Helsinki, Finland Report of what it's like to live there - 01/23/11

Personal Experiences from Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland 01/23/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Third

View All Answers


2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

A trip to DC is usually 16 hours (no direct flights) 1200-1600USD a ticket. No R&R here. A new American Airlines flight to Chicago is supposed to open this year.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

18 months

View All Answers


4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Great downtown apartments, large houses for families about 1/2 hour away.

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

In Helsinki i costs at least double what it does in the States to buy anything. I order a lot online and buy from the country store at the embassy.

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I would fill my shipment with food and supplies just to save money - although storage space is limited.

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Helsinki has a lot of great restaurants (50-100 Euro pp) and a lot of fast food (30 Euro/family of 3). Going out at lunch (10-15 Euro) seems to be a bigger deal than dinner. Espresso costs 3-4 Euro a cup.

View All Answers


5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

All of the organic, vegetarian... food is here, at a very steep price.

View All Answers


6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The local mail system is really good. I use embassy DPO (7 day) and pouch (1-2 weeks).

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Most people do not hire domestic help. A housekeeper is around 15 Euro an hour, and a babysitter is around 10-14 Euro an hour.

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

They have several gyms that are good and clean. The average price is 75-100 Euro a month. They also have a lot of swimming halls.

View All Answers


4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

You can use your credit card anywhere.

View All Answers


5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, I am sure you can find religious services in English. Protestants, Catholics, LDS, they are all here.

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Once a week the Helsinki Times publishes an English paper for 3 Euro. A lot of Finnish TV is from the US/GB, and all in English.

View All Answers


7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You don't need any Finnish; almost everyone speaks English. A lot of Finnish TV is from the US/GB and all is in English.

View All Answers


8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

The biggest difficulty would be getting through the snow. They clear the snow, but it would be very difficult to get in and out of most places in the winter.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, all local transportation is safe, but very expensive. 3 Euro for single train ride. A taxi ride from the downtown to airport is 35 Euro. It costs 100 Euro a month for a public transportation pass.

View All Answers


2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

A person should bring a newer car and should have the Finnish spec requirements done in the States. To get your car drivable in Finland it will cost you about 700 Euro for side blinkers and a back-up light. Auto inspection is 120 Euros every year, Insurance 500+, Gas 7.50 usd a gallon (although we get it duty free). Bring snow tires or all-weather tires (which are required). You can get everything here, though.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Great internet service, although customer service is not a priority. We pay about 40 Euro a month. The sign-up fee was 300 Euro. Internet is a right in Finland.

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Nokia. 60 Euro a month.

View All Answers


Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

People LOVE their animals here. They have the same amount of park space for dogs as they do for kids.

View All Answers


Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not really. Unless you have an "in", I think it is really tough for an average person who does not speak Finnish to get a job on the local economy. It is also difficult for an EFM to get a job at the embassy.

View All Answers


2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Smart business causal, European causal.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None... no roving patrol, no bars on the windows, no alarms.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Biggest health concern is not having proper winter clothes. Medical care is really good, but it comes at a price: average visit is 150 Euro.

View All Answers


3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Air quality is excellent.

View All Answers


4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

May-Sept is nice weather: 60-80's. Oct-April is cold and dark.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Apply early if you want to get into ISH, where most students go. Don't expect anyone to do the leg work for you.

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

ISH is excellent, if you are able to get in.

View All Answers


3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Local daycare is government subsidized and very good...although it is in Finnish. Private daycare in English is available for 25 Euro for 4 hours a day.

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Tons of sport programs for kids, if you don't mind learning Finnish.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The Expat community is large. Lots of Nokia employees.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

50/50 some people love it, some people love to complain.

View All Answers


3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Concerts, dinners at friends' houses, coffee shops...Lots of museums, music events, etc.

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yeah... I think it is good for everyone if you can handle the dark winters, finding your own things to do, and not rely on anyone. Making friends here has been difficult. People stick to their own agenda (both Finns and expats).

View All Answers


5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Finnish people are somewhat conservative, but no one will say or look at a gay or lesbian couple. People keep to themselves. A respected Finnish political leader is openly gay.

View All Answers


6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Nope.

View All Answers


7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The people. Finns are great. Traveling around Finland, seeing a moose.

View All Answers


8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Great things to do are markets, going on cruises, winter sports, and cross-country skiing.

View All Answers


9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Nothing really. A reindeer pelt, a winter hat...

View All Answers


10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The best thing about Finland is the outdoor sports. People are outside no matter what the weather is.

View All Answers


11. Can you save money?

No. Just living here will take all your money.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No, but it is a safe place to live.

View All Answers


2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Summer wear, flip flops, dry cleaning.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Winter wear. Find the warmest coat, ski pants and boots and spend the money. Kids usually wear snowsuits, 70-150 Euro per suit. Bring a sun lamp for the dark winter days.

View All Answers


4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Lonely Planet's book on Finland; Culture Shock

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

This is a great place to visit, but living here can be expensive. Someone once described living in Finland as like living in Canada: at times you forget you're living in a foreign country. The Finns are great when you get to know them; however, that can take some time and effort.

View All Answers


Subscribe to our newsletter


New book from Talesmag! Honest and courageous stories of life abroad with special needs.

Read More