Helsinki, Finland Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland 10/12/18

Background:

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

Prior expat experience in Russia and the Middle East.

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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?

Direct flights between Helsinki and NYC (8-9 hrs); connections via Germany, Netherlands, and U.K. with all major US cities.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

Work.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Finnish housing is smaller than U.S. housing, but of very high quality. Typical commutes in the Helsinki area can range from 10-15 minutes for apartment-dwellers in the city center, to over an hour for those in stand-alone houses in the suburbs of Espoo, Vantaa, and Kauniainen. Row houses in the Lauttasaari and Kulosaari areas offer a nice in-between option for both size and ease of commute.

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

There is an abundance of excellent grocery stores, including several large 24/7 supermarkets. Prices are higher than the U.S., but quality and selection are excellent.

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

Nothing; just about everything is available locally.

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

Helsinki is a "foodie" destination. Almost every variety of ethnic or eclectic food is available. Finnish food is a little tame by comparison, but very fresh and relatively healthy. Finland is a lunch culture, with literally hundreds of excellent, casual lunch buffets around the city. Dinner, on the other hand, is a somewhat more formal affair for Finns.

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

Mosquitoes are problematic during the summer, and screen windows are not as common in Finland as they are in the U.S.

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Daily Life:

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

Local mail is equivalent to, or better than, USPS.

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

Household help is rare and expensive. Finland is an egalitarian country and even wealthy people seem to take pride in cleaning their own homes.

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

There are plenty of gyms in Helsinki, including 24-hour gyms, women-only gyms, cross-fit gyms, etc. Prices are slightly more expensive than the U.S.

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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?

Helsinki is almost a cashless city. Credit cards are accepted in probably 99% of vendors and service providers, even food trucks and other "mobile" businesses. Consequently, ATMs are becoming more scarce.

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

English-language church services are available for Catholics and Protestants at a handful of churches, but they tend to be crowded due to an recent influx of expatriates.

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

Finnish is not needed at all, as the vast majority of Finns speak near-fluent English. Local language classes are available for the brave.

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

Helsinki is fully handicapped-accessible.

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Transportation:

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

Finnish public transportation is safe and effective. Helsinki is served by a comprehensive network of buses, trams, subway, and light rail. Taxis are expensive but of high quality.

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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 good winter car is advisable. Sports cars and convertibles are not practical, due to severe winters and the prevalence of cobblestone streets in the city center. Finns use studded tires in winter, although U.S. mud/snow-rated tires are also legal. Because Finns use winter and summer tires, tire storage can become an issue for those with no garages. Mechanics offer tire storage services for a small fee.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Internet access is easy and inexpensive. Instant access is available via pre-paid cards available at R-Kioski and other convenience stores. Well-priced internet and bundled-service contracts are available from several major telecommunications providers.

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

Pre-paid SIM cards for mobile phones are cheap and convenient. Finnish phone plans are actually less expensive than their U.S. equivalents.

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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?

Finns are pet lovers, so there are plenty of good veterinarians in Helsinki, as well as a world-class animal hospital at the University of Helsinki. Kennels are somewhat rarer, and tend to be located outside of the city, but quality levels are very high.

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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?

Local salaries are comparable to the U.S., but jobs can be scarce. Most jobs on the Finnish economy require fluency in Finnish, although there are some jobs available in multinational companies where the operating language is English. Finland also has strict requirements for work permits.

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

Finns are slightly more casual than Americans. Among business and government professionals, open-collared shirts and sport-jackets are much more common than suits. Jeans are even acceptable in many workplaces. However, Finns have a formal streak when it comes to dinners and special events, which are often black-tie, whereas in the U.S. they would only be suit-and-tie.

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Health & Safety:

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

The security situation in Helsinki is excellent, and substantially better than in the U.S. However, expatriates would do well to abide by the same common-sense security practices that they use in their home communities.

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

The Finnish winter brings a wide array of respiratory infections and influenza. Walking pneumonia seems more common here than in the U.S. However, medical services are excellent, and there is a wide array of private clinics that cater to expatriates in all areas of medicine.

