Shelbyville, Emporia, Richmond (oops Roanoke), Helsinki, it’s the same story

Thanks to reader ‘Bill’ who has set me straight and it’s not Richmond, it’s Roanoke!

What a coincidence that this story should pop up the day after we reported the conflicts on-going in Richmond Roanoke between Somali refugees and local black American citizens.   This story is from Finland. 

A Finnish family complained that an immigrant family in the apartment below them was playing music too loud. The immigrants denied the accusation: they said that as devout Muslims they do not even listen to music.

The Finnish mother had tried to approach the immigrant family to discuss about the noise, but the approach was perceived as a racist attack. 

In Finland they think they have the problem solved with mediation.  

The conflict concerning noise, which was mediated by Mohamed, was resolved when it was noted that the sound insulation in the building was inadequate, and should be upgraded in connection with an upcoming refurbishment. It also came out that the sound that the upstairs neighbours had heard was from the reading of the Koran.

Blame the building owners and, oh, it was only the Koran reading that was making so much noise.  So, it looks like everyone is happy, make the landlord put money into the building and let the loud Koran reading proceeed. 

Finnish Refugee Council coordinator Terhi Joensuu says that the disputes have often been connected with the use of common facilities, such as saunas and laundry rooms, children in the playground, and annoyance caused by differing customs.

Yes, that is what we heard in Richmond  Roanoke too, common room problems and kids playing (I wonder if spitting is going on in Finland too as it did in Emporia and now Richmond Roanoke?) 

In the Helsinki region, in Turku, and the Tampere area, most of the dozens of disputes in which mediation has been applied, has led to a positive result. “We have had good experiences”, Joensuu emphasises.

Mohamed says that many of the conflicts result from the fact that immigrants do not know the rules of living in Finland. It might be unclear for some of them what the requirement of silence in the evening really means, and how waste should be sorted for recycling.

“Finns assume that once information has been posted about rules, they will be known, but for Somalis, for instance, an oral message is more valuable than a written one”, Mohamed observes.

Didn’t I see that in Shelbyville there was an attempt to discuss the problems in an apartment building verbally?   And, in this story the Finnish mother did try to talk to her neighbors but was called a racist. 

Immigrants often accuse Finns of racism. “It can be true, but can also come from a misunderstanding”, Mohamed points out.

Richmond   Roanoke  had nothing to do with racism. 

In many cases cultural differences have nothing to do with the problem. People are simply individuals, and those coming from the same background can have completely different interpretations of their own culture. Neighbourhood mediators have also arbitrated in a number of disputes between native-born Finns.

Cultural factors could be one reason why Somalis, for instance, are often eager to take part in a mediation effort. Mohamed says that similar methods of conflict resolution are the tradition in Somalia.

“Mediation is something that Finns should learn from immigrants.”

I guess mediation means the Finns have to change their culture to fit the immigrants.

If you are a regular reader of RRW, this is a quiz.   What is the common thread in these stories and who do you think needs to do the changing?