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Northern Road

Northern Road is a blog by an American expat who moved her life to Finland in 2007. This blog is about her life and adventures in the political landscape of the country.


Jennifer Pajula, julkaisu 27.5.2013
The second meeting of Vantaa's monikulttuurisuusasiain neuvottelukunta (multicultural topics advisory committee) just ended, and I'm writing this on the bus on my way home. As I was walking down the steps of the city hall, I was mulling over all the items and concerns on our committee’s plate, and over and over again, the topics boiled down to basically one thing: finding community. A lot of the conversation wavered between subtopics, but it always meandered back to the point of community and the importance of having one.

After six years in Finland, I finally got involved in politics. I joined IVK, basically ran my husband’s campaign when he tried for a position in the municipal elections, and I handle the photography and general design and appearance of IVK. As a result, I found a community of people who are good-natured folks. They don't mind my funny Finnish, they appreciate what I do in my free time for the association, and through them, I get to meet more people like them. Despite the language barrier, what started in politics has continued in friendship and community.

I cannot stress the importance enough for my fellow immigrants to go out and get involved – and I don’t just mean in politics. Find a sports team to play with, enroll in a dance class, go get involved in a volunteer group like Aseman Lapset Walkers. Finnish classes – go to them! Talk to your neighbors. Talk to that person you sit next to every day on the bus on the way to work. If you have children, then meet your children’s friends' parents and try to get to know them – maybe you’ll like each other. If you live in a multistory building with lots of neighbors, like I do, host a BBQ in the summer and post a notice on the board in the hallway that everyone's welcome to bring something to grill.

My main point is not to let yourself become disenfranchised. If you hide from the community, then it won’t come looking for you. And unfortunately, you might not find it right away! You just have to keep trying. Having a sense of belonging is so crucial to flourishing as an immigrant.

And here’s a link roundup of places immigrants in Vantaa might find useful:
Vantaa city's website and their page for immigrants
Vantaa’s adult classes - for just about anything you can imagine
Finnish courses - use this site to search for Finnish language courses in your area
Finnish for Foreigners - a set of truly great classes through Helsinki University
Infopankki - so many important and useful links for immigrants

Avainsanat: immigration; Vantaa; Itä-Vantaan Kokoomus; community; multicultural