Although many young Finns have been attracted to Scotland for its free university tuition, not many Scots have elected to explore Finland. There are just over 100 members in the ‘Scots in Finland’ Facebook group, giving a rough indication of the numbers in Finland.
Few Scottish traditions are celebrated in Finland. The British Embassy, however, maintains one important Scottish tradition, namely, Robert Burns’ night, honouring the Scottish night in the form of a ceilidh. Kenneth Martin, a Scot living in Finland, says, “It’s really good. A piper pipes out the haggis,” which to the ear untrained in Scottish colloquialisms means that someone playing the bagpipes walks ahead of the haggis as it is brought in to the room.
This is followed by a recital of Burns’ Address to a Haggis poem, and finally the haggis is cut with a large knife and everyone is served a hearty portion of the steamy sheep’s pluck.
Lorraine Telfer-Taivanen is also a Scot and has lived in Finland for 30 years. She says that New Year, or ‘Hogmanay’, and Halloween are also special holidays for Scots, but are less often celebrated in Finland.
Although both land and sea rest between the misty moors of Scotland and the fresh lakes of Finland, there are surprising similarities to be found between the two cultures. According to Liz Paavolainen, a Scot who has moved to Finland many years ago, similarities between Finland and Scotland include a love of nature, beautiful scenery, a history dominated by a large neighbour, their demographics and, of course, an ‘interest’ in alcohol. In fact, an Aberdonian bar Brew Dog is set to open its doors in Helsinki this autumn. It is much anticipated by both the Scottish community and a small community of Finnish students who have studied in Scotland and who have, inevitably, fallen in love with the country.
Yet there are also important differences between Scotland and Finland. What Telfer-Taivanen misses most are the warm, friendly, humourous people, the beautiful mountains, the folk music, and the flavoursome beef and mutton. The classic Scottish dish haggis, she says, is available in canned form in a particular shop in Helsinki which sells British and American foods. Martin points out that the main difference is the weather; it’s a lot colder here than in Scotland. He says he misses quite a lot of things, but mainly the food – in particular sausage rolls and the ubiquitous soda drink Irn Bru.
In the wake of the recent historical referendum in Scotland, attitudes of Finnish expats were surprisingly almost unanimous: the majority of expats in Finland were in favour of yes, says Martin, so there has been some disappointment at the results. But that won’t change the harmony that Scots can find in making Finland their home.