Island in the archipelago off Helsinki's southern side / Helsinki / 24 Jan 2016

Island in the archipelago off Helsinki's southern side / Helsinki / 24 Jan 2016


  2. WOMEN


  4. SAMÍ


Benches and woods overlooking Porvoonjoki / Porvoo / 4 Feb 2016

Benches and woods overlooking Porvoonjoki / Porvoo / 4 Feb 2016


As a strong welfare state and a country that aims civic participation, Finland aims for a fully open and equal society. Gissler and Vuori (2005) point out:

“Social inclusion in Finland is accessible due to the freedom of expression and the dominant ideology of open society. Equality and the ability to exercise one's rights are secured by law and enforced by the authorities. Most rights are universal and access is granted to all inhabitants of Finland” (74).

This framework helps establish a climate of inclusion and an easy engagement in civil society and civic mechanisms. This helps explain why the traditionally homogenous Finland has made serious attempts to include the various immigrants and refugees. There is another type of population in Finland for whom “integration,” defined broadly, is relevant. These long-standing subsets of the general Finnish population, what I’m calling “internal others,” are also forced to reconcile broad “Finnish” identity with their own personal or community identity.

While these groups, like the Swedish-speaking Finns, have been a part of Finland since long before independence, they are also apart of mainstream Finnish society. In this example, as with the Sámi and various immigrant populations, the result is a compound social identity. To some extent, they are Finnish – in terms of citizenship, civic participation, and national loyalty - but they are not only Finnish, both by self-diagnosis and the perception of other Finns, they are always something else as well.

Another “internal other” resides throughout Finnish society and at all socioeconomic levels. Women in Finland occupy a strange liminal space. Gender equality is part of the official narrative and cultural ideology, yet there are still many ways in which a glass ceiling is still present. The experience of women in Finland is further complicated by the nearly absent conversation. Because Finland established some degree of gender equality upon its independence, there isn’t the same grassroots women’s rights movement as in the United States. The public discourse instead tends to focus on immigration and economic issues.

For all these groups, and the others still coalescing in Finland – like Finnish Muslims, the small Jewish contingent, LGBTQ communities – the best way to achieve the social inclusion that Finland cherishes is through conversation, active participation, and activism. 

Woods behind Kulosaari lukio / Kulosaari, Helsinki / 18 Jan 2016

Woods behind Kulosaari lukio / Kulosaari, Helsinki / 18 Jan 2016


Teasing out the way in which women are marginalized in Finnish society is a complicated task. First of all, the official narrative of institutionalized gender equality is a powerful force. When asking about gender roles and women’s rights in Finland, young people especially recited a series of familiar facts: wage parity, universal suffrage, generous family medical leave. Besides Finland, countries with strong social welfare systems and socialist governmental programs tend to equate these strong social programs with equality, when the former is actually just a component of the latter. Additionally, both people and governments confuse equal opportunity and equal outcomes. Having access to the tools necessary for economic success, social mobility, and independence does not ensure similar or identical results. There are also rifts between philosophies of equality and the way policy is structured that doesn’t cohere. Finally, however, gender and the role of women in Finland is hard to navigate because of the dearth of research. Beyond Lister (2009), which has been incredibly helpful in developing a framework to consider gender and women’s roles in Nordic countries, there seems to be an absence of discourse. This seems to me to be an opportunity for rich research.

The conversations I had throughout Finland seemed to match with the limited research. The explicit role of women is generally discussed in concordance with broader social equality. Women were also assigned the same type of behavioral stereotypes also assigned to Finnish men.  As Finnish society becomes more diverse and multifaceted, I imagine the official narrative of women’s rights will also fracture and more accurately reflect realities. While women have great freedom on Finnish society, there are more improvements that can and should be made. 

