Helsinki or Turku?

Hello

I am a British stay at home mom with a 3 year old daughter and a new baby due in December. I am currently living in Zurich Switzerland and I have previously lived in Amsterdam and Aix en Provence so I am used to relocating abroad but always within areas with large English speaking expat communities.

My partner has recently been offered a 2 year in contract in Turku starting next year and I am keen for some advice on whether we should move to Turku or move to Espoo. In Switzerland he currently does a 1.5hr commute so we can live in Zurich which has allowed me and my daughter to easily settle in, there are several groups and activities for children held in English and lots of bilingual preschools, there are also lots of expat meet ups etc So it has been realitively easy to make friends, but it has been hard with my partner spending so much time commuting and with another child on the way it would be nice if he could work and live in the same area.

From the research I have already done there appears to be a large expat community and lots of activities for English speaking children within Espoo and Helsinki. However, I have been unable to find much information on similar clubs or groups in Turku. Obviously I appreciate that Helsinki is much larger and has a large expat community but wanted some advise on what it is like living in Turku in comparison. I appreciate that I should try and integrate more in to Finnish society, but I know the reality of how long this takes and how difficult it can be to learn a foreign language as an English speaker.

Any information that people can provide on English speaking groups, activities for children and babies and Turku in general would be grately appreciated.

Kind regards

Vicki

Hi Vicki

I am Finnish citizen and have lived around Turku most of my life. Turku definitely is much smaller city than Helsinki. Much less things to do or see. We say that compared to other countries there really is only one city in Finland and that  is Helsinki.

Here is maybe 1 or 2 English language kindergarten/preschool in Turku. Here you can't really find clubs or meetings for English speakers. I can only think of University organizing some activities for their international students. However there are some foreigners living in Turku too. Though most of the foreigners here are refugees or students.

There are some activities and clubs for foreigners and probably stay at home mums too but they are all held in Finnish. And most of the attendants are not from western countries. But you will be welcomed to them regardless of your Finnish skills. I believe you will be offered free Finnish language courses too. But I know the language is really difficult. (I used to teach Finnish for foreigners before) It is not related to English or any other major language. Completely it's own.

There are other meetups for stay at home mums that are open for anyone. You could maybe enjoy them. They are held in Finnish but it would be opportunity to meet other mums. In Finland most of the people speak English and quite fluently too. We have high quality English teaching at schools and it's compulsory to everyone. Just some older generations don't maybe speak English.  But I must admit Finns are not very open and making friends with them is not easy. Not even for themselves.

I understand you would like to contact with other expats. It is very important to share thoughts with someone who is in the same situation.  I was myself an expat in Iran and came back just few months ago. I can relate to you. I still don't know am I gonna stay here or not. Life as an expat has its ups and downs.

For you it would be better to live in Helsinki area. Definitely more English speaking expats to hang out with and more things to do. But it is really far from Turku. It will be really hard for your partner. And in winter it gets dark early and I feel when its dark you get more tired. How long he will be on the way depends on  his means on transportation. Public transportation is rather good here but some areas are operated less frequently. But either way I believe it will take longer than 1,5 hours one way. It will be really hard to make that trip twice a day.

With 2 small children you are maybe going to feel yourself too lonely if you are so far from your partner's workplace. He won't have much time to spend with you and he will be just tired when home.

Hope this gives you some answers. If I can be assistance in any way feel free to contact me.

Heli

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