This is the fifth article of a series introducing the Honorary Consuls of Finland in the United Kingdom. We had the privilege of talking to Ms Christina Tolvas-Vincent, who was appointed as Honorary Consul of Finland for Southampton in 2011. Her area covers Dorset, Hampshire and West Sussex.
Ms Tolvas-Vincent has a degree in law and is currently a partner at a law firm. Outside of work, her interests are good food, travelling and music. Ms Tolvas-Vincent has played classical music from an early age and has performed extensively, including as the soloist of an amateur orchestra and giving solo recitals.
1. How did you end up as an Honorary Consul for Finland?
I had a number of contacts at the Embassy who realised I was based in Southampton, which had been without an Honorary Consul for some time. An interview with the then ambassador Pekka Huhtaniemi followed, and here we are.
2. What do you enjoy most in your role as an Honorary Consul?
As an expatriate Finn I have always enjoyed talking about Finland and now I have a legitimate excuse for doing so! It’s a combination of meeting fellow Finns, or people interested in Finland, and the opportunity to advertise my home country.
3. What is Finland known for in your area?
Its education system and culture.
4. What do you wish people in your area knew more about Finland?
It really isn't always cold and dark in Finland!
5. What does your area have to offer for Finns or Finnish companies?
This region boasts a large number of universities and other educational establishments, many of which have welcomed Finnish students and academics for many years. It also has a substantial business scene, particularly in sectors such as aerospace/defence/engineering, marine and maritime, digital, and business and financial services, not forgetting a vibrant cultural scene. The South Coast is also very popular for yachting/boating, which would appeal to many Finns visiting the area.
6. What is your favourite Finnish word or expression? Why?
"Alavilla mailla hallan vaara" (which means there's a danger of frost on low lying lands) – Finnish is often described as a harsh or even ugly language, and I tend to use that phrase to show it can sound anything but harsh! As you would only ever hear it on the weather forecast, it reminds me of the shipping forecast on Radio 4 – another almost hypnotic experience!
Finland has about 400 honorary consulates around the world, 20 of which in the United Kingdom. Honorary Consuls promote economic, political, academic and cultural relations between Finland and the UK, and monitor the rights of Finnish citizens in their sphere of operation. They can for example guide and assist in contacts with the local authorities or the embassy. However, their possibilities to provide assistance are limited, nor for instance can they grant a passport.
Contact details of the Honorary Consulate of Finland, Southampton
Introducing Chris Rostron, Honorary Consul of Finland in Manchester
Introducing Jill Sanders, Honorary Consul of Finland in Plymouth
Introducing Geoffrey Berriman, Honorary Consul of Finland in Newcastle upon Tyne
Introducing John Gibson, Honorary Consul of Finland in Liverpool