Tips for moving from North America to Finland

So you want to move from North America to Finland? Well, buckle up, because I have an excess of tips for you. Pay special attention to the administration and “make your life easier” tips, because I very much wish I had them before I moved to Oulu. After those tips, I will give you some fun tips to make your overall experience as enjoyable as possible.
Oulu sky
It is hard to capture the unique color of the winter sky in Oulu, but this is the closest I have come so far!

Administrative tips

We’ll start off with administrative tips. You will need a converter for all your cables that use North American plugins. I recommend a universal converter so that you can bring it to other countries, just make sure it works in Finland as well. Most universal converters do not work in Finland. If you have an electric toothbrush or hair dryer, you will probably need a new one or you will need a voltage adapter alongside your converter. Most converters will not adjust the voltage and while your laptop and phone will be fine, your less sophisticated electronics will probably stop working after a few weeks without adjusting the voltage somehow.

Here is an example of a converter with two plugins and two USB ports.

Money and banking

For banking, you should call your bank before you leave and see if they need any additional information. Some may also provide you with advice. Most banks are not used to people moving to Finland. Mine, for example, had zero processes in place since I was one of the first ever people to move here from Canada and try to pre-emptively inform the bank of my move. Be open to unexpected financial hurdles.

One of those hurdles will be converting from CAN or USD to EUR. I recommend taking out a bunch of euros in cash so that you can pay smaller expenses with bills. The reason for this is that when you convert through your bank, there is usually a less than favourable conversion rate. Some banks may also take a tiny fee. These small conversion fees can add up overtime. You are better off not being subjected to the random fluctuations of conversion rates for smaller payments. For larger ones, you will just have to eat that cost until you can get a European bank account.

Banking and Finnish ID

In regard to that bank account, call the European bank you intend to use before you get to Finland. Ideally, call them a few weeks earlier so that you can schedule your first appointment a day or two after you arrive. There is a waiting period between the first and second appointment and you will need to get some administration done in the meantime. You will need your Finnish ID in order to use your online identity authentication. This authentication is how you get a tax card, log into healthcare applications, log into Posti (the postal service), and much more. You will want to get this ID process going as soon as you arrive in Finland. For it, you will need your residence permit, address, new phone number, and a passport photo taken within the last six months. Do not wait to get this ID.

Moving to Oulu

The next tip is specific to moving to Oulu. When booking your flights, do not go online and search for a flight from your city to Oulu. Instead, find a flight from your city to Helsinki and then book the flight to Oulu separately. This will cut down the cost by sometimes thousands of dollars. If you want to cut the cost even further, you can get a train ticket from Helsinki to Oulu. This will only cost you 30 to 40 euros at most; however, this means a six-to-eight-hour train ride as opposed to a one-hour flight. Still, the Finnish countryside is beautiful, and you will get to see a glimpse of Tampere, another big city in Finland.

Fun tips

Now I will offer some fun tips. Firstly, learn how to roll your R’s. Finnish uses a trilled R and knowing how to trill is key to properly pronouncing Finnish words. Second, download an aurora tracking application so that you will know when auroras are in Oulu. Occasionally, you can just look outside and see them! But most of the time, you’ll need to go about thirty minutes away from the city lights to see them and a tracking application will let you know when to do that.

Of course, you do not need an application in order to appreciate the beautiful Oulu sky. During the winter it turns various beautiful shades, like purple in the early morning and an arctic turquoise during a clear afternoon!

Cultural differences

Finally, mind your manners! Or rather, remember not to mind your manners. Smiling and waving at strangers is a habit that you should leave behind in North America. I’d recommend only doing that if you know the person you are greeting. If you want a good example of manner differences in Finland, pay attention to the signage.

An example of a blunt sign in Helsinki.

Signs will have English translations like “Get in here now” and “Come here,” which is quite abrupt by North American standards. However, bear in mind that pleasantries like “please” and “if you’d like” are not a part of Finnish spoken language. So, while the translation of people’s words may be blunt or rude, know that they are not being rude! Beyond that, carry on as usual. People are just people, and you will make friends easily.

Cheers and good luck with the big move! :)

About the author

Taylor Richmond is from Canada and is studying Computer Science and Engineering. A fun fact about Taylor is that she is from a city with extreme temperatures in both directions. Winter gets to -35°C, and summer gets to +35°C!