Editor´s note: This post is about multiculturalism and it´s not taking consideration opinions about the present asylum seekers. This is subject for future posts.

The winds of change are blowing in Finland. It´s not that all changes society and State have been experiencing are totally new but let´s say that what used to be a breeze has become a quite strong wind and at the moment we just hope it won´t turn into a twister.

Pinpointing:

  • There is a huge economic crises going on;
  • a great part of the population is fighting against measures the government has announced a few weeks ago, there was even a huge protest and strike on the 18th of September, which drove around 30 thousand people to scream under rain and cold weather on the streets of the capital Helsinki;
  • there are 7015 asylum seekers from several troubled countries hoping to enter Finland, dividing the population´s opinions (Finns and resident immigrants included), and;
  • there is the big issue I wish to start with – Multiculturalism: to be or not to be a multicultural nation.

    Foto: yle.fi Protest against government measures on the 18th of September
    Foto: yle.fi
    Protest against government measures on the 18th of September

The new Finland is scaring the hell out of some Finns. So let´s talk about this ”terrible monster” called Multiculturalism and understand Finland´s role on it.

Definition: Multiculturalism describes the existence, acceptance, or promotion of multiple cultural traditions within a single jurisdiction, usually considered in terms of the culture associated with an ethnic group. This can happen when a jurisdiction is created or expanded by amalgamating areas with two or more different cultures (e.g. French Canada and English Canada) or through immigration from different jurisdictions around the world (e.g. Australia, Brazil, Mexico, the United States, and many other countries).”

You don´t need to know Finland´s history much to conclude that this definition doesn´t go with the country very well. But we can´t forget that Finland as an independent nation is a very new country. Finland´s independence happened in 1918, only 97 years ago! And this country was not formed by multiple cultural traditions. However there has been immigration since the World War I most of it was from Russia, and considering that before its independence Finland had belonged to Russia and to Sweden, I would not say that immigration from these countries brought a considerable level of cultural diversity here.

According to the official website of the Finnish Immigration Center it was at the turns of the 80´s and 90´s that immigration started to happen in more quantity. The desintegration of the Soviet Union helped to bring back Finnish people and their descendants who came from the old USSR countries. During this period asylum seekers from Somalia also started to arrive and others from Iraq, the old Yugoslavia and Afganistan. During this period immigration from other countries also started to happen for several reasons from work to marriage. A multicultural Finland according to the definition above written started to happen then, giving us the obvious conclusion: multiculturalism based on cultural diversity is extremely new in Finland. The so called ”new Finns”; Finland-born-children of immigrants, and other Finns like me, born-abroad-children of at least one Finnish parent, are now starting to have a voice nevertheless we are still not considered as Finns by most of the Finnish people.

Persons with a foreign background* born in Finland, parents' country of birth in 2010 Foto: www.stat.fi
Persons with a foreign background* born in Finland, parents’ country of birth in 2010
Foto: www.stat.fi

A strong characteristic of many Finns is their tendency to isolation, which can be explained by the fact that this country  was itself very isolated until the mid 90´s. Before that in several parts of the globe if you asked people where Finland was some of them would look for it in Asia (no kidding).

In Finnish countryside from North to South until now there are villages with population lower than 600 people. There are only 7 cities in the whole country considered as ”big”. I would even disagree on this number and remove two from this list.  Adding more information, in these small villages many people are born, raised and die there. I have met a 25-year-old woman who was born in a small city only 150 km from Helsinki and has never left her region. She doesn´t even know Helsinki. So, if you consider this reality, you will understand one of the reasons why accepting changes is so difficult for some people. It is shocking for them that Finns are not anymore only white people with blond or light brown hair, Finns now are Afro-descendants, Asian descendants, Latin America descendants and whatsoever. It hurts traditional nationalists but well, there is absolute NOTHING they can do about it.

Every beginning is difficult, the unknown scares and many people are not able to heal from the viruses of ignorance which causes one of the worst diseases: prejudice.

Many Finns are scared because they are seeing their beloved Finland change but they are forgetting to see that most of us, new Finns and immigrants who chose this country as home, also love and care for it, we also want Finland to grow and become better, and we can contribute as well as they can because this contribution has nothing to do with where you were born; it has to do with opportunity and hard work. And there is more: we are part of the present and our sons and daughters are the FUTURE of this country as well as the 100% ”true Finns´s children”.

Multiculturalism is here to stay and for sure it will only grow in the future. The internationalization of the universities is helping young Finns to open their minds, to see the world, to acquaint with different people, to think outside the box.

Finland is a newborn multicultural nation which has not yet found interculturalism but I believe the young generations will change it.

Final considerations for a brainstorm:

  • Segregation + discriminalization = marginalization, and it brings nothing more than violence;
  • There is no example of successful nationalism without dictatorship;
  • I agree that foreigners who come to Finland have to do their best to accept the country´s culture and integrate but it doesn´t mean they are supposed to forget about their own culture and adopt Finnish culture as the ”only truth”. There has to be a balance and mutual acceptance.
  • Integration is a double way street, it does not come alone and it NEVER comes without acceptance, never.
  • Finnish Government should review the outdated social security system, integration programs and also national security rules.
  • Tolerance has a limit and this limit is when principles of gender equality and human rights guaranteed by the Constitution are disrespected.
  • You can never stop multiculturalism but if you could, Finland would start a countdown to extintion. You are too little in quantity. This is a country with more old than young people. People are having less kids every year. You are in the middle of a crisis and you need labor force and expertise right now to build your near future. If you don´t open your minds and accept that it is necessary to change you are not going to make it through.
  • To finish off, when I wrote here about multiculturalism, if you were hating my words thinking only of people from one specific religion, one specific nationality or one specific color, you are not against multiculturalism, you are a person who has prejudice against specific groups and we are ”talking” about two totally different things.
Live births by quarter 1994–2014 and preliminary data 2015 Foto: www.stat.fi
Live births by quarter 1994–2014 and preliminary data 2015
Foto: www.stat.fi

I hope you understand I am not generalizing and saying the majority of the Finns are against multiculturalism. I don´t actually believe it. While around 15 thousand people where on the streets of Helsinki protesting against racism in favor of multiculturalism in July, only 800 people were protesting against immigration on the 19th of September in Helsinki, Tornio and Kemi. I believe many of those “against” protesters were doing it for being against the asylum seekers and not immigration in general but of course I am not sure. Anyway there is prejudice, there is racism, it hurts and it speaks loud. But there is also kindness and vision. For this reason I want to open a debate, I want to tease and make people think. You don´t have to agree with me, you don´t need to like my ideas but if you have something to say about it, my mission is accomplished. No more silence, it´s time to talk about it.

15 thousand protesters against racism and in favor of multiculturalism in Helsinki in July 2015 (foto: Mia Seppo) 200 protesters against immigration in Helsinki in September of 2015 (foto: Markku Sandell/Ylle)
15 thousand protesters against racism and in favor of multiculturalism in Helsinki in July 2015 (foto: Mia Seppo)
200 protesters against immigration in Helsinki in September of 2015 (foto: Markku Sandell/Yle)