Alejandro Pedregal

Legal Immigrants

Published in SixDegrees 30.10.2014

Spaniard Alejandro Pedregal has had his struggles in Finland, from surviving with the lack of communication to finding a thick enough coat for winter. Nevertheless, he appreciates the security and stability of Finland, as well as the extensive educational opportunities. Having already left his mark on the Finnish film scene, Alejandro now contemplates leaving the country.

Alejandro Pedregal is a passionate film-maker and chooses his country of residence according to work opportunities in his beloved field. (Alejandro Pedregal)

Alejandro Pedregal is a passionate filmmaker and chooses his country of residence accordingly to work opportunities in his beloved field. (Alejandro Pedregal)

What do you do here in Finland?

I’m working at Aalto University in School of Arts, Design, and Architecture as a researcher, and finishing my doctoral studies hopefully this year. I’m a director and a screenwriter, I have worked for many years in Kuvataideakatemia, through which I established Lens Politica Festival nine years ago. By now, I have passed the festival arranging responsibilities on to others, though – last time I took part in setting it up was in 2011. Since then I have concentrated on my research and film work.

When and how did you end up here?

The first time I came to Finland was in 2001, when I received a grant for a different research I was doing back then to study over here. I was splitting my time between Finland and Spain until 2004 when I decided to officially settle here. I stayed because I got offered a job in Kuvataideakatemia. I’m travelling a lot, often spending time outside the country, but I’m based here.

What attracts you about Finnish culture?

It would have to be the general sense of social respect, some kind of communal feeling. I find it that people are less attached to their families here than for example in Spain but more respectful to people they don’t know. There’s a certain sense of security and stability. The educational opportunities, as well as the quality of education, would also have to be mentioned. What I specifically like is that the society here is horizontal rather than vertical, by which I mean that there’s not such strict hierarchy: it’s easy to gain access to institutions and people in a societal level.

Have you had any worries about your life in Finland?

When I first came here, I didn’t think too much about it as I thought I was only going to be here for a year. After that my worries have had more to do with work rather than the culture. And with certain practicalities, such as learning the language, and whether I’m going to find a thick enough coat for winter! Of course, I miss my family and friends, which sometimes makes it difficult.

How has Finland changed you?

I’m probably not the best to judge on this one myself but I think that certain social, Finnish-oriented things, as those I’ve mentioned, have caught up on me, and maybe some Spanish-oriented things have merged with them. But I must say that it was probably easy for me to adapt to those as I was brought up in a politically active family that paid a lot of attention to education. Due to that, I have always been aware of being socially respectful to others, or so I have tried. So I’d say it’s been more of a transition than a change.

What culture shocks did you experience when coming to Finland?

The lack of verbal communication is sometimes shocking. It also stretches into the lack of emotional communication: people tend not to express their feelings unless you are very, very close. And even then it seems to be a struggle sometimes.

Have you been able to settle and integrate into Finnish society?

I think so. I have friends here, I have a job – I have managed to find my place in this country. Lately, I haven’t been doing so much integrating, though, as I have been working on my thesis – I feel like a hermit locked in most of the time! I’ve had difficulties with the language and some other things, and even though I’ve tried not to make such a big deal out of them, at times they pile up and easily develop into greater obstacles. But generally, I think I have done quite a good job.

What are your future wishes for your life here?

First of all, I want to finish my dissertation. After that I need to find a job within the academic field. Then my doors are open for any new opportunities to come. Being a filmmaker is what I want to do, and I’m not sure I can do it in Finland. I’m not exactly itching to leave and could otherwise stay, but I have been waiting for some work-related things to take place here that haven’t. And that is why I’m open to the option of emigrating.

What is your favourite Finnish word?

I don’t know about a word but the Finnish pronunciation creates funny situations sometimes. For example, the way that the Finns pronounce The Beatles makes it sound like the band was called The Beatless, which I find very amusing. I even thought of starting a mockery band of that name that covers The Beatles’ songs. You wouldn’t have to be very good doing that – I mean, what can you expect if the name of the band is The Beatless!


Jesica Kaboel

Legal Immigrants

Published in SixDegrees 22.5.2014

Indonesian Jesica Kaboel was initially shocked by the Finnish language but has since mastered it and settled in well to the Helsinki way of life. She embraces the honesty of Finns and thinks that Finland has made her a better person.

Jesica Kaboel was initially shocked by Finnish language but has since then learned to love it. (Jan Ahlstedt)

Jesica Kaboel was initially shocked by Finnish language but has since then learned to love it. (Jan Ahlstedt)

What do you do here in Finland?

