Insulting, stereotypes and prejudice in Finland

Insulting, name-calling, and malicious stereotypes are quite interesting to analyse, because they reveal a lot about the relationships of people. This is intended to be an analysis of cultural antropology, not a list of insults. I understand that the topic is emotive, but that's kind of the point. I don't want another "How to insult" node. I am not pulling this out of my ass.

I focus on Finland, other people can focus to countries they know better than I do. Generally, Finns can have very extreme opinions, but when really confronted, they aren't so extreme. Very Finnish behaviour, this keeping the consensus up. There is a lot of prejudice, but it rarely takes a violent form of expression. The general public thinks that they'd be racist skinheads, which are not supported widely. There is a large population of Christian zealots, but they aren't so verbal as for example American televangelists. See Riku Rinne. It carries its own message that the current President, Tarja Halonen, has been the chairman of SETA, which is an organisation promoting e.g. gay rights.

In short, Finland is the ultimate nation of "I'm no racist, but..."

Physical characteristics

Black people

  • The scientific name is negrid.
  • Sometimes all of them are called Somali in Finland. Before 1990's, the head of the Immigration Bureau, Eila Kännö, let hardly anyone in. When some refugees were let in after she had retired, they were Somali. The Somali got a bad name because of the incidents where some Somalis thought they could live as lawlessly in Finland as they lived in Somalia. Somalia was, after all, a chaotic country then and still is. The political cartoonist Kari Suomalainen was harsh on them. His cartoons were published on the second page of Helsingin Sanomat, which is the most widely distributed newspaper in Finland.
  • African-American is the "politically correct" name, but this is an Americanism that few people know. Consequently, "afrikan-amerikkalainen" is never used. "Dark-skinned" (tummaihoinen) is used instead, but then again, there are very many dark-skinned people that don't belong to the negrides.
  • The Romance language word "negro" is "neekeri" in Finnish. It was used for American slaves, so it is now considered racist by many politically correct. However, it never had the connotations of "nigger", and was the accepted term before the 1990's. A genuine Veikkaus ad from the 1930's: "Ainoastaan Afrikan neekeri ei veikkaa!" ("Only the genuine African negro doesn't gamble!") Similarly, the newspaper Ilkka, distributed in southern Pohjanmaa, carried a story titled "Neekeri nähty Seinäjoella" (A negro seen in Seinäjoki) in the 1950's.
  • "Mutiainen", from "musta" (black) and/or muta (dirt). This expression is a racist insult.

UPDATE: The original Veikkaus is at this URL:

Southern Caucasian & Middle Eastern

"There's nothing wrong with racism." - UN trooper, pathologist Valtteri Suomalainen in his UN memoirs

Nationalities & Ethnicities



The Romany

  • Gypsy, like many other words, used to be more accepted. In Finnish "mustalainen", from "musta" (black). The Finnish Gypsies themselves identify as Gypsies - they don't want fake political correctness. (Rock singer Andy McCoy, for example, has written the song "Gypsy boots", where he says he has "lived like a gypsy all his life".)
  • The generation of my grandmother used to threaten misbehaving children like this: "If you don't behave, we'll give you to the gypsies!" My friend, for example, likes to tease the neighbor's kid by saying that "the gypsies come to your house and get you". This implies that the Romany are to be afraid of, violent and unlawful. At my grandmother's time, media reported crime by the Romany more eagerly and visibly than the crimes of the ordinary population.
  • The wanderer's lifestyle was interpreted as lazyness. There have been - and still is - a lot of problems in employing the Romany.

The Russians

  • Like "neekeri" and "hurri", the Russians are called "ryssä". Before the independence, that was the official name, but somehow it's offensive now. The name "Ryssänmaa" (for Russia) was used in the Czar's orders. In WW2, "ryssä" became the name used for the enemy, like "Japs". See Ryssän Kauhu.
  • Other names for the enemy from the Winter War and the Continuation War were "vanja", "iivana", etc. These names are relatively inoffensive and derive from common Russian names (e.g. Ivan).
  • President Mauno Koivisto let a lot of Russian citizens into Finland. The Inkerians is a Finnish people that lives in Karelia. Many of them were forced to live under the Soviet rule, even though they were Finnish citizens before the Second World War. Koivisto wanted let them and their descendants into Finland, and so a lot of Russian citizens immigrated. Many of them were really Russians, who had one Finnish grandparent (real or faked) or something analogous. The Russians living in Finland got a bad name because of the criminals who immigrated as "Inkerians". I'm one-fourth an Inkerian, so I can sympathise for the real Inkerians. My grandmother was called "ryssä" by the Finns and "tshuhna" (a Finn/a fart) by the Russians!
  • The criminals are frequently car thieves. E.g. the joke: "What do you get when you cross a Russian and a Frenchman? - A car thief who cannot drive."

The United States of North America

now this you're going to love...



  • Especially the priests are called gay, because they have the celibacy, but spend a lot of time with other priests. There is some circumstantial evidence for this: in USA, HIV is four times more common in Catholic priests than in the general population. Some of the elderly think AIDS is exclusively a "homo disease", and that attitude is absorbed, but not accepted as-is by the younger population. HIV does spread more probably in gay sex than in hetero sex, because the vaginal mucus is more protective than the anal mucus. (Reference to a Catholic site:
  • Some priests were recently sentenced to prison for pedophilia. Hence all Catholics are pedophiles! That's the mode of thinking, anyway. Finns know very little about Catholics, and the news stories is what form the opinion.


"... 28% (of Finns) think that Islam threatens the Finnish culture and practioning Islam should not be allowed in Finland."

"... 28 prosenttia on sitä mieltä, että islam uhkaa suomalaista kulttuuria eikä islamin harjoittamista tulisi sallia Suomessa."
- Kouvolan Sanomat 2001


Extreme right & left

Other politics


"Sosiaali" or "sosis" is quite distinctive Vaasa slang. It is shortening of "sosiaalipummi", or a "Social Security bum". A sosiaali is a leech of the society: he cannot live without Social Security, and when he gets the money, he usually drinks it all. This can also be applied to the children who are criminals, have problems in school, etc.

Note that the term "sosiaali" is used when describing public services and institutions, where everyone (or just the "less fortunate") has to go. The primary school is a "sosiaali" school, the army and the Social Insurance Institution are "sosiaali" institutions, etc. Here it means that there's no "quality requirement".

As an example, by the decision of the city council, everyone who wishes can get into Vaasan Yhteislukio. Those who can't get to Vaasan Lyseon lukio or to the vocational school (ammattikoulu) are dumped into Yhteislukio, which is just a kindergarten to them. (See lukio.)

Not insulted yet? /msg me. Please send formatted node content, if you have something to add. I can put it here directly to eliminate the possibility of misinterpretation. Thanks for mentoring to: Cletus the Foetus, mkb, amnesiac, hoyake.

Further reading on the web:

  • Evangelist Riku Rinne.
  • Pakanasivut: Muslimit Suomessa.
  • Kouvolan Sanomat 2001: Valtaosa Suomeen muuttaneista ulkomaalaisista on kokenut rasistista häirintää.
  • Daily Christian News. (Horrible zealotry.)

This is analysis, or social anthropology, not my own opinions. (If you find any, please point them out for removal.) Insults are not MEANT TO BE politically correct or nice, are they?

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