Information on Finland

Finland is situated in the northern Europe and a home to 5,3 million inhabitants. Finland is known for its pristine nature, high technology and quality education. 


Historical Review

Finland and the Finnish national consciousness have always been molded by the country's location between East and West. Although Finns, no doubt, count themselves as part of western culture, the Finnish lifestyle has undeniably been enriched by the proximity to Russia. Finland has and has always had a special closeness to both Stockholm and St. Petersburg.

From the thirteenth century, Finland was part of the Kingdom of Sweden and Finns fought in many a Swedish army. In 1809, after Sweden had lost the war against Russia, Finland was ceded to Russia and became an Autonomous Grand Duchy within Imperial Russia, its Grand Duke being the Tsar himself. During the nineteenth century the Finnish national awareness grew stronger.

After the October Revolution in Russia in 1917, Finland declared itself independent. During World War II, Finland managed to retain its independence through the Winter War and the Continuation War against Russia. Since the war, Finland has pursued a policy of military neutrality and this created the basis for the present welfare state.

Finland is a democracy in the normal western sense of the word, a parliamentary republic with a multiparty political system. The social structure in Finland is typically Nordic, particularly resembling that of Sweden. The most important recent change in Finland's position in Europe took place at the beginning of 1995, when Finland joined the European Union.


Population and Area

The population is approximately 5.3 million. The capital city is Helsinki with a population of 580,000 (with more than 1 million people living in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area).

Finland is among the largest countries in Europe in terms of area, with 338,000 square kilometers. Finland is also famous for its 188,000 lakes and the 30,000 islands dotting the 1,100-kilometer coastline.


Parliamentary Democracy

Finland is a parliamentary republic with a multiparty political system. Legislative power lies with Parliament, with 200 members elected by direct proportional vote for a term of four years. Supreme executive power is exercised by the President, who is elected for a term of six years and may serve for a maximum of two consecutive terms. The President works together with the Government, which must enjoy the confidence of Parliament.

Finland is divided into provinces (administered by the State) and municipalities (with local government). The municipalities levy their own taxes, manage their own economic affairs and maintain public order. One of the provinces, the Åland Islands (between Finland and Sweden), enjoys a special autonomous status.


Private Ownership and Free Enterprise

Before World War II Finland was predominantly an agricultural country with a rather narrow industrial sector; the only exports were from the wood processing industry.

The subsequent development into a complex market economy took place very rapidly after World War II. Alongside the timber industry the main manufacturing areas are now the metal industry, chemicals, textiles and construction. The overall structural change of the economy has brought about a dramatic expansion in the service sector: two thirds of the total output is generated in the service sector.

Certain high-tech fields, such as computers and telecommunications, have also grown spectacularly. Finland is a world leader in the development of mobile phones and their networks – and Finns are also avid users of these.

Finnish design, too, is well known: classical examples are Marimekko textiles, Iittala glass, Fiskars scissors and Nokia mobile phones. Finland’s main trading partners are Germany, Sweden, Great Britain, the United States and Russia.


A Bilingual Country

Finland's special richness lies in bilingualism – both Finnish and Swedish are official languages. Around five per cent of the population speak Swedish as their native language. The Lapps also account for a language minority with some 2000 Sámi speakers. English is currently the most popular language in schools. Along with the compulsory Swedish, other languages widely studied are German, French and Russian. It is possible to take care of most of your official business in English.



The climate in Finland is milder than in many other areas of the same latitude, partly because of the warming influence of the Gulf Stream. Clean forests and water are often present in the Finnish landscape, whether rural or urban.

The climate can be harsh in winter, January and February being the coldest months, yet providing all the excitement of winter sports. The spring is long, light and cool. The summer months of June-August are mostly delightful with temperatures between 15 and 30 degrees Centigrade. During the summer it never gets completely dark, and in the north the sun does not set at all for some time. The early autumn can be very beautiful with its burning colors of bright yellow and red.

Check the weather in Finland at


Visas and Permits

Students from the EU and EEA countries do not need a visa to enter the country. However, students who intend to stay in Finland for more than three months have to apply for a Residence Permit from the local police station. The application for the Residence Permit requires two photographs, a certificate of registration from Laurea and a certificate that the student is capable of supporting him/herself during the stay in Finland. Citizens of the EU and EEA countries do not need a Work Permit. Citizens of the Nordic countries do not need a Residence Permit.

Students from outside the EU need a visa to enter the country. To study in Finland as a degree student, students from outside the EU have to apply for a Residence Permit already in their own country. Students must attach details of their comprehensive health insurance cover to their application. Also, they have to be able to show that they have either a required amount in a Finnish bank account or a scholarship/grant that will cover their living expenses for the academic year. A new deposit is required every year. (For updated information, see


Banks and Currency Exchange

The official currency of the country is the Euro.

Banks are open Monday to Friday from 9 am or 9:15 am to 4 pm or 4:15 pm (Finland uses the 24-hour clock). Office hours may vary regionally. Banks are closed on Saturdays and Sundays. Cash points (Automatic Teller Machines, pikapankki/bankautomat) are open around the clock every day, and there are plenty of them. All banks have branches throughout the country. Bank services can also be available at some post offices.

There are no restrictions on foreign students or trainees opening a bank account in Finland. You will receive a bank card which will give you access to virtually every cash point in the country. Apart from withdrawing cash you can also check your balance and pay bills. If you prefer to pay bills by bank transfer (e.g. for your rent), there is a small charge. When arranging such transfers you may need to show proof of identity. You will normally receive a statement of all your transactions, including cash point use, once a month.

