There’s a lot to like about Finland, one of the world’s most stable and economically impressive countries. Unfortunately, a lot of Americans seem blind to it, and have never visited Finland, let alone debated living there.
It’s important to remember, however, that what we have in Finland—a stable and professional economy—is not something that every country can offer to their civilians. And that stability has produced the country’s greatest success story: the Finns.
So here’s some advice, straight from one of Finland’s own, for anyone looking to improve his or her international status—and who also plans to set a good example for the rest of the world: spend a couple of days in Helsinki and immerse yourself in the city. Here’s why, based on my two visits to Finland in recent years. First, Finns are very nice people. Having lived abroad for most of my life, Finland must be one of the most welcoming places on Earth. And unlike many countries, Finns seem to consider it a great honor to help foreigners from all over the world.
Second, and more importantly, I found Helsinki to be a wonderfully busy city. People talk here and, unlike so many of our cities here in the U.S., it feels busy and lively and alive. But, as I wrote a few years ago, one part of this, its industriousness, is uniquely Finnish.
You see, the world has a lot of urban agglomerations, but few of them are as energetic and interesting as Helsinki. The combination of small neighborhoods that aren’t too densely packed with people and a high density of small businesses, which means that it’s hard to count how many cars are in the streets, adds up to a very long string of interesting places to eat, hang out, shop, see and do.
Which brings me to the third thing to do: go shopping. You know that we have a lot of malls in the U.S.? In Finland, by contrast, shopping is a big deal – and a part of life that goes on all day. Helsinki is a city filled with huge, open-air markets, which quickly become crowded and full of noise and stinking food. To my untrained eye, Helsinki has fewer, and less tidy, malls than we have here, but it’s true that just by happening to go somewhere, you become part of a big shopping trip that’s taking place elsewhere in the city.
And finally, Helsinki is also full of insanely important museums, ranging from the fabled National Museum of Contemporary Art to the National Folk Museum. There are plenty of other things to do, too. And it’s important to understand that the best part of these activities is that they’re free.
You don’t have to travel to Helsinki to learn how beautiful it is, how useful it is to live near a big city center. The travel advice I always give is: just get your ass over there, watch what you do there, and spend some time eating and shopping. This is a good first step for when discovering if a new place/country is livable for you.
On top of that, you should also make sure you venture out of the cities to get lost in the Finnish countryside as arguably that’s where the true residents live. Here you will start to understand more about the lives of these people and what they’ve done for work and pleasure over the years.
Give it a go, moving to a new country is a life-changing experience, you never know who you will meet and what opportunities will arrive on your path.