I have a day job to make a living. In my spare time, I do what I really want to do: read, write, listen to music. I used to play in a band back in Indonesia so music’s close to my heart. Art in all its forms is my passion, actually. I’m specifically fond of old literature.

When and how did you end up here?

25 August nearly nine years ago marks my arrival here. I remember the date so clearly because it’s my mum’s birthday. Originally, I was brought here by love. And after that was gone I stayed because nothing, except for my family, awaited me in Indonesia. Moving here was one of the biggest decisions I’ve ever made in my life and I didn’t see the point of going back once that decision was made. I wanted to see what life had to offer me here.

What attracts you about Finnish culture?

What I like so much about Finns is that they are very straightforward and honest. In Indonesia, the culture is very different. Here, even if what you say is going to be hurtful, it is still ok to say it. There’s no pretending, it is what it is. I prefer that.

What were your worries about life in Finland?

I’m not the kind of person to worry much about anything. The biggest difficulty for me when leaving my country was leaving my family. Apart from that, the move was like an exciting adventure.

How has Finland changed you?

Oh my God, this could be a novel! It has changed me in every possible way – my way of living, my way of thinking. My whole life philosophy, if you like. Finland has changed me into a better person because here I experienced my biggest downfall and overcame it. It’s a sad story and a sad experience but it was all essential in shaping me into what I am now.

What culture shocks did you experience when coming to Finland?

The language was the biggest shock to me! As I’m a literature lover, I naturally also love language. But before coming here I had mainly travelled in English-speaking countries and Finnish was something else. And of course the weather shocked me – I’m a tropical girl! The winter was truly shocking.

Have you been able to settle and integrate into Finnish society?

Yes. Very well, I’d say.

What are your future wishes for your life here?

I go where life takes me, and at the moment my life is still in Finland. I have expectations but no particular wishes, as long as I can do what I love doing and I’m happy.

What is your favourite Finnish word?

I’ll say karhu (bear). Because it has two meanings, a bear and a beer. I just recently saw Aleksis Kivi’s play Seitsemän veljestä (Seven Brothers) and there was talk about bears. For some reason, I like the word.

Cultural activist

Published in Helsinki Times 10.4.2014 

From Peru to Finland, Roxana Crisólogo leaves her mark in the cultural circles in different corners of the world. Her latest project is bringing together writers and poets in Finland with immigrant backgrounds.

Peruvian Roxana Crisólogo is a fan of the equal Finnish systems.

Peruvian Roxana Crisólogo is a fan of the equal Finnish system. (Roxana Crisólogo)

Crisólogo came to Finland eight years ago for the usual reason: being married to a Finn. Although love did not last, she decided to stay.

“Finland offers you so many possibilities in regard to education. Also, I could not imagine living in a Latin American society anymore after having experienced the wonderfully equal Finnish system. It’s outstanding how in this country people are not rated by money and possessions but by their actions and work. I have a daughter and I did not want her to grow up in an environment where people are driven by money and looks.”

In Peru, Crisólogo was working as a cultural producer, writer, and poet. She is the eldest of the family’s six daughters and was encouraged by her mother to get good education, preferably that of either a doctor or a lawyer. Crisólogo, however, chose to follow her own path. She was, in her own words, a cultural activist and very happy with her job.

“I was very sceptical first about coming to Finland,” she admits.

“I was worried about finding work here, and rightly so. After arriving in Helsinki, I was advised to study to become a practical nurse for taking care of the elderly. I could not do it because I have allergies, and being in my forties I thought I was too old for it anyway.”

Crisólogo studied hard to get a grasp of the Finnish language and was told to find an internship somewhere to intensify her learning of the language. She dreamed about finding work in her field, although the advisors did not mince their words in informing her that there simply was no work available in the cultural sector. Crisólogo, however, was determined to stick to her beloved field, and eventually she did find a window of opportunity.

“I was very lucky to get the chance to do my internship at Taiteen Edistämiskeskus (Arts Promotion Centre) – I wouldn’t be where I am now without it. I worked there at Outi Korhonen’s office, and her job includes helping trans-cultural artists here in Finland. Through my internship, I witnessed first-hand how difficult the situation was specifically for immigrant writers, as they work with words that don’t bear any meaning in this country.”

Crisólogo decided to do something to help the immigrant writers, she herself being one of them. She applied for a grant from Kone Foundation, and received it. That was the beginning for project Sivuvalo – Onko tämä suomalaista kirjallisuutta?  (Sidelight – Is this Finnish literature?)

“It has taken off really well. The idea is to provide visibility for writers and poets with immigrant backgrounds, as well as to make them more included in the local writing scene.”

