Life in multicultural London

Covid-19 hasn’t been the only thing spreading across the globe this year, the other big issue has been the Black Lives Matter movement followed by the wider talks to end racism. This writing has been in making for a long time already as I haven’t been sure whether I should be commenting on this or not. As a person I’m very much someone who avoids conflicts at any cost and declaring strong opinions on a sensitive subject can be seen as an invitation to a fight which is the very thing I really much try to avoid. Also I come from a very privileged world being a white woman who grew up in a very gender equal country where free education is available for everyone. I can’t even imagine the struggles others with a different ethnic background and social status face. Who am I to comment on how others are affected by racism and discrimination when I have hardly experienced any myself?

One of favourite things about living in London is the diversity the city holds. Coming from a country where roughly 95% of the people looks pretty much the same it was definitely something different to be walking around the city with people from all over the world. I’ve always felt that in London everyone can be and look exactly how they want without anyone judging. That may be a bit naive thought but for sure London is a place where it’s much easier to be different than in many other cities. Living in London has taught me so much about other cultures that I hardly can believe how little I knew before I came here. There’s nearly 9 million people who are calling London their home and those people have come here from all around the world. The mix of nationalities and cultures tied up to British culture is what makes London so special to me.

Joy of learning other cultures

I’ve always been very curious about other cultures and since the first trips abroad about three decades ago, I’ve loved traveling and seeing how people live in the other countries. I’ve already written a couple of posts about the cultural differences I’ve come across since moving here and I always think that other cultures should seen as an opportunity not a risk. It’s devastating to realise how many still thinks their own behavioral habits are the one and only right way of doing things without even trying to understand other views. My university studies included some mandatory cultural diversity and awareness courses and I’m happy that those were something that everyone had to take for getting their degrees. Although I must say, reading about lets say meeting cultures in different countries is totally different than actually trying to operate with people whose acts don’t make any sense to a straightforward Finn.

In my first job here in London we had a really multicultural office with our Hospitality Finance Team alone having several different nationalities, religious and mother languages. Our team was superb and still miss working with many of them, especially my old manager with whom we in paper may have very little in common but our personalities were nearly a perfect match. Who knew that I’d have an almost bespoken connection with Kenyan mother of 4 with oldest daughter same age as I. Working in the Travelport office taught me a lot not just about financial planning and analyses but how to work with people from very different backgrounds. They as a company definitely did a fair bit for having a diverse work environment. With my more recent job I’ve had an opportunity learn more about the British culture as most of our team members are being born and raised in England. Diversity and inclusion is one of the key values for our company and you can’t visit the head office in Toronto without noticing how important those values are for the company culture.

As much as I love that London is a mixture of several cultures, it’s always part of UK and the British culture is visible everywhere. In my opinion you should always have some sort of respect for the culture you’re living in where ever you are. You probably don’t like everything but if you’re settling into somewhere you should at least try to understand something about the country you’re living in.

Racism and discrimination

It’s obvious that we’re still far from equal and racism free world. As I mentioned, I’m lucky in that way that I haven’t really experienced racism or discrimination myself. There have been cases that I know I have been treated differently just because I’m a woman but luckily nothing in any sense of scale that would have affected my life somehow. I also know that many of my fellow EU citizens have experienced disturbing racist comments after the Brexit vote but again I’m lucky that in London the atmosphere has always been friendlier towards non British citizens.

Black lives do matter and it’s deeply sad that we still have a big problem in our society just because of a colour of a skin. This issue is not limited to only black people but other ethnic groups as well. For me it’s also very disturbing that some people are saying that it’s a made up cause and that there’s no such thing as racism in our world. I’d wish that in the 21st century people wouldn’t make a snap judgement of a person just by ones look but unfortunately that’s still a everyday problem. I don’t agree with erasing history and destroying statues, I’m very much against any violence, and I do believe that just by knowing our history we know how far we have come already and how much further we still need to reach.

I’ve always felt that people are very tolerant towards others in London but unfortunately that’s not always the case when you follow the news. However when I compare London and Helsinki the atmosphere is like night and day. Whereas in London you can be whoever you want, in Helsinki the feeling is very far from that in my 12 years experience. Finland has been on top of many studies of the happiest places in the world but unfortunately it’s also on top of the lists when looking at the most racist countries in Europe. There’s also a lot to do in Finland to tackle the issues with discrimination. For example since living in UK I’ve started to question why Finnish CVs must include so much personal details including a picture. Those things are making it so easy to discriminate candidates.

I didn’t participate any demonstrations and I didn’t post anything on my social media about the Black lives matter movement. That doesn’t mean that I don’t respect the cause. I just think the better way to help the cause for me is by my acts; being kind, tolerant and open-minded towards others.


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