Climate and weather
Due to its geographical position in the far north of Europe, Finland has very cold winters. However, the other seasons are warmer than might be expected due to the warming influence of the Baltic Sea and Atlantic Gulf Stream, and summer temperatures can sometimes rise to over 30°C, even in the far north. The mildest climate is to be found on the southwest coast.
Typical summer temperatures are between 13°C and 22°C in the south of the country, and just slightly lower in the north. Spring and autumn are usually fairly mild, but from November to mid-March temperatures often fall to around -30°C in the south and -50°C in the north. Rainfall is moderate and irregular throughout the year, and there is frequent snowfall throughout the country from around October to May.
Visas, Residency, Immigration & Documentation
For short visits to Finland, many nationals do not require visas. All EU/EEA nationals, and the nationals of Switzerland, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore and most South American countries do not require visas to enter Finland for stays of up to three months.
Those foreign nationals who require a visa to enter Finland should apply for this at the Finnish embassy or consulate in their home country, before travelling to Finland.
In order to live and work in Finland for a period exceeding three months it is necessary for all foreign nationals to obtain a residence permit. Initially, this should be obtained from the Finnish embassy or consulate in their home country. For foreign nationals who are already in Finland, residence permits can be obtained from the local police station.
Nationals of the other Nordic countries are not required to obtain a residence permit. Foreign spouses of Finnish or other Nordic nationals are normally granted a residence permit, regardless of their own nationality.
When applying for a residence permit, the documentation required includes details of employment or a job offer in Finland, evidence of sufficient funds to support the applicant and their family while living in Finland and a medical certificate.
Application forms and full details of documentation required are available on the Directorate of Immigration website. Residence permits are normally granted for one year for temporary work appointments and five years for permanent employment contracts.
The citizens of EU and EEA member states, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland are not required to obtain employment permit in order to take up work in Finland, although the citizens of those countries that joined the EU in May 2004 are still required to register with an employment office. The nationals of other Nordic countries are not required to obtain an employment permit.
In order to work in Finland the nationals of other countries, or their prospective Finnish employers, must apply for a worker’s residence permit either from the Finnish embassy in their home country, or from the employment office or local police department in Finland. Application forms and details of documentation required are available on the website of the Finnish Ministry of Labour.
In order to be considered for permanent residence in Finland, it is necessary to have lived in Finland for a continuous period of three years.
Foreign nationals can apply for Finnish citizenship after living in Finland for a continuous period of six years.
Speaking the Language
Most Finns speak very good English, since English is taught as a foreign language in schools. However, it is quite important to have a least a good working knowledge of Finnish in order to work in Finland. However, Finnish is reportedly quite a difficult language to learn. The Finnish Language School Association has details of schools and classes on its website.
Swedish is taught as a compulsory second language in Finnish schools and is the predominant language in smaller communities on the southwest coast. Many Finns are bilingual, speaking both Finnish and Swedish.
Currency and cost of living
Finland’s currency is the Euro (EUR), made up of 100 cents. Banknotes come in denominations of 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 euros, and coins in denominations of 1 and 2 euros, and 50, 20, 10, and 5 cents. Although 1 and 2 cent coins are legal tender, they are not generally in use in Finland where all prices are rounded to the nearest 5 cents. In May 2007, 1 Euro was equal to US$1.36 and GBP £0.68.
The cost of living is high in Finland, which was recently reported to be the 10th most expensive country in the world to live in (http://www.internationalliving.com/qol06), while another recent survey found Finland to be the most expensive place in Europe for popular grocery products (http://www2.acnielsen.com/news/20060424.shtml) Alcohol is also particularly expensive to buy in Finland.
Typical prices include:
Litre of petrol EUR 1.30
Litre of milk EUR 0.75
6 eggs EUR 1.00
Pint of beer EUR 5.00
Litre bottled water EUR 3.00
Restaurant meal for 1 between EUR 5 and EUR 25
VAT at 22% is included in the price of most goods and services.
Most restaurants, cafes and hotels include a service charge in the bill, but it is customary to leave a small tip, and also to give a small tip to taxi drivers and porters.
Healthcare and medical treatment
Finland has excellent public healthcare, which is financed mainly from taxes, supplemented by a health insurance system.
