Helsinki, Finland Report of what it's like to live there - 04/04/09

Personal Experiences from Helsinki, Finland

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

Government.

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

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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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