“What particularly distinguishes Nordic gender politics and policies is the interplay between state feminism and autonomous women’s organizations.” Lister (2009), 252

“The Nordic welfare model represents a dominant analytical paradigm in feminist scholarship. It is also quite notable how the Nordic model has emerged as some kind of exemplar in recent center-left political debate” Lister (2009), 244

The woman are usually really independent. The Finnish women know about their sisu, the guts that they have. That they keep strong and they're like keep their own head. Even though they might be wrong but they still want to have their own head. – Isa, 16, Vantaa

“The paradox is that while equality indeed has been an important social and political value in Finnish culture, it has persistently resisted the recognition of its patriarchal underpinnings—doing so exactly by referring to equality as relating to the whole, such as ‘equality of men and women’ or an equilibrium pertaining to the status quo.” Pylkkänen (2007), 354

“Distinctive too among some Nordic welfare states has been the attempt, however tentative, to promote a more gender-inclusive model of citizenship in which men as well as women are able to play a part as citizen-earner, carers, and carer-earners.” Lister (2009), 249

In the period of social revolution, Hippie time in Finland, we created welfare state, high taxes, and a lot of substitutes, free education, free healthcare, and free care for babies. The ladies, our women could go to work and what make women equal? It's the wallet and the money and the wallet there is money which is her own. This make people, woman equal. This is secret of Nordic welfare states that women are work and have equality. It was created sixties and seventies. – Markku, History Teacher, Vantaa

“The Nordic model is better equipped to accommodate the rights-oriented approach enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child than in Conservative welfare states, where citizenship is more closely tied to labor market status.” Lister (2009), 246

“Despite women’s educational achievements and increased labor market participation among mothers in both two- and lone-parent families, they enter a labor market, which remains highly segregated both horizontally and vertically by international standards.” Lister (2009), 258

“Despite a high level of economic activity, women do not enjoy the same labor market opportunities as men, as they face, to a greater or lesser extent, occupational segregation, a glass ceiling, and a relatively high gender pay gap.” Lister (2009), 267

“Gender could not unify women, for it was variously experienced given one's class, nation, religion, race, sexuality, and so on. Because, for example, racial or class differences may trump gender differences, and because the former informs the latter, gender cannot be assumed to be a unitary category or uninfluenced by other social differences. But nor can race or class for that matter be assumed to be organizationally primary or unitary. In acknowledging the complexity of gender and the significance of other social differences in one's identity formation, the universal and dualistic character of struggle between woman and man is challenged. The strategies of identity politics, the naming or identifying of subordinate groups, increasingly becomes more complex and allusive, and ultimately a heterogeneous and interstitial character of identity emerges.” Stavro (2007), 440

“The Nordics hold the top four places in the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index, with Denmark at seventh place. The UK is ranked thirteenth and the United States twenty-seventh…. In the 2008 political empowerment subindex, Finland, Norway, Iceland, and Sweden hold the top four spots in descending order, whereas Denmark stands at tenth place. This demonstrates how women have advanced as political citizens in the formal public sphere to a greater extent than elsewhere, with a regional average of 40 percent parliamentary representation—more than double the rest of Europe and the United States.” Lister (2009), 251


  1. Contrast the official narrative of equality in Finland with the opinions expressed in the research from Lister?
  2. American audiences: What role do you think women have had, do have, and will have in the United States?
  3. Finnish audiences: Do you find the portrayal of the role of women in Finland accurate? If so, how, and if not, why not?
  4. Can you explain the paradox that Pylkkänen identifies - "that while equality indeed has been an important social and political value in Finnish culture, it has persistently resisted the recognition of its patriarchal underpinnings?"
  5. What kind of gaps can you find in either the academic research or the interviews?
  6. What comments from the Finnish students do you agree with, disagree with, or find interesting? 
  7. In what way do the selected images in this section complement or relate to the text?
Summer cabins near Lammassaari / Helsinki / 10 Apr 2016

Summer cabins near Lammassaari / Helsinki / 10 Apr 2016


Although there are sections dedicated to immigration and multiculturalism and their impact on Finnish political identity, it is important to discuss the way in which established immigrant and minority populations are situated in society. Conversations about immigrant populations tended to focus on recent, Middle Eastern arrivals, and generally ignored the long-standing communities in Finland (Somalis for example).

Furthermore, the Finnish social ideology praises solidarity and consensus, but in a pluralistic and multicultural environment, solidarity can sometimes plaster over cultural differences which should be represented.  Young Finns express a desire for immigrant populations to assimilate, but this one-sided change ignores the responsibility or opportunity for the native culture to also change and adapt. This cultural flexibility, especially in terms of the non-white native Finnish population, would likely produce even greater social cohesion. 

