As simple as that. If they don’t want to live in Finland they don’t have to. Finns want to live in Finland.

  9. Enrique

    Come on, DeTant, don’t be that way. A refugee, as you know, is not a tourist. He ends up in a country that respects human rights not out of choice but out of necessity. Tell me how the cross to Finland happens. Or are you talking about a contract where they are obliged to respect Finnish culture. If so, tell me what parts of Finnish culture must they respect? Go to saunas on Saturday, drink alcohol if they are Muslims…

  10. DeTant Blomhat

    Tell me can you see a trend when you read these websites?


    – foreigners always complain about the *same* things be it Finland, Sweden or Canada. So as both Sweden and Canada must be paradises on Earth as Finland is such an evil and bad place according to you, we must come to the conclusion that foreigners just complain for the sake of complaining. And really do you wonder why the people in these countries might feel offended by this unnecessary whining?

  11. 4z

    well we most realize that finland is changing and right now what i can see is that foreigners are almost equal to fins cause they get kella etc you should never expect to be on same level with the native cause they were there first we should all just respect and everything is fine there are assholes everywhere.