Embracing a Nordic Good Life: Work-Life Balance and Trust in Finland

Lauren Bengston’s journey from the US to Finland brought her closer to her personal beliefs. Explore the prioritization of work-life balance, trustworthiness, mental and physical health, affordable childcare, safety, and the joy of being oneself in Finnish culture.

4 min read

Carmen Nguyen

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Embracing a Nordic good life: Lauren Bengston’s journey

In November 2016, amid a political uproar in America, Lauren Bengston and her husband contemplated a move to a Nordic country more aligned with their personal beliefs. Eventually, an enticing job offer from a major technology company in Finland led them to Helsinki, where Bengston found a sense of belonging and fulfilment.

“The idea of moving because of Trump was practically a joke, but in only a few months we found ourselves going to Helsinki,” Bengston says. “I am glad I moved.”

Lauren Bengston playing the guitar outside

I’m 31 years old and this is the first time I’ve had an employer offer vacation time.

Lauren Bengston

Trustworthiness and Human Rights in Finnish Society

Finnish society emphatically maintains human rights. The country is ranked among the best in the world when it comes to press freedom, women’s rights, inequality and corruption as well as a former president having been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet it is one thing to see your country on a “best places to live” list and another thing to experience those rights first-hand. One big surprise for Bengston was worker’s rights.

Prioritizing work-life balance in Finnish society

Working as a designer at the fast-growing startup Yousician, Bengston experienced a remarkable shift in work culture. Finland’s emphasis on work-life balance and worker’s rights allowed her to enjoy benefits previously unimagined, such as vacation time. She appreciated the freedom to prioritize personal well-being without the need to justify oneself, fostering a productive and fulfilling work environment.

“In the US you better have a good reason for taking the day off. Here, if I feel ill I just don’t go to work. They trust you to make your own decisions.

Lauren Bengston

Mental and Physical Health as a Priority

In Finland, Bengston discovered a distinctive approach to health, both mental and physical. Contrasting with the US, where taking a day off requires justification, Finland trusts individuals to make their own decisions. The culture of seeking therapy as a normal practice further underlines Finland’s commitment to mental well-being, contributing to a healthier and happier workforce.

“In the US you better have a good reason for taking the day off. You need to justify yourself,” says Bengston. “Here if I feel ill I just don’t go to work. They trust you to make your own decisions. When I felt sad people said to go talk to a therapist. They explained it is completely normal here to talk to a therapist.”

Creating a Better Life for Families

Bengston’s relationship ended, but she liked Finland so much that she decided to stay. One reason was a better environment for her four-year-old son James.

For Bengston, Finland became an ideal environment to raise her four-year-old son, James. Unlike in the US, where exorbitant daycare costs hindered her career, Finland offered accessible and high-quality childcare at an affordable price. James thrived in this nurturing environment, becoming fluent in Finnish and embracing the local culture.

“I couldn’t work in the US because my entire salary would have gone to pay for daycare,” she explains. “But here there is an incredible daycare that costs only 180 euros a month. [James] is fully fluent in Finnish and even likes his name to be pronounced the Finnish way.”

Safe and efficient transportation

Helsinki impressed Bengston with its exceptional safety record, where even the concept of “bad neighbourhoods” seemed foreign. As a Texan unfamiliar with public transportation, she revelled in Helsinki’s efficient and reliable system, eliminating the need for car ownership. Exploring the city independently became a source of excitement and freedom.

“I was so excited the first time I travelled across town by myself,” she laughs. “Helsinki’s public transportation is really nice and efficient. You don’t have to worry about a car.”

Embracing Finnish Culture: Living, Being Yourself, and Happiness

While adjusting to Finnish culture presented some challenges, Bengston found aspects that resonated deeply. The Finnish values of personal space and tranquillity were initially surprising but ultimately contributed to a greater emphasis on living authentically and embracing happiness. The genuine care she received from the people around her further reinforced her connection to Finland.

Lauren her guitar raised over her head in joy

The people in my life here genuinely care about me.

Lauren Bengston

“Here there is more emphasis on living, being yourself and being happy,” she explains. “The people in my life here genuinely care about me.”

Embracing a Nordic Good Life in Finland

Lauren Bengston’s journey to Finland led her to a Nordic good life characterized by work-life balance, trustworthiness, and a culture that prioritizes mental and physical health.

With affordable childcare, safe surroundings, efficient transportation, and a society that encourages authenticity and happiness, Finland provided a fertile ground for Bengston’s personal and professional growth.

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