I read an interesting post in Svenskfinland titled, “When in Rome, do as the Romans,” and it set me thinking.
The post continues: “…in other words, that integration should mean that migrants to Finland so quickly as possibly forget their own background and take on entirely a Finnish lifestyle – essentially abandoning or replacing their own cultural values and taking on ours completely. This argument comes up in comments to Migrant Tales and in many other online and offline debates on immigration and integration policy.”
While there are many Finns such as Svenskfinland who think differently, I would like to ask those who believe this form of “integration or bust” to tell me how it works. How do you integrate non-Finns to become 100% Finns and throw away their culture(s)?
I wonder what my late father would say about so-called 100% integration? He never learned to speak English well not because he did not want to, but because he did not agree with many US values. Not speaking flawless English was his way of protesting against other values. Have you ever wondered why Blacks, Mexicans, Finns, Italians speak a foreign language differently in a foreign country? Possibly it is a way to identify with a certain national group.
I’m also thinking of the hundreds of thousands of first-generation Finns that moved to the Americas. I remember in my own study on the Finns of Argentina, where there were first- and even second-generation Finns who had lived almost all their lives in Argentina but never learned to speak Spanish like the majority culture.
A question: Why do some think that it is OK for a foreigner to give up his culture but consider it “high treason” if that Finn living abroad threw away his culture? Why hasn’t Finland done away with the Saami, Swedish-speaking Finns and other groups?
The answer: My father grew up in the United States and educated himself by going to university WITHOUT giving up his culture and values. The United States gave him an opportunity and he made the best of it. Southern Californian society was also tolerant enough of people who came from different cultural and national backgrounds.
The argument that foreigners should give up their cultures to become Finns is preposterous. It would never worked and is doomed to failure. It is the answer to a segregated society full of complex rules of exclusion and inclusion.
What IS an effective way of integrating people? In my opinion, you cannot force integrating anyone. But one can inspire others to integrate, if they want.
If a society expresses outright suspicion, hostility and places a bunch of impossible so-called “integration” tests on its new inhabitants, it will have very few people wanting to become a part of it. Immigrants are people and, like the inhabitants of the host country, work to help create economic growth.