Forget about happy-mad Denmark, it’s Helsinki expats should head for
According to research by Metropolis Magazine, Copenhagen is the world’s most livable city. Taking into consideration criteria such as housing, transportation, sustainability, and culture, the Danish capital beat classical Vienna and mega-city Tokyo to the top spot.
Denmark also regularly appears in the top spots in the World Happiness Report: first in 2013, third in 2015 and first again in 2016. This year it came second, being beaten by close neighbor, Norway, but managed to fend off fellow Nordic nation Iceland in third. It’s not hard to see why Denmark continues to rank well: it is well-known for being a clean, green, safe, artistic, accessible, friendly, well-educated and open-minded country. As if that weren’t enough, it’s also ranked as one of the most optimistic countries in the world too!
Which begs the question: why consider Helsinki?
While it might be well-known for being the snow-white capital of Finland, the land of a thousand lakes and the title of an amusing Monty Python song, expats may not know much else about it. But they should. It’s slowly but surely creeping to the top spot, coming third in the Metropolis research and fifth in the 2017 World Happiness Report (three places behind Denmark, but five places above friendly rival and neighbor, Sweden). Meaning, it too beat Vienna and Tokyo and even sunny Melbourne.
So just what is it about Helsinki and Finland that is helping the city move up the rankings and why should expats choose to live here?
One reason could be the house prices. Helsinki is undertaking large-scale building to curb housing prices, with aims to provide a minimum of 6,000 new residential units per year, which is great news for expats looking to buy a house here.
Finland was also recently ranked as the best place for an expat to raise a family. To achieve this result, expats rated childcare, education, children’s health and safety, and more. 70% of expat parents said the quality of education is excellent, and had nothing negative to say about their children’s health, safety, and well-being. Oddly, Denmark didn’t appear in the top 19 countries in that list, although sibling Nordic countries, Sweden and Norway, did.
Due to Finland’s high-quality healthcare system, it’s no wonder why expat parents had no issue with their children’s health and well-being. Being awarded 31st place by the World Health Organization (WHO), Finland’s healthcare system, ranked higher than the healthcare systems in Denmark (34).
Public healthcare is available to all permanent residents regardless of their financial situation. This system is primarily funded through tax, but it is also partially funded through patient fees. Although charges are generally low. Expats can use the country’s private healthcare services, but if they are not covered by the right kind of insurance they may find themselves paying out-of-pocket fees, which is why expats may want to take out international health insurance.
Finland also appears to be a great place for expecting expat mothers. For instance, in 2015, Save the Children revealed that Finland was the second best country in the world to be a mother. In this country, the probability of a child dying before the age of five is one in 345, and maternal deaths affect less than one in 12,000 women. Denmark ranked fourth.
Finland is known as having one of the best education systems in the world, making it an ideal place for expat families with children in education. According to the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Finland was awarded fifth place for their performance in reading, science, and math, ranking higher than Denmark (21).
Lifestyle, culture, and social life
Like many capital cities, expats will find themselves surrounded by numerous shopping outlets, restaurants, attractions, and more, but this is not what makes Helsinki stand out. Surrounded by more than 300 islands and a sea which stretches through the heart of the capital through bays and inlets, Helsinki offers a wonderful balance between urban life and nature.
The residents here, and the Finnish people in general, are known for their relaxed, and generally liberal attitude. They are regarded as having a warm understanding of other cultures due to the amount of diversity within the capital where the number of expats continue to grow. For instance, in 2016, the population in the Helsinki region increased by 16,000. In this region, foreign-language speakers accounted for 72 percent of this growth, revealing that the capital is an extremely popular place for expats.
Another reason expats should consider living here, is for the delicious food. Not only is food a large part of their culture, but the food options and favorites change from season to season, offering an excellent variety of treats and sweets.
For instance, in July and August bilberries cover the forests, and are enjoyed in the form of delicious pies, but they are also served solo with fresh milk. In the midst of summer, a delectable dish known as “rapu” is enjoyed by many city dwellers. As a maritime city, rapu is created with freshwater lobsters, harvested from the archipelago of Helsinki. It is a Finnish delicacy that is usually served at parties in honor of crayfish season.
As well as being home to one of the best educational systems in the world, and being the proud capital city of a country that is classed as being the best place to raise a child, Helsinki is a place of diverse culture.
Finland has also been identified as a frontrunner in the fourth industrial revolution meaning it is, "excelling when it comes to economically benefiting from investments in information and communications technologies."
All of these things combined make it clear that Helsinki will stay in the top rankings and may even surpass Denmark in the World Happiness Report one day! That’s why expats should consider moving to the flourishing Finnish capital!