written by Ilektra Solidaki
Master Degree in Cultural Policy
Jyväskylä University, Finland
Finland is a society which has gradually and recently turned its homogeneous character of country towards a multicultural one. Thus, while the migration rates show upward trends, challenges constantly pressure the society on how to embody the new populations and this alone can hinder a number of personal struggles when referring to the foreigner perception of reality which is closely connected with the society itself. Through integration and while existing among cultural worlds, the cultural identity of a foreigner is constantly on shape and using multiculturalism as a vehicle of performance, it interrelates with the society. The aspiration of this research was to examine the socio – cultural perceptions of seven foreigner individuals residing in Jyväskylä, Finland.
This qualitative study has as objective to contribute a closer insight of how a vivid, self-appointed, multicultural society adjusts the foreigner through integration processes, concerning their perception. The main research question is based on the socio – cultural perceptions of foreigner individuals in this society. To answer my main question and others that arise, I draw on theoretical insights from migration, multiculturalism, cultural identity, integration and hybridity books, published reports, policies, and articles akin with each area of investigation. The scrutiny and discussion of my conclusions signify that the Finnish society has given and keeps giving keen interest on the ‘two-way process’ character of integration, while the individual perception is fluctuating among cultural worlds. As a result of all this process and with the help of in-depth interviews with open ended questions, the sample admits that does not feel marginalized in society. On the contrary, they feel safe and accepted on a broad level but they do feel excluded in life practicalities and that is mainly because of the lack of language skills that can assist them in entering professional fields or making deeper friendships. This alone seems to affect the sense of belonging an individual feels in the society.
Key words: migration, immigrant, culture, identity, cultural identity, integration, inclusive citizenship, hybridity, challenges, multiculturalism, other, difference
Introduction theoretical background
Immigration and multicultural societies articulate some of the contemporary debates globally. Resulting globalization, the pace of life has been accelerated and people are anticipated to be in constant motion more and faster than before. Simultaneously, with migrating individuals that form new groups of people who along with new and different ideas encounter each other, society with its already existing ways seems to be challenged from the new human flows that depict nothing but change.
The central of any argument concerning settlement is the disposition of migration. Migration includes change. The changes that are faced by the immigrants concern every aspect of their lives due to the fact that by changing the physical environment, one comes across changes towards language, culture, economic and societal environment as well as their personal family and working status. In this thesis, I examine, on the beginning, the phenomenon of migration and I embrace the concept of multiculturalism since as Parekh (2006) mentioned, multiculturalism is pressuring societies to embrace diversity. More precisely, he stated that “while acceptance of differences call for changes in the legal arrangements of society, respect for them requires changes in its attitudes and ways of thought as well” (p.2). Similarly, European Union from its first steps, prioritized the protection of human rights and the combat of all forms of discriminations (European Convention of Human Rights – 1950). The very idea of European integration is based on racial, ethnic, religious and cultural diversity and the free movement of people since the racism and the horrors of the 20th century wars led the peoples of Europe in the realization that prosperity and progress are achieved only through peaceful coexistence, social justice, human rights, solidarity and cooperation.
The migration reasons are always many and different. The diversity of reasons accentuates on the differences within the immigrants. Differences such as ethnic background, social class, and gender sketch a wide framework but when delving deeper into differences, one can realize that they are multiple and affect the settlement and its process towards acculturation. All the features of the immigration experience, the diversity within immigrants, the various reasons they decide to immigrate and the distinct cultures and societies confronted, bring on the boundlessly changing disposition of migration and settlement experience (Burnet 1998, p. 2). Hence, in this thesis I chose to investigate the individual perception of this acculturation experience in Jyväskylä, city of Finland, and moreover and specifically the integration part of it. However, one cannot refer to individuals without alluding to the cultural identity part of the foreigner in the receiver society. Thus, the notions of culture, identity and cultural identity are to come forth with this thesis.
