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Some questions about immigration to Finland

August 3, 2008

Many thanks to all of you that have taken so actively part in the debate on immigration to Finland. There have been a wide spectrum of opinions over the issue. The most positive matter that these comments have shown is that we can debate them in a civil fashion. But there are some questions that I posed that never got answers:

1) Some argued that if foreigners come to Finland, they should be forced to learn about Finnish culture. How do you force people to learn Finnish culture?

2) I asked what is Finnish culture. What aspects of our culture should foreigners be forced to learn?

3) Others thought that the policy of multiculturalism, which has its roots in Canada, is a bad thing because it creates ghettos. While I disagree with the latter claim, I asked what other policies could be more effective to accommodate people from different cultures, creeds and backgrounds?

Could anyone shed light on the above-mentioned questions?

What have the arguments shown?

Some of the comments have revealed that there is still too much ignorance and preconceived ideas on immigration that are simply false. One of these is that immigrants are lazy and that they want to use Finland’s generous welfare system. There are all types of people — native and non-natives — but I tend to believe that it takes guts and ambition to leave a country for another one. The immigrant usually ends up working more than the native and for less money.

Another matter that surprises me is that some people, who claim to have an education and are privileged to live in a society like Finland, show little understanding for outsiders. Certainly part of one’s education should teach us how to think and to be outspoken for those that suffer from economic and political persecution.

Why do some want to impose one set of standards for Finns and another one for immigrants? Certainly these type of double standards already imply that we are favoring a segregated society.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. DeTant Blomhat permalink
    August 8, 2008 6:37 pm

    A while ago someone forwarded me a part of Australian prime minister Howard’s speech, pasted below. I didn’t think of very well of him at that time but now I see what he really meant or where the tone of speech comes from. I have to say, that I agree with him now.

    (P. S. – I am not inclined towards any religion, nor do I despise any)

    ******
    Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law were told on Wednesday to
    get out of Australia , as the government targeted radicals in a bid to head
    off potential terror attacks.

    Separately, Howard angered some Australian Muslims on Wednesday by saying he supported spy agencies monitoring the nation’s mosques. Quote: ‘IMMIGRANTS,
    NOT AUSTRALIANS, MUST ADAPT. Take It Or Leave It. I am tired of this nation
    worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture.
    Since the terrorist attacks on Bali , we have experienced a surge in
    patriotism by the majority of Australians.’

    ‘This culture has been developed over two centuries of struggles, trials and
    victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom’

    ‘We speak mainly ENGLISH, not Spanish, Lebanese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese,
    Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our
    society . Learn the language!’

    ‘Most Australians believe in God. This is not some Christian, right wing,
    political push, but a fact, because Christian men and women, on Christian
    principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is
    certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God
    offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your
    new home, because God is part of our culture.’

    ‘We will accept your beliefs, and will not question why. All we ask is that
    you accept ours, and live in harmony and peaceful enjoyment with us.’

    ‘This is OUR COUNTRY, OUR LAND, and OUR LIFESTYLE, and we will allow you
    every opportunity to enjoy all this. But once you are done complaining,
    whining, and griping about Our Flag, Our Pledge, Our Christian beliefs, or
    Our Way of Life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great
    Australian freedom, ‘THE RIGHT TO LEAVE’.’

    ‘If you aren’t happy here then LEAVE. We didn’t force you to come here. You
    asked to be here. So accept the country YOU accepted.’

    (yeah, I know its a fake, but thats the sentiment. You choose my country = I make the rules.)

  2. Enrique permalink
    August 8, 2008 9:21 pm

    For one, we have to put this speech in context. Howard, like Bush, Aznar and Berlusconi, are the one’s who fueled the so-called war on terror. There are 300,000 Muslims living in Australia compared with a total population of 21 million, or about 1.5% of the population. Certainly Howard has an invested interest in such a speech because his country IS at war against a vague enemy that includes ALL Muslims irrespective of their ideological ties.
    The speech is flawed for many reasons. One of the biggest ones is that he thinks that being Australian is something that you can define easily. Apart from him talking about speaking English, believing in a Christian God and values (which he does not define), what is it. If cultures were so easy to enter and leave, then there would not be any problem. What we are really talking about here is being a second-class Muslim in Australia or a third-class former Muslim.
    The same goes for Finnish culture. What qualities of Finnish culture must you take on to become Finnish? Is it drinking on Saturdays? Having sauna? These are only generalities that have little meaning.
    To conclude: Howard’s speech was to incite nationalistic rhetoric. It does not give a solution – only inflates the problems by building cultural walls.