Crisólogo writes poetry herself, and has published four books in Spanish.

“I draw inspiration from my mother’s experiences as a young woman when she had to leave her home town in order to find work. I write about cultural encounters and misunderstandings, racism and prejudice in big cities where people arrive in search of better opportunities.”

Since the beginning of Sivuvalo in May last year, Crisólogo has arranged numerous poetry reading opportunities, among other activities.

“Some of the artists read poems in their own languages, some in Finnish, and there have never been any problems. People come to these events with an open mind and listen to poems being read in languages that they might not understand.”

 See Roxana Crisólogo with Sivuvalo at Lukuviikko on Saturday 12.4. at Stoa Culture Centre, Helsinki.


Poet and cultural activist Roxana Crisólogo. (Roxana Crisólogo)

Underneath one of Crisólogo’s poems in Spanish followed by Finnish translation.

Aquí no se escucha cumbia
aquí no se escucha nada
y cada paso de baile es un cuento chino
una pisada de pies
una mezcla de tragos
y lo que los latinos
y me hará volar

los latinos
el guetto de los colores
fugamos en el heavy metal
que se escucha como un idioma secreto
detrás del baño

los latinos
bailan algo parecido a este sótano
sin luz
algo más o menos cercano
a un desierto

yo sólo escucho la música
que poco a poco
va adquiriendo una forma siniestra

pocas cosas quedan claras
a esta hora
que besamos
las manos frías de las conversaciones
con risas intrusas
intrusas como queríamos ser
frente a la parquedad del vodka

ante la inevitable intromisión
de una cerveza

Hace falta una rockola
que diga las cosas desde el corazón

hace falta un viento fuerte
hacen falta
cortes de luz

hace falta algo
que le ponga orden
a esta pesadilla de bailar sola.

Täällä ei kuunnella cumbiaa
täällä ei kuunnella mitään
ja jokainen tanssin askel on epäaito
jalalle astuminen,
sekoitus juomia
se mitä latinot
ja joka saa minut lentämään

värien ghetto
pakenemme heavy metaliin
jota kuunnellaan kuin salakieltä
vessan takana

tanssivat jotain, joka muistuttaa tätä kellaria
ilman valoa
jotain enemmän tai vähemmän
aavikkoa muistuttavaa

kuulen vain musiikin
joka vähitellen
saa synkän muodon

vain harvat asiat ovat selviä
tähän aikaan
kun suutelemme
keskustelujen kylmät kädet
kutsumattomia naurahduksia

tungettelevia jollaisia halusimme olla
vodkan vähäsanaisuuden keskellä
ollessa väistämätöntä

Tarvitaan jukeboxi
joka puhuisi suoraan sydämestä

tarvitaan voimakas tuuli

tarvitaan jotain
joka toisi järjestystä
tähän yksinään tanssimisen painajaiseen.

(suomennos Johanna Suhonen)

Robbie Hill & The Blue 62’s

Carrying on the tradition of old school blues

Published in SixDegrees 27.3.2014

It sounds like the set up of a well-worn joke: a Scotsman, a Finn and an American walk into a bar. Yet, for Robbie Hill & The Blue 62’s, their punchline is that their unlikely ingredients together create remarkable, authentic blues. Based in Helsinki, the band consists of Robbie Hill, the front man, singer and guitarist; Tatu Pärssinen, the drummer and also an architect; and Jesse King, the bass player who’s also a manager of a surf shop in Helsinki.

One might wonder why the guys have chosen Finland’s capital from all the places they could have sprung from. Well, there are a couple of reasons. First of all, they all are more or less country boys: Pärssinen is from Ruukki; King from a small village in Oregon where, he says, everyone is related; and Hill from a small town on the east coast of Scotland that nobody has ever heard of. So, in fact, in their eyes Helsinki is the ‘big smoke’. Secondly, as they point out, the blues scene here is distinctive from anywhere else.

Tatu Pärssinen, Robbie Hill and Jesse King. (Antti Peltola)

Tatu Pärssinen, Robbie Hill and Jesse King. (Antti Peltola)

We meet in Bar Mendocino on a Wednesday evening. The location where the trio first met, the small room is a must-visit for those into retro rock, blues, country, soul and western swing. A small stage wedged in the back corner of the bar has hosted various bands and randomly thrown-together musicians over the years, jamming together for the love of music.

First things first: how did the band start out?

Hill: It first started when King and I met. They have these open stage jamming sessions here on Mondays, and we ended up playing together on stage on one of those occasions. We actually played together before we spoke. It was early summer 2012, and I had only been in Finland for a few weeks. When I first said something to Jesse in English, I was speaking very slowly as I assumed he was Finnish. We just clicked straight away and then got to talking that maybe we could start something together.