“Equality, solidarity, and universalism are values that explicitly underpin the Nordic model’s commitment to the principle of inclusionary and equal citizenship—even if that principle is not fully achieved and is under some strain in the face of growing immigration.” Lister (2009), 246

We've got to show that people who move to our country from like northern Africa, they're not that bad, and we can do bad things ourselves too, so everything is not their fault. – Lauri, 15, Helsinki

Refugees. Yes, when the refugees come here. My mom is working with them. When they come in buses, people don't welcome them at all. I think that's a problem because if anything would happen to Finland and we would want to go. I think we should just be more welcoming to the refugees and not look down at them and think that they take our jobs or something. Just be nicer to them. – Benjamin, 15, Helsinki

“[T]he greater the number of related identities, the greater the difficulty of dealing simultaneously with relationships among them.” Stryker and Burke (2000), 292

“[S]trong communities presume strong feelings of intolerance or hate for those outside the community. On a societal level one throws oneself into collective identities. Losing oneself in large political or social movements relieves the emptiness and loneliness within. Strong identities – both personal and collective – are symptoms of pathology, and must be refused.” Stavro (2007), 443

Do I think people look down on the refugees? Yes. It's become like before it was a really big thing. Everyone thought they had to be racist and everyone was against that. But now you hear people say a lot of racist things and it's gotten a lot more normal. It's kind of scary. – Ida, 15, Helsinki


  1. Why are immigrant populations considered both an internal other and a part of Finnish national identity?
  2. American audiences: What are some of the different conversations happening around immigration in the United States?
  3. Finnish audiences: How has the conversation around immigrants and the way the society treat them changed in the past 18 months?
  4. How do immigrant populations exert a type of strain on strong national identity?
  5. What kind of gaps can you find in either the academic research or the interviews?
  6. What comments from the Finnish students do you agree with, disagree with, or find interesting? 
  7. In what way do the selected images in this section complement or relate to the text?
The end of Hietaniemi / Helsinki / 11 Apr 2016

The end of Hietaniemi / Helsinki / 11 Apr 2016


The Sámi were everywhere, I was told, and yet seemed to be nowhere. Finland’s original indigenous people – indeed, that of much of Northern Europe – seemed to be perpetually peripheral. Apparently, Helsinki has the largest population of Sámi, yet it proved difficult to find them. The Sámi communities I did see were in the far north of Lapland, closer to Norway and the North Pole than to Helsinki. Finnish students, too, demonstrated this absence. They felt comfortable talking about immigrants and the relationships with Sweden and Russia. They spoke about domestic policy and the economy. But almost universally they felt ill equipped to speak about the Sámi. As a result, most of the information about Sámi society, culture, and politics comes from academic research. An extended study of the Sámi outside of the strictly academic vein, with a goal of sharing and expanding authentic understanding of Sámi culture, is not just necessary but long overdue.

The Sámi have had an experience similar in many ways to that of indigenous peoples of the Americas. Borders and international agreements have interfered with their way of life. Although Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Russia are all in Sápmi, the Sámi territory, they all treat them with different laws, regulations, and codes. As a result, the tradition of Sámi reindeer herding has been regimented, limited, and reduced. In many other ways, rules over how the Sámi can use what has traditionally been their homeland has caused Sámi communities in the north to shrink and become subject to the trickle of population southward. Additionally, the Sámi cultural touchstones have become commodified and stereotypes. In fact, conversations with tourists, repeat visitors to Finland, revealed an ignorance of what was Finnish and what was, actually, strictly Sámi.

The Sámi’s role, however, is not merely one of cultural appropriation and disenfranchisement. There are many Sámi organizations and movements that are trying to revitalize Sámi language, cultural, and traditions. The national Finnish news agency, YLE, now has a Sámi-language arm. The Sámi museum in Inari, Siida, has done good work in documenting the history of the Sámi and advocated for a more accurate representation of the Sámi. In education, the Sámi Education Institute combines traditional Sámi handicrafts and reindeer husbandry with the educational excellence of mainstream Finnish education to train the next generation of Sámi scholars and artisans.

Lastly, the greatest hope for the Sámi lies beyond just the Finnish borders. The Sámi in Lapland seem to be an inherently more international group than elsewhere in Finland. Cooperation between Sámi language and geographical groups seems firmly established. The Sámi of Norway and Sweden communicate and partner with Finnish Sámi. The nearly-extinguished Russian Sámi in Murmansk and other indigenous peoples from central Russia are partnering with the Sámi in northern Lapland to develop shared animal husbandry and herding practices. Because they are inherently international, the Sámi are in a strong position to leverage their skills and practices. They may not regain an autonomous Sápmi, but they will thrive. 