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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?

In the spring there is a so called "dust season," when the snow has melted, but the gravel used to treat the roads remains (along with fine particles of asphalt churned up by studded tires), which can cause respiratory ailments. Otherwise, the air quality in Helsinki is the best in the world for a major city, according to recent studies.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Seasonal allergies in Finland can be severe, due to the shortness and intensity of the growing/blooming season. You may not know you're allergic to birch until you move to Finland.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Finns grapple with long, dark winters. Vitamin-D supplementation is recommended year-round for the entire population. UV-light lamps are also recommended for daily use in winter, to improve mood and increase vitamin-D absorption.

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

Helsinki has a long but somewhat mild winter, with frequent melting and re-freezing, and even some rain during winter. Summer, on the other hand, is sunny and pleasant, but short.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are a handful of schools offering an international or I.B. curriculum, foremost among them the International School of Helsinki (ISH). Expatriate parents seem to be relatively content with ISH.

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

Helsinki offers a full range of special services, but capacity is limited. There are private clinics that serve almost all special and psychological needs, although it may not be possible to receive treatment at the desired times or intervals.

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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?

Helsinki has several private preschools that serve children up to the official school age of 7. Some preschools take children as early as age 2, but most only accept children beginning at age 3. Helsinki city day-cares (päiväkodit) take children from age 1, but parents must qualify, usually by proving that both parents work full-time, and pay the necessary taxes.

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

Helsinki youth sports operate on the club system, which can be difficult for expatriates to navigate. Hockey and soccer are the most popular club sports, although sports as esoteric as lacrosse are available. American football and a Finnish version of baseball are also available. However, sports offerings through schools are more limited, and may not meet the needs of very active families.

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Expat Life:

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

The expatriates number in the tens of thousands, and form a vibrant and diverse community. However, at the same time, since Finland is such an easy place to live, there are not really any closely-knit sub-groups. For most Westerners, life in Helsinki is scarcely different from life back home, with no pressing need to seek out one's own countrymen for support.

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

There are some active groups, such as the Finnish-American Association, or Suomi-Amerikka Yhdistys (SAM), and those inclined to rally around their home flags should be able to find at least a few like-minded people for socialization.

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

Helsinki is a great city for singles, couples, and families. Each demographic will be able to find plenty of people and activities to meet their needs and interests.

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

Helsinki is a very egalitarian city with a high level of acceptance for the LGBT community. Pride Day is one of the biggest events in the city every year.

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

Helsinki seems to suffer from some anti-immigrant sentiment, especially after the migrant crisis of 2015, and Finland's first terror attack (by a Moroccan asylum-seeker) in 2017. It also feels as there is a low-level but pervasive anti-Russian sentiment. Regarding gender equality, Finland has one of the highest rates of gender equality (as measured by presence in executive positions, salary, etc.) in the world.

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

Finland is a terrible place to visit and a great place to live. It's not an extravagant city that makes for great stories or photographs, but it's an extremely well-engineered city that makes daily life easy.

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

Finns are too internet-savvy for any "hidden gems" to survive, but one fun thing is to partake in the traditional Finnish sauna. A popular seaside sauna, Löyly, is a must try!

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

Finnish handicrafts and design are world-renowned, with Iittala, Arabia, Pentik, Aarikka, and others represented on Finland's main shopping street.

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

Clean air, clean water, district heating (instantaneous, unlimited heat and hot water for all residences), comprehensive public transport, and a decent arts and culture scene.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Nothing.

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

Absolutely.

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

Non-waterproof winter clothing. You need outerwear with a rating of at least 8,000 mm. waterproof.

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4. But don't forget your:

Nothing, as everything you need is here.

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

"Drifting Clouds," a film by Aki Kaurismäki.

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Helsinki, Finland 07/19/12

Background:

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

No. Munich, Vienna, Manila, Kuala Lumpur.

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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?

Washington D.C.- Schipol Airport, Amsterdam 9 hours. Connecting flight to Helsinki is 4 hours

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3. How long have you lived here?