Being more precise, the attention towards the notion of cultural identity has increasingly been noted among social sciences and humanities (Jenkins, 1996). Researchers as Castells (2004) & Hall & Du Gay (1996) have examined long-established notions of identity. Their conclusion is that identity is socially constructed. Currently, as described by Jenkins, “whichever way we look at it, identification seems to matter, in everyday life and in sociology” (1996, p. 5). The term ‘‘cultural identity’’ ascribes to a person’s sense of self extracted from formal or informal participation in groups that instills and passes on knowledge, values, attitudes, beliefs, traditions and ways of life. The text will focus in this thesis in the cultural identity of individuals, rather than the collective identity of cultural groups, as it is noticed often in a political sense. (Kim, 2002). Following the cultural identity part, I continue with the integration process.
Given the fact that the interpretation of the meaning of integration is vast and varies among scholars, I concentrate mostly on the ‘two-way process’ of it. Among the vast literature concerning integration, one can witness that the framework of integration is most often applied when it comes to the inclusion or exclusion of the immigrant inside or from the cultural or political, and/or the socio – economic scope of the prevailing society (Bauböck, 1995). After living almost four years in Finland, I have observed that the societal attitude towards immigrant integration is working in two ways between the multicultural representative and the society. Indeed, a clear depiction of the ‘two-way process’ is the Government Report that was given to the Parliament of Finland in 2008 (Finnish Government Report…2008). That Report accentuates sufficiently that integration in Finland is a ‘two-way process’ by stating that immigrants have to adjust to the host society which in turn has to adapt towards the immigrants as well. What else to be said, is that despite the fact that the immigrant integration studies in Finland cover a vast area of research with debates such as political aspects (Pirkkalainen et al, 2016), the migration flows and the type of migrants (Pekkala, 2003), as well as the social notion of immigrant integration (Martikainen et al,, 2012) and more, little has been mentioned at municipal levels. Importance has mainly been given towards municipalities such as Helsinki (Vanhanen, 2016), Turku (Penninx, 2014) and Tampere (Tuori, 2013). Having noticed these gaps, I will try with this thesis to include to the current literature the migrant perceptions concerning their integration process in Finland (Olakivi, 2013; Mähönen et al, 2015), of seven first generational immigrant women exclusively, in Jyväskylä. Another aspect that I will be concentrating is how individually they sense the notion of their transformation of self along their acculturation process and for that, I will use the cultural hybridity as the navigation system of the self throughout this experience.
The challenges faced by immigrants in terms of adjustment into a different culture and the cultivation of their multicultural identity are of importance in the contemporary world since immigration appears to have upwards trend due to globalization (Li, 2008). The shift from a culture to another requires from the individual a navigation and a balance among two or more cultures in order to achieve the adaptation in any host society. Consequently, some academics such as Bhabha (1994), state that immigrants can arrive at an intermediate stage among cultures and cultivate hybrid cultural identities. In the city of Jyväskylä, even though there is the existence of the University which alone ‘hosts’ many foreign students, multiculturalism has entered societal life as well. In other words, permanent established foreign people are having due to the access to the welfare system, the same citizenship privileges as Finnish ones which brings multiculturalism into all kind of workplaces, interacting and interrelating with the locals. This thesis with Jyväskylä as a case study, is based on societal observation that I have conducted through the duration of a four year time period that I have lived and of involving and collecting individual experiences in immigrant spaces such as Gloria, a central multicultural center located in the same city.
Nevertheless, I did not want to neglect the important fact that Finland is a society which has gradually and recently turned its homogeneous character of country (Heikkilä and Jaakkola, 2000) towards an ethnic one (Whitfield, 2015) and this alone can hinder a number of challenges when referring to the foreigner perception of reality which is closely connected with the society itself. For that reason, at the end of this thesis, I am referring to challenges such as the rise of multiculturalism inside a previously homogenous society. To be more specific, it appears that “obsolete hegemonic imaginaries of homogenous and defined nations” are no more considered in that way and new theories depicting the character of the nations need to be enunciated (Howarth & Stavrakakis 2000, p. 15). Simultaneously, migration waves, inclusive policies such as integration and their consequences, multicultural societies and their time to come are also more and more under discussion. Another type of challenges I will state is the notion of ‘the other’. The existence of the visibly different ‘other’ in a society plays a big part on the perception that one has concerning their identity and the lack of it in a societal frame cannot help us understand differences or concepts such as multiculturalism. To be more specific, the way we view ourselves relies on the way others view us and how they use communication to give content to what they perceive. One can comprehend identity as a collective, a type of commonality that is embodied in a person, structured within a “community” and after societal processes, whilst the same community is also being formed simultaneously through a “differentiation process” from others (Kivikuru 2000, p.11).