“The Sámi have been living in Northern Scandinavia before it was settled and colonized by Norwegians, Swedes, Finns and Russians. Over their history the Sámi have faced problems and challenges similar to many other indigenous groups. Among the most critical issues have been the preservation of Sámi culture and language, as well as its material foundation, the land title rights.” Jouni (1999), 137

“The persistence of Sami traditional narratives through time has included modification and adaptation; today they occur in different shapes, influenced in their form and content by a new medium and by a specific audience. Such persistence and adaptation can be better understood through studying selected Sami-produced websites that make use of elements of storytelling in order to promote language acquisition and to convey knowledge about the minority in Sweden. In Sami-produced websites and digital environments, recurrent references to the oral traditions, characters, and properties of storytelling stress the significance and continuity of the narrative tradition.” Cocq (2013), 2

“As the Finnish legislation does not grant the Sámi a legal monopoly to their traditional livelihood of reindeer herding, the Sámi activists have wished to promote a form of cultural autonomy in which the rights to land and water are strongly emphasized. In this way the practically unattainable goal of Sámi regional autonomy has been moderated, while maintaining a political conception of the territorial rights of the Sámi people in Finland.” Jouni (1999), 138

I think probably one of the thing that will ... be in the future because this is a peaceful area. But we never know what Russia does. That’s the one thing. They can come over the border. But still we have good connections. We have all of the indigenous people here and I have been also visiting them and studying their methods of herding reindeer. The people are also there very nice and foreign but ... the state is strange for me. Still, like in the reindeer herding it's so the cost is going all the time so up, so it's very difficult to get it so benefit. That nature is as hard as used to be. So they say that we have a lot of snow so it can be very tough for reindeer. So we don't know in the summer what's happening.

– Woman, Inari

“Since the 1970s, the Sámi in Finland have aimed at obtaining political and legal status versus the state representing the Finnish majority. The establishment and election of a Sámi Parliament has led to a Sámi registry, constitutional change and other administrative measures. Sámi ethnic identity has thus also become institutionalized and legalized. Ethnic categories are now also played out in a formative framework that is less defined by social categories passed on and inherited from generation to generation but is rather associated with the broader ethno-political arena nationally and internationally.” Müller-Wille (2001), 289

“Long an invisible minority in their own countries, today, thanks to new forms of literature and storytelling in mass media, information about Sami traditions, culture, and history is accessible to a broader audience. For the marginalized Sami minority, the actualization of languages and traditions in mass media appears essential, and it has also been a significant point of legislation.” Cocq (2013), 9

Well, if we talk about the people-wise, then definitely already said about the people, so everyone should be equal, equality. Equality is a problem in the world. I think everyone should be treated the same. This is what a lot of countries are just, they don't care about it. Mostly the Finland, Sweden, Norway, those countries, they are the ones that are actually trying to get it working, and it works for them, but lets the, in the middle Europe countries, it doesn't work for them so much. – Samuel, 16, Helsinki

“In the face of the relentless assimilation pressure, many Sámi were marginalized; they capitulated, moved away from Sápmi, and abandoned their ethnic identity. It is di cult to estimate how many Sámi became assimilated, in part because the few studies carried out have been limited to local areas. And, as Minde points out, it was individuals who were assimilated, individual Sámi who felt fear and shame and were not eager to talk about their experiences.” Weinstock (2013), 416-7

But of course we have all kind of political questions about independence and ownership rights and such things and some of the policies are going to be very strongly different. I think both. – Woman, Inari

“The last thirty years have brought many changes to the interethnic relations between Sámi and Finns locally and nationally. These ethnic transformations have taken on different shapes for each of the groups that relate to the specific context in which each group functions. First, as a national majority, the Finns, with independence as a state since 1917 and now with their country’s membership in the European Union since 1995, see a need for a continuing redefinition of their cultural categories versus the influences and effects of ‘Europeanization’ or the threats of globalization. Or, as a small ethnic minority, the Sámi feel themselves being involved constantly in a struggle of self-identification and preservation as well as of recognition by the majority.” Müller-Wille (2001), 288-9

