17 ways Helsinki allows you to have it all

Sitting on the deck of Allas Sea Pool at night, the Predential Palace and the building of Pohjoisesplanadi lit up in the background, a man in swimming shorts looks out towards the harbour on the left.
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In Helsinki, all the little stuff is taken care of for you so that you can concentrate on living your best life.

1. Helsinki is full of exciting work opportunities.

Helsinki is jam-packed full of inspiring work opportunities, and the job market is pretty international.

International House Helsinki helps newcomers settle into life in the city, offering personal job seeking guidance in eight different languages. Meanwhile, Helsinki Business Hub maintains a tech job listings board featuring new openings at some of Finland’s most exciting companies.

2. And Finnish companies let you choose your own working hours.

Finland’s new Working Hours Act came into effect this year. It gives the majority of full-time employees the chance to choose when and where they work for at least half of their working hours. The most important thing is getting the job done, while avoiding burnout.

In Finland, employees are trusted to organise their own work schedules to best suit them. Shifting your working day forwards so you get home for 15:30? No problem. Taking an hour’s gym class in the middle of the day? A-Okay. Staying home so you can take your dog for an afternoon walk from time to time? Sounds like a great idea. 

In front of a small lake with fountains at its center and surrounded by bushes and trees, an older gentleman stands with their dog in Alppipuisto park
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3. Working overtime is unheard of in Finland.

Staying late in the office doesn’t earn you any brownie points here. Finns get to work on time, do their job for the hours they’re contracted to do it for, and go home. So if you work an 8-hour day and get to work at 8am, you’d better believe you’ll be leaving at 4pm. There’s no clock-watching and no second guessing when your boss might leave.

Working hours were just one of the factors that the Kisi Work-Life Balance Index considered when it named Helsinki the second best city for achieving a good work-life balance in 2020. Other factors included everything from air pollution to gender equality and time spent commuting.

4. Finishing work on time allows people to have actual hobbies.

You’ll struggle to find anyone in Helsinki who doesn’t have a hobby, and I don’t mean reading before bedtime. I’m talking woodwork, learning another language, being part of a choir, embroidery… you name it, you’ll find a course on it.

Ilmonet lists all of the upcoming courses at Helsinki’s Adult Education Centre and you should check out Arbis if you’re interested in Swedish courses too.

5. And plenty of people study alongside working.

Both Helsinki University and Aalto University run open courses for people who aren’t currently enrolled in fulltime study. So whether you’re interested programming or global history, you’ll be sure to find something that piques your interest. Most of the courses on offer take place during evenings and weekends, but there are plenty of online distance learning courses too.

6. Your gender won’t hold you back in Finland.

You’ve probably heard that Finland was the first country to grant full political rights to women in 1906. You’ve probably also heard that our Prime Minister, 35-year-old Sanna Marin, is the second youngest PM in the world.

But did you know that 49% of all employed people in Finland are women? Or that women make up one 47% of Finland’s Members of Parliament? Did you know that over 50% of the diplomats in the Finnish Foreign Service are women? These were just some of the reasons cited by the Gender Equality Prize panel when they awarded the prize to Finland last year. What’s more, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reported that Finland is the only country where fathers spend more time with school-age children than mothers.

7. Finland’s combined parental leave allowance is among the world’s most generous.

Finland’s new family leave policy, which is set to come into effect in 2021, will give each parent an allowance of 164 paid days off, which adds up to around 7 months each. In an effort to encourage dads to take more parental leave, parents are only able to transfer 69 days of their leave to their counterpart. And single parents get the whole 328 days.

In Helsinki, you don’t have to choose between having a child and having a career.

8. Childcare is affordable in Helsinki (yes, really).

Childcare is heavily subsidised in Helsinki, which means that families can actually afford it. The cost of childcare depends on your family’s income and size, as well how many days a week you want your child to attend. In instances where a family’s joint income is very low, early childcare is free.

9. Helsinki locals don’t waste time commuting to work.

The average Helsinki local commutes for just 26 minutes a day.

Just tell that to a London commuter on their second rail replacement bus of the morning…

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10. In fact, lots of them opt to cycle.

The city bike system was set in 2016 and Helsinki’s network of bikes keeps growing. In 2019 there were 4,450 city bikes and 445 bike stations in Helsinki and in the neighbouring cities Espoo and Vantaa. Throughout the spring and summer months, locals use them to get to work every day.

Helsinki has 1, 200 km of cycling routes in total.

11. The city is filled with public parks, giving its residents room to breathe.

Did you know that 34% of Helsinki is covered in trees? And in Finnish forests the so-called “everyman's right” holds sway, meaning that everyone is free to roam the forests and wilderness regardless of who owns the land.

Central Park, in the middle of Helsinki, is a 10km long forested green space that runs pretty much the entire length of the city. Head there after work in the summer and you’ll see people running, cycling and even horse riding.

Who said you had to choose between living in the countryside and living in the city?

12. And the entire city is surrounded by water.

Helsinki is surrounded by water and its beaches, like AurinkolahtiHietaranta and Mustikkamaa are incredibly popular in the summer.

What’s more, Helsinki’s beautiful public islands are easily reachable by ferry connections—some in twenty minutes, and the closest in just three. So if you really want to leave the, ahem, hustle and bustle of the city it’ll take you less than half an hour. In the summer, Lonna offers the perfect escape from the city and Uunisaari, which is open year round, houses the most delightful sauna if you’re looking for somewhere to relax after work.

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13. Finns take their holidays seriously.

Finnish companies offer employees a minimum of 30 paid days of annual leave a year. Excluding bank holidays. Just imagine what you could do with that sort of time…

14. Going out for lunch with your colleagues is considered the norm here.

Helsinki locals take their food seriously and, come lunchtime, its customary for the city’s restaurants to put on huge, affordable buffets. And colleagues tend to eat together.

I can’t decide whether I prefer Dylan Marmoripiha, which is based in Rautatalo’s Alvar Aalto designed atrium, or Pompier, which is based in the Helsinki Volunteer Fire Department and looks like something out of an Aki Kaurismäki movie. Either way, you can expect to find an all-you-can-eat buffet (with complementary coffee, of course) for around €12 on pretty much every street in Helsinki. And many companies provide their employees with lunch discounts.

15. Giving employees coffee breaks is literally a legal requirement.

Finnish law mandates that employees must be given two 10-15 minute coffee breaks every day. People tend gather in their office kitchen or nip out to a nearby café for their afternoon pick-me-up. My favourites are CafetoriaAndante and Patisserie Teemu Aura

16. Best of all, you can get by in English here.

If you want to learn Finnish, you can find classes to suit all levels at Finnishcourses.fi, but there are plenty of English-language jobs available in Helsinki too. Pretty much everyone speaks flawless English here so you don’t need to worry about your language skills holding you back.

17. Because, at the end of the day, Helsinki will always take care of you.

In Helsinki, all the little stuff is taken care of for you. Students get generous study grants; health centres work and social assistance is given to those who need it. Helsinki’s social services take care of all the technical stuff so that you can concentrate on living your best life.

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In Helsinki, all the little stuff is taken care of for you so that you can concentrate on living your best life.