Everyone living in Finland for at least four months is required to contribute to the national insurance system and is entitled to free medical care in health care centres and hospitals. The health insurance also covers part of the cost of medicines, travel expenses relating to medical treatment, dental care and a proportion of the cost of private health care.
EU/EEA nationals who are visiting Finland for a shorter period of time are entitled to free emergency medical treatment on provision of a European medical care card.
Primary health care is delivered via municipal health centres, which are staffed by a range of medical specialists including physicians, nurses and dentists. It is usually necessary to make an appointment in advance. There are separate maternity care centres. Physician referrals are generally required for hospital treatment.
Patients are usually required to pay for medical care initially, and are reimbursed by the government Social Insurance Institution KansanelÃ¤kelaitos (KELA), on a schedule of fixed charges up to a maximum cost covered. All residents need to obtain a KELA card confirming their eligibility for health benefits. A copy of the application form is available on the KELA website, along with claim forms for reimbursement of medical expenses. These should be submitted to the local KELA office.
There are a small number of private hospitals in Finland, and treatment in these is usually very expensive. Many people in Finland pay for private dental care.
Renting property in Finland
It can be difficult to find private rental accommodation in Helsinki and Finland’s other cities, and rents are often high.
Around half of all rental accommodation in Finland is state-subsidized housing, for which there are long waiting lists. This is rarely available to newly-arrived expatriates. The majority of other rental properties are owned by private landlords, often within buildings owned by housing companies. Within the cities nearly all rental accommodation consists of apartments, there are very few houses available.
Many properties are rented unfurnished, and may not even include carpets, curtains or light fittings. However, they often come with fitted kitchens including an oven and refrigerator.
Private rental properties are advertised in newspapers, on internet property search sites, and by housing agents. Agents normally charge a commission of around one month’s rent plus tax.
Finland’s property rental market was deregulated in the 1990s, and there is now considerable flexibility on rental agreements and prices, although rents must be reasonable. Once a rental agreement has been signed, the rent cannot be increased for the duration of the agreement.
It is normal procedure when renting a property to be asked to pay a security deposit of two months rent, plus a month’s rent in advance. Tenants are usually asked to give a month’s notice of leaving the property, while the landlord usually agrees to give three months notice, or six months notice after a tenancy agreement has been in effect for more than a year.
Education and schools
Education is provided free of charge in Finland at all levels, and the majority of children attend state comprehensive (primary) schools and secondary schools. The children of foreign nationals living in Finland are also eligible to attend state schools.
Compulsory education for nine years from the age of seven is provided in comprehensive schools. Children usually attend the comprehensive school nearest to their home.
Students need to pass an examination at the age of 16 for entry to post-comprehensive education in upper secondary schools or vocational schools, and submit an application to the school of their choice through the centralized application system. Direct application must be made, however, to foreign-language schools or specialist schools as these are excluded from the centralized system.
Upper secondary school students study for the Matriculation examination or the International Baccalaureate, while vocational school students study for vocational qualifications in a wide range of subject areas.
Finland has a number of international schools or schools for the children of foreign nationals, mostly located in Helsinki. Some of these are privately run and charge fees, while others are state-run and provide free education. Schools offering an international-style education in English include The English School and The International School in Helsinki, and Turku International School. Some international schools prepare students for the Finnish Matriculation examination, others for the International Baccalaureate or other international qualifications.
There is a selection procedure, which includes examinations, for entry to Finnish universities. Most university students in Finland complete Masters Degrees, spending an average of 6 years at university.
Finland has an extensive adult education sector, in which adults can study for academic qualifications at night school. There is also an Open University offering distance learning.
Utilities (Electricity, Gas, Water)
Electricity: 230V 50HzHz, European plug with two circular metal pins.
Most Finnish homes are heated by electricity – gas cookers and heating are now becoming quite rare. In the cities and towns, most homes have district heating systems, in which electricity and heat production are combined.
The Finnish electricity market has been deregulated and there is a wide choice of suppliers. The largest electricity companies include Helsingin Energy, E.ON, Vattenfall and Fortnum.
Water supply charges are often included in the monthly rents for Finnish rental properties.
Most people pay their utilities bills using internet banking or a touch-tone telephone service.
With the help of: expatfocus.com
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