Aim of study
The primary aim of this study is to investigate the socio-cultural perceptions of seven immigrant women living in Jyväskylä, Finland. The choice for conducting a research in this city is that even though integration policies are taking shape at the macro level, the practical part of the process itself takes part locally. Thus, the urban environment, or even the neighborhood, are of significance and when policy transforms into practice, this can change essentially among different parts of the country (Gebhart, 2014). Hence, my study case is Jyväskylä, despite the fact that I faced quite limited pre-existing data. The concept is to detect and investigate the research participants’ integration process and their coping mechanisms in Finnish society, which is culturally different from their backgrounds. Furthermore, not only can one navigate through various conduct patterns that the interviewees have endorsed so as to integrate themselves, but also perceive the role that the society has performed in their socio-cultural perception. One more objective of this thesis is to provide further knowledge to the academic community concerning the integration perceptions of immigrants in Finland, and more precisely in the city of Jyväskylä. Nevertheless, the concepts of migration and integration have relevance with so many fields and they have caught the attention of researches from various fields of study, from sociology to economics (Reitz, 2002). What holds the attention of this topic, stems from the fact that I am also an immigrant woman who migrated in this very same society almost four years ago and concerning the motivation of my thesis, I had the urge to discover academically and form into written speech the integration challenges that me and other individuals in the same situation as mine have experienced, since based on my personal and public observations the integration journey is personal and unique, even though it is moving inside the same laws and constitutions. I would be more than pleased if this research paper is able to give guide and support to the ones who are now on their integration process starting points or the ones who are currently on the process. Also, with the example of the theory of hybridity, I would like to search whether a balance of cultures is beneficial to an individual and in which ways they perceive it their new cultural identities. Last but not least, the reason behind the number seven, which refers to the total number of the participants, is that this is a thesis of which purpose is to spotlight information on experiences, feelings perceptions and furthermore understanding on what foreign individuals go through when coming across issues such as their individual identity, cultural identity or their integration process in Jyväskylä. Hence, qualitative research assists in supplying knowledge on the ‘human’ aspect of a topic and demonstrates the way people undergo a research matter (Mack et al, 2005) and only because it personalizes the experiences in depth and individually the research group is to be kept small. For these reasons I chose seven participants who apply in some specific criteria.
For instance, concerning the migrant status, I chose to concentrate on immigrant women whose choice was to relocate in this part of Europe. More to say about the focus on the female gender is that it limits the research towards a more homogeneous group rather than a mixed one. Furthermore, making reason about the longevity in years of their accommodation in this city, I tried to wander around an overall of five years so that it sets a similar time basis background whilst the challenges are still common such as the small amount of winters that one has gone through and is not used to their concept yet. Also, the fact that I am a female immigrant in the same city as well plays important role on my choice on this type of research group concerning the fact that the idea of this paper came through personal observations of this society. When it comes for the reasons they live in this city, I tried to select different occupations, reasons for relocation and different cultural representatives so that the perception of the integration could be given more spherical, while at the same time for the age I chose to have the variance of a decade – 25-34 years old. Summing up, this thesis is an individual perception of the society of Jyväskylä, as witnessed through seven female immigrants from different ethnic backgrounds with their age ranking from twenty five up to thirty four years old, accommodating in the city overall five years, and for different reasons each.
Thus, this qualitative study investigates the individual perception of their integration process of first generation immigrant women in the city of Jyväskylä, Finland. Theories on migration, multiculturalism cultural identity, integration, hybridity, and integration challenges of immigrants are what is standing behind the theoretical framework and empirical research.
Nevertheless, in order to reach the aim of the research it is of importance to restrict the central idea of this paper. For that, my research questions in this thesis are constituted by the main research question and the sub-questions. The main research question depicts the central research attention, while the sub-questions highlight the theory leading us to comprehend the importance of the main research question.
Main Research Question: In which ways seven immigrant women perceive their socio – cultural experiences of living in Jyväskylä?
Sub-Question 1. From the cultural identity part:
How do the participants view their ‘self’ in Jyväskylä?*
Sub-Question 2. From the integration part:
How do the participants experience the process of their integration?
