The number of expats moving to Helsinki has grown thanks to its healthy economy, dynamic cultural scene and high standards of healthcare and education. Finland’s capital city continues to be at the forefront of design, with many areas and suburbs boasting contemporary architecture and inventive cuisine.
The wide avenues of Helsinki are lined with buildings that showcase centuries of architectural excellence, from the neoclassical era through to Art Deco and cutting-edge contemporary buildings. Expats will find Helsinki lacks none of the sophistication of home; it may even surpass it.
Living in Helsinki as an expat
In the Uusimaa region of southern Finland, Helsinki is the country’s largest and most heavily populated city. Spread across a cluster of promontories and peninsulas, Helsinki stands as the political, educational, financial and cultural centre of Finland.
As an economic hub, many foreign companies have bases in this region, and the city’s job market draws in many expats. When it comes to entertainment and lifestyle, Helsinki has something for everyone, and its prolific coffee culture will be of particular interest to coffee lovers. While the cold may put a damper on the mood, a traditional Finnish sauna will surely raise the spirits, while the country’s housing is well-equipped to handle the cold and keep residents cosy.
Whether moving alone or as a family, public transport makes getting around easy, allowing expats to explore Helsinki and other regions of Finland to take in nature, learn about the culture and observe the spectacular northern lights.
Cost of living in Helsinki
The cost of living in Finland, particularly in Helsinki, is undeniably high, even by European standards. This is reflected in the 2023 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, where Helsinki is ranked 34th out of 227 cities globally.
To put it in perspective, this is slightly more affordable than the neighbouring Scandinavian city Copenhagen, which holds the 9th spot, roughly on par with Paris, which is ranked 35th. Accommodation is likely to be the largest expense for expats moving to Helsinki; the city is experiencing a housing shortage, which leads to high rental costs. Thus, it’s certainly worth considering the living costs in this northern European capital before negotiating for a suitable salary with prospective employers.
Families and children in Helsinki
For expats relocating as a family with children, there are plenty of things to keep them occupied, and parents will be pleased to know that both public and international schools provide an excellent standard of education. Public schools in Helsinki do teach in Finnish or Swedish, so expats with older children who do not plan on staying in the country for long should consider international schools.
Healthcare in Finland is mainly provided based on residency and is primarily financed with general tax revenues. There are both public and private sector providers. Primary health services are generally the responsibility of individual municipalities and are provided through local health centres.
Climate in Helsinki
Summers in Helsinki (June to September) are warm and bright, with average temperatures ranging from a cool 59°F (15°C) to 72°F (22°C) in the warmest month of July. Days are long and sunny, with up to 19 hours of daylight.
Towards the end of September, temperatures cool down drastically as days grow shorter, and by November the snowy winter sets in. The city is blanketed by snow in winter (December to March), with temperatures plummeting well below freezing to the point where the sea itself freezes over, and it is never fully daylight.
Despite harsh winters, expats moving to Helsinki can make the most of their time in one of Northern Europe’s most attractive destinations, benefitting from accessible social services and indulging in the city’s various human-made and natural wonders.
What do expats say about living in Helsinki?
"Helsinki has a richer quality of life and better work-life balance compared to my home country. I enjoy nature and saunas the most here." Read our interview with Daiki Yoshikawa to see how he enjoys life in the Finnish capital city.
►To see how other expats settled in, read some Expat Experiences
Are you an expat living in Helsinki?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Helsinki. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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