The Nordic nation of Finland is the eighth largest country in Europe in terms of area, but also the most sparsely populated member of the European Union. Finland’s capital city, Helsinki, is a modern destination that remains rooted in its cultural history. Expats and visitors are often drawn to Helsinki’s cosmopolitan character with its sophisticated museums and many excellent restaurants and cafés. Expectations are often high for those moving to Finland, so here are a few common mistakes to watch out for.Expecting a low cost of living
Although the cost of living in Finland is comparable to the EU average, it is still considered relatively high globally. Expat life can be expensive here, with accommodation prices being the highest in the metropolitan Helsinki area.
Not planning your taxes
If you plan to stay in Finland for more than six months, your income will be subject to Finland’s taxation laws. Unless you have the required paperwork to show that your social security insurance is being paid in your home country, you are required to make social security contributions and pay insurance premiums in Finland.
Overestimating the job market
Finland’s labor market has been on a downhill slide, and unemployment rates have risen. The IT and healthcare sectors in particular are areas where foreigners with the required skills can find lucrative employment opportunities, but other sectors are likely to be difficult.
Expecting to meet chatty locals
Finns are not known to be talkative, and this is one cultural difference that expats are likely to notice quickly. They rarely strike up conservations with people they don’t know, and almost never engage in small talk. But this doesn’t mean that they are inhospitable. You will find that they are, in fact, eager to provide assistance should you request it.
Wearing clothes in the sauna
Finnish sauna etiquette is unique. Men and women have separate areas or may take turns using the sauna, and everyone takes off their clothes when entering the hot room. Finns don’t make a big deal about nudity, and it is considered quite natural. But since foreigners may not be so comfortable with it, some saunas do allow guests to wear a swimsuit or a towel.
Being unprepared for the winters
Winters in Finland get dark, cold, and snowy. They can last anywhere from three to seven months, depending on the area. The cloudy days can persist for weeks, which can be hard for people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. The lack of light can be overwhelming, and the social climate can also seem distant and withdrawn during the winter months.
Being confused by people walking with ski poles
When in Finland, you will most likely spot Finns walking with ski poles, minus the skis. This is actually a form of full-body exercise, called Nordic walking, which was started in Finland. Known to be beneficial for cardiovascular health, even seasoned skiers do it on dry land to maintain their fitness levels.
Not reading up on Finland’s alcohol legislation
There is a perception that Finland’s alcohol consumption levels are high among the Nordic countries, and therefore the attitude to alcohol is liberal. However, Finland also has some of the strictest regulations when it comes to alcohol laws. It has the highest alcohol tax among the EU countries. Individuals over 18 are permitted to buy alcoholic beverages that have up to 22 percent alcohol by volume. Those over 20 can buy alcoholic drinks of all kinds, but these are available only at the state-owned Alko stores.
Tipping too much
You are not expected to tip in Finland, since tips are already included in the prices for services. Additional tips are not required or expected. In some very rare cases, service staff may even be embarrassed or take offence at being given a tip. But for the most part, Finns will appreciate a tip, especially if they have provided exceptional service or have gone out of their way to assist you. The ideal practice is to simply include a tip by rounding up the total bill amount.
Showing up unannounced
In Finland, it is customary to visit someone only by invitation or by arranging the meeting beforehand. In addition, if plans have been made, it is important to stick to them and to be punctual.
Can we improve this article? Something wrong? Let us know in the comments.