Despite the ocean separating them, the US and Finland are closer than they appear. Currently, Statistics Finland reports around 4,480 people living in Finland that were born in the States, while some 187,000 Americans visit as tourists each year. Products and services from the US make up 7 per cent of Finland’s total imports – fittingly, 7 per cent of Finland’s exports are to the USA as well.
Perhaps the large amount of American imports can account for the fact that Americans in Finland don’t have to try very hard to find bits and pieces of home in Finland. TripAdvisor lists 40 American themed restaurants in Helsinki alone, American films can be viewed in cinemas or rented from the local FilmTown, and American music can be heard on the radio. Cultural influences are everywhere; heavy metal music, currently the one of the most popular genres in Finland, was originally developed in the USA and UK.
Finnish names may also be familiar to American hockey fans, as Finnish players dot the American NHL landscape. The careers of these players are followed just as eagerly by Finnish fans as their American counterparts, as evidenced by last year’s film SEL8NNE, which focussed on hockey player Teemu Selänne, whom American hockey fans will recognise as the Finnish Flash of California’s Mighty Ducks hockey team, and who Finns will know from the Finnish national Olympic hockey team.
Another way Americans and Finns are connecting is through education. While many have read of the USA’s recent interest in Finnish education in the news, the educational dialogue is not just a one way street. The Fulbright Center awards grants to Finnish institutions of higher learning, in order to fund American academic lecturers’ visits to Finland. Grants are awarded for periods of a few days up to a whole academic year. Then there is the North American studies course offered by the University of Helsinki, which combines information pertinent to both the USA and Canada in to one course.
While the extraverted Americans and introverted Finns may have their differences, there is also much to be celebrated between the two!