Things I wish I knew before moving to Finland

by Amber Musgrove-Benford (University of Helsinki, Finland)

Flights are very easy to find (especially if you have flexibility of where you’re flying to) 

  • Though Finland is less frequented by air travel than other countries like Spain, for example, it’s super easy to find flights to and from the UK from Helsinki. Finnair is a good carrier if you need to fly to Manchester (like me), but Ryanair flies to London Luton for as cheaply as £18 one way. 

Some things can be unnecessarily complex (but its all part of the fun)

  • This is not a problem just in Finland, but living abroad can present difficulties you might not be used to at home. For example, to pay a customs charge on a package from the UK, you may have to prove your identity, something which can only be done with a Finnish bank account or by using an expensive ID card reader. There are ways around this, of course, with, for example, couriers often offering a service (at a fee) to handle the charges for you, but it will sometimes leave you scratching your head and wondering if it could not be done much more simply.

How much I would love international law 

  • Having never studied international law in any context before arriving in Helsinki, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved studying anything from general international law to the workings of the ICJ, the law of international organisations and the inner workings of treaties. 

The calmness of the Finnish/Nordic way 

  • Life in Finland is slow and nothing like living in Manchester. This was something that suited me hugely – I loved the way the city did not feel like a city in the typical sense and rather was always calm. The peculiarities of Finnish culture – a respect for nature and love for outdoor swimming; huge, celebratory national pride; sisu (a uniquely Finnish concept, translating roughly to a strength of will, determination and perseverance) – will be truly missed. 

How hard it would be to find teabags 

  • I am a very big tea drinker and was surprised by how difficult it sometimes was to find English Breakfast tea in both cafes and shops. It’s easy to find black tea, though this isn’t the same (at least to me). Most K-Markets will stock Yorkshire Tea, but the price is eyewatering. Much better, and cheaper, to bring a stash from home. 

(Alcohol) prices 

  • All Nordic countries have notoriety for being expensive and this is definitely the case in Finland. Though it is definitely possible to live cheaply, it is impossible to avoid the high pricing of some items. While it was very interesting, as a law student at least, to learn the criminological origins of the high alcohol tax in the Nordic countries, I cannot pretend I will not be happy when I never have to spend €9 on a pint of Guinness again. 

Lack of sunlight in the winter 

  • Though I was aware of how short the days would be during December in Helsinki, I’m not sure anything can prepare you for quite how strange (and oftentimes, depressing) four or so hours of sunlight can be. However, it’s all worth it for the 21 hours of sunlight, and truly beautiful 4am sunrises, in May.

How easy it would be to make friends 

  • Like many others, the thing that worried me the most before moving abroad was meeting scores of new people and making friends. This turned out to be something there was no need to worry about, and I’ve connected with people from all over Europe and made friendships hopefully for life. 

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