Hill: And then I just basically stole Tatu.King: I knew Tatu before as he was in a band that had asked me to play bass for them. I hadn’t played for years so I was a little bit sceptical. Then there was this festival where Pärssinen’s band had been booked to play but their second guitar player suddenly couldn’t make it. So Robbie stepped in.

How did you all end up in Helsinki?

Hill: I came here purely for the music. I heard that there was a good blues music scene in Finland. It was Otis Grand, my mentor in the UK, who gave me the courage for this. We had become friends after I once went to see him play and got a chance to actually join him on stage. He did this walkabout in the audience and handed me his guitar. At the end of his show, he called out ‘Where’s Hill?’ and invited me on stage. We were playing together, and then he just walked off stage and let me close the show. After some time he told me to go to Finland. He mentioned a few other places, too, but when I started to look into things, Helsinki just seemed like such a cool place. I’m glad I made this choice.

King: My story is much more boring: I just had nothing better to do. I came to Finland in search of my roots 11 years ago. Members of my family four, five generations back come from here. They were jewellery makers and goldsmiths, so presumably followed the Gold Rush. I really needed a change of scenery at the time and a friend of mine suggested I came to Finland. I was first in Turku, working as a chef, and then Hans Välimäki asked me to come to work in his new restaurant in Helsinki. I had played some guitar, some bass, but had no idea about the great music scene here. I came to this bar a couple of times just to listen, and then just caught the music bug again and finally climbed on stage to join in with other musicians. It all fell into place when I met these guys; it’s been really nice to find the spark to play music again.

Pärssinen: I graduated from music high school and then the University of Oulu as an architect. I feel that I just have this alter ego of a drummer. Ultimately, I would like to make a living out of playing, if it’s possible. I actually had four years off music after moving to Helsinki but soon realised that I can’t live without it.

How do you find it here?

Hill: The blues scene here is really small, but also very active. I really like how Finnish people embrace their certain cultures when they’re into something. The rockabilly scene is a good example – Finns really go for it. It’s the same with the blues scene; it’s almost like a small family. I can just walk into certain bars here and they’ll be playing my favourite music. You’d never get that in Scotland, anywhere. There are some good players over there but they’re more dotted about.

Pärssinen: Yeah, I like Helsinki. There’s this semi-underground thing going on here.

Hill: Coming to Finland is the best decision I’ve ever made. And not just for music – my whole life has changed. I’ve made such cool friends here.

Robbie Hill & The Blue 62's. (Antti Peltola)

Robbie Hill & The Blue 62’s. (Antti Peltola)

How did you come up with the name of the band?

King: Robbie Hill is obviously our Rob. 62 refers to a guitar, a Stratocaster, which is one of the most recognisable shapes when you think of a guitar, an iconic shape. Things started to happen to us really fast so we didn’t have much time to think of a name. Robbie Hill & Blue 62’s was my idea, and it’s proved to be impossible for people to remember. We’ve been introduced as everything from Robbie Hill & the Beatles, to Blues 52’s.

What kind of people listen to your music?

Pärssinen: Some fans of Erja Lyytinen have started following us now.

Hill: Our music appeals to a lot of different age groups. I think the old blues fans are going to like our style because we play old school blues. At the same time, we’re a young band so hopefully that will attract young people who may not be familiar with blues music before.

King: People think that they don’t really know blues music, or get to hear it anywhere nowadays, but that is actually not true. You hear it often in the movies and on television. But it’s true that blues is, in a way, old music. A lot of those people we draw inspiration from are dead now.

Hill: So we’ve got a long way to go! The thing is, the popularity of blues music has come and gone in waves but it’s still always there.

King: In the blues world, there are actually very few people who can fill the gap between the old masters and the young people, as the blues kind of died out for a while. There are not very many who carry out the old traditions anymore. Not to take anything away from people like John Mayer, he’s widely successful, but there’s this pop aspect in his music. It’s somehow missing the essence.

Who inspires you then?

Hill: All the old style blues musicians who have been here before us. Otis Grand, he is proper old school with a lot of integrity – doesn’t mince his words, either. I admire him as a person as well. Sugar Ray and the Bluetones is great, too. In Finland, there are also lots of great blues players, such as Tomi Leino and Erja Lyytinen.

What is your greatest achievement as a band so far?

Hill: We have managed to cause a lot of damage in a short time…

Pärssinen: We have actually achieved quite a lot when you think about it that we have been around for only a year-and-a-half.

