From the sunshiny mediterranean to the icy northern Europe

  • expat in Finland
Published 6 months ago

Marietta from Greece started her expat journey seven years ago when she went to Denmark for her Master's degree and then to the Netherlands as a research assistant. Today, she is based in Kuopio, a densely populated city in Finland, famous for its beautiful forested area and Lake Kallavesi, which surrounds the town. After two and a half years in Finland, Marietta may still struggle with the cold weather, but she has found joy in outdoor activities and of course, her PhD. 



Hi, please introduce yourself. Where are you from, what are you doing in Finland, and what were you doing before?

My name is Marietta, and I am Greek. I have been working as a researcher at the University of Eastern Finland for the past two and a half years. Before and for three years, I was in the Netherlands also working as a researcher at Radboud University in Nijmegen.

What is the process of moving to Finland?

Coming to Finland for me it was an easy process. I think mainly because I have been moving around Europe for the past seven years, so I am more or less familiar with the bureaucracy and paperwork needed to move to a European country. But in general, there are two things that you must do in order to live in Finland as an expat. First, you must obtain the resident permit, which will allow you to stay in Finland legally and at the same time you need to find accommodation because without an address it is a bit difficult to start any kind of process in the country. From my point of view, having a place to stay (and ideally call it home) is the number one thing for a successful expatriation project.

nature in Finland

What is your favourite thing about Finland, and what is your least favourite thing?

What I like about Finland is the mentality of the people. I like that they take their time to do things, and stress is a word that from what I have seen they don’t know. What I don’t like about Finland is the architecture. As a country it has a very beautiful nature, full of forests and lakes but, on the other hand, most cities in Finland are very industrialized, full of concrete with a touch of the former soviet union architecture.

How would you describe Finland in one sentence?

Finland is very cold.

What has surprised you the most about Finland?

The amount of snow that we get every year!

icy lake in Finland

How is today’s expat job market in Finland?

I would say that this depends on the area that you are interested in. Unfortunately, in my case, research in Europe is stagnant nowadays. However, finance, business, and software development are more promising job sectors for expats.

How easy or difficult it is to find accommodation in Kuopio, and what type of accommodation is available for expats?

If you are working for the university things are a bit easier because they can help you find an apartment or a room in different dormitories all around the city, even if it’s just a temporary solution. If you want to rent an apartment things can become a bit trickier, especially if you don’t have a resident permit or an employment contract. Thus, finding accommodation mostly depends on your employment status and budget of course.

How is the transportation system in Kuopio?

There are local busses, but they are not very frequent. A lot of people, especially during the summer and spring, use their bicycles, and in the winter time car is the most popular public transport.

beautiful lake in Finland

How is everyday life for you in Kuopio?

During autumn, life can be very boring because it’s very dark; we usually have between four to five hours of daylight and in combination with the low temperatures and rain, there is not much to do outdoors. Indoors there are more options: you can go to a restaurant, grab a beer in a bar, go bowling, or watch a movie in the theater. During winter life is more fun because we get a lot of snow, which makes the scenery brighter. People can enjoy winter sports such as ice-fishing, ice-skating, skiing, and cross country skiing. During summer and spring life is evolving mostly around hiking in the forests, barbeques with friends, fishing and swimming in the lakes. Of course, sauna is Finland’s favourite pastime throughout the year.

Do you feel that you have adapted to your new life?

I haven’t really adapted to the Finnish lifestyle, but I do enjoy most of the outdoors activities that in Athens I wouldn’t be able to do.

What do you do in your free time?

During summer and spring, I am very active; I walk in the forest, jog around a beautiful lake called Valkeinen, and organise a lot of barbeques with my friends and colleagues. During winter and autumn, I go to the gym or watch  movies with my friends at home.

forest in Finland

Are there activities for people who enjoy nightlife?

There are a few pubs and restaurants with some local Finnish and international cuisine such as Chinese , Vietnamese, Greek, and Italian food

What new habits have you developed in Finland and what old habits have you quit?

I quit smoking, and I am very proud of myself!

What is something that you would like to do in Finland but haven’t had the opportunity to do yet?

I would like to swim in a frozen lake for a few minutes.

Share your most memorable experience in Finland.

When I went to Lapland for a week in March, and I had the opportunity to see the Northern Lights for the first time in my life.

If you could do the move to Finland all over, what would you do differently?

I would have chosen a bigger city, probably somewhere closer to the sea; maybe I would have gone to Tampere in southern Finland.

What do you think of the local cuisine? What are your favourite dishes?

The local cuisine is not that interesting, but I would definitely recommend trying reindeer (poro) and salmon soup.

What do you miss the most about your home country?

I miss a lot of things but mostly my friends and family.

Finland view of the lake

Have you had a moment when you almost felt like leaving Finland? How did you overcome that? What kept you there?

I had some moments when I thought that my expat life here is not exactly what I was expecting. Usually, these kind of thoughts come during autumn when we have a lot of darkness and it is rainy and cold. When I feel homesick, I like to organise a movie night or a dinner at home with my other Greek friend, who also works at the university. If I am in a really bad mood, I go to Copenhagen for a few days to my boyfriend who works there. He is very supportive and always tries to cheer me up and remind me of my goals and the reasons I am in Finland for.

Can you give us some useful tips that soon-to-be expatriates in Finland might benefit from?

Try to do something that you love and be positive about your future. In general, things for expats are unstable and unsure, especially for those in their late twenties and early thirties. Try to learn at least the basics of the language no matter how difficult it is, as such a skill will make your expat life easier.

What are your plans for the future?

When my work contract ends, I will go to Copenhagen to live with my boyfriend and start a family.