21 Things You Should Know Before Moving to Finland
If you’re thinking of moving to Finland, there’s plenty to look forward to. This beautiful country has something for everyone – whether it’s vibrant city life or tranquil countryside, a career-focused lifestyle or a slower pace of life. And of course, like any country, Finland also has some weird and wonderful characteristics too.
In this article, we’ll guide you through a mixture of serious, trivial, and just plain bizarre things everyone should know before moving to Finland.
A view of the golden sun, kissing the snow-laden trees in Lapland, Finland
1. It really will be a breath of fresh air
According to the World Health Organisation, Finland is home to the world’s cleanest air.
Like many other Nordic countries, this country has brought its A-game when it comes to eco-friendly living. Ultimately, Finland has such clean air because of its strong environmental regulations – the government invests in renewable energy, protects forests and lakes, and promotes the adoption of electric vehicles. It’s also well on its way to reaching the goals it set under the Paris Climate Agreement.
2. Get acquainted with the sauna
If you’re moving to Finland, prepare yourself for an onslaught of sauna invitations. As part of Finnish culture, it’s traditional for people to socialise in saunas on a regular basis – a tradition that goes back hundreds of years.
It is estimated that there are two million saunas in Finland – not bad for a population of 5.3 million! Many big companies and state institutions also have their own saunas for employees to wind down in after work. The President even has an ‘official sauna’, as does the prime minister.
3. It’s a skier’s paradise
Not only will you be spoiled with fluffy snow and perfect skiing conditions here, but the ski season in Finland can last at least 6 months – from late October until May. And, during the long days in March and April in Lapland, you can hit the slopes for 12-16 hours under the beaming sun.
There are around 75 ski resorts to choose from, which is quite a high number for a country that has no mountains. Instead, there are a lot of hills, which are covered with snow for about 200 days a year. You could even pop over to Levi to have a go on the Alpine World Cup level slopes!
4. Keep your eyes peeled for the famous aurora borealis
Finland is one of the best places in the world to see the mesmerising aurora borealis – more commonly known as the Northern Lights. Here, you can bask under a shimmering sky of greens and blues.
On average, you’ll have roughly 200 nights a year to scout out this natural phenomenon – usually only from Lapland. The more traditional ways to go aurora spotting are by snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobile, and sled dog touring.
5. The landscapes are breathtaking
If you can think of nothing better than taking a walk in the countryside and hunting for some beautiful views, Finland is the place for you. This nature-packed country is scattered with incredible landscapes, which will leave you speechless all year round.
Finland is home to 187,888 lakes – giving it the nickname the Land of a Thousand Lakes. On top of this, over 70% of the country is covered in luscious forestry – an area larger than the entire UK!
6. You have the freedom to roam
Not only is Finland home to an endless supply of nature, but Finnish people aren’t restricted in terms of where they can visit. A Finnish term named “Everyman’s right” (Jokamiehen Oikeus) means you can walk freely in nature, anywhere you want.
In Finland, you’re welcome to set up camp temporarily in the countryside (a reasonable distance from homes). You can even pick wild berries, mushrooms, and flowers (as long as they are not protected species). Plus, if you make an income from your foraging, it’ll come tax-free.
7. It’s a real winter wonderland
During January and February, there is almost always snow in northern and eastern Finland. Although there’s usually little snow in Helsinki – mostly because they have excellent technology to remove it – there’s often up to a metre or more on the skiing slopes of Lapland.
In the regions of southern and central Finland, the first snow falls at the beginning of December and melts during late March/April. In northern Finland, however, you’ll have to wade through snow from November until at least May.
Helsinki has also been ranked as one of the world’s coldest capitals, with a yearly average temperature not exceeding 0°C. What's more, for 51 days a year, the capital gets minimal sunlight, which doesn’t help matters.
8. Alcohol prices might give you a fright
Ah, a classic Brit priority – the pub. Although Finland can treat you to some amazing drinks, they will come at a price.