King: For example, we’ve already played at Järvenpään Puistoblues. There are bands that have been waiting for years to get on that stage. And we’ve played at a blues festival in Haapsalu, Estonia – there were like 2,000 people in the audience. We thought that we’d be playing in a small park with maybe 200 people listening. People were actually singing along and knew some of our songs. It was weird because, at the time, we barely knew them. Since releasing the album, I think we’ve done about 50 gigs.

Hill: That is a lot, especially considering that we’re not with any booking agency.

King: Other bands come and ask us who’s booking our gigs. We’ve got around six to seven gigs a month, and they’re not at small venues either.

Hill: But we’ve got a long way to go still.

What are your plans for future?

Hill: We’re currently planning a tour in Europe. So far, we’ve got Belgium and Poland booked. I would like to go back to Scotland. That would be the first time I’ve been there in two years. Generally, I would just like to get to a point where we can be touring all the time and pay our bills with music. I would like to keep in the tradition of blues, turning new people on to that. We’re also looking forward to our next album.

King: The first one had to be thrown together pretty much in a weekend. I didn’t even know we were going to record an album, I thought we’d be making another demo.

Hill: It received great reviews, however. One European radio named it as one of their top ten albums of last year. And it was great fun recording it.

Where would you like to perform the most?

Hill: Well, I just want us many people as possible to hear our music, doesn’t matter where we go.

King: It’s more about going to play for the blues enthusiasts. So far, it hasn’t been like that very often. Sometimes people just don’t get it.

Pärssinen: I would like to play in one of these places where it all started for blues music. Like Chicago. It would be interesting to see whether they’d accept us, and how it would feel for us to play in an iconic place like that.

For upcoming gigs see Robbie Hill &
The Blue 62’s Facebook page or the
band’s website:

Tiago Ferreira

Legal Immigrants

Published in SixDegrees 27.3.2014

Portuguese Tiago Ferreira loves sarcasm and engaging in deep conversation. That is why he likes life in Finland.

Tiago Ferreira. (Tiago Ferreira)

Tiago Ferreira. (Tiago Ferreira)

What do you do here in Finland?

I study tourism and work part-time in a bar. In my spare time, I do a bit of photographing.

When and how did you end up here?

I came here for love – but it didn’t last. I moved over in June 2008. Since then, I’ve been in and out the country but keep coming back. Due to my studies, I’m pretty settled here now. Being in Finland allows me to save money for my travels and to challenge my views and opinions on things, which I enjoy.

What attracts you about the Finnish culture?

Well, I’ve mainly just been in Helsinki, so whatever I say about Finns is based only on the people in the Capital Region. But judging by them, Finns love to have meaningful conversations about anything and everything, there are no forbidden subjects or taboos, and for that I am always happy to return here. I love the way Finns use sarcasm. When you say something really obvious they reply with sarcasm, as if a reminder that they expect you to be a bit smarter than that.

What culture shocks did you experience when coming to Finland?

When I first came here, I was always late. Finnish people are very punctual. Although I’m usually on time these days, I still tell people when agreeing to meet them that I will be 5-10 minutes late as a precaution. In the beginning, the use of alcohol also shocked me. But I must admit that I have integrated into that part of the Finnish culture now quite well myself. I started to enjoy it, drinking beer when going to sauna and all that. It can be fun. The best way to learn to know the Finnish culture seems to be through alcohol and national celebrations.

Have you been able to settle and integrate into Finnish society?

Yes-ish. I feel like after three-and-a-half years here, I should be able to speak Finnish fluently. And I can only manage the small talk part. I’m quite strict with myself in that regard because I think it’s arrogant if you live in a country and don’t bother learning the language. Apart from the struggle with the language, I think I’ve settled in quite well. I like living here; I like how the Finnish society allows me to follow this lifestyle. I’m not the type to actively seek the company of other foreigners and get into groups with them. I attempt to blend in as a regular Helsinki citizen. I’ve set myself goals that I go towards, for example when I go to Kela I want to be able to sort my things out using Finnish.

What were/are your worries about life in Finland?

Coming here, I was worried about achieving a better level of living. And, of course, I worried about the relationship with my fiancée at the time, wondering if we could make it. But I didn’t really know anything about Finland before so I didn’t have so many expectations or worries either. Now I worry sometimes when meeting girls here if they really like me or just the idea of me as an exotic foreigner. You definitely get more attention from women over here than you would back home in Portugal. After a while, it gets boring. You feel like a piece of meat sometimes. People tend to draw conclusions when they hear you’re a Latino working in a bar, and I don’t fit into that stereotype.

How has Finland changed you?

