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Living in Finland - A Guide for Students

by Dr Nathalie Mather-L’Huillier and Chantelle Francis



Finland will be known to many as the home of Lapland, where we all know Santa secretly resides.

Residence to around 23,000 international students, Finland is an increasingly popular study abroad destination, and it’s easy to see why. Technological advances in public services such as banking, schools, and transport make life in Finland feel very modernised compared to other European countries.

The Finnish are characterised by their very easy-going nature. The capital city, Helsinki, has also been nominated as the most honest city in the world. Most locals in Finland also speak English, so learning Finnish or Swedish may not be necessary if you decide to study here.

Nature is also all around in Finland, with plenty of open fields, lakes, and forests to immerse yourself in.

Sound like a good place to study? This page covers all you need to know about life in Finland, including how to acquire accommodation, everyday living costs, and working during your Masters.

Elsewhere, you can read about what it’s like to study a Masters in Finland. Or, if you know Finland is your perfect destination, you can search thousands of Masters courses on our site.

Whats it like to study abroad in Finland?

With a population of 5.7 million, and a land area of 130,000 square miles, Finland is a rather sparsely populated compared with other European countries.

Its location in the Arctic Circle makes Finland an interesting place to live, with cultural influences from neighbouring Scandinavian countries.

One interesting part of Finnish culture is the integration of saunas in everyday life, and all households have at least one sauna. They are seen as a necessary means of keeping up health and happiness, and as such, public saunas are available almost anywhere. Saturday is traditionally held as the day for sauna bathing.

The people

English is widely spoken by many locals, and Finnish and Swedish are the two official languages in Finland.

The Finnish are however quite reserved around strangers, and will not strike up conversation in public unless they know the other person present. That being said, the Finnish are also very sociable, and do enjoy many social traditions such as festivals.

National service is compulsory for men, and voluntary for women. Finland’s reserve of 230,000 is one of the largest in Europe. Individuals that do not wish to take up military service can undertake civilian service instead.

Festivals

There are many festivals celebrated in Finland each year, and all are encouraged to participate.

Labour Day, or May Day, is a national public holiday celebrated on the 1st of May each year. It is characterised by lots of feasting, drinking, and partying. Many will gather in local streets and pub and bars to celebrate.

This date also marks the student Vappu celebration, where students come together and feast to mark the beginning of the summer season. Notably, a tradition known as ‘crowing’ takes places across major towns and cities, whereby statues are adorned with white student caps. Many students and locals alike will also be seen wearing ornate caps and colourful clothing.

Midsummer, or Juhannus as it is known in Finland, is celebrated in mid-June every year. It coincides with the ‘midnight sun’, which is the longest day of the year – the day that the sun is actually still visible at midnight! The festival is marked by the lighting of bonfires and feasting, particularly consuming sausages on barbeques. Many locals will leave the city centres and celebrate in rural cottages by lakes, where swimming is enjoyed.

The 6th of December marks Finland’s celebration of independence from Russia in 1917. On Independence day a national military parade is held in Helsinki, beginning with the raising of the Finnish flag on Tähtitorninmäki ("Observatory Hill"). Across Finland, civilians will light two candles in one window of their home as a mark of respect to fallen soldiers.

Food

Fish and game meat such as dear, beef, and hare make up a variety of dishes in Finnish cuisine. These meats will often be included in soups, pies, pastries and casseroles.

Arctic berries such as raspberries and cranberries are very popular in Finland, and are characterised by their strong taste and high nutrient content.

Wholemeal products such as rye, porridge, and oats also characterise many Finnish meals, particularly breakfast.

Interestingly, a free hot lunch is served in all primary and secondary schools in Finland as part of the state welfare system. Many workplaces also provide employees with lunch vouchers to be used to the same purpose.

The weather

A country with four very distinct seasons, the weather is somewhat of a novelty to many travellers from different climates. The summer (June-August) is characterised by very long, bright nights, as the sun barely sets below the horizon, and is even constant in Lapland for two months of the year. Temperatures tend to stay around +15-+25 degrees Celsius, but temperatures of +30 degrees are not unheard of.

