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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Finland: The Perfect Expat Destination for Nature Lovers & Introverts

Expats get a pristine environment, a high level of digitization, and a great work-life balance, but they face major issues with settling in.

Finland places seventh in the Quality of Life Index, performing best in the Environment & Climate (1st) and Safety & Security (3rd) Subcategories. Expats love the air quality (90% happy vs. 65% globally), the urban environment (90% happy vs. 67% globally), and the natural environment (100% happy vs. 83% globally). Moreover, Finland is praised for the availability of green goods and services, as well as government support for environmentally friendly policies (2nd for each).

The respondents also consider it a politically stable country (90% happy vs. 64% globally), where they feel safe (96% happy vs. 81% globally) and can express themselves and their opinions (77% happy vs. 64% globally). “I love the nature, the freedom, and my peaceful, comfortable lifestyle,” says a Turkish expat.

Solid Infrastructure, Subpar Leisure Options

In the Health & Well-Being (16th) and Travel & Transit (22nd) Subcategories, Finland’s performance is still above average. Expats describe healthcare as affordable (79% happy vs. 61% globally) and of good quality (76% happy vs. 72% globally). However, some struggle with getting access to all the healthcare services they need (31st).

Expats find it easy to get around by bike or on foot (96% satisfied vs. 77% globally). Another 87% like the availability of public transportation (vs. 73% globally). However, 20% think it is not affordable enough (vs. 15% globally). And while Finland ranks tenth for its infrastructure for cars, travel opportunities are limited (44th).

Lastly, the Leisure Options (42nd) are subpar. Finland seems great for those who love recreational sports (90% happy vs. 75% globally). But it features in the bottom 10 for both culture and nightlife (47th) and culinary variety and dining options (51st). More than one in five (21%) are unhappy with the latter (vs. 12% globally) — only expats in Norway (52nd) are less satisfied.

Great Work-Life Balance, Few Career Prospects

In the Working Abroad Index, Finland ranks 20th out of 52. It does really well for both Work & Leisure (10th) and Work Culture & Satisfaction (11th). In fact, 76% rate their work-life balance positively (vs. 62% globally), and 73% view their working hours favorably (vs. 63% globally). The average expat in Finland only works 38.3 hours full time, compared to a weekly 43.3 worldwide. “Life is less fast paced, with less stress overall,” says a US respondent. Expats also appreciate that the business culture supports flexibility (5th) and flat hierarchies (9th).

But while 86% rate the economy highly (vs. 64% globally), they are less satisfied with their own careers: 28% feel they are not paid fairly (vs. 20% globally). Moving to Finland has not improved the career prospects of another 30% (vs. 18% globally), and 32% rate their career opportunities negatively (vs. 22% globally). Only 23% relocated for work-related reasons, though (vs. 36% globally), while 31% moved for love (vs. 10% globally), which is the most-mentioned reason.

Dissatisfaction with Finances

Expats in Finland are somewhat dissatisfied in terms of Personal Finance (39th). Nearly half (47%) consider the cost of living too high (vs. 35% globally), and 24% are unhappy with their financial situation (vs. 21% globally). At least the housing market does not seem too bad. Finland lands in a mediocre 28th place in this subcategory of the Expat Essentials Index: 41% consider housing hard to afford, about the same as the global average (43%).

Top Ratings for Digital Life

Finland’s overall results in the Expat Essentials Index (21st) are a mixed bag. It does great in the Digital Life Subcategory (2nd), only beaten by Estonia (1st). More than nine in ten expats enjoy high-speed internet access (93% vs. 79% globally), unrestricted access to online services (95% vs. 82% globally), and cashless payment options (93% vs. 84% globally). Another 86% are satisfied with the availability of government services online (vs. 61% globally).

Getting a visa to move to Finland (21st), as well as dealing with the local authorities (19th), is not quite as easy. However, the local language is a bigger issue: 75% find learning Finnish difficult (vs. 38% globally), and 72% speak it just a little or not at all (vs. 35% globally). Luckily, 68% say that it is possible to live in Finland without speaking it, compared to 51% globally. “English is widely spoken, and Finnish is hard. But if you live here for a long time without learning it, you start living in a bubble,” shares an Australian expat.

A Destination for Introverts?

In general, expats struggle with the Ease of Settling In Index (44th). For example, 31% report difficulties getting used to the local culture (vs. 19% globally). It probably does not help that 21% perceive the population as unfriendly (vs. 17% globally).

However, expats encounter their biggest challenge in the Finding Friends Subcategory (47th): 60% consider making local friends difficult (vs. 37% globally). Unsurprisingly, 31% have no personal support network in Finland (vs. 24% globally), and 37% are dissatisfied with their social life (vs. 26% globally). “They take introversion to a whole new level. I met someone who has lived here for 40 years and said it took her neighbor 14 years to talk to her regularly,” a US expat comments.

Further Reading