Sub-Question 3. From the challenges part:
How have the various challenges contributed in the sense of belonging?
Sub-Question 4. From the hybridity part:
How do the participants perform socially in Jyväskylä?
* the sub-question number 1 has the word ‘self” and not ‘selves’ to link it with the notion of self and the identity of an individual as it will be discussed later on the theoretical part of this study.
Delimitations of the study
This dissertation is an inductive research that focuses to provide further knowledge to the academic community concerning the integration perceptions of immigrants in Finland, and more precisely in the city of Jyväskylä. Even though integration policies are taking shape at the macro level, the practical part of the process itself takes part locally. Thus, the urban environment, or even the neighborhood, are of significance. What I have come across along my studies and at the same time having lived in the city of Turku for six months, is that when policy transforms into practice, this can change essentially among different parts of the country (Gebhart, 2014). Hence, my study case is Jyväskylä, despite the fact that I faced quite limited pre-existing data. What else worth mentioning, is that my cultural and linguistic background are not in accordance with the country I am writing about, and this can create some collision on the comparative analysis part (Hantrais, 1995). To be more specific, the translations of policy documents and/or research in English are restricted, so due to my limited knowledge in Finnish language my references were not as rich and thorough as I would have expected them to be. Against, these small restrictions, my research will provide indications of the general creed of Finnish integration policy. Furthermore, the concentration on first generation immigrant women makes generalization restrictive towards other groups such as men or children. Lastly, one more restriction to add is that of the longevity in years that the research participants have. I tried to focus up to overall five years due to the fact that the perspective can have similar basis. In other words, a participant that resides in Jyväskylä for two years has completely different perspective than the one who accommodates ten.
The reason for the gender and migration status choice relies on my desire more on a homogeneous sample than a mixture. One more thing that I tried to avoid was that I wanted my interviewees to have differences on their statuses concerning the society. As I said already in the introduction, multiculturalism has entered the life of society itself, further than the university campuses and that is why I looked for participants who are not only in the academic sphere but they are also involved further in the city. Hence, having mentioned multiculturalism, it is of importance to refer to the fact that I decided my sample to appear diversity of cultural backgrounds besides two cases out of seven that were from the same ethnic group which is the Iranian. The reason of this choice was because the one woman wear the Islamic religious scarf around her head and the other not. I felt the need to include a member in the research group that attire wised applies to the concept of the ‘other’ as different in the research because I wanted to also investigate the concurrent possible difference in the perception of the same societal reality among two individuals whose ethnic background is similar. One of my basic concerns was to keep anonymity throughout the process and not to be familiar with any of the subjects of the research so as to maintain my objectivity as a researcher.
Objectivity is of importance and the route towards it, is to abide by scientific methods and procedures (Shamoo & Resnik, 2003). By gathering data from several scholars and by establishing arguments, I keep always in mind immigration and integration in Finland and for that my theory is driven towards my case study. Thus, this dissertation may be perceived as an inductive study (Chambliss & Schutt, 2006), through which I will gather, demonstrate and evaluate data in an objective way (Yin, 2003).
|Table of research participants|
|1. Sri- Lanka, 28 years old, freshly graduated looking for occupation, 2 years in Jyväskylä|
|2. Slovenia, 31 years old, master student, 2 years in Jyväskylä|
|3. India, 33 years old, dentist, 1 year in Jyväskylä|
|4. Iran, 34 years old, researcher in the University, 6 years in Jyväskylä|
|5. Iran, 31 years old, nurse, 4 years in Jyväskylä|
|6. Greece, 27 years old, volleyball coach, 2 years in Jyväskylä|
|7. Kazakhstan, 25 years old, 3 years in Jyväskylä|
The primary aim of this research was to investigate the socio-cultural perceptions of seven immigrant women living in Jyväskylä, Finland. To answer my main research question, which is about the socio – cultural perspective that foreign individuals have about Jyväskylä- Finland, I have divided this study into four different sub-questions which demonstrate this thesis into four parts- the cultural identity part, the challenges, the integration and the hybridity part.
(i) ‘How do the participants view their ‘self’ in Jyväskylä?’
