Author Archives: mdower

Finnish apartments

Most people in Helsinki live in an apartment. For a duplex house with it’s own yard, you will need to consider moving a little further out to areas like Espoo or Vantaa.

Most apartments come with a stove and fridge freezer.

Some may include a washing machine (often in the bathroom) or a room downstairs with communal machines you can pay to use.

Dryers are less common as most people dry their washing by hanging it on a rack inside. Good heating means clothes hung out at night are often dry by the morning. For sheets and towels, most apartment buildings have a communal drying room downstairs.


Most apartments have built-in wardrobes, including an area in the entrance-way to hang winter coats.

Wooden floors are more common than carpet and it is normal to remove shoes upon entry.


Radiator heaters are built in to most rooms and the heating is turned on by the building manager as the weather grows colder. You can adjust the level of the heaters in your own home.

Many apartments come with personal storage areas downstairs, which are useful for storing winter sports equipment. There may also be a communal room for storing bicycles and skis.

Mail is delivered directly to your home, through a slot in the front door.

For more info and photos of a Finnish apartment click here.



Make sure you bring…

Requirements will differ from country to country but generally you should always bring:

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates
  • Citizenship certificates (where applicable)
  • Qualification certificates

You should have these certified for legal reasons while you are still in your own country.

This is called an apostille and can only be performed by people of a certain rank or profession in the country of issue.

You should also bring evidence of having lived together if you are a couple and not married. This could be a lease or utility bills in both your names. This will assist with Family Ties permit applications and / or when you register your municipality at the Magistrates.


How to Dress for Finnish winter

(c) Jussi Hellsten. 10.12.2013. The Icepark is open again right next to the main railway station. &

(c) Jussi Hellsten

Finland has long winters, with the polar night (where the sun doesn’t rise) lasting for two months in the far north.

Helsinki however enjoys a milder climate with around five hours of sunlight a day. While emperatures can get as low as -26° celcius, many people prefer sub zero temperatures as the air is drier and more snow means more light.

It’s important to know how to dress well in winter as life very much continues and you may find you love being outdoors.

Suitable clothing is readily available in Finnish stores and staff are generally happy to help. You will find stores update their stock according to the conditions, meaning you don’t have to overspend before knowing how cold the winter will be.


A good hat is essential, especially on a windy day. Real wool is best and many hats come with a soft inner. Ears can get painfully cold, so make sure your hat comes down low enough to protect them.

Other options include hats with ear flaps, ear muffs or warm head bands.

For children, a soft balaclava or neck warmer (not scarf) is essential as Finnish daycares play outside until the temperature drops below -15°.


When it’s really cold many people wear two pairs of gloves. An inner pair made of wool is handy, especially if you can use them with a touch screen / phone.

The outer pair should be wind and waterproof and if you have gloves underneath you may find mittens easier to pull on.

(c) Melanie Dower

(c) Melanie Dower


Warm socks are essential and when it gets really cold you will probably wear two pairs, the second being wool.

Take this into account when buying shoes or boots as you will need more room to fit them in. If the winter is mild you’ll find the snow melts, only to refreeze overnight. This can create long stretches of ice which are difficult and dangerous to walk on. The City of Helsinki will lay gravel down to help stop sliding, but this is the time to invest in a pair of footwear with good grip. If the weather is really cold, the snow stays dry, as anything below zero degree freezes.


It’s good to remember that houses, stores, restaurants, public transport and workplaces in Finland are generally well insulated and heated. So you really only need to dress for getting from here to there. Layers are important and thermals are a good place to start. You can find 100% woollen underwear at reasonable prices in many department stores. Invest in a good jacket that is water and windproof and has a hood. One that comes down to cover the top of your legs is a good idea as your backside can feel quite exposed to the cold air.

Most of all, don’t be afraid to get outdoors as life carries on in Finland during winter and there are loads of activities to get involved with.

As Finnish people say, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!”

Helpful websites:

How to Dress Right & Enjoy the Finnish Winter – Visit Finland

How to Dress a Child for Finnish Winter – Hey Helsinki

How to Walk on Ice without Dying – Hey Helsinki 

Cycling in Helsinki



Helsinki is a great city to cycle in as it is very flat and there are well maintained and clearly marked cycle paths.

You can plan your route and have the cycle paths mapped out for you at: Reittiopas

Bikes can be taken on the Metro and commuter trains, provided there is space. Bikes are not allowed on the commuter train during peak travel times.  Bikes on Public Transport 

The City of Helsinki has a cycle service centre at Narinkka Square (Narinkatori) in Kamppi. The Bicycle Centre ( Pyöräkeskus ) offers emergency repairs, bike parking and a free pumping station. Visit the Bicycle Centre for more details.

Unemployment Assistance

If you are unemployed you may be eligible for assistance from TE-palvelut. They can assist with job searches, CV preparation and provide information on things like having overseas qualifications recognised in Finland.

They may also link you with Finnish classes or subsidise approved classes.

You may be required to attend an interview and provide ID. You may have an interpreter at the meeting. You may also be asked to sit a Finnish language test. It doesn’t matter if you don’t speak any Finnish, they just need to assess your level should you enrol in classes.

Some people will also be eligible for unemployment assistance in form of a payment from Kela or unemployment fund. The TE office can help you apply for this.

For more information, visit

What should I do to apply for unemployment benefit?

Going to the Doctor

Public health care
You are entitled to use public health services in Finland if you have a municipality of residence.
To find out if you have one, contact the Local Register Office (maistraatti).

If you do and need to see a doctor, contact your local health station (terveysasema).
Health Stations directory

Normal hours are 8 am – 4pm, Monday to Friday. You may have to wait for an appointment, unless it is urgent. The cost is generally very low or free. If you have a Kela card, take it with you.

Private Health Care

If you are not entitled to public health services, you can make an appointment at a private clinic. Private health services are more expensive than public ones.

Seeing a specialist

First book an appointment with a general practitioner. Your health centre doctor will then refer you to a specialist.


If you are unwell and unable to go to work, you may be eligible for assistance from Kela.

Kela pays a small part of the expenses of private health care if you are covered by Finnish national health insurance. Sometimes a person who is not covered by Finnish national health insurance may also be entitled to Kela reimbursements.

EU citizens

If you have a European Health Insurance Card, you are entitled to use public health care services. If you use private health care services, Kela may reimburse some of the expenses.

Maternity and pre-school care

Care for pregnant women and newborn babies is provided by Neuvola. There are various clinics around Helsinki. They provide regular child health checks and administer vaccinations in accordance with the Finnish child vaccination program. Visit the City of Helsinki website for a list of clinics.

Municipality of residence in Finland

Health Stations directory


EU Citizens

Who to notify when you move house


You must change your address at a post office or the Local Register Office (maistraatti).

You can submit your new address online, by phone or by using a form.

The notification of move is called muuttoilmoitus and should be submitted at most one month before you move and at latest, one week after.

Your details will then be updated in the Population Information System and with various government agencies.

Who to notify checklist

How to notify of your move

Mail Redirection Service

Population Information System