Tourism has grown up and also there's so many cultures that's getting more money from the governments so that we have a lot more working places also for young people, so that's a good thing that they've been able to in fact come back here and make their families here. – Woman, Inari

I think it's typical here in some areas ... in Finland. It's kind of a center of cultural circles. Also in the other provinces here in some area the culture is strong but they of course smaller than us. Yes. But we are so north that Norway is also very close, so people have a lot of connections also more with Norway ... Than with things in the south – Woman, Inari

“A consequence of the spreading of knowledge—and one of the objectives of Sami media producers as well—is the affirmation and consolidation of a Sami identity. A recent report about the situation of the Sami people in the Sápmi region (Anaya 2011) underscores the importance of promoting minority languages, and the close relationship between language and identity. The study of Sami-produced websites using traditional storytelling indicates how central certain aspects are in the articulation of a Sami identity....Additionally, references to tradition and traditional knowledge are many, even as these traditions and knowledge are being redefined in a contemporary context.” Cocq (2013), 9

Yes. Some people don't know that, like here in Inari, often people come here they don't understand how international we here are because we have a tourist town over the mountain. For example, here then, the school comes all the time, people around. Also we have connections in Sweden and Norway, Russia. In all of that place. Also we have languages that we speak here in it's language. I think maybe of people don't know still much. They are kind of a little bit too exotic idea how people live here even today. Many of them don't know at all. Lapland is kind of a holiday place. They come to holiday. – Woman, Inari


  1. How have the Sámi managed to build a space for themselves in and/or around mainstream Finnish society?
  2. American audiences: In what ways is the Sámi experience similar to and different from the Native American experience?
  3. Finnish audiences: What role do you think the Sámi play in Finnish society on a day-to-day basis?
  4. Based on these responses, what is the future or futures of the Sámi in Finland?
  5. What kind of gaps can you find in either the academic research or the interviews?
  6. What comments from the Finnish students do you agree with, disagree with, or find interesting? 
  7. In what way do the selected images in this section complement or relate to the text?
An example of  
 /* Style Definitions */
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
   Sámi cultural misrepresentation and exploitation - dolls at Ivalon lentoasema / Inari / 24 Mar 2016

An example of Sámi cultural misrepresentation and exploitation - dolls at Ivalon lentoasema / Inari / 24 Mar 2016


In Finland, the Swedish-Speaking population occupies a strange liminal position. Even their name is uncertain – alternately Finland-Swedes, Finnish-Swedes, Swedes of Finland, Swedo-Finnish, I found they mostly prefer “Swedish-Speaking Finns” because of its accuracy. They are Finnish, and only speak Swedish as their mother tongue.

Historically, Sweden has exhibited a heavy influence on Finnish culture. But in the centuries after Swedish rule – and the nearly one century of independence – Finnish culture has become its own. In the early 19th century, nearly 20% of the population spoke Swedish primarily, although now it has shrunk to nearly 5.5%. Mostly located on the western coast and in the south, Swedish-speaking Finns have become a minority in a country that used to be a well-integrated part of the Swedish crown.

Swedish-speaking Finns are often called the ideal European minority. Because, racially, they are almost indistinct from the general Finnish population, and the primary way their cultural difference publically manifests is linguistically, it is easy for Swedish-speaking Finns to blend in. Part of what makes them an ideal minority is that they are somewhat invisible. Swedish is the second national language. Most signs are in Swedish, menus offer both languages, and Swedish is an acceptable language of commerce and trade.

But rifts do occur. Swedish language and many cultural traits that contain or are filtered through Sweden are viewed not with hostility but with an amount of skepticism. “Swedish” seems to be a synonym for wealthy. As such, there is a perceived class rivalry between Finns and Swedish-speaking Finns – and although much of the country’s large philanthropic endowments are from Swedish or Swedish-speaking families, no real socioeconomic disparity exists between Finns and their Swedish-speaking counterparts.

More importantly, for the general Finnish population, Swedish-speaking and Swedish seem to blend. This is a distinction Swedish-speaking Finns find important. They are not Swedish. Many of their traditions originate from Sweden, but are distinctly theirs. They speak Swedish, but a Finnish-Swedish a mutually intelligible dialect particular to them.