This part alludes to the cultural identity. Hence, it was of importance to get introduced with the participants. And what made it more interesting according to my viewpoint is that the cultural identity part of the interview is the fact that I had- through the interviews- the opportunity to navigate through the sense of self each individual has, concerning their ethnic identities while existing in an environment which is different from their backgrounds. Simultaneously, one can also see that sharing the same urban environment is the connection that they have among them, and of course the gender. I have already stated the gender was useful for the delimitations of the study and to make the research group more homogeneous.
So, based on the findings it seems that when it comes to the societal performance, all the research participants have stated that in this context they feel accepted as individuals. Personally, I found really interesting the notion of acceptance that the participants have. I reckon that I maybe expected a more diverse answer, since one cannot please everyone. But, this alone made me realize that Finnish attitude towards the multicultural encounter is one of respect. While scratching a little more the surface, it seems that the participants are not completely satisfied, even when feeling acceptance. The overall idea was the one of feeling acceptance from the society as in professional life, academic society and such but when it comes up to the interpersonal relations the findings were ambiguous.
It has been highlighted throughout the interview that the participants feel like outsiders, due to the lack of Finnish language. The language seems to build significant barriers when we think of daily relationships like friendships or finding a job. In the findings overall notion of this challenge was that the individuals while feeling welcome on the surface, they feel excluded on a secondary level. So, their perception is that they would like to socially mingle with the society but the language barrier is working as an anchor. There were also statements from some interviewees that they feel discriminated when seeking for a job and they cannot compete the Finnish speakers or the natives. And in this moment I would like to demonstrate the meaning of the term ‘discrimination’ because I have not included it in my theory. According to its most simple meaning, discrimination refers to unequal treatment of persons or groups. More specifically and Pager and Shepherd (2008), state that “disparate impact occurs when individuals are treated equally according to a given set of rules and procedures but when the latter are constructed in ways that favor members of one group over another” (p. 182).
Moving back to the findings of language, I have to say that they found me almost unprepared due to the fact that I expected more complex matters that may create wrong perceptions. the reason I am discussing the language challenge in this part of the discussion and not on the ‘challenge’ part, is because I have used it respectively on the theoretical section referring to it as ‘salience’, and also lacking something that important as language which is the basic means of communication, can affect ones perception of cultural identity and can easily feel misplaced or mistreated. As presented in the theory cultural identity is composed out of changeable and stable elements. The term salience denotes this difference (Sellers et al., 1998). As situations and contexts in our lives change day by day some elements of cultural identity turn into more or less salient. To be more specific, they become more or less important and relevant in a short time. For instance, when a foreign student in Finland has to negotiate the terms of a job that requires language skills and a specific level of integration then he/she will instantly feel that at this specific moment of time that nationality is more salient than any other characteristics of cultural identity. Even when the circumstances change day by day, other elements of cultural identity remain essential – significant and relevant to an individual’s core identity in the long term. For example, the foreign student from before may feel that their gender is always at the center of his/her identity.
Speaking of gender and having already mentioned that I use gender in this research for practical reasons, it is also worth mentioning that when the individuals make reason about feeling equal they mean it, because no one shared any gender based experiences. More to say, about cultural groups is that on the process of collecting the research participants, it occurred me that three out of seven participants are from ethnic backgrounds that are not so often heard. What I mean by that is that based on my observation skills I have never heard of cultural groups from Slovenia, Kazakhstan, or Sri Lanka. That gave me the opportunity to simultaneously investigate what Kim (2002) as well did on how people adjust themselves whenever they come across cultural boundaries, especially when they more somewhere for long period of time. Indeed, the participants informed me on the process of the interview that they lack cultural groups but it seemed that it is not something affecting their lives. On the contrary, the three representatives from Iran and Greece stated that their cultural groups are the ones who help them withstand the challenges of this society because with them they can share emotions that they cannot express openly in Jyväskylä or other cultural expressions such as traditions that they share among them. It seems that it finds grounds on the fact that they are “groups of belonging, which are extensions of family structure and supply the group’s cultural identity” (Rouchy 2002, p. 205).
