Often ranked the world's happiest country, Finland is famous for saunas, the northern lights and for being the home of Santa Claus. While Finland may seem perfect to some, others may experience some downsides while living here. Expats thinking of moving to the Nordic country should prepare for both the ups and the potential downs.
Below are some of our key pros and cons of moving to Finland.
Healthcare in Finland
+ PRO: Universal healthcare
Finland is world-renowned for having one of the most progressive social systems. This extends to its healthcare, which is both accessible and low-cost. Expats don’t need to worry about paying exorbitant amounts for a quick check-up or emergency care as they would in some other countries.
Education in Finland
+ PRO: Excellent quality public education
Not only is the standard of public schooling in Finland high, but it is also free. The system may be unfamiliar at first, with children receiving little homework and having longer recess periods than expats may be used to but, ultimately, learning is highly valued. Teachers are paid well and respected, delivering fantastic learning opportunities, which are not limited to children. Adults can take free university courses in Finnish or Swedish at public higher education institutions, making it a great location for studying abroad.
- CON: Language barriers
Expats with children moving for only a short while may find schooling difficult to access due to the language barriers. Education is mainly in Finnish and Swedish, both of which can be difficult to learn as an additional language. That said, support systems and preparatory classes exist, aiming to integrate all students with diverse backgrounds, skills and abilities.
Accommodation in Finland
+ PRO: Most areas are accessible by public transport
If the city centre proves too expensive or families are more drawn to suburban life, transport and commuting needn't be a concern. Buses, trains and the metro in Helsinki are easily accessed by surrounding areas.
- CON: Waiting lists for municipal-owned housing are long
Expats who struggle to afford the cost of living in Finland and are on the lookout for cheaper accommodation can apply for municipal-owned housing. It's a great opportunity, as this type of accommodation is cheaper than renting privately. Unfortunately, waiting lists are long as applicants are prioritised based on various need factors. Expats may need to opt for the pricier route of renting privately.
Lifestyle and culture in Finland
+ PRO: Sauna culture
Many people visit saunas regularly as part of their lifestyle – indeed, 'sauna' is a Finnish word. It is an interesting atmosphere and is something that many new arrivals and tourists try out. While the weather may not be to one’s liking, a sauna experience may make up for it.
+ PRO: Finland is a safe country
When moving abroad, expats often worry about their safety, if they should cling to their bags when using public transport, not carry valuable items with them or not walk alone at night. In Finland, new arrivals should not worry too much about these issues as it is a safe environment, including for families and children.
- CON: People may seem unfriendly at first
Some expats experience culture shock as people may appear curt. But by showing an interest in the culture and learning the language, expats are likely to make local friends.
Cost of living in Finland
+ PRO: Greater purchasing power
The high cost of living in Finland is undeniable and can take expats from less developed parts of the world a while to get used to, but with better job prospects and decent salaries, expats will have greater purchasing power and more disposable income to afford all their wants and needs.
- CON: High taxes
One of the reasons for the high cost of living is the high rate of taxes. A sizeable portion of salaries goes to tax, and this can be a shock to new employees. This is the cost of universal access to healthcare and education as well as efficient public transport and other amenities, and most expats agree it’s worth it.
Working in Finland
+ PRO: Egalitarian work culture
Like other aspects of the culture, the workplace is egalitarian. There is no strict hierarchy implemented, and employees of various job titles can mix freely with others while offices are often open-plan and level.
- CON: Difficult to enter the job market
Being such a developed country, finding work in Finland can prove difficult. Many new arrivals already have a job in place, which can be beneficial. Otherwise, jobseekers must put themselves out there, network and connect with people, as well as try to learn some Finnish if their sector requires it. Luckily, expats can access support services from the Finnish government to help them find a job.
Getting around in Finland
+ PRO: Helsinki is walkable
An upside of moving to Finland’s capital city is how easy it is to walk around. It is a pedestrianised city, encouraging a cleaner unpolluted environment, and its level landscape makes walking doable. Park-and-Ride facilities are also available, encouraging drivers to park their cars before entering the city centre to continue their commute either on foot or on public transport.
- CON: Air travel is expensive
Some areas of Finland are relatively remote, making air travel expensive. Expats who make regular trips abroad and to their home country must factor this in.
Weather in Finland
+ PRO: Northern lights are visible in Finland
One of the greatest phenomena in the world is the aurora borealis, and Lapland in northern Finland offers a fantastic opportunity to witness this wonder. It is visible over half the year in Lapland but can also be marvelled at on several days in other regions of the country.
- CON: Cold and dark winters
While Finland is said to be one of the happiest countries in the world based on several measures, there are high rates of depression, likely connected to the climate. The country can get bitterly cold and daylight hours in winter are short, leaving residents in the cold and dark.
The climate is not something to be ignored when planning a move as it could make or break an expat’s stay. Central heating systems, drinking coffee and visiting a sauna are some ways in which locals deal with the weather in Finland.
What do expats say about living in Finland?
"Finns are not the type to make small talk and they keep to their personal space, but they love saunas – and being naked in the sauna, which I didn’t understand in the beginning. But I would say the biggest adjustment is the language. I needed to learn the language quickly to be able to communicate better." Mercy is a Filipino expat who's lived in Finland for many years. Read her interview with Expat Arrivals for more advice about expat life in this Nordic country.
►Read more in Moving to Finland
►Check out our essential guide of Moving to Helsinki
Photo credits: Sunloungers beside a sauna room by Filipp Romanovski; Aurora Borealis by Tobias Bjørkli. Both sourced from Pexels.
Are you an expat living in Finland?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Finland. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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