The interest to Russian studies has increased in the past decades. Nowadays Russian is not any more to be perceived as the language of a probable adversary or a generous ally. People in Finland are driven by the pragmatism: it is needed if you want to do business in Russia or take tourists from Russia.
The largest foreign group of clients in the sphere of tourism in border areas is still represented by tourists from Russia. The expenditure of Russian tourists in Finland decreased significantly in past years. Russians have stopped thoughtlessly to spend money on the purchase of housing and services. The cost of oil and the ruble exchange rate are reflected in the amounts that tourists are ready to leave in the country. To keep the level of sales at the reasonable rate requires from Finnish regions and companies working in the field of tourism services to fulfill properly the requirements of Russian customers.
Knowledge of Russian is very much appreciated in the service sector. The menu of Finnish restaurants and programs of exhibitions of art museums say that their compilers and organizers take into account the interests of travelers coming from Russia. It is important to market tourist services, as well as the availability of Russian-language services and materials in tourist companies.
Russian citizens from the border regions still prefer cross-border Finland as a place for short period holiday and shopping. Here they find activities for children as well as for adults. Moreover, it is not always the resorts of the Leningrad Region and Karelia that can withstand competition in the price and quality of service with their foreign counterparts. Not only entertainment attracts a Russian tourist to Finland. For wealthy Russians, this region has become attractive for investing in real estate for many years.
Also the Finnish citizens find Russia attractive for shopping, getting services and doing business there. It is true that knowing of the language is a very useful skill for a border city or area in general. Languages studies of its neighbor are highly promoted in the cross-border areas. Educational institutions, such as schools, universities and vocational educational centers, offer the neighbor language studies. Still for many people the language barrier is a big obstacle. The fear of being misunderstood is often the reason for Finns to limit their stay in Russia visiting only hypermarkets, places with self-service or cafes where personnel speak Finnish. If there was an employee in the cafe or shop who was ready to provide help in Finnish, Finns would come much more actively.
From both parts Russia and Finland are perceived not only as the neighbor countries; they are also economic partners. Finland’s interest in Russia and the Russian language is determined by the strength of economic ties. Knowledge of the Russian language helps Finns find decent jobs in Finnish firms operating in the Russian market. Russia is increasingly perceived by the Finns as a business partner, one of the major investors in the Finnish economy. Finnish companies see a great potential and a lot of niches in the Russian market to explore them.
Language Centre of Saimaa UAS
Galina Parikhina (Mrs.)
Head of Department of International Projects and Programmes
Petrozavodsk State University