Overall and summing up, I will highlight that Tajfel and Turner (1979) spoke about the sense of belonging to the social world along with the self – esteem and the feeling of pride that derive from social groups such as social class, family, hockey team and others. They continued also, by pinpointing that the in-group and out-group perceptions of reality can create discriminations or generally feelings of discomfort when it comes to the individuals who try to reinforce their self-image. Examples of such group ‘conflicts’ can be seen in gender (males and females), social class (middle and working classes), and in our case in Jyväskylä, how these immigrants perceive their reality in this society and how they picture the perception of the society towards them. So, based on the findings it seems that the perception of the research group about the context of their cultural identities in Jyväskylä is that they live in a society in where they have felt acceptance and respect as human beings on the overall societal level, but only on the collective. When it comes to more specific situations such as friendships or applying for a job then there seem to be problems which are identity salient related with language. Furthermore, one more finding out of my research is when there is lack of a cultural group, the individual does not feel lonely or desperate but in the cases we show the existence of a group, then the individual again feels complete but in the same time seems grateful that there is a cultural group to avoid loneliness. So after all, I wander whether we truly need the support and the sense of belonging. Moving on, I will demonstrate the challenges part of my discussion.
(ii) ‘How have the various challenges contributed in the sense of belonging?’
This part of the discussion has to do with the challenges that the research participants have gone or keep going through their accommodation in this society and whether these challenges have contributed to their sense of belonging. One major challenge that these individuals have is the lack of Finnish language that I have already demonstrated under the previous sub-question. Another challenge that they all have mentioned is the Finnish weather and mostly its long dark days.
One challenge that was mentioned and I reckon it as important is the way Finnish people perform socially. In the case of the Indian interviewee, the lack of social skills were translated as rudeness. Finns have been stereotypically recognized and labeled as ‘shy’ people and this is something that can create misconceptions and distance from the scope of the sub-culture towards the dominant one. To be more specific, in the interviews there were many times comments with this type of description. Sometimes Finnish people appear to be distant and translated as socially rude, and other times that they do not put effort into relating with foreigners something that it seems to have led the participants into either their cultural groups or towards international groups of people. This challenge, for example, comes in contrast with my personal experience as a foreign female immigrant. From my perspective, Finnish culture as a result of many factors- out of which weather is of importance- is a culture that seems to focus to the individual. My experiences witness that the native culture needs to be approached more into its own groundings. Since it is a culture that is changing lately into a multicultural character, maybe people are not yet fully prepared for such intercultural intensity when for many years they were used to a more specific way of life. On the other hand, this aspect of the Finnish culture can be translated- and that is why it has a place here- as a challenge nowadays. And this is because it can or may create barriers on a societal level towards the ‘two-way’ process of integration that Finland has been applying.
Furthermore, referring to equality issues, the participants claimed that they feel that they are treated as equals but some of them made reason about the misconceptions that people appear to have concerning their ethnic backgrounds. In the case of the Iranians for example, the society has been mostly misinformed about the situation in their country. This seems to frustrate them because they need to explain constantly to people the same information. For some reason, the participants seem to stereotypically expect from the Finns to be educated and smart and acknowledge the social and political performance of every country in the world. On the contrary, I reckon that is also risky for Finns to seek for political knowledge like the Greek case, if they do not intend to make a further research to the subject and reach their own conclusions, since they do not know the political ideologies of the individual they encounter that moment. One last comment that I would like to add on my discussion is that from the three participants that come from Kazakhstan, Slovenia and Sri Lanka, people have zero information hence no stereotypes. Besides the appearance features that make them look either Chinese or Indian, the participants made clear that when having no information, one cannot generate them. Moreover, on my behalf and more after the conduction of the interviews the way I perceive stereotypes is that they are being created and recycled due to the misconceptions we have. But, living in the era of information and global interdependence, one simply cannot master many knowledges. Hence, is natural to have misinformation about lots of topics and issues that happen in our lives and lead us and stereotypically take small or big decisions.
Wrapping up the challenges part, besides the major one which is the language and seems to influence the reality of the participants- without though affecting the perception feeling Jyväskylä as their home- more seem to fill the findings. One of them, is the social performance of Finns which seems to create distance and turn the individuals towards their cultural groups or other international friends making some of them feel marginalized. And lastly one more that does not affect the sense of belonging but creates frustration is the misconceptions that Finns appear to have towards other countries.