  3. DeTant Blomhat permalink
    August 9, 2008 2:23 pm

    Well, its a fake anyways.

  4. DeTant Blomhat permalink
    August 9, 2008 7:00 pm

    “What qualities of Finnish culture must you take on to become Finnish? Is it drinking on Saturdays? Having sauna?”

    Such qualities that make you a functioning part of the society. If you want to keep yourself apart that is fine, but then also don’t make any demands anyone else should accommodate you. And most importantly, not to infringe on my rights to take a drink on Saturdays and go to a sauna. Its a matter of choices. Like anyone is quite free not to learn Finnish. Just don’t expect to get a job in customer service. You are quite free to dress however you want. Just don’t expect to be hired. Its a freedom of choice, and it requires the person an ability to figure out what is acceptable and what is not. As it says there – “If you aren’t happy here then leave. We didn’t force you to come here. You asked to be here. “

  5. Enrique permalink
    August 9, 2008 7:52 pm

    If you really think about it, it is impossible for you to come up with any list of what is Finnish culture. OK, there’s language and certain matters we adhere to like, for instance, over 90% are Lutherans. You tell me that they are “qualities that make you function in society.” That fair, but what are those qualities? What about the quality of racial discrimination and creating walls of exclusion on other because they are different? You have every right to do whatever you please as long as you do not hurt others. My point is that we cannot generalize and place values on other people that work in many ways in our society.

  6. Jasmina permalink
    August 10, 2008 5:18 am

    Norms of behavior and manners being a part of culture I would like to share my view on what generally separates Finnish people from the rest of the world.

    1) Honesty and straightforwardness. – Unfortunately in foreigners eyes this can be seen as blunt and rude. Lets take a light example of the situation:

    Two women, strangers to each other are waiting for a bus. The other one (lets say an American) feels the silence uncomfortable and decides to lighten the situation up with a conversation. She says: ” I have to say, that is a wonderful jacket you are wearing” Now the other woman (a Finnish) wakes up of her thoughts and feels confused. She is wearing a really ordinary jacket. Is she making fun of my jacket? What should i answer to that? Even if the Finnish woman is more accustomed to the ways of small talk she might struggle to give a ‘response compliment’ as after her obvious confusion it might sound fake. And if you aren’ aware: being fake in Finnish customs is far more worse than being silent.

    Quite often Finnish person has to feel that he/she is completely behind his/her words before opening his/hers mouth. Obviously most people nowadays have come to terms with small talk but it is far more difficult to manufacture such compliments and light conversation your self. There is always that little devil whispering to your ear “Just listen to how superficial your sound” “Say something meaningful or nothing at all”

    Another little thing I would like to add to this is something that always seems to find its way to dinner conversations when the topic is ‘so finnish’. My boyfriend and other foreigners I know always find is amazing that in supermarkets people can wight their own fruits and vegetables themselves. The funniest thing is how pissed of I got when I found out that my darling boyfriend has abused this system and STOLEN an extra fruit given the opportunity-not because he needed to steal but rather just so that he can tell everyone else about the experience.

    By all means I am not saying that all finnish people are honest to the teeth and so on but at least being ‘honest’ has always been a very desired value in a finnish mind set.

    2) Serious and responsible attitude towards work. -When you are at work there is no rooms for funny business. It is important so have a good and reliable status at your work place. It is important to be efficient.

    Again I am not saying that all finns are like this but this is a common feature reputation of Finnish workers.

