Finland at a Glance
Moving to Finland
- Finnish people are known for their high regard for nature and outdoor activities.
- The capital Helsinki is the most popular destination for expats, as it offers many opportunities for work and leisure.
- Non-EU citizens — unless they hail from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, or Norway — have to apply for a residence permit in order to work in Finland.
Finland, Suomi in Finnish, bridges East and West. Although it is part of Western Europe, its 1,313 km border with Russia and its Arctic climate make it quite distinct. Moving to Finland is both an exciting and promising choice for expats.
For a long time, Finland was an arena for both Sweden and Russia to flex their muscles in. Both neighbors ruled Finland for much of its history and Finland only became independent in 1917. Before that it was part of both the Russian Empire for 108 years and Sweden for 600 years. Ever since its independence, Finland has clearly shown the world that Northern Europe is much more than Scandinavia. If you are moving to Finland, this Nordic country surely won’t disappoint.
Helsinki, in particular, is a desirable expat location. The city offers competitive career opportunities, ample green space, and easy access to the wild wonderland that is much of Finland.
Blue and White: Finland’s Climate
The colors of blue and white decorate Finland’s flag. They also visually describe the country’s landscape. White represents the snow that blankets a fair share of the country come winter, while blue represents Finland’s lakes, all 187,888 of them.
The contrast between dark blue and soft white also summarizes the contrast of the seasons. Finland experiences the full drama of the four seasons. The 1,160 km that separates the very north from the very south means that the intensity of each season varies greatly throughout the country. Nonetheless, there are only a few other countries where people truly know just how dark winter can be and what it feels like when the sun doesn’t set.
Lapland is covered in snow for about half of the year. However, most expats who move to Finland settle further south where the snow season is much shorter.
The average temperature in winter ranges between 0°C and -35°C. Summer compensates for these cold temperatures with an average of 15°C to 25°C. Above the Arctic Circle, summer brings constant sun and further south in Helsinki, it barely sets. Twilight gives the sun a slight break late at night, but in summer you can expect sun in Helsinki even at 22:00!
Finland did not urbanize until the 1960s. This is one reason why Finns continue to be so strongly connected to nature. Moving to Finland is likely to increase the amount of time you spend in nature.
The concept of “Everyman’s Rights” (and every woman’s too) sums up the Finnish cultural attitude towards nature. This is an unwritten code that reflects a sparse population inhabiting a vast forested land. Essentially it means that everyone in Finland is welcome to use the land. As long as you aren’t on someone’s private property, wild berries are yours to pick and the forests are your playground for camping and canoeing.
Jokes and Food in Finland: An Acquired Taste?
In a survey conducted by the United Nations, Finland was ranked in the top five in the World Happiness Report 2016, underlining the high standards of living and social support that Finns are receiving. Those moving to Finland will discover both a dynamic culinary culture and a great sense of humor. When Silvio Berlusconi was prime minister of Italy, he made a few uncomplimentary remarks about Finnish food. In particular, he rolled his eyes at marinated reindeer in Finland. However, this particular dish is typical in Norwegian Lapland and even Alaska, but not in Finland.
The Finns did not forget. So when Kotipizza, the Finnish pizza chain, won the 2008 America’s Plate Pizza competition (and Italy came in second place), Kotipizza named their winning pizza after the Italian prime minister. Pizza Berlusconi has a rye and whole meal crust and is topped with mushrooms, red onion, and — much to Berlusconi’s chagrin — smoked reindeer. Look for it on menus after your move to Finland!
Finnish food, however, is much more than reindeer meat. It is very seasonal and it tells the story of being between Scandinavia and Russia. The sweet bread in the west and the rye in the east make it clear where Finland’s neighbors lie. The sea has been an invaluable resource for southern Finland and the woods and lakes for the north. Moving to Finland might introduce you to new foods such as wild Arctic berries, elk meat, and sweets like mämmi (an Easter pudding) and tippaleivät (May Day fritters).
Year Round Outdoor Activities
Due to its abundance in nature, there is no shortage of recreational activities in Finland, no matter the season. The Finnish winter might be colder than what you are used to, but don’t expect to be cuddled up inside all winter long waiting for warmer weather. A move to Finland will force you to closely follow the cycle of the seasons.
If you are moving to Finland, remember to pack warm outdoor clothes! Winter sports are a great way to survive the coldest season. Popular winter activities that keep you warm include skating, skiing, snowshoeing, and dog sledding. The bravest of Finns even go swimming in frozen lakes! This might sound extreme, but remember that Finland is the land of saunas.
Before the harsh winters, the Finnish land generously spoils its inhabitants with wild berries and mushrooms. It is common practice to celebrate autumn by pillaging the forests of their blueberries and lingonberries.
Spring brings with it longer days and more sunshine. Although it is possible to still go skiing in Lapland in the spring, in other parts of Finland, people shed their winter layers and take nature strolls to replenish their Vitamin D.
Summer is officially cottage season in Finland. Expats who move to Finland easily get into this summertime tradition. In the Lakeland region alone, there are nearly half a million cottages! These summer homes are venues for unwinding, gathering with friends, and celebrating the long summer days by swimming under the midnight sun. Lakeland provides an ideal setting for canoeing, barbecuing, and fishing, too.
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