(iii) ‘How do the participants experience the process of their integration?’
This part of the discussion, refers to the perception the research individuals have for their integration. As we have already seen in the theoretical part, Finland follows a ‘two-way process’ of integration. This means that it gives meaning to the integration of both parts of the society – the native and the foreign part- so that they can both adjust to one another and construct new, intercultural foundation for common identification and solidarity (Zapata – Barrero, 2012). Speaking about integration from the way of Finns, my findings demonstrated that they have accepted the interviewees and their cultural characteristics, while at the same time they get characterized as open minded and tolerant towards cultural differences.
From all the seven participants, only one attends the official integration program from the unemployment office. For the other six participants, it seems that they follow different paths of integration since they do not attend the unemployment office’s ones. They have mentioned the University area, the work, the family of the spouse or even other cultural groups that inform them and help them create a contact with the society. So, the information about the structure of the integration programs came only from one interview where they considered to be very well structured with some detailed flaws. The rest information that we have from other types of activities that can make an individual active in the society comes from the different levels on how active can a person be in order to adjust themselves in Jyväskylä. These can be volunteer activities, Jyväskylä University events and local festivals.
From the side of the participants and their personal effort to connect with this society my findings imply the fact that the process towards the adjustment relies solely in the individual perspective and willingness. There were for example answers that were saying that they feel like trying to get connected and others that they think they should do more. Overall, they appear to have an active action towards the introduction of their culture to the native one, volunteering in various institutions, participating in the University activities, and even integrating others to the society. As I have mentioned already Martikainen et al. (2012) characterize the Finnish integration policy and projects as extensive “since the comprehensive social security system with its social insurance, social services, and welfare arrangements is available to all immigrants settling on a permanent basis”. They carry on elaborating that Finnish social policy “has been developed within the frame of social citizenship” and is comprehended as “the operationalization of social rights that focus in a substantive way on programs and services in the areas of health, education, housing, the labor market, and social and welfare services” (p. 134). This applies as a conclusion, on my findings where I came across attitudes of feeling the responsibility as a citizen of this country, even if they have not applied yet for their citizenship.
To conclude, the findings that I have apply according to the theoretical part of my thesis. The ‘two-way process’ findings go in accordance with the Finnish integration policies and what they are trying to achieve so that coexistence is better. More specifically, the research participants come to agree in total the fact that Finns accept them and their cultural attributes, characterizing the latter as open minded and tolerate to concept of ‘the other’. On their behalf, the individuals take part in societal activities that in their turn integrate them constantly. As for the notion of citizenship, it seems that stems up from the fact that people in this society feel ‘welcome’, ‘equal’, ‘accepted’ and they want in turn to respond as active and useful members of it.
(iv) ‘How do the participants perform socially in Jyväskylä?’
The last part of the discussion alludes to the hybridity, which is the blending of cultural worlds within a person. As an idea, hybridity alludes to the diverse character of each separate identity. As I have already mentioned in the identity chapter on theoretical part, there is no purity when one refers to identity since each is a mixture of components that derive from different roots. We are all components of cultures that are others more and others less hybrids. Cultures are totally detached or even have distinguished limits. They are interconnected and related because we live in a world of communication, hence cultural identities cannot be pure (Bhabha, 1994). In this thesis, I used the notion of hybridity not only because I wanted to demonstrate through theory the mixture of cultural worlds within an individual but also because it has relevance to my research part. In other words, I wanted to investigate whether the individuals are using this ‘new’ gained through integration process self in order to contribute in the society that they live in. The research participants of this thesis are aware of the changes that have occurred while some of them changed aspects of them on purpose in order to adjust better in the society. They all feel that they are, as they said, mixes, blends and more of cultures. The unfortunate of this is that there were some voices that cannot use their new structured self, due to the lack of opportunities or personal obstacles. But the findings based on the actions of the rest towards the society were interesting.
