Geographically, more than 2,000 kilometres is the distance that separates Helsinki from Paris, but that doesn’t stop the French and Finnish communities from growing closer together; French culture, education and cuisine continue to expand here, particularly in the Helsinki area.

In keeping with the number of kilometres seperating the two countries, a minority of about 2,000 French people currently live in Finland (from which 65 per cent live in the capital), but what is worth emphasising is the way the French culture and language has managed to settle in this foreign country where everything is so different to what they know, to say the least.

The French language, for one, has gained a particular importance as part of school education. we can name Ecole Française Jules Verne, a private school supported by the French Embassy and which maintains the French education system, the Lycée Franco-Finlandais, a public and Bilingual Finnish-French school maintained by the National Education Ministry as well as the Primary School Eläin-tarha Ala-Aste, a regular Finnish primary school that includes an optional bilingual program teaching five hours of French a week.

Aside from education, one can find over 140 French enterprise branches; including Crédit Agricole, one of the main banks in France, present in Finland since 1982.

French culture spreads consistently around Helsinki as well: The Centre Culturel Français (French Cultural Centre) organises visual arts exhibitions six times a year around the city; not to mention the many French organisations that offer french courses like the French Institute, the France-Finlande Association, whose mission is to promote the friendship between the two countries by organising interesting events such as conferences, excursions and fun nights out motivating Finns to mingle by practising their french skills!

We all know French cuisine speaks for itself; internationally known and greatly appreciated around the globe, Finland, too, has welcomed it with open arms; we can find over twenty French bistros and restaurants in the Helsinki area alone, each and everyone of them benefit of great reviews and loyal returning customers.

So, forget about the climate and culture shock normally known as the common symptoms immigrants experience when they first settle in this cold country of ours; French people move up here and practically bring the Eiffel Tower in their suitcase, but we like it!

Valérie Brun