The Spanish community in Finland is quite large, active and united. Juan José is part of it. He has been living in Finland for 24 years and what he misses the most of his home country is his family and the Mediterranean Sea, which is always missed by those who have grown up close to it.
José is one of the 1,638 Spaniards that are currently living in Finland. The Spanish Embassy has a record of them, but not everyone is registered. “If they don’t have any plans to stay in Finland in the long term, such as those who are doing an exchange, they don’t even come to the Embassy to register themselves,” explains Manuel del Rosario Vela, Secretary of Consular Affairs.
“Spaniards feel safe in Finland, so they don’t see the point of being registered at the Embassy even if they should definitely do it,” Vela continues.
Most Spaniards that are currently living here came at first to study at a university through an Erasmus programme. At the universities in Helsinki alone there are currently 348 Spanish students. Not all of them are on exchange, but there are also bachelor’s and master’s students.
Some exchange students decide to stay after their Erasmus stay because they had started a relationship with a Finn, or they return here because they wanted to study a master’s degree, in order to obtain a PhD, or because they found a good job opportunity. In the working scene Finland seems like a promised land to Spanish people, since nowadays it’s almost a miracle to find a job in their home country.
Coming from a country where it’s mostly sunny throughout the year, dark and snowy winters are something exotic that most Spaniards enjoy at first. After spending some winters in Finland, the weather and darkness don’t seem that enjoyable though. Silence, honesty and safety make it up for this, however.
Nonetheless, there is something that Spanish people always enjoy: gathering with friends and family and celebrating. It doesn’t really matter what the occasion is. They have adapted Finnish celebrations into their own lifestyle. For Christmas they organised their first “Spanish pikkujoulu” in Helsinki, with Spaniards coming from all over the country for dinner and an after party. After that they met up for Vappu and have also celebrated Juhannus.
The “Spaniards in Finland” Facebook group is a proof of how active the Spanish community is here. In this group, which has more than 3,000 members, people who are planning to move to Finland ask for help before they arrive and also once they have already arrived in the country.
There are also two Finnish-Spanish kindergartens in Helsinki, the perfect choice for those who married a Finn and want their children to learn both languages. Furthermore, once the children get a bit older, they also have the option of attending Käpyla Comprehensive School, a bilingual Spanish-Finnish school.