Initially, referring to the cultural mixture, my findings appear to demonstrate that the participants have kept cultural aspects such as their traditions and religion or some stances towards life such as alcohol use and they have embraced a quite many from the Finnish culture such as logical thinking, respect for the other and the environment, sense of society, balancing of emotions and more. Furthermore, on their performance in Jyväskylä, there are actions such as promoting of culture in places like the multicultural center Gloria so that Finns and other cultures can educate themselves more into their traditions and customs, focusing on the integration of the refugee youth in the Finnish culture, trying to alarm and educate people that alcohol should be part of the fun and not the main goal and blogging so that Finnish values and way of life can be exported to the rest of the world as if they are parts of it. Moreover, and moving back to the notion of hybridity it is of interest the fact that there were answers mentioning that they ‘feel responsibility as a citizen’ when it comes to their societal performance. This performance can be in one hand be depicted with the ‘mimicry’ of Bhabha’s (1994) notion of hybridity, but on the other it can as well be an outcome of the notion of inclusive citizenship that I have already spoke about in the theoretical part. Receiving societal inclusion and traits such as equality and ultimate – as described- freedom of expression, one can appear this feeling of gratitude and return everything good they have taken. Closing with this idea and notion based on what the participants demonstrated I have found that they want to return in the society –each with their own attitude- the best aspects of themselves and that is why we view them performing with responsibility and care.
The primary aim of this study was to investigate the socio-cultural perceptions of seven immigrant women living in Jyväskylä, Finland. The concept was to detect their acculturation process and coping mechanisms in Finnish society, which is culturally different from their backgrounds and finally answer to the research question of ‘which is the socio – cultural perspective that foreigner individuals have about Jyväskylä’. Furthermore, not only can one navigate through various conduct patterns that the interviewees have endorsed so as to integrate themselves, but also perceive the role that the society has performed in their socio-cultural perception. One more objective of this
thesis was to provide further knowledge to the academic community concerning the integration perceptions of immigrants in Finland, and more precisely in the city of Jyväskylä.
Based on the findings it seems that the perception of the research group about the context of their cultural identities in Jyväskylä is that they live in a society in where they have felt acceptance and respect as human beings only on the overall societal level. When it comes to more specific affiliations such as friendships or applying for a job then there seem to be problems which are identity salient related with language. Furthermore, one more finding out of my research is when there is lack of a cultural group, the individual does not feel lonely or desperate. In the cases we show the existence of a group, then the individual again feels complete but at the same time seems grateful that there is a cultural group to avoid loneliness. So after all, I wander whether we truly need the support and the sense of belonging. Moving on, to the challenges part, besides the major one which is the language and seems to influence the reality of the participants- without though affecting the perception feeling of Jyväskylä as their home- more seem to fill the findings. One of them, is the social performance of Finns which seems to create distance and turn the individuals towards their cultural groups or other international friends making some of them feel marginalized. And lastly one more that does not affect the sense of belonging but creates frustration is the misconceptions that Finns appear to have towards the performance of other countries. As for the generation of stereotypes, it seems that when there is no knowledge whatsoever about a cultural background then, there are not stereotypes towards the cultural representative.
Concerning the integration part, the findings that I have apply according to the theoretical part of my thesis. The ‘two-way process’ findings go in accordance with the Finnish integration policies and what they are trying to achieve so that coexistence is better. More specifically, the research participants come to agree in total the fact that Finns accept them and their cultural attributes, characterizing the latter as open minded and tolerate to concept of ‘the other’. On their behalf, the individuals take part in societal activities that in their turn integrate them constantly. As for the notion of citizenship, it seems that stems up from the fact that people in this society feel ‘welcome’, ‘equal’, ‘accepted’ and they want in turn to respond as active and useful members of it.
In conclusion and about their performance in Jyväskylä, there are actions such as promoting of culture in places like the multicultural center Gloria so that Finns and other cultures can educate themselves more into their traditions and customs, focusing on the integration of the refugee youth in the Finnish culture, trying to alarm and educate people that alcohol should be part of the fun and not the main goal and blogging so that Finnish values and way of life can be exported to the rest of the world as if they are parts of it. Moreover, and moving back to the notion of hybridity it is of interest the fact that there were answers mentioning that they ‘feel responsibility as a citizen’ when it comes to their societal performance. Receiving societal inclusion and traits such as equality and ultimate – as described- freedom of expression, one can appear this feeling of gratitude and return everything good they have taken. Closing with this idea and notion based on what the participants demonstrated I have found that they want to return in the society –each with their own attitude- the best aspects of themselves and that is why we view them performing with responsibility and care.
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