The sub-research questions for structured interviews were
- What is immigrant women’s general image of Suvela?
- Which urban places do they use most?
- In which urban places do they enjoy / do not enjoy themselves?
With these questions I tried to comb the research and planning area in order to find out, which issues I should tackle in my city plan.
I gathered the research data as a random sample mainly in the residents’ park of Suvela but also in the international meeting place Trapesa, the (old) chapel of Suvela and the shopping centre of Suvela during September, 24th – November, 11th in 2011. I chose different places of sampling in order to avoid the bias they could cause to the research results.
When analyzing the answers I divided the structured interview into two parts: Describing Suvela and defining everyday nodes in Suvela. ’Describing Suvela’ tells how immigrant women see Suvela as their own housing area. ’Defining everyday hubs and urban places in Suvela’ tells which urban places in Suvela are the most important, pleasant and unpleasant for immigrant women.
There were altogether 19 attendants who described Suvela and 27 attendants who defined their everyday nodes in Suvela. All the attendants lived in Suvela at that moment and represented the following nationalities:
- 4 representatives of the former Soviet Union
- 3/5 Estonians
- 3 Kosovars
- -/3 Vietnamese
- 2 Kenyans
- 2 Thais
- 1 Iraqis
- 1 Maroccoan
- 1 Algerian
- 1 Chinese
- 1/4 Somalian(s).
I also had a small reference group of 8 Finnish women to see, if and how immigrant women’s answers would differ from the Finnish women’s answers; that is: If immigrants’ needs really are different compared with the native citizens, which was the other one of the two preassumptions in my research.
My research material consisted of questionnaires with both multiple choice and open ended questions and their answers, most of which I had written down on behalf of informants.
I asked the attendants to describe Suvela and its built environment with the following words:
”Could you please describe Suvela and its environment with a couple of words, how it is.”
The four most mentioned positive characterizations, which immigrant women made of Suvela and its environment, represented a little over half of all their positive characterizations. These were
- ’child friendly’
- ’compact’/’everything near’/’good connections’.
The three most positive characterizations the Finnish women presented were partly overlapping with the ones immigrant women had made:
- ’good connections’.
Immigrant women had only three negative characterizations of Suvela and its environment whereas Finnish women had nine despite of their smaller group size. There was one common nominator for both immigrant and Finnish women’s characterizations: Whereas immigrant women used the word ’dirty’, Finnish women used the words ’untidy’ and ’unclean’ (residential park). Immigrant women’s characterization ’unpleasant’ can also be seen to mean the same as the rest of Finnish women’s characterizations.
Both immigrant and Finnish women had three characterizations that I have labelled as neutral, because they can be considered either truly neutral or negative/positive depending on the answerer’s cultural and social background or personal likings.
Immigrant women used positive characterizations to define Suvela and its environment much more often than the Finnish women in relation to the total amount of their characterizations.
However, there was hardly any difference between immigrant and Finnish women’s positive characterizations when related to the amount of answerers – immigrant women’s slightly smaller number can be a result of their smaller vocabulary. What is noteworthy on the other hand, is that Finnish women used clearly more negative characterizations of Suvela and its environment compared with immigrant women, even if we take notice of immigrant women’s poorer language skills.
DEFINING EVERYDAY HUBS AND URBAN PLACES IN SUVELA
I asked the attendants of my case study to define their everyday hubs and most pleasant and unpleasant urban places in Suvela in a written form or orally or both with the following questions:
”Which places do you visit most in Suvela and in the centre of Espoo?”
”Which places in Suvela are the most pleasant?”
”Which places in Suvela are the most unpleasant?”
Urban places that were by far the most important for immigrant women in their everyday lives were the residents’ park of Suvela and Entresse shopping centre. These were also Finnish women’s two most important everyday hubs.
The definately most pleasant urban place in Suvela for immigrant women was the residents’ park of Suvela – therefore it is no wonder then that they also visit it often. Noteworthy is also that some answerers named the whole Suvela as their most pleasant urban place while a couple of answerers found no pleasant urban places there at all.
The residents’ park of Suvela was treasured by the Finnish women as well. Pedestrian streets (e.g. Kirstinharju), which came the second most pleasant urban places in Suvela for the Finnish women, did not attain any nominations from the immigrant women.
