Keeping the spirit of Finland alive in the Lower Mainland

For over 50 years, the Vancouver Finlandia Club (VFC) has been an important point of cultural connection for the Finnish community in the Lower Mainland.

Based out of the Scandinavian Community Centre in Burnaby, the VFC hosts year-round activities to bring the community together and celebrate Finland and Scandinavian culture. They also offer Finnish language learning classes for all ages and abilities at their FinnFun School, as well as an extensive library of books in Finnish or about Finland and Scandinavia free for anybody to borrow.

The VFC welcomes anybody who wants to learn about Finnish culture, whether they have Finnish heritage, have recently moved to British Columbia from Finland or aren’t Scandinavian at all.

“You don’t have to speak Finnish to turn up to events or be involved,” says Karina Linder, president of the VFC. “You can just come and enjoy. We’re quite open and welcoming to everybody,” she adds.

A joyful space

“I really just enjoy the community that I’ve become a part of,” says Linder.

Linder first became involved with the club when she took Finnish language classes to learn to speak with her grandmother, who immigrated with Linder’s mother in the 50s.

“She was speaking English a little less and Finnish a little bit more, and I thought, ‘Well I’m going to try and learn,’” she says.

A scene from Vancouver Finlandia Club’s wife-carrying competition, a sport of Finnish origin. | Photo courtesy of Vancouver Finlandia Club.

In her classes, Linder ended up making friends, joining the sports club and found herself on VFC’s board of directors, eventually becoming president of the organization for almost three years. Though she’ll have to hand over her presidency at the annual general meeting next month, she’s loved being able to connect with her culture by organizing and participating in traditional events like the wife-carrying contest and hobby-horse race at the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival.

“My favourite thing is the wife-carrying contest that we’ve managed to bring over here,” she says. Whoever completes the obstacle course first while carrying another person on their back wins that person’s weight in beer.

Beyond wife-carrying contests, the VFC also hosts other cultural events like Laskiainen, a midwinter sliding festival organized just before the religious season of Lent to enjoy hearty food and go out in the snow. The Club also held an annual arts night to showcase local artists with a connection to Finland and an annual Finnish Your Dinner potluck every summer.

“It’s a really good way, especially for people who have moved here, to stay connected to Finland through some events and activities,” she says, adding it’s an opportunity for people to share the culture, either because they have Finnish heritage or just enjoy it.

Seeking cultural and social connection

Throughout its history, the VFC has been a place for Finnish and Finnish descendants to maintain a connection to their heritage.

“When the Vancouver Finlandia Club was established back in the 70s, there was the need for a community because people were coming and not knowing other people and there were fewer cultural activities offered,” Linder says.

A serving of pea soup at Vancouver Finlandia Club’s most recent Laskiainen midwinter festival. | A serving of pea soup at Vancouver Finlandia Club’s most recent Laskiainen midwinter festival.

“With the sprawling expansion of Vancouver, it’s not as easy to get people together …At one time you could walk down the street and find 10 other Finnish people, everyone’s now spread out across the Lower Mainland,” she adds. This means Linder and her team at the VFC are always thinking of new Finnish-inspired activities to bring people to the club.

Language classes and immersion opportunities – like their new monthly knitting club – are some of the ways they’re keeping the community together.

“I think maintaining the language is difficult for people who move away. Especially because Finnish is not something that’s really widely spoken anywhere else, having that connection to other people who speak the language is quite nice as well,” she says.

But as a cornerstone of the Nordic diasporic community, VFC values maintaining and celebrating a cultural connection to Finland.

“I think it’s still a worthy endeavour [and] people enjoy the little community that we have,” says Linder.

For more information about the VFC, visit