Is it only me or does our village seem a bit more multicultural day by day. It is appropriate I am writing this blog entry on Monday 25th of November as from today we can order Indian meals home delivered. It is a small victory yet an important one, London has 10 000 places for the same but even we are no longer limited to pizzas or kebabs but we can enjoy kormas and palak paneers for a change. This is only a beginning, maybe we eventually get that exotic Russian restaurant as well that has been under planning since 1980’s.
To me being Karelian and multicultural go hand in hand. Our region has always been a trading place from the tarry 17th century and Karelians are natural salespeople of ideas and goods. We have finally returned back to the normal trading days of previous centuries. Open minded extroverts can communicate with or without shared language and Karelians are a special tribe in Finland themselves, further from the others than Germans are from British. I am thrilled every time I come face to face with excited locals happy to show or share their ideas, more or less crazy and hush me. I hope that still all Karelian funerals are more fun than Osterbothian weddings and that we keep the doors open and share the cup of coffee at any given hour.
Communication becomes easier with shared language making the language education immensely important in our neck of the woods. We are in the forefront already in the process of formulating our city’s language strategy. We do not only need languages to go the world out there but also because the world is already here. Though immigrants constitute only 3.9% of our population we have 98 nationalities represented here in Lappeenranta and we have 4 123 people whose mother tongue is something else than Finnish. We have 80 languages on our diverse language map. Russian, Estonian, English, Chinese and Turkish lead in numbers but we can hear Wolof, Bengali and even Swedish here.
Immigrants don’t only speak, study or take vacations here but contribute to our economy across the sectors. Our international airport and working border bring us visitors in increasing numbers making us the 2nd most visited city in Finland. Further we are lucky that school, business or other connections bring our visitors back for good sometimes. It is not only food that can be good business; we have always had merchants from Wolkoffs to Syrian origin Mohammad Darwani opening a Grande Orchidėė fashion department store in Myllymäki this Friday 29.11.2013. Approximately 17% of our local businesses are owned by foreigners but a look at Wirma Lappeenranta’s invest in cases confirms that this number will rapidly rise. Immigrants do many important jobs and open companies in all the same sectors as we locals do. The immigration trend that started in the 1990’s is bound to continue, and our population would not be growing without them.
The other weekend we had a Multicultural Day here in Lappeenranta for the first time. Quite appropriately it was arranged at the Galleria shopping mall, multiculturalism at its roots. The day reminded me of the International Week at the University of Texas where we foreign students arranged parades, food fairs, talent and fashion shows. Also at Galleria we had many talents on stage, on stalls and at the food court. I got a henna tattoo on my hand and took some spring rolls home from Finnish speaking smiling immigrants, small joys in our dark November. Wirma Lappeenranta that helps foreigners and locals alike to start businesses is studying how we feel about multiculturalism in our daily lives. The questionnaire is fast to answer athttps://www.webropolsurveys.com/Answer/SurveyParticipation.aspx?SDID=Fin724223&SID=23588428-a1dc-4a05-b7c4-30da9136c1e4&dy=237499585
You can win airBaltic tickets with your answer.
Why do I care? Probably mainly because I also feel like an immigrant time to time and I have been one already twice during my travels west and eastward. I am still adapting back home after 16 years abroad with my multicultural family consisting of an American, a Bangladeshi and a Finn in addition to Karelian myself. We have managed together and I am sure our village can as well. Colors and chili make us all happier. Misunderstandings are only a good fun right?