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What ever you do - DONT move to Finland

Updated on May 26, 2014

Why moving to Finland is such a bad idea

OK, so if you're reading this you probably have some connection with Finland. Either you are Finnish, your married to/dating a Finn, you've been to Finland, or you're even contemplating moving to Finland.

Perhaps a better title for this lens might be How NOT to move to Finland.

I first met my Finnish wife when I was studying an exchange semester at her University near Hämeenlinna. We started dating and I then took her back to England with me (I sometimes call her my souvenir - much to her amused annoyance). Fast forward 10 years and we are happily married with one beautiful daughter. To read a little bit more about how we met you can read this article from the Times Newspaper (apparently our story was so interesting it made the national press?!) Note: That's before I changed my name - no typos there!

So we have recently moved to Finland. We had thought this would be easy, but... well it hasn't exactly been plane sailing. I'll endeavour to share what I've learnt here in this Squidoo Lens. I think many of the principles of what I've learnt will apply to moving to and from many other countries.

Special Note

Don't get me wrong! I absolutely love living in Finland, and I think its a great country to live in, and a wonderful place to raise a family. Of course I miss my family, friends and church back home, but apart from that I am not wanting to move back at all. I love the clean living, the sauna (more on that later...), and the time to spend with my daughter. But if you're going to move to Finland, you need to make sure your prepared.

Apina ajaa linja-autoa - The Monkey is Driving the Bus - In Finnish

Some of you may be wondering about the title of the piece in the Times newspaper - The Monkey is driving the Bus. This is because it is the first full sentence I learnt to say in Finnish. It arose as I am a big Eddie Izzard fan, and have always been amused by this clip!

The first full Finnish sentance I learnt to say was 'The monkey is driving the bus', and yes. I HAVE managed to fit it into a conversation!

Finnish is one of the hardest languages to learn
Finnish is one of the hardest languages to learn

Problem No.1

No 1 reason why moving to Finland was such a bad idea.

THE LANGUAGE!

I've known my wife for ten years now. You would think I'd be pretty fluent by now, right? Wrong. Its not for want of trying! Its just such a hard language to learn. In fact this article places the Finnish language (or Suomi as the Finns insist on calling it) in the second hardest category of languages for an English speaker to learn. Don't believe me? See if you can do better!

Now I must add at this point that the vast majority of Finns speak very good English (even if they don't believe that they do). In fact I would say it seems like almost all Finns under about 40 can converse in English pretty well (especially after a few post sauna beers!). But the problem is it isn't offered fully as a second language for us foreigners. What I mean by that is they have lots of helpful leaflets in Finnish, Swedish (Finland's official second language) and English... But then when you call the telephone number on the leaflet to ask a question, or ask for assistance, the only languages they support are Finnish and Swedish.

Photo credit: Confused by Collegedegrees360

Learning Finnish

Would you consider learning one of the world's most difficult languages?

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Learn Finnish - If you don't believe me, go ahead and prove me wrong.

Teach Yourself Finnish Complete Course (Book Only) (TY: Complete Courses)
Teach Yourself Finnish Complete Course (Book Only) (TY: Complete Courses)

An excellent book.. if you can master it. Go on I DARE you. I double dare you!

 
Finnish-English/English-Finnish Dictionary & Phrasebook (Hippocrene Dictionary & Phrasebooks)
Finnish-English/English-Finnish Dictionary & Phrasebook (Hippocrene Dictionary & Phrasebooks)

A good dictionary and phrase book is essential to anyone wanting to learn Finnish

 
I find paperwork very frustrating
I find paperwork very frustrating

Problem No.2

Those Finns really do love their bureaucracy

The second stumbling block I've come across moving to Finland is the amazing amount of paperwork and bureaucracy it has involved.

When we arrived in Finland we registered with Kela the people who pay things like child benefit and job seekers-unemployed persons allowance. We then went to get me an official address at the local Magistrate's Office - Yes in Finland your address has to be official, you can't just tell the postal service or mail authority... We were then advised that you first have to register with the Police!