The most unpleasant urban place in Suvela for immigrant women was ’none’: When immigrant women were asked to name the most unpleasant place in Suvela, there were many who could name none. Next most unpleasant urban places were found in the proximaty of their homes: the yards of the blocks of flats and their dumpster sheds.
On the other hand, all the Finnish women could find some unpleasant place in Suvela. However, the most unpleasant ones were located further away from their homes in the proximaty of bars and restaurants.
Immigrant women’s weaker Finnish language skills can be regarded as the reason for that they named fewer urban places per answerer in all three categories (everyday hubs, most pleasant and unpleasant urban places) than the Finnish women. Both also named approximately as many pleasant and unpleasant urban places per answerer: immigrant women a little more pleasant and Finnish women a little more unpleasant.
However, answers like ’the whole Suvela’ or ’none’ were not considered as distinct urban places in these tables. Therefore immigrant women named even more pleasant urban places and less unpleasant urban places in reality than the following figures show.
There was a bigger variety of unpleasant urban places than pleasant places both among the immigrant and the Finnish women.
When classifying everyday hubs into land use categories, it can be seen that immigrant women visit clearly most often commercial areas. Half of their everyday hubs belong to this land use category. Greenspace on one hand and public service areas and religious areas on the other hand include about a quarter of their everyday hubs.
Finnish women’s everyday hubs are located in commercial areas, greenspace, public service and religious areas and streets more evenly. The order of the biggest three land use categories is nonetheless the same as with the immigrant women. Finnish women have also everyday hubs that are located in traffic areas like streets, pedestrian streets or the railway station which immigrant women do not have at all.
Even though immigrant women visit most often commercial areas, they like unquestionably most such urban places that belong to greenspace. Commercial and public service areas come way behind them. There are also some immigrant women who value their home as the most pleasant urban place in Suvela.
Finnish women appreciate greenspace as well but surprisingly not as much as immigrant women. The rest is even more different. Finnish women enjoy second most such urban places that fall in traffic areas. This category is absent in immigrant women’s list. Also a little surprisingly, there are some Finnish women who enjoy urban places belonging to religious areas unlike any immigrant woman, while residential areas are not mentioned by the Finns at all.
The biggest difference between immigrant and Finnish women is where they see unpleasant urban places: While the immigrant women see them most in residential areas, the Finnish women see them most in commercial areas. However, both groups consider these two to be the problem areas. Whereas immigrant women enjoyed more urban places included in greenspace compared with the Finnish women, they also see there less faults than the Finns.
To sum up, immigrant women defined Suvela clearly much more often positively than negatively. They used most often such positive characterizations as ’good’, ’child friendly’, ’multicultural’/’international’ and ’compact’/’everything near’/’good connections’. Immigrant women saw their housing area distinctly in a more positive light than the Finnish women.
It can also be stated that the triangle that immigrant women’s everyday hubs form together, consists of the residents’ park of Suvela, the shops either in Suvela or further away in the centre of Espoo and the Entresse library. Only herafter comes either Kirsti school, the kindergartens in the area and the chapel. The residents’ park is also the most pleasant urban place in Suvela for immigrant women. It is noteworthy that almost every other immigrant answerer found it hard to name any unpleasant urban place in Suvela. This is coherent with immigrant women’s positive image of Suvela in general.
There were no big essential differences between immigrant and Finnish women. Since these structured interviews were meant to be more qualitative than quantitative and since the size of the Finnish reference group was therefore intentionally small, these comparative research results are just directional. However, stereotypes according to which the Finns would prefer greenspace more than immigrants or the immigrants religious urban places more than the Finns, do not appear to be true on the basis of this research. Even though immigrant women spent most of their time in commercial areas, they enjoyed most greenspace just like the Finnish women. Similarly, immigrant women did not mention religious urban places as their everyday hubs any more often than the Finnish women. For example, Suvela mosque was not mentioned in any answer, although every fourth immigrant attendant was a Muslim. The only thing where immigrant and Finnish women’s opinions differed from each other is about the most unpleasant places: While immigrant women find them most in residential areas, the Finnish women find them most in commercial areas.