I think that Finns, as many faults as they may have, are good at listening and talking. In that way, they affect your views on things. To get in talks with the Finns, it’s essential to get their sense of humour. After that, you can talk about anything with them.

What are your future wishes for your life here?

First, I want to graduate to gain the feeling that I’ve achieved something. After that, I’m not sure what my plans will be. But I’m definitely not going back to Portugal. The country is being led by sex, football and crooked politics, and it’s not an environment that I aspire to be in.

What is your favourite Finnish word?

I’ve got two: punainen polkupyörä (red bicycle). Because those are the first Finnish words I’ve ever used in a real conversation. I’m also very fond of the word mahtava (great, awesome).


Published in SexDegrees 27.3.2014

Tell me about your city, Raouf Sifour

Algerian Raouf Sifour (Raouf Sifour).

Raouf Sifour (Raouf Sifour).

In Finland you have this saying: a beloved child has many names. That is Constantine, the City of Knowledge, the City of Bridges, and the City of Warriors. It is one of the biggest and wealthiest cities of Algeria, as well as the commercial centre of the region, and therefore a place where many people come in their search for a better life. The official number of people living there is around one million. During daytime, however, the population doubles as people come to the city for work and study. Poor people around the area gather there to try and earn some money.

Constantine has a very distinctive geographical position. The city was originally built on top of a stone mountain. Later, an earthquake split the mountain in two. Therefore, Constantine is now divided in two separate parts that are connected by bridges. Between the two parts runs a river down in the gulley. There is also an airport, considered as one of the most dangerous in the world as the plane needs to go round along the mountainside to get to the airport in the relatively narrow gulley. In Constantine, you are never far away from an incredible view. It is not a place for someone with fear of heights. The suspended bridges over the gulley are hundreds of metres long and not supported by any pillars.

Constantine, the City of Knowledge. (Raouf Sifour)

Constantine is the Arabic capital of culture, known as the City of Knowledge. Most of the rulers and thinkers, the highest educated people of Algeria come from there. On 16 April the whole of Algeria celebrates the Day of Knowledge. Constantine is the centre of that. There is no nightlife in Constantine, no bars and clubs, and people eat out mainly in the daytime. Taxi is a common way of transportation as it’s very cheap. There are also cable cars and an elevator for transporting people from the bottom of the mountain to the top.

The weather conditions in Constantine are quite extreme. Winters are very cold, and summers very hot. Normally, there is always snow in the wintertime. In the summertime, the temperature might go up to 50 degrees Celsius. It is often windy in Constantine but even that doesn’t help in the summer temperatures because it feels like a hair dryer directed at your face. Springtime is best for visiting. In the autumn, there are often thunderstorms coming from the Sahara. After the storms the city is red-coloured because of the sand brought over from the desert. With the heat and the post-storm humidity there is steam everywhere. You feel like you were in a sauna.

The way up to the actual Constantine City. (Raouf Sifour)

Currently, Constantine is going through big changes. The city is overcrowded and because of its geographical situation it is impossible to expand the borders. That is why they have started building a new city next to the mountain. Currently, there are a lot of Brazilian workers.

Constantine has always been a bit of a melting pot of different cultures. In the ‘70s, it attracted a lot of immigrants, among others Finnish fishermen. At the time, Algeria was doing very well economically and it was easy to make money there. During the terrorism time in the ‘90s many industries suffered, tourism being one of them.

Now tourists have found the city again, and the hotels are fully booked all year round.

”Vaadin Ruotsissa suomenkielistä palvelua”

Nykyajan ruotsinsuomalainen tuntee oikeutensa

Pohjois-Hämeestä kotoisin oleva Maarit Turtiainen vaalii kaksoiskansalaisuuttaan keskimääräistä tarkemmin. Tiiviisti vanhan kotimaansa kulttuuritarjontaa seuraavan toimittajan mielestä erot maiden välillä ovat kaventuneet, mutta suomalaisten ainutlaatuinen kyky lyödä läskiksi on ja pysyy. Hänen juurensa Suomeen ovat vahvat, mutta koti Ruotsissa.

(Maarit Turtiainen)

(Maarit Turtiainen)

Toimittaja Maarit Turtiainen ei muista tarkkaan vuotta, jolloin lähti Suomesta. Hän veikkaa sen olevan 1976. Hän on kotoisin Vilppulasta, josta tie vei ensin 15-vuotiaana Helsinkiin ja sieltä täysi-ikäisenä edelleen Tukholmaan. Käytyään Helsingissä iltalukion Turtiainen oli hakenut oikeustieteelliseen, muttei päässyt. Ruotsiin hän lähti harjoittamaan kaksikielisyyttä, jota oikeustieteellisessä pidettiin tärkeänä. Suomi kuitenkin jäi siinä kuin oikeustieteellinenkin, ja Turtiainen asettui Tukholmaan ja opiskeli toimittajaksi. Myöhemmin uudesta asuinmaasta löytyi myös mies.