In the Autumn from September to November, Finland sees lots of heavy rainfall, and of course the falling of leaves from trees. As Finland is dominated by many forests, the red of the leaves is commonly referred to as "ruska".

Winter in Finland lasts roughly from December to March, but may start as early as October and end as late as May in some regions. Very heavy snowfall is to be expected, but modern vehicles such as snowploughs mean it is usually no hindrance to everyday life in Sweden. Temperatures usually hover between -5 and -20 degrees Celsius, and are as low as -30 degrees in some parts. The winters are also very dark, with some regions such as Lapland receiving no sunlight for several months.

The Spring in Finland lasts from April to May. At this time of year, the temperature begins to increase towards 0 degrees Celsius. Wildflowers in meadows are a common sight at this time of year, and the leaves begin to return to the trees in May. The climate is usually ideal for hiking at this time of year.

Sports and hobbies

Like Hiking in the Spring, sports and hobbies tend to follow a seasonal pattern in Finland. In the spring and summer, field sports such as long distance running and javelin competitions are very popular.

In the winter, sports such as ice hockey, figure skating, snowboarding and skiing are in high demand, and Finnish locals are encouraged to participate in these sports from a very early age. Another popular winter hobby in Finland is ice fishing. Traditional ice fishing is a popular social event for local people and visiting tourists. It’s often competitive, with prizes being awarded including such things as top of the range fishing equipment and reindeer meat.

Motorsports are also popular in Finland all year round.

Search for a Masters in Finland

Ready to start looking for your ideal study abroad opportunity? Browse and compare Masters degrees in Finland on FindAMasters.com

Accommodation

In Finland most students, especially international students, live in university-owned accommodation or in student flats which are managed by either student unions or a local student housing foundation. Regional councils and local authorities will sometimes manage dormitories for students. University accommodation is in short supply so start enquiring at your institution as early as possible after you have received your letter of acceptance.

Finnish student housing (soa) provides a lot of useful information about accommodation as well as website details of student housing organisations in different locations in finland.

It is possible to rent in the private sector but sharing with other students is not a well-established practice. In addition it can be near impossible to secure accommodation before moving to Finland and in any case, you are always recommended to see the place for yourself. This means you will have to find temporary accommodation until you find something more permanent.

How much does student housing cost per month?

Monthly rent varies from one city/institution to another and it also depends on the size and type of accommodation. The average monthly rent for a single room in a shared student flat ranges from approximately €160 ($180 USD) to €340 ($380 USD). Single apartments or family flats are also available, but the rent rate is obviously higher.

The private sector can be considerably more expensive than student accommodation but it can be an option if you do not want to live on campus or share with other students.

Living costs

Scandinavia in general has a reputation for being expensive, and it is true that the high rate of taxation means that the cost of living is higher than in other European countries. By northern European standards however, the cost of living in Finland is average. Finland is part of the Eurozone and the Euro (€) is the official currency.

As an indication of your budget for the duration of your studies, excluding education-related costs, students requiring a visa to study in Finland must demonstrate that they have at least €560 ($630 USD) per month (€6,720 / $7,560 USD per year) at their disposal. This is a minimum and you are recommended to budget around €800 ($900 USD) per month. This will depend on your individual living standards. If you are on a budget, remember that as a student you can get discounts in university restaurants and cafeterias, cinemas and on public transport...

In your financial planning it is best to exclude any predicted part-time employment income because it may be hard to get a student job in certain parts of Finland if you do not speak Finnish or Swedish.