Some Finnish students that I spoke with expressed these misconceptions about Swedish-speaking Finns, and the Swedish-speaking Finnish students experienced what they felt as misunderstandings about their identity. Partially, these barriers are reinforced through the separate Swedish-speaking schools. These schools, while preserving linguistic and cultural traditions for a minority population, mean that many students don’t go to school together until college – or, if they opt for one of the several Swedish-language universities, never. 

“Mari, from Helsinki, made precisely this point: ‘We don’t really have social class. Just the Finland-Swedes. I think that they’re the upper class. They talk very loud and think they’re better than us normal Finns.’ She identified herself as working-class.” Dutton (2010), 100

I think the Finnish culture and the Swedish culture is different. Yes, because the Finnish/Swedish are influenced from Sweden a bit where the people are bit like, it feels to me like the Finnish people sometimes have a, I don't know what I should call it, an inferiority complex. They just sort of despise the Swedes for their liberal thoughts and other stuff. I guess the Finnish/Swedish sort of represent that as well. – Benjamin, 16, Helsinki

I think that Finnish and the Finnish/Swedish, the relationship between them is not that good. If you speak Swedish sometimes some Finnish man, for example, now this Saturday I went just to buy food and then I talked to me friend in Swedish and he told me I could go back to Sweden. I'm not afraid of speaking Swedish but people do like, I don't know, you get not like good vibes from everybody. That was just the only time it happened to me but it has happened to my brother. Then my friends, they almost got in a fight with a man on the bus because they talked Swedish and he told them like, oh but I'm also rich but I don't speak Swedish, or something and they started like arguing. – Nicholas, 15, Helsinki

I think Finnish/Finnish people think we are like snobby or something. There's like a stereotype that Finnish/Swedish people are really rich and that daddy pays for everything and we have like big boats and just think we are like better than everybody else when it's just the opposite. – Ida, 16, Helsinki

“The difference between the Swedish-speaking and the Sámi minority is also reflected in the ways in which their relationships to the Finnish-speaking majority have developed in the course of the 20th century. It can roughly be asserted that the stronger group started with a more aggressive and territorialized emphasis, and ended up with a relatively diplomatic ‘Swedish cultural policy’. The Sámi movement, on the other hand, began largely as an attempt to make the group's culture more visible, and only after that adopted more territorial emphasis in its policies.” Jouni (1999), 139

If a Finn comes to Helsinki from the middle of Finland, probably he doesn't have any relatives in Helsinki. But if you come from elsewhere you have friends and you can join them. They can tell you what to do, where to find an apartment, where to study, where to go to a gym, where to go to a bar, where to find Swedish speaking things. In Helsinki you have this kind of Swedish room and it's not a room room, but it is a places where you can find Swedish-speaking youngsters and people that talk the same language as you. And schools are the most important. And then you've go other places too. So yes, you can find differences. Of course, we celebrate different things too, for example. We have Svenska dagen, the Swedish Day, and then in Finnish-speaking school you have different cultural events that you refer to. And we aren't so poor also because you can, they are in 1919 it was that the Swedes in Finland were the rich one. And the Swedish language was the most important language in the 19th century, when Finland became you know, building up its nationalism. The rich people were then the Swedish-speaking Finns. Now the Finns of course are also, but if you are Swedish-speaking Finn you are rich by definition. That's not true anymore, you can find peasants and you can find fisherman also. But they are an old capitol money that lives in a community. So that is true. We aren't so... I think the Swedish-speaking Finns are the best living minority, one of the best managing minorities in Europe. I think so, I haven't seen any studies of it but I think so. – Petter, History Teacher, Helsinki

“Representatives of the Swedish Party have been included in most governments since independence and have hence been able to maintain part of the political power that this group originally had, even if the ‘relative peripherization’ of the Swedish speaking minority has been obvious.” Passi (1997), 48

Well, I've never had a too strong Finnish identity. I feel like mine is more of a, I don't know, I feel like I'm quite European more than maybe Helsinki. I don't know what to ... Yeah. But for some reason, the Finnish identity has never been too like, important, to me. – Benjamin, 15, Helsinki

I don't feel Finnish at all. I feel more Finn than Swedish because I have lived here for like ten years just before I moved. I went to a school with all like a European school will all, like sections of different speaking. We were liked multi-cultured so I lost my Finnish identity. – Rebecca, 16, Helsinki