”Siihen aikaan Suomi ja Ruotsi olivat todella erilaisia, täällä Ruotsissa oli paljon kansainvälisempi ja avoimempi ilmapiiri”, Turtiainen sanoo.

Hän on viihtynyt Tukholmassa hyvin ja löytänyt oman paikkansa kaksoiskulttuuriuden välimaastosta.

”Olen työskennellyt Tukholmassa paljon erilaisissa ruotsinsuomalaisissa medioissa, esimerkiksi Ruotsin Suomalainen -lehdessä, Sisuradiossa sijaisena, ruotsinkielisen television suomenkielisessä toimituksessa, sekä freelancerina erilaisille medioille niin Ruotsissa kuin Suomessa.”


Yksi Turtiaisen toimista on ruotsinsuomalaisia kirjamessuja järjestävän yhdistyksen puheenjohtajana.

”Ruotsinsuomalaiset Kirja- ja kulttuurimessut on järjestetty nyt neljä kertaa. Niiden suojelijana toimii Jenni Haukio. Messuilla käy vuosittain viitisensataa ihmistä, heistä noin 30 on kirjoittajia eri puolilta Ruotsia.”

Turtiainen on myös mukana osuuskunnassa, joka hoitaa Tukholman suomalaista kirjakauppaa. Kirjakauppa oli viime kesänä lakkautusuhan alla, mutta sen pelastamiseksi perustettiin osuuskunta, joka toimii vapaaehtoisvoimin.

”Tukholman suomalainen kirjakauppa on ollut olemassa jo 50 vuotta. Nykyisellään sitä pidetään auki enää kahtena päivänä viikossa, keskiviikkoisin ja lauantaisin. Paikka on suomalaisille tärkeä, koska suomen kielistä kirjallisuutta ei myydä täällä missään muualla. Kirjakaupassa kokoontuvat erilaiset lukupiirit, myös julkistamistilaisuuksia pidetään silloin tällöin. Siellä tapaavat säännöllisesti esimerkiksi Venäjän Karjalan sukuiset, joille muiden samantaustaisten tapaaminen antaa mahdollisuuden puhua heidän omaa kieltänsä.”

Suomenkielisillä on vähemmistökielialue Ruotsissa, jota kutsutaan suomen kielen hallintoalueeksi. Siihen kuuluvien kuntien asukkailla on oikeus saada suomenkielistä esikoulutoimintaa ja vanhustenhuoltoa sekä oikeus asioida kunnan kanssa suomeksi. Hallintoalueeseen kuuluu 40 kuntaa, ja yli 40 prosenttia ruotsinsuomalaisista asuu siellä.

”Hallintoalueeseen kuuluvat kunnat saavat tukea valtiolta suomen kielen ylläpitämiseen. Esimerkiksi kirjastoihin ostetaan noissa kunnissa suomenkielistä kirjallisuutta.”

Pientä kielialuetta puolustettava

Turtiainen on itse kirjoittanut myös kirjan Punainen paasto, jonka WSOY julkaisi vuonna 2012.

”Punainen paasto kertoo turkkilaisen pojan ja suomalaisen tytön rakkaustarinan. Tapahtumapaikkana on 1900-luvun alun Istanbul. Idea tähän tuli osittain siitä, että olen asunut itse Istanbulissa ja puhun myös turkkia”, Turtiainen selventää.

”Romaania on ostettu noin 900 kappaletta. Minulle sanottiin, että se olisi menestynyt varmasti paremmin, jos olisin kirjoittanut sen ruotsiksi. Sain kuitenkin hyvää palautetta muun muassa kirjastohenkilökunnalta ja äidinkielen opettajilta teoksesta. Ruotsinsuomalaisten Kirjoittajien Yhdistyksen joka toinen vuosi jaettavaa Kaisa Vilhuinen -kirjallisuuspalkintoa valitessa sain myös kunniamaininnan.”

Ruotsinsuomalaisuus on laaja käsite, mutta kirjallisuuspiireissä siihen kuuluu korostetun oleellisena osana suomen kieli.

”Yhtenä vuonna palkinto haluttiin antaa Susanna Alakoskelle Sikalat -romaanista. Tappelimme vastaan, koska sitähän ei oltu kirjoitettu alunperin suomeksi.”


