There is no Genuine Internationalism Without Multiculturalism

Much has been done in recent years for the internationalization of Helsinki. From that point of view we could call progress the fact that already 16 percent of the city’s residents have an international background. The city must look like its residents. In 2018, in connection with the City Chancellery, a unit for international affairs was established. The unit is responsible for coordinating Helsinki's international operations strategy. The main priorities of the strategy published in 2019 are quite current: digitalisation and the fight against climate change. According to the strategy, Helsinki is willing to carry its global responsibility and is simultaneously aiming to succeed on the arena of global competition.  

A way to succeed in global competition is to attract professionals to move and work in Finland. However, Finnish work culture has still a lot to improve regarding the effectiveness of persuasion techniques. The culture is not very open to non-Finnish speakers, which is an obstacle to the internationalization of companies: proficiency in the Finnish language may be demanded even for tasks that do not actually require Finnish language skills in practice. In order to attract international professionals to Finland, companies must be prepared to shape their own work culture in the direction that supports internationality.   

On the other hand, internationalization is not only about attracting innovation and skilled individuals, supporting digital development and getting competitive advantages. Multiculturalism brought by internationalism, more specifically by international people, enriches our city in a way that cannot be measured by numbers. Multiculturalism is broader, the human side of internationalism, which extends beyond the market competitiveness. Multiculturalism is all about the visibility of different people, lifestyles, food cultures and events in the city's streets. 

One may end up in Helsinki for many different reasons. Someone moves to Helsinki for love, another for studying and a third one for a safe environment. The city should try its best to attract highly educated professionals - without forgetting the fact that everyone has something to offer to Helsinki. Our aspirations for internationalization must not be limited to American and German engineers who have a degree from top universities. In this case, the desire for internationality is not a genuine one. Internationalism and multiculturalism go hand in hand, which should be reflected not only in international operations strategy of the city, but also in practical urban development of Helsinki.


Text published originally as a shorter version in the Helsingin Uutiset media 3.3.2021