2006-2007

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

Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Very dependable transportation. On the outskirts of Helsinki, a commute typically takes 25-30 min. Traffic is practically non-existant. In the city, a car is not needed, and public transportaion is stress-free and will get you anyplace you need to go.

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

Groceries are about the same cost as they are in the U.S. Maybe a little more. I thought the quality of the groceries was much better. Fish and deli meats are definitely better quality.

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

Skis and hockey equipment.

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

McDonald's, Burger Kings, and Subways are everywhere. Pizza is very popular as well as Chinese food, Kabob, and Japanese food. Expensive. The average combo meal at an American-brand fast food chain is 8-9 Euro. The other restaurants are about the same per meal, but you get more for your money.

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

None

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Daily Life:

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

DHL is very efficient here.

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

Available, but extremely expensive.

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

Yes. Very plentiful, but most Finns prefer exercising outdoors. There are also many pools and swimclubs. Saunas are in every home and apartment. Saunas are a big part in Finnish lives.

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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?

Very safe. I had no problems of places denying credit card use. I used my credit card everywhere and never fell victim to a scam. I used it at bars, pubs, clubs, hotels, restaurants, and fast food chains. I never experienced any problems.

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

Yes. Any Christian denomination is plentiful. There are also many mosques for believers in Islam. There are also some scattered synagogues for Hebrews.

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

TV is mostly Finnish with some Russian, German, and Swedish channels. BBC is available for English speakers.

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

Everyone speaks English and there alot of English signs. The Finnish language is extremely difficult to learn.

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

None.

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Transportation:

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

Yes. Very safe and affordable. However, a 20 minute taxi ride will cost you 50 Euro.

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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?

Any car is fine. No special vehicles needed. Even though there is lots of snow and ice in the winter, the Finns really know how to clear the roads well for driving. Gas is expensive! Don't bring a gas-guzzler because you will PAY at the pump.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Average cost for excellent internet services

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

The land of Nokia. It speaks for itself.

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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?

No.

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

Yes.

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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 they came over by being sponsored by a Finnish or American company.

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

Business or business casual. The weather is pleasant. So it is never uncomfortable to wear formal or business attire.

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Health & Safety:

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

None. Very Safe. Safest country I have ever been in.

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

None. Excellent medical care.

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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?

Very clean. The cleanest environment I have ever been in. The tap water is like drinking bottled water.

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

Summers have 20hours of daylight each day. Winters have 20 hours of darkness. Winters are freezing with lots of snow, ice, and freezing winds -10 to 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Spring/Summer are pleasant, with a warm climate and hardly any humidity and a comfortable high of 75-89 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Schools & Children:

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

ISH (International School Helsinki) is great. Especially their Winter Games.

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

Accommodating.

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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?

Expensive.

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

Ice Hockey is prevalent and very competitive. Gymnastics/ballet for females is plentiful.

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Expat Life:

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

Very small expat community and many congregate at the U.S. embassy and many of the bars/clubs in Helsinki.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good. They are there because they want to be there.

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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?

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

Yes, it is great for singles/couples/families. Singles will love the nightlife of plentiful pubs, bars, and clubs. Couples will enjoy the same night life as well as the traveling. Families will love the endless recreational activities, travel, and entertainment in Helsinki, and the surrounding Baltic/European countries. Overall, you will spend the same amount of money paying for drinks/nightlife as you will traveling in Finland or in surrounding Europe. It is a win-win.

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

Yes. This is a very open and liberal city/country. Everyone is friendly. The older generation of Finns can be conservative, but also very liberal.

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

Overall, No. However, there are some isolated cases of general stereotyping and racism toward blacked-skinned nationalities and Gypsies. There is a very large ethnic Somali and misc. African community in Helsinki. Finns sometimes are biased about these dark-skinned nationalities. In addition, there is a large ethnic Gypsy population in Finland. Gypsies are frowned because of their reputation for being swindlers, con artists, and thieves. Although not every story is true, many Gypsies are glared upon at a distance with great disdain. Gypsies women are very noticeable by the traditional ethnic clothing which they wear in public. (Large traditional "bustle dresses." Almost look like "Ye Olde English Tavern Maids.") Men are harder to notice, but tend to wear an exaggerated amount of overt jewelry and have Eurasian/Mediterranean facial features. Don't be surprised if you are standing next to Finn when they see a Gypsy, and they tell you "to watch your wallet."

