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Foreigners in Finland

Immigration to Finland: Is the Finns Party Really Against It?

Commentary, Finnish Politics, Foreigners in Finland
immigration to finland

Last week, Yle News ran a debate in English involving political candidates across Finnish political parties. In that debate, the Finns Party was portrayed to be against ALL types of immigration to Finland.

I applaud the mainstream media’s initiative to conduct a debate in English with the intention of increasing the accessibility and inclusivity of politics to immigrants.

Having said that however, it does come across as a surprise as to how current debate has relegated to such a low level of intellectual discourse, evidenced by how Yle anchored the following topic:

Word-by-word QUOTE from the YLE video caption:

“Finns Party candidate Erlin Yang says that it’s “totally wrong” to say that his party is anti-immigrant.”

 

Of course The Finns Party–represented by an immigrant Erlin Yang himself– is “totally not” against immigration. Why is there a need to delegate such precious debate time to addressing such a silly anchor?

What The Finns Party is against is uncontrolled immigration to Finland.

Because I personally am tired of the Finns Party being misprepresented, I have taken the liberty to translate Mr. Erlin Yang’s stance into English. Also, translation does not mean endorsement. I am personally voting for the Greens Party.

Here is what Mr. Erlin Yang said, which I felt is an accurate official position of The Finns Party:

“The Finns Party is a political party which aims to serve and represent the working class in Finland. It officially espouses the following values:

1. To increase the employment rate in Finland;

2. To foster a healthy start-up scene and to promote entrepreneurship in Finland;

3. To advocate for the development of Finnish culture;

4. To secure the economic security of Finland and therefore enhance the well-being of every resident;

5. To insist on fair wages;

6. To protect the interests of minority and vulnerable groups in Finland;

7. To promote the health of children and ensure safety in schools;

8. To guarantee a high quality and accessibility of basic services to elder citizens and retirees, so that they can enjoy their retirement with dignity.

Related to immigration to Finland, the Finns Party is FOR immigration into Finland under one or more of the following reasonable conditions:

1. For the purposes of professional work;

2. For the purposes of studies;

3. For the purposes of reunion with family.

The Finns Party is against immigrants who are insistent on coming to Finland to exploit the Finnish welfare system. In particular, it is staunchly against immigrants who are involved with human trafficking, drugs dealing and “refugees” who insist on staying in Finland illegally.

The justification is because this latter group is considered net-takers to the Finnish welfare state. Furthermore, this group threatens the very social fabric of Finnish society.

Erlin Yang agrees with the basic tenets that underlie the vision and mission of the Finns party.

As a Chinese immigrant to Finland himself, he greatly respects the Finnish way of life and values. Erlin Yang considers it his personal calling to contribute to the betterment of Finnish society by encouraging more meaningful interactions between legal immigrants and natives. He strongly believes that immigrants and natives can work together to achieve a more prosperous, cohesive and harmonious Finnish society.

Erlin Yang admits that there might have been some members of the Finns Party who previously made controversial and provocative statements targeted at immigrants, in particular refugees. He stresses however, that this is not the official stance of the Finns Party and that these members are in the rare minority.

Here, Erlin Yang attests to the fact that he has never once faced discrimination within his party. On the contrary, he has received overwhelming support from fellow party members who wish for immigrants to be represented.

Against this context, The Finns Party does not necessarily encourage “multiculturalism”—undoubtedly a sensitive term in Europe these days.

As one viable alternative to a “multicultural Finland”, he stresses that the will to integrate is key to maintaining a harmonious society. From the current situation, Erlin observes that not all immigrants have demonstrated this desire to integrate.

All in all, Erlin Yang concludes by purporting the view that it is only logical, humane and essential that a country accepts new immigrants along principles of common values.
These values include the pursuit of freedom, the desire for progress, principled virtues of loyalty and integrity, and the willingness to work hard.

Erlin emphasized that it is ideal for immigrants to adapt proactively to the ways of the locals and respect local traditions, people and cultures.”

So please agree and disagree to official positions, not what you THINK the official position is. -.- And please do not sensationalise political topics unnecessarily.

[The Hieno! Suomi 100 series] Interview with Josephine Atanga, founder of WODESS.

