15 ways Helsinki offers people the freedom to feel safe

Lena Salmi, a 60+ skateboarder from Helsinki, rolls towards the camera, past Mannerheim's statue in Mannerheiminauikio.
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In Helsinki, people in cafes leave their handbag on their chair when they go to the bathroom and people in libraries leave their laptops out when they step outside. The general feeling is that people can be trusted.

1. First things first, Helsinki feels safe.

In 2019, Helsinki was ranked second on the Mercer Quality of Living Survey’s annual personal safety ranking. The ranking analysed 231 cities based on internal stability, crime levels, the effectiveness of law enforcement, limitations on personal freedom, relationships with other countries and freedom of the press.

And this wouldn’t come as a surprise to Helsinki locals, who know that the city just feels safe. 

2. So much so that kids take themselves to and from school.

Foreigners in Helsinki are often amazed when they see seven-year-old kids boarding the tram alone, or cycling to school without a parent. The truth is, Finnish kids have always taken themselves to and from school and, most likely, they always will.

Finns believe in teaching their children to be independent because it’s how they learn to make their way in the world. This also means that they’re free to play out on their own without their parents supervising them. It’s how they learn to fend for themselves.

3. Helsinki is the kind of city in which you can be yourself.

From the city’s hipsters to its heavy metal scene, Helsinki is full of subcultures. It’s not the kind of city which forces its inhabitants to conform to the status quo. In fact, quite the opposite: it’s the kind of city that’ll embrace you for who you are. So whether you’re into warehouse raves, allotment gardening or graffiti, you’ll be sure to find your people in Helsinki.

4. Helsinki plays host to all sorts of great LGBTQ+ events.

Helsinki is an LGBTQ+ friendly place. And there are plenty of gay bars scattered around the city for anyone looking a great night out. From Hercules, the biggest gay nightclub in the Nordics; to Room BLVD, the city’s newest gay restaurant, there’s something for everyone. And don’t forget to visit Bear Park Café, a friendly gay café in the heart of Kallio with some of the best pastries you’ll find in Helsinki.  

5. People feel safe walking around the city alone.

It’s just not the type of city that people are afraid to walk around alone in. Spend a couple of days in Helsinki and you can’t help but notice that men and women alike are perfectly comfortable walking around the city alone.

Vuosaari landfill hill, four people are jogging away from the camera, down a trail surrounded by meadow and trees that stretch into the distance.
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6. Which is probably why Helsinki has quite so many joggers.

Helsinki is an exceptionally active city. Wherever you turn, you’ll see joggers getting a few miles in. And Helsinki has plenty to offer joggers: from the dense forest of Central Park to the Southern peninsula’s seafront, there are all sorts of different runs in Helsinki. So, what are you waiting for? Dust off your old running shoes and get out there!

7. And running routes tend to be well lit, so jogging at night isn’t scary.

In summer Helsinki stays light late, but in the winter it’s another story. Luckily, things have always been this way so the city is used to it. Most of the city’s major jogging routes are well-lit, so running at night isn’t at all scary. My favourite evening run is around Töölö bay, which is lit the entire way round.

8. Finnish people tend to trust the police.

According to Eurostat, Finns have the highest possible level of trust in the police and the second highest level of trust in their judiciary system out of all the European countries.

9. And Finland is one of the safest countries in the world.

Every year since 2013, Finland has been named the world’s most stable country by the Fragile States Index. The index analyses risk and vulnerability in 178 countries, taking economic, political and societal factors into account.

10. Finns just trust one another.   

Finns have the highest level of trust in other people of everyone in Europe, according to a 2018 report by the European Commission. When asked, a massive 85% of Finnish survey respondents said that, in general, those in their country can be trusted.

On the right a small group of people are chilling outside of the Lonna sauna on Lonna island, a few trees at the back of the building, and the shoreline stretching into the distance to the left of the photo.
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11. Which makes sense because Helsinki is one of the world’s most honest cities.

In Reader’s Digest’s Lost Wallet test, Helsinki was found to be the world’s most honest city. The test involved 192 wallets being “lost” around the world, to see how many of them would be returned. Each wallet contained the equivalent of $50 as well as clear contact information for the wallet’s owner. In Helsinki, 11 out of 12 wallets were returned. One of the people who returned a wallet told Reader’s Digest, “Finns are naturally honest. We are a small, quiet, closely-knit community. We have little corruption, and we don’t even run red lights.”

12. Finland is a secure country to live in.

Along with Norway and Iceland, Finland is deemed to have the second lowest level of insecurity in the entire world, according to the 2018 Law and Order Index.

13. Helsinki is taking climate change seriously.

Helsinki has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2035 and mayor Jan Vapaavuori has spoken about the Helsinki Energy Challenge, a commitment to finding “innovative solutions, by means of which the city can be heated in a truly sustainable way during the upcoming decades —without coal and with as little biomass as possible.”

14. Helsinki responded to the coronavirus pandemic with measured and practical solutions.

Social distancing measures were introduced early on, with threats of “mental health issues, domestic violence, disadvantaged youth in danger of falling behind and substance abuse problems” identified from the offset. Meanwhile, teaching moved onto digital platforms and assisted services were provided for the elderly. The measures that were introduced curbed “the number of infections, maintaining a good level of health care facilities and personnel that has thus far been able to cope with surges in infections.” Right now, according to The COVID Economic Recovery Index (CERI), Finland is coping the best. The Index takes into account Absorptive Capacity, Economic Agility and Health Resilience.

A kid facing the camera on a trip to the woods with daycare, looks up towards the trees through homemade binoculars whilst another kid and teacher watch in the background.
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15. Because, at the end of the day, Helsinki is the kind of city in which people can move freely, without fear.

In Helsinki, people in cafes leave their handbag on their chair when they go to the bathroom and people in libraries leave their laptops out when they step outside. The general feeling is that people can be trusted. It makes for a wonderfully relaxed ambiance.

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In Helsinki, people in cafes leave their handbag on their chair when they go to the bathroom and people in libraries leave their laptops out when they step outside. The general feeling is that people can be trusted.