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

Great Winter and Summer sports (skiing and cycling). Moose hunting was a new experience for me. Very fun. The meat is plentiful and delicious. Very pedestrian and bicycle friendly. Going to Lapland for camping, snowmobiling, and dog-sledding north of the Arctic Circle. Spending the night in a hotel made completely of ice. Taking the cruise from Helsinki to Stockholm was very entertaining.

Liking snow is a must! Learning to cross-country ski was an addicting recreational hobby. It is great exercise. Every Finn from ages 6-70 participates in this activity. Every home or apartment has a sauna. The Finns invented the sauna. It is a great recreational and social activity. Many Finns host Sauna parties. Sauna for 10 minutes,followed by rolling outside in the snow, is a repeating process that goes on for hours. It sounds crazy, but it feels great and it has many health benefits.

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

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

Lapland and Finnish skins, furs, bone carvings

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

Great Medical care. Very Safe. The most pedestrian and bicycle friendly country I have ever been to. Locals are very active in sports/fitness all year round. It's central location in the Baltic Sea makes it convenient, cheap, and quick to travel to any country in the Baltic, Central Europe, and Eastern European countries. Neighboring countries can be reached by rail, ship, or air, quickly, conveniently, and cheaply. The cleanest country I have ever been to. Tap water tastes like bottled water. The public transportation system of trolleys, buses, and trains is very efficient and convenient. Unfortunately, it is very expensive. A 20-minute taxi ride will cost you approximately 50 Euro.

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11. Can you save money?

If you want to party and travel then, no. It's very expensive. Just and pick and choose what you want to do here.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No. One year is enough. There is only so much you can do and spend. It was fun, but you will run out of things to do. Also, I did not enjoy the insomnia due to the changes in daylight from Winter to Summer.

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

obsessive bottled-water drinking habits.

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3. But don't forget your:

cold weather clothes and equipment for sports/fitness.

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

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This truly is a safe, clean, and a fun country. People keep to themselves or will open up to you in the friendliest way. It's one extreme or the other in Finland, from weather to socializing.

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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

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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.

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3. How long have you lived here?

18 months

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

Government

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

None.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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

Smart business causal, European causal.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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2. Morale among expats:

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

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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.

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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).

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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.

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

Nope.

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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.

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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.

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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...

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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.

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11. Can you save money?

No. Just living here will take all your money.

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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.

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

Summer wear, flip flops, dry cleaning.

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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.

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4. 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

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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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.

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Helsinki, Finland 05/09/10

Background:

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

No. Kampala, Uganda. Santiago, Chile. Antananarivo, Madagascar. And Mexico City.

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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?

Washington, DC. About 12 hours with one stop in Europe.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Almost 3 years.

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

With the US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Nice apartments downtown and single-family homes 10-20 minutes out. Commute times aren't too bad compared to other places, but traffic does occur.

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

You can get almost everything here. Even tortillas and tofu at the corner market. But like I said before, everything costs more -- although they did just lower the food tax from 17% & 22% to 12%.

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

Most of the rice here is parboiled, so I order rice from the US. But other that that, ship anything you feel partial towards and don't want to spend a lot of money on.

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

McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Subway are the American chains here, and their Finnish equivalents would be Hesburger, Carrols and Scan Burger. There are several decent restaurants, although almost everything here is expensive. A burger meal at McDs is $9-10.

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

Virtually none down south, but the north is known for having very large mosquitoes in the summertime.

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Daily Life:

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

Through the embassy.

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

Very few people have hired help. The ones I know of charge about 20 euros an hour.

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

There are quite a few to choose from.

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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?