Finnish People, Foreigners in Finland, Official Finland 100 Series Endorsed by Prime Minister's Office
josephine atanga

The Hieno! is the official partner of the Finland 100 independence programmeThis “What is Finnish-ness?” series is endorsed by the Prime Minister’s Office. Today we feature Josephine Atanga, one of the most prominent and inspiring foreign lady in Finland. Josephine is a people’s person with a heart for the community. She is also one of the most positive ladies I have ever met.

Enjoy the interview!

WW: Hello Josephine Atanga! Can you tell us more about yourself?

Josephine Atanga: Hello Wan Wei! Thank you for having me on this meaningful series.

I am Josephine Atanga from the beautiful country of USA. I describe myself as a positive, enthusiastic woman, a musician and a visionary woman. I see possibilities in every situation in which I find myself. I strongly believe in the power of the community and that is why I am a community person—I love people and giving back to society is my heart beat.

I am an American but my roots can be traced back to Cameroon, West Africa. While in the USA, I was involved in many community projects. I also started a talk-show which airs on local TV every Sunday for one hour as a means to expose the African talents in the USA while giving them an opportunity for their skills to be exposed and their voices to be heard.

In addition, I received two citations and recognition from United State senator in USA for my community works with inner city youths and my local talk show —opportunities which I am very grateful for.

I have been in Finland for number of years. I am currently studying Bachelor of Science Nursing program at the Arcada University of Applied Science. With my passion for the community and women in particular, I had the drive to start a women’s empowerment organization in Finland called “Women Designed for Success”.

This is an association registered in Finland and USA with a mission of celebrating the various successes of women, empowering them to live a purpose driven drive, engaging in charitable deeds through supporting girl’s education and recognising their achievement in society through an annual Award gala called Golden Women Awards.

 

WW: Can you share with us the most important and meaningful event that happened in Finland?

Josephine Atanga: I would like to share with you the Golden Women Awards annual gala. It really is the most important and meaningful event that happened to me in Finland because of the power of appreciation and impacting positively education of girls in third-world countries.

After we registered Women Designed for Success, we really wanted to highlight the power of appreciation. You see, we feel strongly that women, especially international women, need to be appreciated for their contributions in Finland.

So, I called a couple of ladies residing in Finland. I told them that there are so many amazing women doing so many things here in Finland which we should recognize and high light their contribution in the Finnish society. We need to showcase the talents of these ladies because when women are appreciated, they tend to do more. It raises the standard of their work and promotes excellence as well as stimulating other women to do better

In WODESS we believed in the power of collaboration and working together as a team to achieve great event. The Golden Women Awards was birthed out of the power of collaboration with different associations such as SCADAA ry, MONIHELI, CAISA, Jehom Driving school, African women association to mentioned a few not forgetting the many volunteers who sacrificed their time to make sure that women got the best recognition possible .

Josephine Atanga

Doing the Golden Women Awards event was challenging as I had never done an Award Show but I believed that gaining knowledge through reading and research work that it was going to be possible and a huge success.

So I went back to the books to find out how to do an award show, what the most important elements to a successful award show and so on is. It was very important to have high profile judges.

So over the past two Golden Women Awards, we have had diverse high-profile panel of judges from all over the world who worked so hard to make sure they came up with the right nominees and winners after the public nominations. The judges spent their time as volunteers to select the best nominees and eventually went through their work profile to make sure they fulfilled all the necessary criteria to be declared winners.

Let me share with you a story of one of the 2015 Golden Women Awards winner- Cinta Hermo Martin. She is WODESS Woman of the Year and has been living in Finland for 30 years.

I was moved when she said–“I have won many awards from my home country in Spain, but I have never won an award in Finland until in 2015. Finally my contribution to the Finnish society is finally being recognized.” She was very happy about this Award and said it has opened so many doors for her not only in Finland but also to her home country in Spain. Now she wants to do more to impact the lives of younger girls in Finland and around the world with this her Award.

To see our distinguished winners being so happy, appreciated and excited—that gives me so much joy.

Let me share another story with you—a huge success story. There was this other lady who was nominated: She has done great work, an amazing lady with amazing talents. In the category in which she was nominated for, she had not package herself well as a professional comparatively to the other nominees.

After going through some of the works of other nominees in her own category she felt like she needed to upgrade the way she had packaged her works. She sent us an email saying she think she will not win after going through the works of the other nominees. She said that “This award has changed my life completely–because I am now doing things differently in a more professional way. It has helped me to raise the standard of excellence in the way I present my business to the outside world.

