Immigrants and green space

Immigrants’ use and non-use of green space in Helsinki and Vantaa: preliminary results
by Niko Lipsanen

Ruoholahti, Helsinki

Immigrants from different backgrounds use urban green space in different manners. Russian immigrants, or at least some of them, are heavy users of parks and other open space.

Immigrants from Africa and Middle East, on the other hand, generally do not use parks for leisure. When they do, they prefer centrally located open squares, in some cases also parks, where they can meet their peers living in other parts of the Helsinki Capital Region. They are thus dependent on the open spaces at good locations as they usually don’t have their own cars and are often not very interested in the local green space in the neighbourhoods where they live.

In Vantaa, some non-European immigrants find it difficult to travel to meet their friends as to travel to Helsinki (where most of the popular meeting spots are) they have to pay higher regional tariff in public transportation.

Immigrants from East and Southeast Asia are most keen to use green spaces to something useful such as fishing, gardening at allotment gardens, or just working with a laptop in the park. Fishing and gardening are popular also among the Russian speaking immigrants.

Having a dog is one of the main reasons to go to a park for both immigrants and native Finns. Part of the differences in green space use are thus explained by the dog ownership: Russians often have dogs while it is rather rare among the non-European immigrants. Moreover, some immigrants in suburban neighbourhoods (such as Hakunila, Vantaa) can even avoid going to parks if they are afraid that there are unattached dogs running there.

Having a Finnish spouse increases the use of parks among non-European immigrants. Also, many immigrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East have told that their use of green space has increased as they have lived longer in Finland. Newcomers tend to use the parks less.

Gardening in Hakunila