Registering with the Police

Be warned, If you live in a country where the Police only deal with crime, things work a little differently in Finland! We had naively assumed that as I was married to a Finn, and was the father of a Finn, that I would be allowed to live in Finland without any major problems. When we went to the local Police station to apply for a resident's permit we were advised that I had to prove that I could afford to keep myself and my family (i.e. have a job, or sufficient savings). Coming from a country where the police only deal with crime I was quite put off that the police wanted to see my bank account before allowing me to stay. You know, what with me not being a criminal!

In all I have had to register myself a number of times with a number of different agencies, all asking the same information. Finland certainly loves its paperwork! Its left me feeling like I need to relax!

Photo credit: Frustrated by Jenny Kaczorowski

In Finland we relax in the Sauna - Did you know Sauna is a Finnish invention and Finnish word?

There is only one real way to relax in Finland - with a sauna and a beer.

After a stressful day running around town going from one office to another I really look forward to relaxing in our sauna in our basement.

If you haven't taken a proper Finnish sauna you should really think about giving it a try. I can not recommend enough getting your own one. When you own your own sauna you can set the heat to your preferred level and throw water on the stones as often as you like to create löyly (the steam in a sauna bath).

Check out the saunas below to find something in your budget.

2-Person Hemlock Deluxe Infrared Sauna w/ 6 Carbon Heaters
2-Person Hemlock Deluxe Infrared Sauna w/ 6 Carbon Heaters

This little FAR infra-red sauna is perfect for a couple or for placing in a small apartment. Enjoy sauna whenever you like.

 
4 Person Outdoor Sauna Hemlock Wood 220v Ceramic FIR FAR Infrared Heaters CD Player AM FM Radio - Shingle Roof
4 Person Outdoor Sauna Hemlock Wood 220v Ceramic FIR FAR Infrared Heaters CD Player AM FM Radio - Shingle Roof

This larger outdoor sauna would be an attractive addition to any garden. Its large enough for four people at any one time, so its perfect for a family.

 
A-NTSB60 6.0KW Sauna Bath Heater Stove
A-NTSB60 6.0KW Sauna Bath Heater Stove

Now if you want to experience proper sauna, you really need to build your own one with a stove that you can throw water on.

 
Harvia Stove - Sauna Room Woodburning Heater HE-HAR-Legend-300
Harvia Stove - Sauna Room Woodburning Heater HE-HAR-Legend-300

Of course for THE REAL DEAL you have to have a wood burning sauna. This is definitely my favourite type of sauna. The heat is somehow more even and smooth... and of course you get the sound of the logs crackling as they burn.

 

Problem No. 3

Moving to Finland is expensive!

They say there's no such thing as a free lunch. In Finland everything costs something. Coming from the UK I have become complacent about how privileged we are to have things like the NHS. I'm still struggling to adjust to the concept that someone wants to profit out of my daughter's illnesses or accidents. But that is just the tip of the iceberg!

In Finland it seems that you have to pay for everything. Want access to you bank account on-line? That'll be another 2.50 per month, please. Oh you would like a bank card so you can actually use your account? That will be another minimum of 1.50 per month, thank you very much! Then there's the plethora of identity cards and the like that they insist you have, and then charge you for it.

Be warned, pretty much everything is more expensive in Finland!

A typical Finnish lakeside sauna
A typical Finnish lakeside sauna

So Why DID We Move to Finland?

Its not so bad really

OK, So you would be forgiven for believing that I think Finland is a bad place to live. But really its not! I wouldn't have picked up the family and moved us here unless there were some jolly good reasons to, would I?

Reasons to Move to Finland

There is a much better work/life balance in Finland. In Finland you pretty much get paid for every hour you work. This may seem as a novel concept to British and American readers, but you really do only have to work the hours you are contracted to. No one expects you to stay late every evening, just to get the job done, If you do have to stay late, you get time off or payment for it. This seems to be the case across private and public sectors.

Then there's the famous social benefits (especially for parents and families). There have been many articles bouncing around the internet recently about the many months maternity leave all Finnish women are entitled to, as well as the up to six weeks paternity leave all fathers are entitled to. Then of course after the mother has finished her maturity leave either the mother or father are entitled to stay at home until the child is three years old... and the parents get paid to look after the child!

So don't get me wrong, Finland is a great place to live... just make sure you are prepared for a mountain of paperwork that will have to pay for the pleasure of filling in yourself!