She said she is actively showcasing the positive things she is doing in the right professional way so she can come back and be a winner of the Golden Women Awards in future.

This is a success story to us at WODESS as this nominee finally wants to step up to reach to the next level by actively showcasing her skills and talents in a professional way that will give her the edge to be more competitive in the industry standards.

In addition, this award is not solely about flamboyance. It’s also about supporting Girls’ Education in third world countries.

WW: We definitely love your positive attitude! Can you tell us now one challenge you have faced in Finland?

Josephine Atanga: The biggest challenge I face in Finland is the language barrier. I have been studying the language for a while.

I will not say that Finnish is difficult but will rather say it is challenging and it requires hard work.

I do believe that with more effort in grasping the Finnish language the sky will be my limit in Finland! Well, it is just a matter of time I do believe to overcome this challenge. You see, I have the power, and I am generally a positive person. With a positive attitude and hard work nothing is impossible to achieve.

I am so determined to make a difference in the language that I told myself–why don’t I become a translator of the Finnish language one day at the United Nations. Hahaha!

 

WW: You have also started a multicultural magazine for Women in Finland– the WODESS Magazine! What motivated you to do that?

Josephine Atanga: We started the first multicultural magazine in Finland in 2015 with the launch issue. The second edition of about 180 pages with high quality glossy pictures will be launched in spring 2017. The WODESS Magazine is a hard copy lifestyle magazine for the everyday woman.

What inspired me to come up with this magazine in English was the realisation that there are many international Women in Finland who are highly talented at various levels. So we wanted to come up with a magazine for the common women who are doing extraordinary things. Our goal was to have the magazine in language spoken by many at the international level which happens to be the English language.

By so doing we are giving their businesses international exposures that will benefit them in the long run. We wanted to use the magazine to create more job opportunities and to impact their business positively. Our magazine is a lifestyle magazine with the aim to educate, entertain, inspire and impact what these great international women are doing in Finland.

So you can pick up our magazine and see for yourself what amazing work foreigners are doing in Finland.

It’s not just about women—we also have articles about men. Therefore, this magazine is a way to promote talents in Finland and show case them to the rest of the world.

The reason why we chose it to be in English is because this magazine is global. We are in UK and US as well. Therefore, the women we feature in the magazines also benefit from international exposure, leading to the flourishing of their businesses. This magazine is never about money—it is about the wing beneath the wings of multicultural women here in Finland.

This magazine is truly the Finnish ebony! ☺ We do things out of our hearts and not out of selfish reasons.

WW: What are the three things or traits that you would consider to be uniquely Finnish?

Josephine Atanga:

The first trait I would consider as “uniquely Finnish” is humility. The Finns are really humble people.

The second trait I would consider as “Finnish” is “honesty”. If I drop something in my school, I can come back after two days, go to the front desk, and would find it there. It is no doubt that Finland continue to top the list of being one of the best countries in good governance.

The third trait I would consider as “Finnish” is perhaps the lack of openness. I think Finns keep to themselves a lot.

Let me give you an example—you see, I do a lot of walking and exercise. When I was exercising in parks in the USA, I normally greet people with a hearty “Good morning! How are you?” You see, such greetings bring out life in people!

In Finland however, there has never been a day when I get a response by saying “Hello!” or “Huomenta!” Nobody talks to you. It’s probably the Finnish culture not to be friendly—so it probably just the culture, and we have to accept it.

Josephine Atanga

This is probably a pity. You see, when you are closed, you are like a lake. It is always good to have an outlet to express yourself—Express yourself! Fly like a bird; just express it! And you will be happier! ☺

 

WW: What are some of the dreams and hopes you have for the future of Finland?

Josephine Atanga: I really love for Finns to be more open and welcoming to foreigners.

Foreigners are nice people. I think Finland is doing great now in welcoming foreigners but I think more can still be done. I am sure it is just a matter of time that I see it happening.

You see, I do not have a Finnish friend. I will love to have one. Yet, how do I have one?

Ha ha ha of course I can go out looking for a Finnish friend! “Do you want to be my Finnish friend?”

WW: What are your hopes for Finland?