    3) Being easily embarrassed. – Finnish people get embarrassed fairly easily. Again here is an example”

    A guy walks on s street and trips because he doesn’t notice the edge of the pavement. Now if let’s say that the guy is Australian. He might give little laugh and then forget about it. Now lets say the guy is German. He plans to make a complaint to the city council. Now lets say the guy was Finnish. He quickly looks around if anyone saw it. How embarrassing to trip like that. I should have paid more attention.

    4) Respect to nature. -I know this is not an unique finnish feature but I wanted to add it on anyway. Some clean air, peace an quiet. That is what I miss the most in Finland.

    I would like to add more to this list but I already feel I’ve been generalizing too much for one day. Anyhow, this is my view on being ‘Finnish’. Obviously we can not force anyone else to be like this but just to understand these kind of drifts that control the behavior is always a step forward of getting along.

  7. DeTant Blomhat permalink
    August 10, 2008 10:33 am

    * You have every right to do whatever you please as long as you do not hurt others.

    – Exactly. And it works two ways. If you don’t adhere to the values you are hurting me.

    * My point is that we cannot generalize and place values on other people that work in many ways in our society.

    – Most of these foreigners that complain the loudest never have worked a day in their life.

  8. Enrique permalink
    August 10, 2008 12:23 pm

    HI Jasmina, great to hear from you. Welcome to our lively debate on migration, immigration to Finland and Finnish culture. These are some interesting examples even though they are generalizations. But, some, Finns may react in such a way. I’ve lived on and off in Finland for 30 years and still learn new things about the culture. One friend from the United States, who has lived 31 years, told me that whatever you think you know about the Finns is probably wrong. But this is generalizing. Thank you for your input and answering such a difficult question — who are the Finns.

  9. Enrique permalink
    August 10, 2008 12:27 pm

    * Exactly. And it works two ways. If you don’t adhere to the values you are hurting me.

    Answer: What hurts about what we are saying? We are merely debating openly matters. Some may agree and some may disagree.

    * Most of these foreigners that complain the loudest never have worked a day in their life.

    Answer: That puts me in your eyes as the “laziest unemployed bum” around because I am managing this blog. If you look at my employment record, I have had the luck to never be unemployed and have worked and raised three children in Finland. One thing I do not understand: Why do you see criticism or differing opinions as an “insult?”

  10. DeTant Blomhat permalink
    August 10, 2008 1:00 pm

    Because you have nothing to complain about. Foreigners make too much noise of themselves and try to prove Finland is somehow bad and that is insulting. Finns do not complain – they are happy with what they have. Foreigners want special treatment and to leech on the society to provide them with more than what the society provides the locals.

    Theres Finns who face economic and political prosecution who are told to pick berries. If they don’t then we call them lazy – so why should any foreigner be given any different advice – and why not tell them then they are lazy? Same standards for everyone is my motto.

    And you can critizise after you understand and know tha facts. And if you can also prove where you come from the things are done better so you can lead by example. If someone is a beggar on the street they should say thanks for the coins and don’t demand banknotes. Same thing about having opinions- you either know the facts but no, you need to open your mouth and insult the Finns just because you do not understand us. And that is also insulting, the stupidity of foreigners because they think everything would work how it is at their home and then it is our fault Finland is not “like at home”. Well that is why Finland is a “foreign country”. And the reflection is that this is “home” and where the person comes from their own ways are the “foreign country” ones. Revelation to many.

    So there is nothing to complain about in Finland.

  11. DeTant Blomhat permalink
    August 10, 2008 1:04 pm

    OK, there is nothing for a foreigner to complain in Finland that a Finn hasn’t complained of before – and accepted that things are as they are. We can deal with all these things ourselves – we have to live with them – then someone been in the country one day starts complaining. That is insulting. As if we didn’t know.

  12. Mikko permalink
    September 11, 2008 10:41 am

    To be precise, only 82% of Finns are Lutheran, and the percentage is slowly declining.

    http://tilastokeskus.fi/tup/suoluk/suoluk_vaesto_en.html#structure

  13. Enrique permalink
    September 11, 2008 11:50 am

    Hi Mikko, many thanks for the link. Why do you think that the the number of Lutherans in Finland is diminishing?

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