Typical student prices in Finland

The following tables give approximate prices for some of the common items and services you are likely to purchase whilst studying abroad in Finland:


Groceries
Item Price (€) Price ($)
Milk (1 litre) 0.95 1
Loaf of bread (500g) 1.75 1.90
Potatoes (1kg) 0.95 1
Chicken breasts (1kg) 9.80 10.50
Rice (1kg) 1.95 2.10

Entertainment & Leisure
Item Price (€) Price ($)
Cinema ticket 12.50 13.45
Mid-price bottle of wine 10 10.75
Cup of coffee 3.20 3.55
Draught beer (0.5 litre) 5.50 5.90
Inexpensive restaurant meal 11 11.85

Monthly Utilities
Item Price (€) Price ($)
Monthly travel pass 52.40 56.35
Broadband internet (10mbps, uncapped) 18.65 20.05
Domestic utilities (Electricity, Heating, Water and Waste) 102.65 110.35

Note Information in the above tables is based on crowd-sourced data collected by Numbeo. Figures are approximate and provided for comparative purposes only. They do not take account of student discounts and may vary over time or between cities.

Learn more about studying in Finland

Looking for more information about Masters study in Finland? Our detailed guide covers everything from university rankings and courses to fees, funding and applications.

Working whilst studying

EU and EEA nationals will usually be entitled to work whilst studying a Masters in Finland, though some restrictions may apply to the number of hours you are permitted to work whilst registered as a postgraduate student. If you are not a citizen of an EU or EEA country you should enquire with a Finnish embassy or with your prospective university in order to confirm the rights and restrictions that may apply to you when seeking work in Finland. Your university may maintain an international office with staff prepared to assist with such inquiries.

You can also use PostgraduateFunding.com to search a comprehensive database of small grants available to all postgraduate students. These can help top up your funding if you have any difficulty finding work alongside your studies.

Further information

By now you should have a good idea of what to expect whilst studying a Masters in Finland. You'll be able to get started looking for accommodation, working out a living budget and deciding whether or not to take on a part-time job whilst you study.

You'll also be ready to experience some of the more unique experiences offered by studying in Finland, whether that means exploring beautiful northern landscapes, relaxing in a sauna or going looking for Santa Claus (FindAMasters does not actually recommend postgraduate students spend their time looking for Santa Claus, unless enrolled on programmes studying myth and folklore).

There are a few other areas you'll want to read up on before heading off to study a Masters in Finland though - see below for a quick introduction to transport, healthcare and banking for Masters students in Finland.

Travel and transportation

Public transport is well organised in Finland and it is relatively easy to travel in cities; Helsinki has buses, trams, local trains and a metro. To get around the rest of the country, trains, buses and flights are widely available. In the northern part of the country the transport network is less extensive.

Don’t forget that Finland’s location in northern Europe means that you can easily access neighbouring countries such as Sweden, Norway, Russia and Estonia by road, rail, air or ferry. Although, you should check the visa and other possible permit requirements before travelling

Healthcare

You should make sure that you have suitable healthcare cover, either through a reciprocal health agreement between your home country and Finland (this is often the case if you are from another European country) or through international student health/medical insurance (which is compulsory for non-EEA citizens to obtain their residence permit).

For information on international insurance, visit the Student Insurance Programme (SIP) website.

As a rule only permanent residents of Finland are covered under the Finnish National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme, KELA. However, student healthcare for those studying at universities (not UAS) is offered by the Finnish Student Health Service (FSHS - in Finnish, the acronym is "YTHS"). If you are studying in a UAS, healthcare is sometimes provided by the local authority of the city/region you live in. Overall it's best to check with your institution.

Banking

As a masters student you do not need to have a Finnish bank account. However, it can make your day-to-day life easier, especially if you need to pay bills. There are several banks operating in Finland and the types of account they offer are not that different. In choosing a bank, you may therefore want to consider convenience in terms of location and whether, as a non-Finnish resident, you can access online banking.

To open an account, you will need to visit the bank branch in person. Make sure you have the right documentation with you, including your passport for identification purposes and a proof of your address in Finland.

Banks usually open Mon-Fri from 9.30 to 16.30 and close at the weekends, but ATM machines/cash dispensers are available 24/7.

Search for a Masters in Finland

Ready to start looking for your ideal study abroad opportunity? Browse and compare Masters degrees in Finland on FindAMasters.com

Last updated - 21/11/2016

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