October 24, 2011

Euro Vision: Gypsies!

Finnish Gypsies
So after the worldwide premier of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, that awe-inspiring train-wreck that some how or another did not win any Emmys this past year, everyone is fairly familiar with the gypsy stereotype. The show makes them seem to run rampant in the U.K. Adamantly refusing to adapt to local cultures and ideals, and being somewhat of a nuisance to those who are forced to live around their clans.

So ridiculous, and so awesome. Reality TV at its finest! (source)

I really expected to see gypsies in Germany. In a country where multi-culturism has officially 'failed', that according to Merkel, I never ran into a clan of gypsies. We saw them in Rome, I encountered large families in Greece, at a distance. But they seemed to be even more of a stereotype. Think Esmeralda of The Hunch Back of Notre Dame.

But it wasn't until this year in Finland that we came across gypsies. I guess the gypsies really stand out here and we have seen quite a few traveler families out and about.

How can tell they are gypsies??

You really can't miss their 'traditional' dress. The women wear hoop-skirts in black velvet, accompanied by an apron and ruffle shirts. The men dress in dark black suits. Along with their olive skin and dark features, something you can imagine stands out in Finland, it all lends to  their somewhat derogative name of Mustalasia, coming from the Finnish word for black: Musta.

Traditional woman's dress (source)

These are the Romani Gypsies, a distinct group that started in what is now northern India. The wandered the European continent for hundreds of years and were nearly wiped out by Nazi prosecution during WWII. The are known to have occupied Finland since the 17th century. Men traditionally held jobs as horse traders, but more modernly are involved in horse breeding, car dealing and scrap metal trading. Women continue their traditional work as fortune tellers or handicraft artists.

Seen here at a fast food restaurant, Hesburger. (source)

Check out this great gallery of Finnish gypsy photographs!

While gypsies are not fully welcomed anywhere in Europe, Finland doesn't seem to be one of the more racist countries. Yes, for those of you unaware, Europe can be very, very racists. I guess so can any closed-minded and ignorant person, no matter where they hail from. But still, gypsies were and still are to some extent discriminated against here as well. People seem to tolerate them around, although I can imagine they still get treated as inferior to this day. The thought from long ago is that they are lazy, not hard working and bring in criminal activity. While some might say this is still true, I think it is an unfair assumption to be born into.

More shots of their dress, and the men in black (source)
And there seem to be quite a large number here. Recent figures put the Romani population at anywhere from 6,500 to 10,000. That is a big chunk for a lesser populated country. To put it into perspective, Finland's nomadic indigenous people, the Lapps, only have numbers in the 2,500's. So it's not uncommon to run into a gypsy at Ikea, the mall or grocery story. I see at least a few a week.

But for me, it is no big deal. I just try not to stare, but I'm nonetheless intrigued at how people living like this are still around. Fascinated might be a better word. If anything, I guess it is just one more thing that reminds me that I am still in Europe!

Doubled that baby up. Euro Vision and a More You Know Monday!

*Information gathered from: Source 1, Source 2
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  1. OK, Gypsies are like anybody else - there are good n bad - doesn't matter where u live in the world; its all the same. Some Gypsy Tribes are better than others; just like the Indians in our country. Everyone seems to think they live on horrible reservations and are drunk and doped up most of the time - Right, some are; however there are others that work hard and have beautiful (reservations) FARMS, etc
    We always hear about the bad before we hear about the good. We always hear about how Gypsies take over towns, villages, cities, etc and that they are #1 in Criminal Activity. In some areas that is true, however, there are also hardworking Gypsies and hardworking families. As Americans might say "there are "Tony Soprano's" "all over the world", and you always read about them - the good things in life or quality living always seems to be hush hush.
    Great Post Ltl Tex
    Cheers and "speed-on" to the hub

  2. Sure, you have gypsies, but I'm stuck with Mormons here. And yes, it comes along with a bad reality show too - Sister Wives.

    This wasn't meant to offend regular Mormons, btw. This was only meant to offend Mormons that think having more than one wife is a great idea. It's not. I can barely handle one. Having
    four is just retarded.

