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I Don't Like Mämmi or Sauna, Am I Still Finnish?

During the SuomiAreena festival, Familia ry organized a panel discussion on the topic “Finnishness 2.0 - How Do We Define Finnishness?”. The panel included Hunderra Assefa (Chairperson of the Finnish Muslim Forum), Päivi Majaniemi (Chairperson of the Finnish Roma Association), Dora Puhakka (Expert from the Jade community), and Janina Waenthongkham (Mixed Finns anti-racism expert and non-fiction author). House of Helsinki’s chair person Artem Kuosti hosted the panel and wrote a reflective article inspired by the dialogue.

You can find the recording here.

Finnishness: A Multicultural Heritage

Finland's history is filled with diverse influences, from the indigenous Sámi to the Roma community. It's often forgotten that Finland has always been a multicultural society. Acknowledging and embracing this history is crucial, as it shapes our understanding of the present and future. Recognizing our multicultural past is essential to building current and future narratives.

Building Stories

The stories we tell about Finnishness are central. These narratives can either include or exclude individuals and communities. In Finland, there are many Finns from diverse backgrounds whose experiences and identities are often marginalized. Particularly, exclusion based on skin color and racism affects many Finns whose experiences are not always recognized or accepted as part of the Finnish story. Historical perspectives need to be opened up to understand why certain groups are in their current situation. Systematic and political decisions have shaped these realities.

Identity and Belonging

The challenges faced by individuals grappling with multiple identities are central to dealing with the concept of Finnishness. Often, one has to choose between different identities, such as being either Muslim or Finnish. This black-and-white thinking is neither fair nor reflective of the true diversity of Finnish society. Everyone should have the right to define their own identity without external pressure.

The Role of Media and Society

Who gets to define Finnishness? Often, it's the majority that dictates this, leaving minority voices unheard. The media plays a significant role in either reinforcing stereotypes or promoting a more inclusive society. No one should have the power to define another's identity, and everyone should have the opportunity to be heard.

Challenges and Hopes

Despite Finland being one of the happiest countries in the world, it also faces challenges related to racism and exclusion. It's important to understand that happiness should encompass everyone, not just the majority. Finland's happiness paradox, where it is among the most racist countries in Europe, must be addressed.

Moving Forward

To build a more inclusive Finnishness, we must recognize and celebrate the diverse experiences and stories within our society. Everyone has a role in shaping the narrative of Finnishness. By sharing and listening to each other's stories, we can strengthen the social fabric and create a more sustainable and inclusive community.


Finnishness 2.0 means embracing the multifaceted and evolving nature of Finnish identity. It means recognizing our multicultural heritage, challenging existing narratives, and ensuring that everyone has the right to define their own identity. This way, we can create a Finland that is truly inclusive and represents all its citizens. The responsibility to advance this development belongs to all of us, so that future generations inherit a more inclusive and just definition of Finnishness.

The essence of Finnishness is not about loving mämmi or sauna, but about recognizing and accepting the diversity that forms this country. Finnishness is a constantly evolving concept that each of us can influence. It is not limited to specific cultural practices or traditions but encompasses all the experiences and stories that make us Finnish. Even if our personal preferences differ from traditional perceptions, each of us has a place in this community and the right to call ourselves Finnish.


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