You generally associate the Scandinavian/Nordic countries with generous immigration policies, but Finland, very quietly, has opted out of that paradigm. Finland has not accepted large number of immigrants from the developing world, and remains about 98% Finnish. I am in Helsinki right now, in an Airbnb apartment in a lower-middle class suburb. Anywhere in Germany, the list of the 60 people in this apartment complex would be at least 30-40% foreign. Here, every single name is Finnish, except for perhaps 2-3 Swedish stragglers, which don’t really count, and 1 Arabic name.
My Lonely Planet Guide to Finland interviews Alexis Kouros, editor of the Helsinki Times:
“Q: Immigration is a hot topic in the EU at the moment. How well do Finns relate to immigrants?
A: I would say that for the majority of cases, very well. … You know, Finland has very few immigrants, and there are, as in all countries in Europe, some parts of society that are uncomfortable with immigrants being here. But I would say that the people I know, they are fantastic, they relate very well.”
I’ve highlighted two statements which you might imagine are connected in some way.
You almost get the idea that successive Finnish governments, no matter what their political orientation, all agreed on a few things:
- We Finns have a very distinct language, culture, and society.
- Most Finns like it, and would prefer that it stay the way it is.
- People from Somalia, Afghanistan, or Nigeria are fine folks. However, they’re unlikely to fit in here unless they have special skills and/or a special affinity for Finnish culture, which is a fairly odd thing for a non-Finn to have.
- European countries which have imported large numbers of people from these countries seem to have lots of problems with those people. In fact, those countries can’t seem to stop talking about those problems every single day.
- Some of those problems are caused by the immigrants. Other problems are caused by the fact that Europeans are not immigrant nations, and have a lot of difficulty dealing with foreigners.
- Whatever the source of those problems, we Finns don’t want them.
- Therefore, we are going to quietly, discreetly, decline to import large numbers of ordinary people from very different cultures. A small number of educated people with special talents will be fine. Hundreds of thousands of random people is too much.
- Fortunately, we’re a tiny country nobody really cares about. So as long as we’re discreet, nobody will attack us for our supposed xenophobia.
It seems to have worked out pretty well for Finland.