  3. Thankfully, I have never seen that gypsy wedding show before! And there are lots of gypsies in Russia and the Russians don't like them.

  4. First off.... that Gypsy Wedding show was unbelievable!! There was one girl who had moving butterflies on her dress and took a fire extinguisher to her wedding incase he dress set on fire!!!

    Love this post :-) Great to see tolerance of all cultures!

  5. I musta sk you a question.

    D'ya see what I did there? :-{)

  6. I think its interesting how many different meanings the word "gypsy" can have. Some of my ancestry is gypsy/ from Bohemia. It's interesting!

  7. Fascinating is right, thanks for the post. Loved it and learning something new.

  8. What I remember about the gypsies in Paris is the "oh, madam, you dropped your gold ring on the ground" trick. and the sitting with a baby on the sidewalk to make you feel bad...

  9. Such an informative post. I ran into a group of folks trying to sell out little tour group pieces of string. I was told they were gypsies but more likely they were beggars giving gypsies a bad name. My girlfriend said something in French to them and they backed away. Some of our silly tour friends actually bought the string. I think they phoned ahead to the next set of beggars because more descended on them. No one came near us and we were sort of in the same area. I never did ask what she said to them. I thought it best to ignore it and get out of Paris alive.

  10. OMG. I want to meet a gypsy. Seriously.

  11. The only gypsies I have ever seen were the kids in Paris with the gold ring trick or the ones in Rome trying to sell stuff. Never seen the ones you have seen in Finland. Kind of reminds me a little of the Mennonites here in Texas - dress-wise that is. Very interesting post!

  12. 6,500 to 10,000? That's as big as a SUNY school. You should do a vlog to accompany these posts. Bet you'd get lots of views. I'd promote you on bloggerdise as a news source if you want.

  13. The TV show is amazing in huge proportions. I'll admit I'm a little jealous you've seen real live gypsies. I'd like to pick their brains in the same respect that I'd love to meet polygamists. The intrigue is immense. hahahahaha! Consider me schooled in Finnish Gypy-ism.

  14. Hmmmmm Paris-- 1800 euros gone in 2 minutes. Talent always finds a way to emerge and he was good.I think he also took my underwear as it too was missing when we got to our hotel. Broke,exhausted and full of love for all mankind. A cherished memory. jdl

  15. I'm pretty sure that the term 'gypsies' is a bit offensive. The preferred term might be 'Roma', but I'm not sure.

    I was living in Scotland, and the people I worked with were all worked up because a bunch of trailers had appeared on a neighboring lot. As an American, I couldn't quite wrap my brain around this automatic prejudice. A lot like their disdain for red heads, too. Can't grasp it.

  16. Oh my sweet jesus!! Okay first of all this is delayed (good grief eventually it'll be on time). Second of all...they are terrifying!?! I want to say they remind me of the little old ladies that smell of moth balls and rummage through the Value Villages and Goodwills of the world. :)

  17. PS--the gypsies in Rome are brutal. But if you haven't showered for days-you're okay.

  18. There's a bad outlook on Romanians here from what I've heard too. Not a gypsy thing though. I've yet to see any around here! Crazy the stereotypes everywhere you go.

  19. That show, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding ruined my romantic illusions of gypsies. Thanks for showing me that the more "traditional" sects of gypsies still exist.

  20. What the french toast?? Your posts are not showing up in my google reader! I'll have to re-insert you...um. Yeah.

    Anyway. It's interesting that nomadic populations are so marginalized. I don't know enough to make an informed comment, just well, interesting.

  21. Discrimination and closemindedness is sad no matter what country you're in! Thanks for setting aside the stereotype forced on us by reality television regarding gypsies. This was an informative and interesting post.

  22. What a great post!! So interesting. I loved watching that show and learning about traveler culture. I was surprised by the discrimination they experienced too.

  23. Yeah the UK is very racist towards gypsies :( Not me though! lol

    M x

  24. Yeah, prior to this post I only knew the stereotypes about Gypsies so this is mostly new for me.


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