“According to the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, around 1,600 Swiss are currently calling Finland their home. Apart from historic- or language-related countries like Sweden or Hungary, this number is bigger than the those from any other European country of similar size, namely Austria, Czech Republic, Portugal or Belgium. But what is it that has brought Swiss to the utmost north of mainland Europe?
“Nowadays, Swiss people probably come to Finland for a change of scene, for making experiences in another country, or maybe because of love. In former times, it was perhaps more for setting up own businesses,” explains Jürg Kuhn, President of the local Swiss club “Schweizerklub Finnland”.
“Many Swiss cheesemakers have found their way to Finland. The traces are still seen today: Finland is one of the biggest Emmental-cheese producers worldwide.” Cheese also plays a part in a dish sold here in Finland as “Sveitsinleike”, which is basically Cordon Bleu. “Apart from that, during the time, when Finland belonged to Russia, Swiss also moved to Finland in order to teach French,” says Kuhn.
The Schweizerklub Finnland was founded nearly 85 years ago and nowadays counts around 150 members mainly in and near Helsinki. “Due to geographical reasons, many Swiss living outside the Capital Region are members of the biggest club “Sveitsin Ystävät Suomessa” (“Friends of Switzerland in Finland”), which is active all over the country,” explains Kuhn, who has lived in Finland for 13 years.
“Our most popular events are fondue and raclette evenings and 1 August being the national holiday of Switzerland,” says Kuhn. When browsing their webpage (www.schweizerklub.fi/), dozens of other activities pop up: film evenings, trips, visits to exhibitions and lectures, sport events and card game “Jass” evenings.
At first glance, apart from large public interest in winter sports, Switzerland and Finland do not seem to have a lot in common. “But the differences are not that big. Finland and Switzerland have always had very tight ties politically, economically and also between the people. Swiss and Finns are rather calm and also modest – or at least, they both think, they are,” tells Kuhn. What would Swiss people miss most about their country? “The mountains and the possibility to gaze dozens of kilometres into the distance. In Finland, there’s a tree every other metre. But apart from that, the Swiss probably might not miss that much.”