Published in SixDegrees 22.5.2014
There are approximately 3,000 Polish people living permanently in Finland. It is common for the Poles to come here to work on a temporary basis and as it often happens, some of the workers end up staying as they marry Finns. Most of the immigrants are male and settle in big cities, such as Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo, Turku and Tampere. There has never been an actual wave of immigration from Poland to Finland but Poles have come here more frequently and in greater numbers since Poland joined the EU in 2004. Although Finland has never been the primary location for the Polish to immigrate to, better income opportunities in Finland attract them.
A typical male Polish immigrant comes to Finland to work in the construction sector. For example, a couple of years ago there were around 3,000-4,000 Poles working on the building site of the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant on the west coast of Finland. Since then, the numbers have come down quite a lot. Women typically find employment in the hospitality sector, taking care of the elderly.
There is no Polish school in Finland but Polish afterschool clubs for children are arranged in some of the big cities. For those wanting to learn Polish from scratch, Finland-Poland Association of Helsinki offers language lessons. The Association has also become known for organising Polish movie nights and providing opportunities to learn the secrets of the Polish cuisine in cooking classes, in cooperation with Arbis, the Swedish Adult Education Centre.
The social scene for the Polish in Finland is rather active. There are numerous Polish associations, with the Polish Union, Federation of Finland-Poland Associations, and Polish Cultural Society being the three biggest. The Federation of Finland-Poland Associations was originally founded to advance and improve the relations between the two nations. Polish Cultural Society, on the other hand, is mainly run by Polish women married to Finnish men who want to keep their children attached to Polish culture and language. Generally, the associations have been founded to provide the Poles a chance to meet their fellow countrymen and -women. Various celebrations at the associations take place on Polish National Day, 3 May, and Polish Independence Day, 11 November.
Poland is mainly a Catholic country with 85 per cent of the population Roman Catholics. Therefore, Christmas and Easter are very significant times of the year for the Poles. During those holidays, the Polish Embassy in Helsinki hosts a big reception to where certain representatives from the Polish community in Finland are invited.