Currency can be exchanged at any bank in Finland, as well as at many currency exchange offices in larger cities. It is worth exchanging large amounts at a time, to avoid service charges. Foreign currency and traveller’s cheques can also be exchanged at some hotels. Some banks have automatic currency exchange machines.

Money transfers to and from other countries are subject to an extra commission fee that depends on the destination. Having a bank account here is not necessary for receiving money; instead of the bank account number, the number of the recipient’s passport is given.


Credit Cards

The major credit cards (Visa, Euro card, Access, MasterCard, Diner’s Club, American Express) are accepted throughout the country. Automatic cash points also accept major credit cards.


Post Offices

Post offices are open Monday to Friday 9 am to 6 pm or 8 pm. These opening hours may vary depending on the office. Stamped mail (both national and international) can be placed in the blue or yellow post boxes for collection. Stamps are available at post offices, some bookshops and stationery shops, R-kiosks, some railway and bus stations, and stamp machines. The Helsinki main post office (Mannerheimintie 11 E, 00100 Helsinki) is open Mon to Fri 7 am to 9 pm, Sat and Sun 10 am to 6pm.


Telephone and internet

Mobile phones are very common in Finland and telephone booths are rapidly becoming rarer. International students can obtain prepaid sim-cards for their mobile phones from mobile phone shops and R-kiosks. Ensure that your mobile phone is unlocked and allows you to change the sim-card. Second hand (i.e. used) mobile phones are also for sale in most mobile phone shops.

Area code numbers are listed in the telephone directories. If you call within Finland, you may leave out the country code (358) and add the number 0 in front of the area code (e.g. 358 9 8868 7230 becomes 09 8868 7230). International calls can be made by adding a + or 00 (common European code) in front of the country code. Some telephone operators also offer special prices with their own number codes.

Internet access is widely available either at internet cafés or in the form of a wireless connection. For example city of Helsinki offers free of charge wireless internet in the city center. Mobile phone companies offer wireless internet connection via USB memory sticks.



License holders from countries that have joined the Road Traffic Convention (Geneva 1949 or Vienna 1968) may drive in Finland on their national driving license for one year from the date of entry into the country. After six months you are eligible for a Finnish license. For more information, contact the local police station.

In Finland we drive on the right and overtake on the left. Main roads are in good condition throughout the year. Headlights are used even during the day. Wearing seatbelts is compulsory, front and back. Special winter tyres are compulsory from November to March. Note that driving under the influence of alcohol is strictly forbidden. There is an exact limit of 0.05% for alcohol in the blood. Infringement of this rule nearly always means a penalty in the form of a fine or imprisonment. 0.12% is the limit for heavy penalties. Petrol sold in Finland is unleaded.



Most shops are open Monday to Friday from 9 am or 10 am to 5 pm or 6 pm, and on Saturdays until about 3 pm. Some shops (especially grocery shops) and department stores stay open later, until 8-11 pm on weekdays and 6 pm on Saturdays. In summer, some shops may close an hour earlier and some are open on Sundays. Small items, sweets, magazines etc. can be bought in kiosks, which stay open later in the evenings. The Helsinki Railway Station has an underground shopping center open from 10 am to 10 pm, and from 12 pm to 10 pm on Sundays and holidays.


Pubs and Restaurants

There is no shortage of these. Going out for a drink with friends is very popular: the custom is for everyone to pay for himself or herself. Closing times vary: some places close at 1am, while some bars and clubs remain open until 4 am. Serving alcohol is forbidden to minors under 18; if asked, you need to prove your age with an official document such as a driver's licence. Note that 18 is the legal limit; bars and nightclubs have the right to set higher age limits for their clients and many do so.

Tips are customary only for hotel and restaurant doormen and porters. Prices in restaurants include a service charge; a few extra coins may also be left on the table. Hotel bills include a 15% service charge. Barbers and hairdressers do not expect tips.



Most Finns (about 78%) are Lutheran; 1% belong to the Orthodox Church. These are the official religions in Finland, which means that they keep local population registers of their members. There are also Catholic, Jewish and Islamic congregations, as well as numerous smaller religious communities.


Health Care

There are public health centers (terveyskeskus) and hospitals throughout the country. An appointment is usually expected, although you can see a nurse immediately. In a dental emergency, all foreigners may turn to the dental clinic at a health center. In an emergency, you are advised to go to the nearest health center or hospital emergency unit.

The general emergency number is 112. You can dial the number from any phone free of charge.

Health care fees vary locally. Usually health centers charge EUR 14-28 for the first appointment. Prescribed medicines are not included in the fee.

NB: Students are always advised to enquire about specific health cover regulations (vaccinations, etc.) concerning their field of study.


Public Holidays 2013&2014




New Year's Day (Uudenvuodenpäivä)

January 1 ​

January 1 ​

Epiphany (Loppiainen)​

January 6 ​

January 6​

Good Friday (Pitkäperjantai)​

March 29

April 18​

Easter Monday (2. Pääsiäispäivä)​

April 1​

April 21​

May Day (Vappu) ​

May 1 ​

May 1 ​

Ascension (Helatorstai)​

May 9​

May 29​

Whit Monday (Helluntai)​

May 19​

June 7​

Midsummer's Day (Juhannuspäivä)​

June 22 ​

June 28​

All Saits' Day (Pyhäinpäivä)

November 2

November 1​

Independence Day (Itsenäisyyspäivä)​

December 6

December 6​

Christmas Eve (Jouluaatto)​

December 24​

December 24​

Christmas Day (Joulupäivä)​

December 25​

December 25​

St. Stephen's Day/ Boxing Day

(2. Joulupäivä or Tapaninpäivä)​

December 26​

December 26

New Year's Eve (Uuden vuoden aatto)​

December 31

December 31​



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