On 4 December, the Finnish community in Shanghai celebrated 104 years of Finnish Independence with a Finland Independence Day Gala at the Grand Kempinski Hotel in Shanghai.
The annual gala has become its own tradition and an important and eagerly awaited event for the Finnish expat community in Shanghai, Helsingin Sanomat writes. According to Annukka Sarikka, who has lived in China for a long time due to her husband’s work, the tradition of the celebrations in Shanghai in connection with Finland’s Independence Day began as early as 2009.
Finnish Consul General Pasi Hellman opened the event with a speech covering the history of Finns in Shanghai. As early as 1920 there was a Finnish business community in Shanghai. The number increased from the late 1980s after China’s Communist Party began to open up and Finnish companies came to the country.
Although no exact information exists, the number of Finns in China is declining, however. Around 10 years ago there were at least 2,300 Finns in the country with most of them around Shanghai. Now there is possibly a quarter of that number.
Annukka Sarikka says that before 2015 there were 90 children in Shanghai Finnish schools. Now there are 20.
Speaking on the matter, Petteri Kalela, UPM’s Head of Asia explained that the main reason for the decrease in the number of Finns in companies in China is that the level of education and professional skills of the local workforce has improved. UPM’s branch in China used to have about 50 Finns in various management positions, now there is only a handful. And “the Chinese are proud of the rise in their skills”, Petteri Kalela said, which was applauded by the audience.
Juha Tuominen, chairman of the Finnish Trade Union in Beijing also noted that in the past several Finnish companies produced products for Finns in China. Now several Finnish companies sell their products to the Chinese so local staff is a natural choice, Juha Tuominen said. He could not attend the event in Shanghai but gave an interview to Helsingin Sanomat from his home in Beijing.
Besides that the cost of living has also increased in China, Juha Tuominen added. 10 years a westerner could live largely in China, now the cost of living is the same or even higher than in Finland.
Both Juha Tuominen and Petteri Kalela regret that China has a worse reputation than it deserves. Chinese cities are nice to live in, and air pollution is no longer so bad, they both said.