The good life: Achieving work-life balance in Finland

Embrace family-friendly workplaces, entrepreneurial opportunities, and lower stress levels. Experience the unique Nordic culture and enjoy the benefits of living in Finland. A personal account of how Finland’s work-life balance, trustworthiness, productivity, and sustainability contribute to a fulfilling life.

5 min read

Carmen Nguyen

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Embracing work-life balance in Finland

Finnish culture and its focus on family and personal time

In many American workplaces, spending time with your child is not a good reason for missing work. It’s different in Finland, “It’s huge not to feel guilty all the time,” says Heini Vesander.

Finnish nationals Heini Vesander and Michail Katkoff, who lived and worked in Silicon Valley for several years, made the decision to return to Finland to prioritize spending time with their daughter. They found a welcoming home in Espoo, a neighbour of Helsinki, in November 2017.

Vesander highlights the stark contrast in attitudes towards families, comparing her experiences in San Francisco to Finland.

“We chose Finland because of the work-life balance,” Vesander explains. “We have a four-year-old daughter, Ronya, and the US it is not very kid-friendly at work. Finland has a culture that allows – and even encourages – a life outside of work. This is important to us because we want to spend time with Ronya and influence what kind of person she becomes.”

We chose Finland because of the work-life balance

Heini Vesander

One example of the different attitudes towards families, Vesander says, is that she was not allowed to take a stroller on a bus in San Francisco. In Finland, she gets a free bus ride if she has a child in a stroller.

The child-friendly environment in Finland extends to accessible and affordable daycare options, making it easier for parents to manage their work and family responsibilities.

“In San Francisco, you might need to get in line for a daycare even before your kid is born, and then pay 3,000 dollars a month for it,” says Vesander. “In Finland, you go online, sign up immediately, and pay 290 euros per month.”

Productive environment for tech startups

Entrepreneurship and the Nordic advantage

Despite their shift back to Finland, Vesander and Katkoff remain active in the exciting and fast-moving world of tech.

Vesander is the Head of Communications at Wolt, a prominent food delivery company, while Katkoff launched a new games studio after his leadership role at Rovio, the creators of Angry Birds.

It is tough to own a startup in San Francisco because the costs are high. You have to dilute your ownership stake by raising more money. In Helsinki, we have access to Venture Capitalists and talent.

Michail Katkoff

They highlight Finland’s advantages for entrepreneurs, including strong support from Venture Capitalists, access to talent, incentives such as assistance from organizations like Business Finland, favourable tax rates, and simplified regulations.

“It is tough to own a startup in San Francisco because the costs are high. You have to dilute your ownership stake by raising more money,” says Katkoff. “Here in Helsinki, we have great Venture Capitalists and talent.”

Additionally, Finland’s global connectivity enables remote work opportunities even when employed by companies located elsewhere.

“Another thing to keep in mind is that everything is global nowadays,” Katkoff says. “It is very easy to work remotely from Finland, even if your employer is located somewhere else.”

Lower stress means happier people

Quality of life and sustainability in Finland

While acknowledging that salaries may be higher in the United States, Vesander emphasizes the importance of considering the overall cost of living.

“Salaries are higher in the States, but do a budgeting exercise and consider actual costs,” Vesander suggests. “You can get a house in Helsinki for the cost of a one-room apartment in San Francisco. Think about Finland’s health and education systems. You can get a PhD for free in Finland! Imagine the debt you would rack up to do it in the States.”

Heini and Miska sitting down with their daughter colouring

Everything is easier here and it takes less time to get things done.

Heini Vesander

The availability of free healthcare and education, including obtaining a PhD without incurring significant debt, further adds to the attractiveness of living in Finland. The lower stress levels and efficient systems in place contribute to a happier and more contented population.

Vesander and Katkoff had roots in Finland, but returning after a number of years abroad gave them a few pleasant surprises. They were happy to see how international Helsinki had become and the number of quality restaurants. Yet perhaps the nicest thing about living in the Helsinki area was what it did to themselves.

“Everything is easier here and it takes less time to get things done. Stress levels are so much lower, and that impacts us,” Vesander says. “I think I’m a nicer person again living in Finland.”

Cultural traits and Nordic hospitality

Trustworthiness, friendships, and community in Helsinki

Moving to Finland may entail a culture shock for Americans, as Finns tend to be reserved and quiet. Vesander acknowledges that it can be a lonely experience initially. However, she highlights the depth of friendships formed in Finland, noting that when you do make a Finnish friend, it is typically a lifelong connection. “Finns are quiet and reserved, but when you do make a Finnish friend you have a friend for life.”

Trustworthiness and a strong sense of community are cherished values that enhance the quality of life in Finland.

Incorporating work-life balance, trustworthiness, productivity, Nordic values, and sustainability, Finland provides an exceptional environment for individuals seeking a good life.

From family-friendly workplaces to supportive entrepreneurial ecosystems and a lower-stress lifestyle, Finland exemplifies the ideal balance between work and personal well-being. Experience the unique culture, embrace the vibrant startup scene, and enjoy the numerous benefits Finland offers for a fulfilling life.

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