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Husbands from Turkey, wives from Thailand

Cross-cultural marriages in Finland are on the rise, with the bulk of foreign-born residents in Finland moving to the country because of romantic relationships. By the most recent count, the spouses of around 45,000 Finns were born abroad.

Vihkisormusta asetellaan nimettömään.
Image: Touko Yrttimaa / Yle

According to Elli Heikkilä, research director at the Institute of Migration in Turku, the largest numbers of foreign wives married to Finnish men come from Thailand, Russia and China.

"In 2011, nearly 500 Thai women married Finnish men. There were 400 Russian women," says Heikkilä.

For their part, Finnish women married to foreigners have most often found husbands from Turkey, the UK and Sweden.

Travel broadens

Heikkilä believes that the pole position held by Asian women is the result of travel trends.

"Thailand has become a popular holiday destination for the Finns and one meets people while travelling. Meanwhile, Russia has a border with Finland over 1,000 kilometres long. That means meeting is easy," she notes.

Foreign husbands more often come from countries with higher standards of living.

"A lot of Finnish women go to Britain as nurses and even the US recruits Finnish nurses. Of course, Finns meet foreign-born partners here at home, too. Lots of Finns have immigrants as co-workers, friends and as people involved in the same hobbies," Heikkilä points out.

Cross-cultural relationships a challenge and a boon

Most foreign-born residents have moved to Finland because of interpersonal relationships. Heikkilä sees such relationships as a source of richness.

"A foreign-born spouse can learn the language within the family from his or her partner. At the same time, there are existing social networks available through that partner. Children learn tolerance in a multi-cultural family environment, because for them it is completely clear that, for example, they have grandparents from Finland and from some other country,” Heikkilä explains.

The meeting of cultures can also be challenging. Heikkilä notes that values and religious beliefs can raise issues.

"How, for example, does a couple raise their children? What language is spoken in the home, or are many languages spoken? Cross-cultural marriages, however, also provide great non-material riches," she notes. "In the end, it's the case that people are together of their own free will and want the best for each other."

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