Jos Helmich

WHAT do the Dutch, Japanese, Latvian and Sudanese nationalities have in common? According to the figures of Statistics Finland, there’s about the same amount of their representatives – 1,150 – living in Finland.

For them to keep in touch with one another, one of the primary ways is through the Dutch Association in Finland (“Nederlandse Vereniging in Finland”). The group has 100 individuals and 100 families as members, and it estimates that it represents about 300–400 people in total. In addition to Dutch people, its membership is open to all who are interested in the Netherlands and other countries that belong to the Dutch language union (Belgium, Suriname and Netherlands Antilles). The Dutch Association cooperates with FINBEL, the Belgian association in Finland.

An important activity for the group is different happenings, through which the members of the community have a chance to get together and make whoopee. An important celebration is coming up on 30 April, which is Queen’s Day, a national holiday in the Netherlands. This year the event is made even more special by the abdication of Queen Beatrix for her son, Prince Willem-Alexander. In 2014 the festivities will thus be known as King’s Day, and the date will be changed to 27 April, Willem-Alexander’s birthday.

Other significant dates are 3 October, when the Siege of Leiden is remembered (marking the city’s successfully resistance to an occupation by Spain in 1573–1574), and 5 December for Saint Nicholas’s Eve, which is a children’s party similar to Christmas celebrations. The association organises also other events, as well as a summer camp for families.

In addition to event organising, the Dutch Association in Finland publishes a quarterly magazine called Noorderlicht (“Northern Lights”), informing members of happenings and running stories on Dutch and Finnish history and culture. And it brings people together through social media, together with another group with an active Facebook page, “Dutch Men Lost in Finland”.

The name of the latter group contains a hint about the demography of the Dutch minority living in Finland: its overwhelming majority, over 800 people, are men. It’s perhaps not a great surprise then to hear that Finnish women are an important reason for Dutch men to settle in the country. “Dutch men meet someone they like and get hooked,” says Jos Helmich, chair of the Dutch Association in Finland. “More Dutch women find Finnish men nowadays, but they are really a minority.”

As for any issues when moving into the country, the Dutch may not be the only group to find the language a problem. Perhaps more surprising is that social security and health care work differently in Finland, which can be a source of confusion for Dutch newcomers. “In Finland everything is taken care of by KELA, from the cradle to the grave,” Helmich says, adding that in the Netherlands a lot more is left to the individual to arrange him or herself.

Teemu Henriksson