Daiki Yoshikawa is a Japanese businessman enjoying life in Helsinki as a blogger, sauna enthusiast and nature lover. Daiki shares his experiences and information about living in Finland on his blog Finland Life Lessons. Find him talking about Finnish culture and traditions on his blog and be sure to follow him on Twitter. He chats to us about studying and working in Helsinki and what he enjoys about life there.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Kyoto, Japan.
Q: Where are you currently living?
A: Helsinki, Finland.
Q: When did you move here?
A: August 2016.
Q: Is this your first expat experience?
A: No (I lived in Vancouver, Canada for a year as an exchange student).
Q: Did you move here alone or with a spouse/family?
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: I moved to Finland to complete my master’s degree.
Living in Helsinki
Q: What do you enjoy most about Helsinki? How would you rate the quality of life compared to Japan?
A: Helsinki has a richer quality of life and better work-life balance compared to my home country. I enjoy nature and saunas the most here.
Q: Any negative experiences? What do you miss most about home?
A: I miss local food culture in Japan, the city vibes and a variety of events happening almost every day.
Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life here? Did you experience any particular elements of culture shock?
A: It took me quite a long time to get used to the food here, especially those served in student restaurants.
Q: What’s the cost of living compared to Japan? Is there anything particularly expensive or particularly cheap in Finland?
A: Almost the same. Water and telecommunication costs are relatively cheaper here and I also appreciate all the student benefits I got, such as discounts for students and free education. On the other hand, restaurants are more expensive compared to my home country.
Q: How would you rate the public transport in Helsinki? What is your most memorable experience of using Helsinki’s transport system?
A: Public transport is quite convenient in the capital area and it has a variety of options, including bus, subway, train, tram and sharing bikes. They run regularly and are usually not that crowded. When I took an intercity train in the early morning, I was the only one in the car.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Helsinki? Have you had any particularly good/bad experiences with regards to doctors and hospitals? Are there any hospitals you would recommend?
A: As a student I was able to access healthcare very easily and affordably. After I started working, I get occupational healthcare as a benefit and the service is smooth. Private hospitals can be quite expensive. It cost me 80 euros for a 15-minute medical check-up.
Q: What are the biggest safety issues facing expats living in Helsinki or Finland? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: There are some areas where drunken or drug-addicted people tend to gather, such as a part of the Kallio area in Helsinki.
Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in Helsinki? What different options are available for expats?
A: I would say that the standard of housing in Finland is higher than in many other cities in Europe. It’s common to live in a rented flat provided privately, or by a real estate company or the city. There are several different platforms to find suitable housing.
Q: Any areas or suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in?
A: Cities in Finland are relatively safe but if you want to save money for rent, Espoo or Vantaa have cheaper options for apartments compared to Helsinki’s central area.
Meeting people and making friends
Q: How tolerant are the locals of foreigners? Is there obvious discrimination against any particular groups? Have you ever experienced discrimination in Helsinki?
A: I haven’t experienced any discrimination myself, but it is sometimes said that there is discrimination against some groups. Most locals in Helsinki are way more tolerant and used to talking with foreigners compared to those in suburban areas.
Q: Was meeting people and making friends easy? How did you go about meeting new people?
A: It was easy to make friends when I was a student here in Finland, but after I graduated and started working, it became harder. Finnish people are famous for keeping their personal space, so making friends and meeting new people can be tricky for foreigners unless some efforts are made. I try to meet new people by joining events, such as language exchange events, asking friends to introduce their friends and using online platforms or social media. I actually made some good friends from Twitter.
Q: Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats? What advice would you give to new expats looking to make friends with the locals?
A: Most of the friends I have made here are locals. It would be a good idea to gather info regarding events or parties where you could meet locals. You must know that it takes a bit of time to make friends with Finnish people but once they get to know you, they are very helpful and friendly. I think that Finns are especially likely to get along with foreigners who respect Finnish culture and customs.
Working in Helsinki
Q: Was getting a work permit or visa a relatively easy process? Did you tackle the visa process yourself, or did you enlist the services of an immigration consultant?
A: I tackled the visa process myself and it was very smooth and easy. It seems that the process is highly dependent on your status and background.
Q: What is the economic climate in the city like? Do you have any tips for expats looking to find a job? Which resources did you find most useful?
A: The economic situation isn’t that good at the moment and finding a job is a big challenge for expats here especially if they don’t speak fluent Finnish. Plus, having connections means a lot. It is vital to know what kind of professions are needed by companies or society, get the skills effectively, and use all the possible resources/platforms/services such as LinkedIn, and services provided by the government.
Q: How does the work culture differ from Japan? Do you have any tips for expats doing business in Helsinki or Finland? Did you have any particularly difficult experiences adapting to local business culture?
A: Work-life balance is more valued in Finland compared to my home country, so I needed to get used to getting things done in a limited time by trying to be as productive as possible. I would recommend checking and using public services when doing business here as they are mostly free.
Q: Is there any advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals to Helsinki or Finland?
A: I believe that “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” is an important mindset. You can create a positive cycle in your life by learning local culture, being open to meeting new people, being active to get information and finding the positive sides of the country. In my opinion, Finland is a country that has one of the best environments and social systems, which means that you are eligible to support or help when needed as a new expat.
►Interviewed May 2020