Photo credit: Näystin

Moving to Finland the Right Way

If you're still intent on moving to Finland make sure you do it the correct way. Here's my check list of things you need to consider:

  1. Even if you're from the EU make sure you have either a job to go to, or sufficient savings to see you through at least the first three months. I've supplied all the links in English for your convenience.
  2. The first place you should visit would be the Police to get either:

    A residence permits to foreign family members of Finnish citizens residing in Finland;

    A fixed-term residence permit to a foreign national residing in Finland;

    A certificates of registration of an EU citizen's residence permit and certificates of permanent right of residence: or A residence cards and permanent residence cards to family members of EU citizens

  3. After you have started this process you then need to register with the maistraatti or magistrate. This will enable you to get an official Finnish address. Without your address being official you wont be able to get things like a bank account, or registration cards.
  4. After registering with the above agencies, you then need to register with Kela. These are the people who pay things like child benefit. They will supply you with a Kela Card. This card will entitle you to discounts on medicines, so its worth having it sooner rather than later.
  5. The next place you will need to register yourself with is the Vero, the tax office. They will supply you with a Tax Card. You will need this for getting a job, or paying taxes on any benefits you are entitled to.

Are you Finnish? Are you married to or dating a Finn? I would love to hear from you!

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    • ashleydpenn profile image
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      ashleydpenn 3 years ago

      @Maggie42: Yeah its been a challenge. Luckily I moved with our 2 year old daughter. She's picking up the language and passing it on to me :) Thanks for taking the time to comment. Have a nice week.

    • Maggie42 profile image

      Maggie42 3 years ago

      Thanks Ash this was very entertaining I guess all moves to different countries with different languages have challenges but some of these really seem unique thanks for sharing.

    • ashleydpenn profile image
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      ashleydpenn 3 years ago

      @Rangoon House: Thank you for your comment! We've been here over 6 months now. Its still challenging, but a great adventure! :)

    • ashleydpenn profile image
      Author

      ashleydpenn 3 years ago

      @RussnJo: Sounds idyllic! :)

    • ashleydpenn profile image
      Author

      ashleydpenn 3 years ago

      @RussnJo: Sounds lovely. I like outdoor sauna the best! Especially if there's a lake or pond you can jump in! Thanks for sharing your memories! :-) As for the language, I wish you all the best! You'll be glad to know that there has been some research undertaken into finno-ugeric languages and genetics. If you have some Finnish blood you stand a good change of being able to learn the language, especially the Y à and à letters! Let me know how you get on! :-D

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 3 years ago from Australia

      This is so interesting. I have lived in overseas countries and have some experience of the adjustments, but it's always fascinating to learn about other peoples' experiences.

    • RussnJo profile image

      RussnJo 3 years ago

      ooh - just wanted to say - the grandfolks built a traditional sauna on their farm here and we would sit on those wood tiered benches and watch as Grandpa poured water over the river rocks that sat over the fire. Love the memories! Thanks again for bringing them back to mind.

    • RussnJo profile image

      RussnJo 3 years ago

      I am 1/2 Finnish with my mothe'rs parents moving to the U.S. in their early 20's. They built their home in Hopewell, OR on Finn Lane - many from the same area moved to this country road. My mom finally visited Finland a few years ago and found Grandma'a church in Helsinki, but not her family farmstead. Everyone on that side rambles on in Finnish, and I wish I'd paid more attention because the only thing I remember is how to count to ten, and how to say "You have baggy pants, bad boy!" Lord knows why this phrase stuck with me.

      Anyhow . . . thank you for a great read - you've sparked me to give the language another try - it is a difficult one - my mom would be thrilled if I called her and could converse.

    • Mommie-Moola profile image

      Mommie-Moola 3 years ago

      Not moo-ving there anytime soon ;)

    • ashleydpenn profile image
      Author

      ashleydpenn 3 years ago

      @HappyTom LM: Thanks HappyTom! You're right, sauna is a great thing. I especially like it when its next to a lake and you can jump into the cool water. They call it rantasauna! All the best.

    • HappyTom LM profile image

      Tom Christen 3 years ago from Switzerland/Ecuador

      A really great lens. I am not thinking to move there, but anyway very interesting to read. I think it have many advantages too there. For example the Saunas, that must be a really great thing there. All the best to you and your family, kind regards from Ecuador.