Josephine Atanga: I hope to see more international women in Finland become more successful and start mentoring the younger ones to reach their highest level of potential.

I also hope that the Finnish media can become more involved with what foreigners are doing—for instance, give them more press coverage or even some time on Finnish television channels on the positive activities of internationals. I would love to see them appreciate the contribution of the international women in the Finnish society by giving us some coverage with the Golden Women Awards.

I hope the Finnish media can one day finally see how much of positive and constructive building blocks our initiatives have on Finnish society.

 

WW: Finland will turn 100 years old this year!! What is the one wish you have for Finland’s 100th birthday?

Josephine Atanga: I want to wish Finland a Happy Birthday, and I want to thank the country for giving me free education. Nelson Mandela said that you can use education to change the world and that it is through education that the son of a peasant can one day become a president.

The free education in Finland is one thing I am really grateful to Finland for. I hope free education will continue in Finland. Who knows one day may be I will create a TV from the education I have gained and will continue to gain from Finland.

Josephine Atanga

I will love to say that on the 100 years celebration of Finland’s independence, I am not looking at what I can get from Finland but what I can give back or do to make the next 100 years of Finland a memorable one for the younger generations. I would love to thank Finland for giving me the opportunity to soar like an eagle as I have been able to use my talent to impact positively.

I never thought I will one day be the founder of a hard copy life style prestigious WODESS magazine that sits amongst other magazines in the library at the Women’s resource centre at the University of Estonia. I am able to change the world through the free education and knowledge I have gained in Finland.

Thank you to Finland for educating me and welcoming me. Happy Birthday Finland! One Love.


The Hieno! is the official partner of the Finland 100 independence programme: What is “Finnish-ness”? endorsed by the Prime Minister’s Office. We hope you have enjoyed reading this interview as much as we did!🙂

[The Hieno! Suomi 100] Interview with Michaela Istokova, a super talented visual creative.

Finnish People, Finnish Society, Foreigners in Finland, Official Finland 100 Series Endorsed by Prime Minister's Office

Today, as part of The Hieno! “What is Finnish-ness” series celebrating Suomi 100, we have the huge privilege of featuring Michaela Istokova.

Michaela Istokova is our amazingly talented designer-cum-illustrator for the The Hieno! Suomi 100 official e-book. You can view her portfolio here and here.

Enjoy this interview! 🙂


TH: Hello Michaela! Can you tell us more about yourself and what you are doing in Finland?

Michaela Istokova: Hello Wan Wei, or should I rather say “Moikka”? 🙂

I am a graphic designer and illustrator from Bratislava in Slovakia, and I am now working in an international development X design agency M4ID as a Visual Creative.

I moved to Finland about five years ago when I found a part-time job and a Finnish boyfriend Esa.

Since then I’ve been here sort of on and off, employed, unemployed, freelancing, everything.

TH: What are the three things you appreciate most about Finland?

Michaela Istokova: I am comparing Finland to what I had experienced in the three countries where I lived (Slovakia, Czechia and Malaysia). These three things stand out for me:

  • The way this country is governed and Finland’s admirable lack of scandalous corruption.
  • Quality of living in terms of the high quality of apartments and the services they offer. For example, there are communal washing and drying rooms, communal saunas, tables outside houses, etc…
  • Gender equality that I feel the most when wearing shapeless, potato bag dresses and nobody is judging me!

In my home country I would be definitely judged, most women there strive to look very feminine…Here in Finland it’s alright to look whatever way you want to look, and not just in the cosmopolitan Helsinki, but even in the countryside.

This may be different for, for example, Muslim women that are veiled, but in my case of a ¼ Asian white person, nobody judges my questionable fashion choices and the ways I choose to present myself as a woman. 😀

TH: Who inspires you the most? 

Michaela Istokova: I am inspired by people who do their own thing and create something amazing and beneficial.

For example, in Slovakia I have two friends – Miska from Puojd and Janka from Froggywear – who both create clothes but each has their own target audience. They are both successful at basically, being themselves and executing their vision and that is very inspirational to me!

So, generally I like fearless people who are going after their goal. 🙂

TH: What do you think are the unique aspects of Finnish design?

Michaela Istokova: Finland has a lot of textile design brands that create patterns that are mostly very bold, big and very bright.

Mostly it’s very graphic, maybe just Pentik does a bit softer, gentler design from the well-known brands.

