Meri-Rastila in the east of Helsinki is Finland's first official multicultural suburb. One in five residents of Meri-Rastila are immigrants - a higher proportion of non-Finns than anywhere else in Helsinki. The largest groups are Somalis, Russians, and Estonians.
A bridge in front of the Metro station runs over Vuotie. The bridge divides Rastila from Meri-Rastila. The Rastila side has a camping area, and stylish dark apartment houses. On the Meri-Rastila side the houses are lower, and they are covered with tiles.
A wide street snakes through the whole neighbourhood - Meri-Rastilan tie. It begins at the shopping centre and ends at the local comprehensive school. In between there are dozens of ordinary apartment houses.
Meri-Rastilan tie has another name as well: Mogadishu Avenue. The nickname goes back to the early days of the suburb, but taxi drivers driving through the area still have fun counting the number of dark-skinned faces they see.
Haruspuisto is like the heart of Meri-Rastila. Now the children of a music kindergarten are gathered at the community park building. After the lesson, children go to the kitchen at the park and eat Asian chicken sauce from glass jars, and the mothers have coffee.
The main visitors here are housewives - both Finns and immigrants, who can exercise, paint icons, and bring the chidren for afternoon activities. There are also special groups for Russian and Somali women.
Meri-Rastila already has a reputation of a restless suburb. The unemployment rate is higher than average for the city, the education level is lower than in other areas, and the income level is only half the Helsinki average. Two out of three residents are in rental housing.In principle, all services are available in Meri-Rastila. There are two schools, many day care centres, a chapel, youth facilities, two hair salons, a kiosk, a few pubs, and a cash dispenser.