ATMs are readily available, and I have had no problems.

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

Anglican, Catholic, Evangelical and Lutheran are available in English.

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

The Helsinki Times is a weekly English-language newspaper, and there is a lot of programming in English. Cable TV runs from 16 euros on up, depending on what programming you want.

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

Not too much. Words to go shopping are helpful, as sometimes you can't always figure out what's in the package. Also basic numbers, months and days, and greetings.

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

In my 3 years here I have never seen a wheelchair on a tram, bus or train. A wheelchair with small wheels in front will constantly get stuck in the rain gutters that run across sidewalks, and you will have to go backwards to get over them. Plus there are a lot of cobblestones downtown and not many sidewalks in the suburban areas.

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Transportation:

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

Public transportation is excellent, safe and fairly affordable. We have managed to get around fine without owning a car. Taxis are a bit pricey

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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?

I would go with a smaller car, as the streets are narrow and the parking garages can be quite difficult to get into if you have a big American car or truck.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Excellent high-speed internet. Cost is from 30-60 euros a month depending on speed. I have 40MB for 36 euros.

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

I have not heard of anyone having a problem, whether they brought their American phone with them or bought one here. Although if you bring one here, it needs to be unlocked.

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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?

No.

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

Excellent pet care. Not a lot of kennels, though.

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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?

Jobs can be found, but it is very difficult unless you know Finnish.

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

Business dress at work and casual otherwise.

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Health & Safety:

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

Almost none. Some purse and phone snatchings if you are in the wrong place and not paying attention. Sometimes the drunks on the trams can be a bit aggressive.

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

No health concerns and excellent health care.

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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?

Excellent.

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

Long dark winter days and long sunny summer days with very short bursts of autumn and spring.

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Schools & Children:

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

I do not have children at post at this time, but I have heard mostly good things about the International School of Helsinki.

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

One of the reasons I do not have a child in school here is that I did not think the school here would have proper help for the special-needs of my high-school-aged child. I hear they have minimal help for very minor needs.

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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?

There are English-speaking preschools available.

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

There are some, but those in English are limited. There are of course several options in Finnish, and I know children who have gone that route and have had a great experience.

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Expat Life:

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

Not sure, but I would guess several thousand.

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2. Morale among expats:

Very high except during the winter months, but that's when there are the most people here.

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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?

There is some entertaining, but most people do their own thing.

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

Great for both. Although families sometime find it difficult due to the cost of living.

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

It's not too bad as long as they don't flaunt it and keep a low profile. In Helsinki it's much more accepted than outside the city. They have a gay pride parade in June every year now.

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

Not much with religion or gender prejudices. But there are definitely some racial tensions with African and recent Roma immigrants. There are also still issues with the Romas that have lived here for generations. I have also seen clubs not allow anyone with darker skin in. They will just make up reasons that they can't come in. But this is not common. I have also personally seen someone asked if they were an illegal immigrant. There are definitely underlying tensions here.

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

Friendly people, although you might have to make the first move. Beautiful seaside scenery. Reindeer and Santa Claus

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

There are many, many museums here, fantastic architecture -- both old and new, islands and fortresses to visit, opera, ballet, music.

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

Marimekko fashions and wooden mugs.

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

Clean and safe. Most people speak English. Long summer days. Easy access to other countries.

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11. Can you save money?

Not very easily. Maybe if you never go out for dinner or to the movies.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely!

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

mosquito repellent.

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3. But don't forget your:

long johns and snow boots.

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

Helsinki Bradt Guide.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

"Tuntematon Soltilas" -- about the Finnish Winter War.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This is not the most exciting place for tourists, but it is a wonderful place to live. Once you make a Finnish friend, they are a friend for life.

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Helsinki, Finland 04/04/09

Background:

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

First experience.

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2. How long have you lived here?

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Apartments are in the downtown area with houses further out. Public transportation is great.

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

Groceries and household supplies are more expensive here than most cities. However, you can buy everything here including most American products.

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

I would only ship things to save money, but you can get everything here.