In fact, on average, an alcoholic drink in Finland will cost you more than any other country in Europe. When price levels in countries were compared in the EU average price level, the results show that in 2018, the price of alcoholic drinks (i.e. spirits, wine, and beer) was highest in Finland,with a price level index of 182, followed by Ireland (177) and Sweden (152). To compare the UK was rated 124.
9. Finland is one of the safest countries in the world
This friendly country ticks all the boxes if you’re on the lookout for a safe place to settle down. Even if you’re thinking of moving to the capital, Helsinki, you can look forward to a relaxed environment, where people generally feel safe walking alone in city parks or using public transport, regardless of the hour.
In 2017, Finland came out on top in a global comparison on safety in countries, and even now still ranks highly in various polls and studies.
But why does this country do so well on the safety scale? Well, Finland maintains extremely low crime rates – it’s also been ranked as the most ‘stable’ country in the world, as well as having the best governance in the world, the most independent judicial system, and the safest banks in the world.
10. Finnish people love their coffee
People in Finland consume more coffee per person than any other nation in the world. When it comes to coffee consumption, only two nations top more than 10kg per person, per year – Finland and Sweden.
The average Finn drinks 12.5kg of coffee every year. Nordic countries also make up the rest of the top five, perhaps needing a cup to get through the cold days. Get ready for a caffeine rush!
11. Prepare for extreme seasons
There are stark differences between seasons in most countries, but Finns deal with it on a different level. Instead of the grey, drizzly winters that we’re used to here in the UK, Finnish people are used to dark Arctic winters – with some days in December only seeing 6 hours of daylight.
But what sunlight Finns lack in the winter, they make up for in the summer, during the Midnight Sun. Only those who venture north of the Arctic Circle will get to experience this incredible natural phenomenon – when the sun doesn’t set from May to August. Further south, the sun can be visible nearly around the clock during the whole of June and July.
Ah, the Northern Lights. Here, the mesmerising shimmers of blue and green hover over a glistening lake in Finland
12. Finland is a true design nation
Finland has a strong heritage in design. Finnish design has been promoted since 1875, with some of the world’s most admired designers and architects coming from Finland – including Erik Bryggman, Vilhelm Helander, Markku Komonen, and Jaakko Tähtinen, to name a few. The recognition of Finland’s love for design is both institutional and international – in 2012, Helsinki was even crowned the World Design Capital.
Finnish fashion is also known for its quality and originality. Finnish designers like to experiment, creating bold fashion beyond seasonal trends.
13. It’s a great place to raise a child
If you’re thinking of raising a family in Finland, you’re in for a treat. In this forward-thinking country, new mothers can choose to receive a ‘baby box’ – a container with essentials for taking care of a baby, which can also be turned into a crib once emptied. If the parent doesn’t need these belongings, the family can apply to receive an untaxed sum of €140 per newborn – all covered by the Finnish government.
The government also offers paid maternity leave of 4 months – not only for regularly employed mothers, but also for those who are self-employed, as well as students.
What’s more, fathers are encouraged to take paid paternity leave for up to 54 days, whilst mothers get to stay at home with their baby for almost a year with full salary and excellent benefits.
14. The language can be quite tricky
Unlike some other languages, Finnish has no connection to Latin or Germanic language groups – usually making it slightly challenging for English speakers to pick up. Plus, there are 15 grammatical cases to get your head around in the Finnish language – meaning the smallest change at the end of the word can significantly change its meaning.
And, if you really want to challenge yourself, take a shot at the longest Finnish word: epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydelläänsäkäänköhän. Even we struggled to translate it!
15. You probably won’t have to worry about a language barrier
If you’re feeling a bit anxious about moving to a non-English speaking country, put your worries aside – Finns’ English language skills are the 5th best in the world.