Then I have also noticed that Finns like contrasting black lines, like you can see in the designs of Finlayson and the Arabia Moomin mugs for example – but obviously, Tove Jansson drew Moomins like that, and so it’s a wonderful established style.

I also like the Finnish designers’ use of motifs from the nature and Finnish cities (again, Finlayson) and their nice sense of humour evident in many designs. For example in Lapuan Kankurit’s design with many naked men in sauna!

Excellent stuff, I bought it for my mom.

TH: Ohhhhh many, many naked Finnish men!! *pervs* That being said, if Finland were a person, how would he or she look like?

Michaela Istokova: The illustration you see here is actually something I did as a personal project for the 99th birthday of independent Finland, just recently.

finnishmaiden.jpg

I decided to illustrate a lady, let’s call her Marja Lumi [which means Berry Snow :)]. This is because it’s good to be a woman in Finland. She is also blonde, because once I read somewhere that Finland has the highest percentage of blonde people in the world.

Marja Lumi is enjoying a bit of löyly in sauna, having her saunakalja nearby and wearing a wreath made of flora commonly found in Finland, including the national flower, lily of the valley.

She has hairy legs, because really, people don’t care much and that’s great!

Be hairy here, my friend, it’s alright – we are all equal in sauna. 😀

TH: Haha, and who would her enemies be?

Michaela Istokova: I think my Marja Lumi would be very annoyed at sexist, patriarchal idiots who are intolerant to her freedom, her beer drinking, her meh attitude towards shaving, her general independence and high level of attained education.

TH: What do you think are some of the popular misconceptions of Finland that foreigners might have?

Michaela Istokova: A lot of people seems to think that Finns are introverted metal lovers with alcohol abuse problems that sit in sauna all day and then swim in icy lakes.

I find that kind of funny, especially the alcohol and metal part – at least in my circles not so many people drink too much or listen to metal!

Finland is also associated with suicidal behaviour, and sadly here I actually know several Finnish people who either had someone close to them commit a suicide. Or, in one case, one friend of mine did it a couple of years ago too.

I guess mental health is not in so much in focus here, and people are just encouraged to “have sisu” but that’s not always cutting it. :/

TH: Can you share some of the most memorable experiences you have in Finland? They could be funny, weird, offensive or out-of-the-world.

Michaela Istokova: My boyfriend Esa and I went on an extended business trip (for him) and a totally cool roadtrip (for me) to Lapland last summer and that was just wonderful.

My home country is small, hilly and rather crowded, so when I experienced the vast taigas of Lapland, I was in love. In particular, approaching Kemijärvi (the town) on the bridge above Kemijärvi (the lake) was a total highlight and now I platonically love this town!

I also had a nice experience last summer in Joensuu when I was buying two woven baskets from a lady on the market. I speak (badly) in Finnish. However, she didn’t mind and she was really curious about me. Also, she was very delighted that we can talk together in Finnish. Somehow that made me feel quite integrated and accepted in this often puzzling society haha 😀

Oh and one last experience – when we lived in Tampere, there was a totally enchanted forest behind our apartment where excellent mushrooms grew in unbelievable quantities. We were picking them and drying them and at one point we had so much that we had to dry them in our apartment sauna…oh, what a dream!

TH: What is the one birthday wish you have for Finland this year, since it is its 100th birthday? 

Michaela Istokova: I wish Finland to loosen up a bit in certain aspects.

Namely, the hostile attitude towards street art and the severely restricted sale of alcohol in grocery stores.

I also wish Finland can keep up its excellent work in many other aspects.

And I wish that more people would visit here and beyond just Helsinki and Rovaniemi, because Finland has a lot of lovely places to offer!

TH: On a parting note, do you have anything else to add?

Michaela Istokova: If you can, visit Northern Karelia, it’s wonderful.

Swimming in Lake Pielinen, picking blueberries and cranberries in the big Karelian forests. And admiring the view from Koli National Park should be a must for every visitor to Finland.  =)


The Hieno! is the official partner of the Finland 100 independence programme: What is “Finnish-ness”? endorsed by the Prime Minister’s Office. Feature photo by Jenni Aho. We hope you have enjoyed reading this interview as much as we did!🙂 Feel free to connect with Michaela on LinkedIn or view her portfolio here and here.