Relocating from the USA to Finland

What should you know about relocating to Finland from the USA? We have helped many employees make this journey and some of our relocation consultants have also personal experience of living in the US. There are, of course, big differences within such a large country, but here we will discuss the most common differences that our consultants have noticed.

Work culture in Finland and the USA

For an American employee to feel welcome in the workplace, it is important to go through the most common cultural differences during the orientation. One of the biggest differences between Finland and the United States is the conversation culture; In Finland, small talk is not as common as in the US. Hence, it’s especially important to emphasize in the orientation process that Finns are not intentionally rude, but they are just used to talk less and get straight to the point. Many Finns are also shy about speaking English with a native speaker, so they prefer to be quiet if it is not necessary to speak.

Finns tend to work more independently as well. US employees often want things to be explained to them very thoroughly, which Finns may not be used to.

It is also worth noting in the orientation that it is typical for Finns to follow the rules very strictly. For example, it’s important for Finns to have their vacations when planned, while US employees are more flexible, and many rules are seen more as guidelines.

Work-life balance

The United States is very job-oriented, and work is valued. The “American dream” can be seen in the high work ethic: with hard work, it is possible to advance in your career and get rich – the salaries of experts can be very high compared to Finland.

Americans who moved to Finland especially value the balance between work and leisure. In the United States, significantly more time is spent on work: working days are longer, commuting takes more time, and there are fewer holidays. In particular, parental leave is considerably shorter than in Finland. In general, the strong employee rights in Finland are surprising to many who have moved here. In Finland you can trust that the boss and HR are usually on the employee’s side, and the law protects them.

Differences in housing

Those who have moved from the United States are often surprised at how small apartments and rooms in Finland are. In the United States, apartments often have a bath and air conditioning, while in Finland heating and saunas are more common. In general, the quality of housing in Finland is more consistent: it is more difficult to find luxury housing than in the United States, but on the other hand there are also fewer apartments in very poor condition.

Schools and daycare

Schools and kindergartens are expensive in the United States, and applying to them often starts as soon as the child is born. There are also big differences between schools, and some of them can even be dangerous. Thus, even in Finland, Americans want to choose schools and kindergartens carefully and explore different alternatives. Our customers are surprised when they are told that in Finland children usually go to the nearest school without comparing the options; here the schools are mostly free and daycare affordable, there are few private schools, and the quality of public schools is also very high.

Safety and trust

When looking for an apartment, Americans often need to be assured that the majority of residential areas in Finland are quite safe. Finland’s general safety is surprising to many: here you can hike freely in forests, and the children walk alone to school. It’s also normal to use public transportation here – in the U.S., outside of major cities, a car is often needed even for very short trips, as there are no sidewalks or public transportation, or it is not perceived as safe.

Finland’s general culture of trust is also new to those who have moved from the United States. Here, for example, lessors are in principle reliable, and the quality of services can be relied on. For example, Americans tend to check before a doctor’s visit to see if the doctor really has a degree and what kind of reviews they have received. In Finland, you can also rely on the quality of food; for example, organically labeled food can really be trusted to be organic.

Experiences of our customers who moved from the USA to Finland:

Relocating during a pandemic – From New York to Helsinki

Expat insights – Lauren Bengston

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