Part 4: Kids and School
Finland Relocation Services, TIRA Member, Finland
Welcome to the fifth and final section of The Real Truth: Expat’s Survival Guide to Finland! By now you will have learned about the culture, the people, the work life as well as matters relevant to your children. In this section we focus on specific customs and practicalities that you may find useful in your daily life in Finland.
Finland enjoys four seasons, though one of them powerfully outlasting the others in duration. The Finnish winters are long, cold and dark. Many say that you meet two different people (and cities) depending on if you visit Finland in the summer or winter. The change in attitudes is drastic. In the summer you will find people out and about, and even at the beach with the first sight of sunny weather. The sun sets only to come back up again, and the impact of the weather can be witnessed through the behavior of the people. Parks, restaurants and bar terraces will be packed with happy inhabitants enjoying the season. In the winter time people are more closed off and out only when the weather is pleasant. If you’re expecting closed offices and snow days at school due to winter weather, forget it. Even with a blizzard and grueling -25-degree weather, flights, busses and trams are operating, and school is never cancelled because of winter weather. A common saying in Finland is “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes”.
Even though the winters are long, dark and cold, Finns love nothing more than a long cross-country ski in the forests or ice-skating on the frozen lakes. Going out in such weather might sound intimidating, especially to those from warmer climates. Fear not, you get used to it. Throughout the year, everyone (regardless of their nationality) has the right to enjoy the countryside and forests of Finland, under the legal concept of Everyman’s Right. In return, you must respect the wilderness, property and other people. There are no excuses to stay inside and not explore the breathtaking nature of Finland.
The rental market is a landlord’s market, and it is very volatile. Properties available one day are often gone the next. Apartments are almost always rented unfurnished (even without lamps). Note that only fixed kitchen appliances are included (e.g. microwave, dishwasher and washing machine are not usually included). Leases are made usually for one year or longer. In Finland, we do not wear shoes in the house and this is expected from you as well. Smoking in the workplace, bars, restaurants or other public buildings is strictly prohibited by law. Smoking in rental apartments is also prohibited. Although smoking is rather common in Finland, smokers are expected to be respectful and considerate of those who do not smoke.
At one’s home, dinner is eaten early, at around 5-6pm. Restaurants serve dinner typically from 6pm till 11pm. Dietary requirements are well addressed, and you will often find lactose-free, gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan options on the menu. Diners should not begin eating before all members of the party have been served their food. The same applies for drinks. Guests should only take a sip after a toast or the phrase ‘Hyvää Ruokahalua!’ is said out loud. Dinner is almost always eaten with a fork and knife (including pizza!) and only bread or some pastries should be eaten by hand. When finished, place your fork and knife across the plate with the handles at 5-o’clock.
Drinking habits of Finns follow the Nordic neighbors, and the amount of pure alcohol consumed per person per year is close to the European average. Wine and spirits can only be purchased from Alko, the government-owned liquor store. The sales of alcohol (beer included) are regulated by a time frame. You may only purchase alcoholic beverages between 9am and 9pm. Upon your arrival, you might soon come across the unofficial Finnish national drink, Lonkero. This grapefruit gin drink is to Finns what beer is to the Britons. Be aware that the drinking age in Finland is 18. Note that it is fine to drink tap water! Finland has one of the cleanest tap waters in the world.
Recycling is common and encouraged. If you do not recycle your trash, you should at least return empty bottles and cans to a recycling point. You will be rewarded by the cash deposit you paid when purchasing the beverage. Well above 90% of cans and bottles are recycled in Finland.
In Finland tipping is not customary. Interestingly, it is a matter that many Finns find uncomfortable when travelling abroad. The ideology behind this is that in Finland these positions are paid sufficient salary by the employer, and thus service is always included in the check. Good service in Finland is there for genuine, with no hidden agenda. However, if you feel that service has been exceptional, you will not be condemned if you want to leave a tip. In taxis, a tip is not expected, but people often round up the fare upon payment.
In Finland you are expected to be on time in business and in social situations. Finns are very punctual and expect you to be present as agreed (or even early) for appointments and meetings. Being late is considered rude and always requires an apology or explanation. Tardiness is not common with events or even with public transportation. As we have mentioned, Finns mean what they say and is applicable here as well.
During public holidays most offices are closed, and summer vacations usually take place between mid-June till the end of July. Mid-summer, or ‘Juhannus’, is a celebration for the longest day of the year. This means that the sun is all day and night. In Finland, we celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December, and instead of leaving cookies and milk out on the porch, Santa visits each family home during the evening. The days following Christmas Eve are typically spent with relatives and festive cuisine is enjoyed throughout the holiday.
We hope you enjoyed all five parts to The Real Truth: Expat’s Survival Guide to Finland! To ensure a smooth transition to your new home, let us help you. With almost 25 years of experience in relocation, FRS is here to assist you in every step of your relocation journey. For more information on custom packages and other services, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
More about Finland Relocation Services
Finland Relocation Services is a thoroughbred professional in international mobility. As the Finnish representative of TIRA (The International Relocation Association) and a full member of EuRA (European Relocation Association) we are continuously cooperating with the other members of our networks.
It is through these strategic partnerships that large international corporations recognize FRS as the leading relocation services company in Finland and today we are proud to operate as the local representative of the world’s leading international relocation management companies.
More about TIRA
TIRA is an aligned network of quality mobility service providers. The network provides access to leading mobility experts from around the world that provide local solutions to global challenges. Network members exchange best practices and share this value with the industry through benchmarking exercises.