Moving to Finland
Finland is the easternmost of the Nordic countries and the seventh largest country in Europe. The country has a population of 5.4 million. Helsinki is Finland's capital and is folowed in population size by the towns of Espoo and Tampere.
As Finland’s busiest port, Helsinki spills across a group of Baltic islands and promontories, and its smart new suburbs extend into the surrounding forests and countryside. The city is one of Europe’s most modern and culturally progressive places, yet remains in touch with an intriguing history that stretches back over 450 years. It's a city of bustling, colourful market squares and halls, of outdoor summer concerts and sports events, of seaside parks, excellent cafés and restaurants for every taste and budget, top-notch hotels and cutting-edge museums. It is also a pleasantly compact city, with many of the attractions in the central districts within easy reach of one another.
It may take expats living in Finland a while to adapt to cultural differences. The general perception is that Finns are a reserved and quiet people, although this isn't always the case with the younger generations. Small talk, a skill which Finns are notoriously lacking, is considered with suspicion. These social silences are often a big problem for intercultural communications as it can lead to many misunderstandings. Expats would do well to learn Finnish, the official language, or Swedish, the other national language spoken by a minority of the population, depending on which area of the country they're relocating to. However, as with other Scandinavian countries, the Finns are suspicious of Swedish and can often be fiercely proud of their language.
Home ownership rates in Finland are high, and expats moving to Finland will find that housing has all the modern conveniences. However, housing projects and individual homes tend to be small-scale by international standards. Housing markets are clearly differentiated in different parts of the country. Helsinki and other growth centres are suffering from housing shortages and high prices, while, in most municipalities, the housing market is more balanced. Apart from the trends in the housing market, the most important long-term factor affecting housing costs is the shortage of reasonably priced housing available in the Helsinki metropolitan area. This forces families with children who want to live in their own houses to live in the surrounding municipalities or even further. This results in long and expensive journeys to work, increasing dependence on cars and limiting access to services.
Healthcare in Finland is mainly provided on the basis of residence and is primarily financed with general tax revenues. There are both public and private sector providers. Primary health services are generally the responsibility of municipalities and are provided through local health centres. Each municipality has a health centre, with the exception of some small municipalities, which may share resources with a neighbouring municipality. In addition, there are a few private as well as some state-owned hospitals.
Education is mandatory in Finland and school attendance is compulsory for all children, including foreign citizens who reside permanently in Finland. Most major cities in Finland have good quality local and international schools, but are likely to have a waiting list. For these reasons it is vital to start looking for a school as early as possible.