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Florida's Finnish community

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The southern Florida area of Lake Worth, Lantana and their surrounding towns is home to the world's second-largest Finnish expatriate community. In the year 2000, there were 25,700 people of Finnish descent in southern Florida. In addition there were about 5,000 winter residents or "snowbirds" from Finland, Canada and other parts of the US.

The Finnish area of Florida stretches from slightly north of Lake Worth down to Miami. The biggest Finnish populations are in Palm Beach County, Boynton Beach and Boca Raton, where there are some 15-20,000 Finns. It is estimated that nearly 1,000 people move to Florida each week, with about 300 of them settling in the Palm Beach County area.

Finnish is the fourth most widely-spoken minority language in the Lake Worth-Lantana area after Spanish, Creole and Russian. Recently Brazilians have been moving into the region. The younger Finns go there because of the luxury liners, many of which were built in Finland. There are also small Finnish companies moving there that do jobs such renovating the cabins of those ships.

In Florida's Finnish community it is possible to get just about any service one needs in Finnish. There are Finnish companies in virtually every sector, from hair salons to funeral homes. At the moment there are only three Finnish motel owners in Lake Worth, where there were once about 30. And the town's Finnish Chamber of Commerce is no longer in operation. There are two Finnish gathering places that offer dances, concerts and other activities. There are three churches - one Evangelical Lutheran, one Pentecostal and one Laestadian. There are two Finnish newspapers and a Finnish nursing home.

Finnish retirees were particularly active in moving across the Atlantic during the 1990s. The Lake Worth-Lantana area is ideal for retirees, as the climate is favorable, there are plenty of activities and the area is safe. Real estate prices have risen in recent years, but are still lower than in the other main Finnish retirement community in Spain.

Finnish retirees say they save money living in Florida even though food is just as expensive as in Finland. Health insurance is expensive in the US but otherwise life is cheaper than in Finland. Living in Florida can add a couple of decades to ones life.

Suomen Silta 3-2004, by Leena Isbom

June Pelo


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