The fear of others


The Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou, visited Finland last week in order to discuss the progress of the reforms in Greece. His main task was to demystify the fear of the Finnish taxpayers about Greece`s ability to be solvent towards its obligations set by the bail-out package offered by the European Union.

The attitudes of Finnish people towards Greeks have shifted significantly after the financial support to rescue Greece`s troubled economy. I have personally experienced a shift in attitudes towards me as a Greek living in Finland.

When I first moved to Finland five years ago, I was considered to be €˜exotic` and I was €˜bringing sunshine to this dark place`; a true €˜Greek goddess`. After finding out that I was Greek, Finns would often greet me with kalimera and go on narrating their font memories of their travels to Greek islands.

Nowadays and shortly after Finland`s loan to Greece, I admit I often avoid the subject of my origin. I hurts me deny my identity but I hate to see the faces of Finns frowning upon and either feeling sorry or being frustrated at me. And, yes, I say €˜me` because I`m the closest they got to channel their anger and questions. In vague, I try to explain that I haven`t borrowed any of their money and as a matter of fact as a Finnish resident and taxpayer I am bailing out Greece partly with my money, too.

Even though I don`t belong to the €˜visible minorities` since due to my appearance I could pass for a Finn, I have faced xenophobic attitudes. Xenophobia derives from the Greek language meaning €˜fear of foreigners or strangers`. According to an annual report on Crime and Criminal Justice in Finland (2009) hate crime is on the rise. Immigrants of Somali, Arabic or Turkish background suffer from attacks of racist violence. Finland has a staggering of 1163 hate crime offenses recorded by Finnish Police in 2008. Facts, also, indicate that the number of foreigner-born individuals committing crime is steadily decreasing with the exception of rape. Less than 6 % of all crime suspects were foreigners, most of them suspected of traffic offences.

Finland might seem as the land of xenophobia but it can also be argued that Finland`s reporting systems work and the facts are not hidden or forged. In any case, one has to be careful not to compare with the worse but rather try to eliminate the negative attitudes of xenophobia before they become crime.

Chryssa Skodra