Its also so that a lot of people might think we are just Swedish, and then they think like oh do you like support the Swedish hockey team and stuff like that. That's so annoying. Yeah, we are Finnish. We are speaking Swedish. – Johannes, 15, Helsinki

“No major conflicts exist, however, between the Finnish and Swedish speaking groups today. In fact, from a historical perspective, it may be argued that the residential area of the Swedish speaking population has formed a transformation area in the larger cultural space of Nordic countries and an important sphere of mediation in the construction of the Finnish national identity, since this cultural space has served to separate the Finnish culture from the Eastern cultural space. The Swedish language has also been majority and minority. The second national minority and internal other, the Sámi, some 4000 of whom live in Northern Finland, it is often pushed to the background in discussions of Finnish national identity and was in many respects strongly repressed earlier. Traditional Sámi culture and folk costumes are nevertheless used very effectively in the heritage business in northern Finland and in the constructions of cultural representations of Lapland in general. During the last few years there has been some debate about who should count as Sámi, the already acknowledged group of Sámi people or all those who want to define themselves at Sámi. The key question is, of course, about who has the power to represent cultural forms and identities and also who will game concrete privileges and resources that have been allocated to the Sámi population during the 1990s.” Passi (1997) 48-9

If you're talking to someone. They might seem nice but as soon as you say "I'm Finnish Swedish by the way" they suddenly get quiet and don't say anything. It's better than 50 years ago, but there's still much progress needed. There are some verbal comments coming at you if you speak Swedish. Because they are jealous. – Henrik, 16, Helsinki

“If they chose to assimilate, they could escape the pariah role, but this would eliminate any possibility of engaging the majority and reacting collectively to the exercise of power against them.” Weinstock (2013), 416

They think they're more Finnish than Swedish, most of them. They are pretty far back to Finland. They of course have close relationships to Sweden and such, but they're pretty Finnish. I think most of them consider themselves Finnish. – Mikko, 15, Helsinki

Q: Do you feel Finnish?

D: Not really. Probably Swedish, maybe.

T: I feel more Finnish than Swedish.

S: I feel more Finnish but I feel different because of things like social media, it's like, you can kind of also connect to other people from other places in the world. It's hard to really answer the question of if I feel Finnish because ... No, I am Finnish but I, like, I don't know ...

T: Maybe Swedish.

S: I would say that I'm Finnish but it's different being our age. If you're Finnish and our age and you think about someone that's Finnish and he's like 40 ...

T: I think I feel more Finnish because I moved to Norway when I was 8 and I moved back when I was 14, I think? But when I was in Norway, I kind of started seeing what Finland had and then I started missing that and now I'm happy that I have everything back.

S: I just think it's really different to be 50 and Finnish and our age. If you think about someone that's Finnish who's a typical 50-year old in Finland, it's different. – Sabina, 15 and Titus, 15, Helsinki

I don't really know. Because I don't speak Finnish it feels like I can't say that I'm really like Finnish Finnish. I am too Finnish/Swedish but, I don't know. It's maybe because I live in Finland but I speak Swedish so that's why. I kind of do feel more Finnish/Swedish as well. I think it's because Finnish/Swedish people have more like a community and we really know a lot of people through others. I don't know a lot of Finnish speaking people except for like my dad's side of the family. – Ida, 15, Helsinki


  1. How is the position of Swedish-speaking Finns similar to or different from the rest of the Internal Others in Finnish society?
  2. American audiences: Are there any comparable American scenarios similar to that of the Swedish-speaking Finns?
  3. Finnish audiences: Do you feel the description of Swedish-speaking Finns given above is accurate or not? If so, how, and if not, why?
  4. What role has history had on the contrasting experiences of the Sámi and the Swedish-speaking Finns?
  5. What kind of gaps can you find in either the academic research or the interviews?
  6. What comments from the Finnish students do you agree with, disagree with, or find interesting? 
  7. In what way do the selected images in this section complement or relate to the text?
Sibelius monument in the snow / Helsinki / 12 Jan 2016 / Photo: Jenna Grimley

Sibelius monument in the snow / Helsinki / 12 Jan 2016 / Photo: Jenna Grimley