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

Yes to both. Helsinki is a fairly expensive city, but you can find reasonably priced restaurants that are good if you look off of the beaten path.

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

No.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO.

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

Expensive.

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

Yes. Finns are really interested in sports and exercise especially anything outdoors.

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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?

Finland is all about using bank cards so there are no problems with finding ATMs. Checks are consider obsolete here.

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

Yes. Most are here.

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

Both are available. A good deal of television is in English. Cable is very reasonable. Cable, depending on the package, can run about 30 Euros.

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

In Helsinki, most people speak English very well. Finnish is a difficult language to learn. I have found people in Helsinki very willing to help me when I attempt to speak Finnish or will just speak English.

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

Quite possibly yes. The streets are primarily cobblestone, but the curbs do have ramps. The trams are not accessible. I'm not sure about the buses.

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Transportation:

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

Yes and yes. Trains, buses and taxis are safe and clean. Taxis are great here, but you can't wave one down. You have to call for a taxi.

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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?

You don't really need a car in Helsinki, but if you bring one, don't bring a large car. A smaller SUV or a sedan or station wagon will work. Just double check to make sure you can get parts here. Your car will need to be inspected first so you may not want to bring an older model car here. It may cost too much to bring up to Finnish code.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes. The cost is about 30 Euros.

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

This is the land of Nokia. You can buy a phone here and get either contract service or pay as you go.

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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?

No.

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

Excellent. This is a pet friendly country. In Helsinki, you can take your dog anywhere where food isn't served. It is a sight to see dogs in the shops.

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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?

I think it's easier to get a job if you are a permanent resident or a member of a European Union country.

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

At work, business to business casual. In public, anything goes.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Good.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

Just the usual.

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

No.

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

No health concerns. Medical care is very good.

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

There are four seasons. Summer has long hours of daylight while winter has long hours of darkness.

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Schools & Children:

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

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

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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?

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

Yes.

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Expat Life:

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

It's a fairly decent size.

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2. Morale among expats:

Very good.

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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?

There is a lot to do here. However, most shops and restaurants are closed on Sundays during non-summer months.

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

This city is great for all.

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

I would expect that it is.

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

Overall, there don't seem to be any problems. However, there seem to be underlying racial tensions with immigrants.

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

Visiting museum, attending concerts, walking, winter and summer sports, etc. There is a great deal to do here.

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

Finnish handy crafts.

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9. Can you save money?

It depends on how you budget your money.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

In a heart beat.

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

Your shorts and bikini.

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3. But don't forget your:

Your winter coat and boots.

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

I have found Finland to be a great place. However, you do have be able to deal with the long hours of sunlight in the summer and the long hours of darkness in the winter.

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Helsinki, Finland 03/26/08

Background:

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

No. I have also lived in Manila, Philippines for 2 years.

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2. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

7 hours direct flight from New York. About 4 hours from London.

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

I am a U.S. Foreign Service officer and work at the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

If you live in Helsinki itself, you'll probably live in an apartment or townhome. In the suburbs like Westend or Espoo, you can get a big house. There is hardly any traffic in Helsinki, so commuting time is usually less than 30 minutes.

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

If you get don't get pay in euros, yens or pounds, you'll suffer here because of the currency exchange rate. Average price of groceries for a family of 4 is like 200 euros a week. There are plenty of well-stocked grocery stores although American products like peanut butter, mac & cheese and chocolate chip cookies are virtually nonexistent.

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

My kids would say more peanut butter, but I say nothing.

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

McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Subways. You can also find all sorts of cuisine here: Thai, Chinese, Russian, Lebanese, etc.

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Daily Life:

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

Embassy has APO. Finnish postal service is very reliable but EXPENSIVE.

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

Domestic help is almost unheard of here unless you are very rich or famous.

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

Everyone uses them and it's extremely safe.

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

Finns are Lutheran, but all denominations are present. I know that the 2 Catholic churches in Helsinki offer mass in English twice a month.

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

There is one English-language newspaper.

