An old article I wrote on some events in Finland that lead to an anti-racism protest involving 15,000+ participants.
Recently Olli Immonen, a member of the Finnish parliament representing the Finns party posted some controversial ideas on Facebook which has opened up plenty of discussion. For those readers unaware, he poetically posted:
“I’m dreaming of a strong, brave nation that will defeat this nightmare called multiculturalism, This ugly bubble that our enemies live in, will soon burst into a million little pieces. Our lives are entwined in a very harsh times. These are the days that will forever leave a mark on our nation’s future. I have strong belief in my fellow fighters. We will fight until the end for our homeland and one true Finnish nation. The victory will be ours.”
In response, around 15,000 people came out to peacefully demonstrate their support for a multicultural nation against racism and discrimination. A reaction from the public that has been well warranted.
Unfortunately racism and discrimination are issues that still exist within Finland. I for one have been approached with death threats during my nights at work for my inability to speak Finnish at a fluent level. My co-workers have experienced harassment, been stalked, and at least in one case assaulted. Fortunately, these incidents usually are taken care of very quickly with the support of managers and police. But even riding the bus home together with foreign students you may hear in the background “Go back where you came from. Why should we pay for your education? Speak a language we understand!” Usually in Finnish, and never directly spoken to the students in question.
I do not wish to paint a negative image of Finland. These are not the common everyday experience for most who live here. Nor are these actions representative of the majority of Finnish citizens. The point is simply to bring to light that these issues do exist and need to be taken with a serious look.
The need for diversity
I believe a multicultural environment is key to Finland’s success. When we look at businesses, whether a software development company or a fitness club, we see those that accept workers with diverse cultural backgrounds are flourishing. The introduction of new perspective and different approaches brings a certain kind of innovation to the workplace. As we head towards globalization we are given not only the opportunity to hire from the best and brightest, but to also sell our services and products worldwide. This is especially important in Finland as a leader in mobile development. The simple day to day interaction with customers across the globe make openness to diversity a necessity.
Globally and locally
I mentioned that it did not matter whether you are a software development company or a fitness club. It might be strange to mention a fitness club, often a small business that caters primarily to local customers. First, we should mention that English may as well be a de facto second language in Finland. Television shows and ads are seldom localized or dubbed, and often Finnish ad agencies produce their content in English. David-Hasselhoff even produced a talk show in Finland for Finnish audiences in English. English is seldom an issue for a large portion of Finnish customers. With this in mind we can look at how this ties in with fitness clubs. Speaking to owners of fitness clubs, and to instructors I have learned that some of the fastest growing fitness clubs in Finland are those that are bringing in instructors with an international background and providing courses taught in English. You would think this only applies to a large city like Helsinki, but this is the case in Lahti, Oulu, Jyvaskyla, and Tampere. As I’ve been told, the diversity brings a new energy to the work environment. This in turn keeps customers more engaged and involved.
Research upon research has shown that diversity drives economic growth. Finland is a small nation of around five million and shrinking. Further insulation would be detrimental to Finland’s future. Living and working here for the past five years has put me in a position where I have a vested interest in the success of this nation. I truly believe a multi-cultured society is key to Finland’s survival and furthermore, its future success.
Yesterday’s demonstration sent a clear message that many in this nation find hate filled ideologies unacceptable.