So, although the language might be difficult for a lot of Brits to pick up, you shouldn’t have difficulty getting around the country without being fluent in Finnish.
16. It’s the happiest place in the world
Finland has been crowned the happiest country in the world for the third year in a row, according to the United Nations' latest World Happiness Report. The Nordics are clearly doing something right, since Finland was closely followed by Denmark, with Iceland and Norway in 4th and 5th place.
In this worldwide study, countries were ranked on six key variables that support well-being: income, freedom, trust, healthy life expectancy, social support, and generosity. Money may not buy happiness, but a one-way plane ticket to Finland might!
17. Finnish education is among the best in the world
Finland prides itself on its well-thought-out educational system, offering equal opportunities for all, free of charge. Rather than sticking to a rigid system, policymakers leave plenty of room for local school administrators and teachers to revise and revamp the curriculum to meet the needs of their unique student body.
After basic education, children can choose to continue to upper-secondary education – with 90% of students usually going for this option immediately after basic. Plus, the other 10% who choose not to continue their education right away, can return to it later at no cost.
18. Keep your eyes peeled for any strange Finnish events
Every country has its own quirky traditions and celebrations that sets it apart from the rest. Some of Finland’s include:
- World Wife Carrying Championship – Wives are carried down a 235 metre long track with obstacles. The prize? The winner receives the wife’s weight in beer.
- Mosquito Swatting Championship – This is a yearly mosquito-swatting competition in the northern town of Pelkosenniemi – whoever swats the most mosquitoes in five minutes, wins. The current record stands at 21.
- Air Guitar Championship – The contest consists of a series of challenges, and points are handed out from a panel of judges. The first challenge is a minute-long performance of a song chosen by the contestant. In the second round, however, everyone has to ‘play’ the same song.
19. You have lots of delicacies to try
Before you head off to Finland, make sure to do your research on the abundance of local delicacies that are on offer. Some of the more traditional dishes include:
- Poronkaristys (sauteed reindeer) – The steak or back of the reindeer is thinly sliced, fried in fat, spiced with salt and pepper, and cooked until tender. This Finnish delicacy is then served with sugared lingonberries, mashed potatoes, and cucumber pickles
- Karjalanpiirakka (rice pies) – Rye crust, traditionally filled with rice porridge and topped with egg butter. This dish is usually eaten for breakfast or as a snack, and can even be served at weddings
- Graavilohi (cured salmon) – Graavilohi is a Nordic dish made from raw salmon which has been cured in salt, sugar, and dill. The thinly sliced Finnish cuisine is often served as an appetizer alongside a dill or mustard sauce, on bread, or with boiled potatoes
20. Speeding tickets could cost you a small fortune
You might want to be extra cautious with the accelerator in Finland, since their speeding fines are linked to salary.
The Finns run a ‘day fine’ system, which is calculated on the basis of an offender’s daily disposable income – generally their daily salary divided by two. Plus, the further the driver is over the speed limit, the greater the number of day fines they will receive.
In 2002, Anssi Vanjoki, a former Nokia director, was ordered to pay a fine of €116,000 (£104,844) after being caught driving 75km/h in a 50km/h zone on his motorbike.
A sample of Helsinki's beautiful architecture – lit up and reflecting on a deep blue river
21. National Failure Day
That’s right – the Finns have a whole day dedicated to failing, which is held on 13th October every year. The organisers of the Day for Failure argue that making mistakes is a normal and healthy part of life which contributes towards success, rather than detracting from it.
There are events held throughout Finnish universities on the Day for Failure, including:
- Read up on the personal setbacks of your idols or people you admire
- Try a difficult recipe, even if the food gets burnt
- Share ‘failphotos’ on Instagram
- Blow money on something unnecessary, or something you’ve been wanting for a long time
- Think about how you can learn from your flops and turn them into successes.
So, all in all, Finland’s got quite a lot going on. If you still have a few questions that remain unanswered, check out our page on moving to Finland from the US.