Ruotsinsuomalaisuus ei ole koskaan aiheuttanut Turtiaiselle identiteettikriisiä.

”Päinvastoin. Suomi on minulle hyvä paikka, mihin voin aina laskeutua. Tietysti olen vieraantunut Suomesta jonkin verran lähdettyäni sieltä, vaikka isäni oli mukana sodassa ja juureni Suomeen ovat vahvat. Mutta minulla ei ole minkäänlaista katkeruutta niin Suomea kuin Ruotsiakaan kohtaan.”

Ruotsalaisten suhtautuminen suomalaisiin on hänen mielestään viime aikoina muuttunut parempaan suuntaan.

”Mielestäni vähättelevä asenne suomalaisia kohtaan on vuosien kuluessa vähentynyt. Tähän ovat vaikuttaneet varmasti Nokia ja Suomen yleinen kehitys sekä menestyminen Pisa-tutkimuksissa. Myös suomalainen design on täällä tunnettua. Mutta ylipäätään ruotsalaisten kiinnostus Suomea kohtaan on yllättävän vähäistä.”

Siksi mielikuvat muodostuvat usein yleisesti hoetuista kliseistä, mutta niissäkin on hyvää. Runsaan alkoholinkäytön lisäksi suomalaiset tunnetaan ahkeruudestaan.

”Sitä minulle on useasti sanottu, että ’te olette niin kovia tekemään töitä’. Täällähän on ollut paljon suomalaisia rakentamassa Ruotsia menneinä vuosikymmeninä ja heidän panoksensa on kyllä huomattu. Esimerkiksi tuo suomen kielen hallintoalue on mielestäni kunnianosoitus suomalaisia kohtaan.”

Kantaruotsalaisten on kuitenkin joskus vaikea ymmärtää suomalaisten kaipuuta omaan kieleensä.

”Vaikka myönteisyys meitä kohtaan on kasvanut, ei täällä oikein yleisesti ymmärretä suomen kielen itseisarvoa ja sen käyttämismahdollisuuden tärkeyttä suomalaisille. ’Tehän osaatte jo ruotsia’, ruotsalaiset usein ihmettelevät. He tukisivat mieluummin esimerkiksi arabitaustaisia, joilla on tänne tullessaan vaikeampaa ja joiden maahan sopeutuminen vie huomattavasti enemmän aikaa. Ruotsissa aiemmin harjoitetun voimakkaan assimilaatiopolitiikan jäljiltä vallalla on edelleen asenne, että suomen kieltä käytetään vain niin kauan kuin ei osata ruotsia.”

Hankala suomalainen, hyvä huumorintaju

Mietittäessä samankaltaisuuksia suomalaisten ja ruotsalaisten välillä niitä ei helposti tule mieleen.

”Luulen, että moraalikäsitykset ja arvostukset ovat aika lailla samanlaisia. Mutta eroja tulee kyllä enemmän mieleen. Kerran katsellessani Markoolion esiintyvän, ajattelin, ettei tuollainen hahmo voisi koskaan olla ruotsalainen. Ruotsalaisille on hirveän tärkeää antaa aina itsestään kohtelias, hyväkäytöksinen ja tyylikäs kuva, kun taas Suomessa ei pelätä lyödä läskiksi. Kyllähän tälläkin puolella pelleillään komedioissa ja humoristisissa televisio-ohjelmissa, mutta silloin mennäänkin jonkin roolin taakse. Suomalaisilla on hyvä huumorintaju, he eivät ota itseään niin vakavasti, eivätkä pelkää itsensä nolaamista.”

Turtiaisella on 15-vuotias tytär, joka aikoo lähteä Suomeen suorittamaan lukion. Siitäkin huolimatta, että tytär on huomannut suomalaisissa negatiivisiakin puolia.

”Hänen mielestään suomalaiset ovat tuomitsevampia kuin ruotsalaiset. Suomessa on ikään kuin ok puhua muista inhottavammin, esimerkiksi omien koulukavereiden haukkuminen selän takana on ihan normaalia, eikä kukaan paheksu sitä huonona käytöksenä.”

Turtiainen on itse ylpeä suomalaisesta taustastaan, eikä pelkää heittäytyä sen nojalla joskus myös hankalaksi:

”Vähemmistölain tultua voimaan olen alkanut korostaa suomalaisuuttani Ruotsissa, koska nyt minulla on siihen oikeus. Olen niitä, jotka vaativat suomenkielistä palvelua esimerkiksi soittaessaan laivayhtiöille varatakseen matkan Suomeen. Sitten he kiristelevät siellä hampaitaan”, Turtiainen nauraa.