That’s it, you are moving to Finland! Welcome to this fantastic land of nature, wellbeing, and the bluest sky you will ever see. I have been in your spot and I remember how stressful moving to another country is. I will here try to ease up your load by sharing suggestions on the first steps you will need to take, so that you can start enjoying your new home sooner!
Most of my advice is focused on the capital area, since it’s the one I know best. However, much of what’s written here is valid for the whole country. I have written several posts for expats in Finland, you can check them out here.
Finding a house or an apartment remotely is tough and you risk being scammed. If you look for rents, know that demand is high and the social security number (more on it later) is required. My advice is to start by renting a furnished apartment and look for a more stable accommodation after you have moved and have all papers in place. Some companies to contact are Forenom, Condo, Kotimaailma. If you are moving for work, consider asking for help from your new workplace. If you wish to buy a house, you can search on Oikotie. For rents, check out Vuokraturva.
I need furniture!
When you move to a new country, there’s a fat chance you will need to fully furnish a home. I bear good news:
- most Finnish homes come with full kitchen appliances (fridge, oven, stove, …) and often bedrooms’ wardrobes (in-built in most houses),
- there’s a lively second-hand market in Finland.
One option is to buy most items from the second-hand market and later, if you wish, replace them with newer pieces. You can buy both online and in shops. For the online part, there are several Facebook groups you may join, like this, this, and this. Facebook Marketplace is also a great tool. There are a couple of nation-wide posting websites which I often use: Tori.fi is a posting board, while Huuto.net is an auction platform. Unfortunately, you’ll need to search by Finnish keywords. I have written a post which comes to the rescue when it comes to children’s items. For other searches, I recommend translating search terms to Finnish on Bab.La. Some second-hand shops are Uff, Frida, Red Cross, Recycling centres. If you need to rent a van for transportation, check out Pakuovelle (they rent also on site at IKEA).
There are websites like Infopankki which offer more detailed information about what you need to do to get your papers in order. In brief, the crucial steps are:
- registering at the police station to obtain right of residence and get a Finnish social security number,
- applying to Kela for health and social benefit coverage.
Even if you are a EU citizen, you will need to go through these. The social security number is needed for everything in Finland: opening a bank account, renting an apartment, signing work contracts, paying online in shopping websites, buying a phone plan, etc. You need to get that as soon as possible.
Daycare and school
There are some daycares and schools in other languages than Finnish or Swedish, but they are very hard to access and often very expensive. I have collected some links for your benefit:
English day care centres: Albatross, Your School, Little Tots.
English schools: ESH, IS, New Nordic, Espoo IS, Ressu, Maunula, Kielo.
There’s an even more inclusive list on this website.
Public daycares are very reliable and have high education standards. They have a standard plan to follow closely bilingual children, making sure they develop Finnish language and keep the mother language according to the family’s goals and the child’s wellbeing. There is a daycare in every neighbourhood. In the capital area, you can apply here: Espoo, Helsinki, Vantaa. Children aged 6 go to pre-school (eskari). Children start school at age 7. I do not have direct experience of the school system, but I have heard they are efficient at teaching Finnish language skills to expat children and to integrate them quickly in the normal classes. To apply for school, check out these links: Espoo, Helsinki, Vantaa.
Finding a job
There’s much to say on this and other websites have covered the topic better. Local recruiters and companies actively use LinkedIn, so make sure your profile is up to date. Some useful websites are Oikotie, TE toimisto, Glassdoor, Indeed, Duunitori.
Food! Clothes! Where can I find stuff?!
I remember how lost I felt when I set foot in Finland. Shops names do not make any sense at first and you have no idea where to find anything! Don’t panic, it will get better. In the meantime, I’m dropping here some random shop names to help you orientate in the first days. My advice is to use this list and Google Maps to find the nearest shops.
Groceries: Prisma, K Market, Alepa, Lidl, S Market.
Hypermarkets: Prisma, K City Market.
Clothes: H&M, Seppälä, Prisma.
Sport: Intersport, XXL, Stadium.
House & interiors: IKEA, Etola, Ittala, Pentik.
Electronics: Verkkokauppa, Gigantti.
DIY: Clas Ohlson, K Rauta, Byggmax, Stark.
Garden and plants: Plantagen.
Toys: BR Toys, Verkkokauppa.
Online shopping: Amazon does not operate in Finland, while Zalando does, but only in Finnish language.
Others: Alko sells alcohol (only low-alcohol beers and ciders are sold in grocery shops), R Kioski sells travel cards for public transportation, snacks, coffee.
Do I need a car?
Cars are expensive in Finland. A new car usually costs 20K euros or more. Yearly maintenance is around 1K euros a year, which includes compulsory insurance and yearly check, season tire change, regular ownership tax, and small repairs. Add gas on top (currently 1.5 euros/l). Public transportation is efficient, and most people opt for that. Many residents of the capital area do not even get a driving license, because they do not need one. If you want to evaluate where to buy or rent your house based on how the place is served by public transportation, you can check out tickets’ fares here and use this search platform. Remember you pay much less public transportation if you are a registered resident.
Should I learn Finnish language?
When people ask me this, I say that my rule of thumb is that it’s worth learning Finnish if you plan to stay over 5 years. If you are not sure how long you will live in Finland, I recommend starting to learn sooner than later. My favourite courses are those of University of Helsinki. You can train your speaking skills by taking part to the local language cafes (kielikahvila). One option is to learn the other official language, which is Swedish. However, be aware Swedish is a minority language in Finland. Unless you are moving to specific areas, it’s an unwise investment for an expat. I also want to share a couple of useful translating tools. One is the Google Translate plugin in Google Chrome and Gmail: translation is not perfect, but it can help you get the context of online content. The second is this online English-Finnish dictionary, which I find being the best out there.
Find your tribe
Moving to Finland can be a solitary business. The expat community is lively and helpful, so reach out and start from there! Some ideas to meet people are local Meetups or Facebook groups like this, this, and this. There are several associations, you may ask your embassy for advice. If you are a parent, you may want to check out my general suggestions here. Don’t be shy of taking the initiative to meet people.
Follow local news in English
Not knowing Finnish can make people feel cut out of society. Communication is English grows year by year. My favourite places are Yle News (national news in English), their daily broadcast and their podcast. If you like the touch of paper, you can subscribe Helsinki Times. City of Espoo regularly issues a magazine and City of Helsinki has a news page.
How does this sound? Probably overwhelming at once, but I am hoping you will use this post as a reference to go back to when you feel lost and that it will represent a starting point for your general questions. Do you feel I have left something out or do you have topic request? Drop me a line down in the comments.
If you found this guide useful, don’t forget to share the post. Welcome to Finland!