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

Most Finns speak English and don't mind that foreigners don't speak Finnish. However, everything is written in Finnish and Swedish, so learning at enough to survive will not hurt.

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

The only difficulty would be if you live in an old building (as in built in the early 1900's or late 1800's), it may not have a lift. Otherwise, sidewalks are well kept and all malls have elevators.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right side.

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

Yes. Finland has one of the most efficient, reliable and cheap public transportation systems in the world.

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3. 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?

Anything you want although repairs and parts for American cars can be expensive. All cars must meet European inspection requirements.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes. Cost is about 45 euros/month for high speed.

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

This is Nokia land, so any other brand is hard to find (including accessories for it). If you have a tri or quad band, it should work here. There are lots of options on Nokia models, it's the price that can scare you. But you can get a cheap one (but good) for 80 euros.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

You can call directly from your home or mobile phone at an average rate of 12 cents/minute. Many people also use Skype or Vonage.

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Pets:

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

Yes and very good, but expensive, especially kennels. Many people when they travel tend to hire teenagers to look after the pets.

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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?

It's hard if you do not speak Finnish. However, there is a growing demand for native English speakers in the field of teaching.

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

Business casual. In public, everything goes. Young Finns tend to love goth and punk styles (lots of green, purple and orange hair). As a rule, people dress pretty conservative. No skimpy mini skirs or plunging necklines.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Good. Finland enjoys very clean air.

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

None. Crime rate is extremely low. Finns are very honest. There is a problem with alcoholism so just stay away from the drunks.

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

Air and water is clean. There are no health concerns. Medical care is good. Finland has a social medical system but there are several private clinics that expats go to. I know 3 expat ladies who had their babies here without any problems.

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

It never really gets hot here. Humidity level is low. Winters are long, usually from November until March or April.

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Schools & Children:

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

International School of Helsinki is small but good. Itfollows the IB program. My 2 elementary school children attend it and I'm happy with it. Parents with high schoolers seem to complain about the school not giving enough homework and lack of communication. Espoo International and The English School are also an option but the expat community there is very, very small. There is always a French school, a Russian school and a German school; all 3 seem to be good.

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

It depends on the special need. I know a child with Down Syndrome that attends ISH and the parents are happy. Another family, however, had to send their child to a boarding school in the U.S. because no schools here could accomodate his severe disability. The best thing is to contact the school directly and explain your situation.

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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?

There are many daycares and preschools available and they are good. Nannies or babysitters, however, are extremely expensive (10 euros/hour)

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Expat Life:

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

Medium size. But Finland is a small country.

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2. Morale among expats:

As a general rule, it's high, although some people find the long, dark winters hard to deal with.

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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?

There are lots of restaurants, movie theaters( movies in English), bars, discos, etc.

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

Yes for all. Singles and couples have a great time with all the bars, nightclubs and travel opportunities. Families love it because there are tons of parks and green areas, many family-orientated activities and it's safe.

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

Yes. The Finns are very respectful of people's privacy and very tolerant.

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

Not that I'm aware of.

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

If you love outdoor activities, this is heaven. Finns love to exercise. Bicycling, Nordic walking and jogging are very popular. There are many indoor swimming halls, lots of parks, quaint little towns to visit and traveling throughout Europe is easy.

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

Finns are not big into crafts, but Ittala glass is very pretty (and expensive).

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9. Can you save money?

It depends. If you get paid in dollars, the currency exchange will hurt you now. But if you don't eat out a lot and don't travel out of Finland too much, yes you can.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes. It's safe, clean, easy to get around. Finns are nice and don't hassle you because your skin is darker or you don't speak the language.

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

Big, fluffy bed comforter as they don't fit in the much smaller European washing machines. Anything that has to be dry cleaned as it is expensive.

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3. But don't forget your:

Winter gear; sport equipment (like bicycle, skates and skis), studded tires (or all-weather tires--for your vehicle and bicycle)and step up/step down converters for your 110 equipment (Finland is on 240 vltz).

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

www.finland.fi and www.helsinki.fi are good sites to check out and learn about Finnish culture and lifestyle.

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