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Preface Last Updated: 7/14/2005 4:53 AM

The Finnish character—as a nation and a people—has been forged by the severity of life in the northern corner of Europe, the challenge of being between contending powers, and the influence of lakes and forests that separate the country into small communities.

Finnish pride focuses on Finnish independence and the modern, industrialized democratic Finnish State, which accommodates a generous social welfare system and vigorous individualism. To Finns, being close to nature is an everyday occurrence: the freedom of the forests is guaranteed by law, and there they pick berries, gather wild mushrooms, fish, hunt, ski and swim. Americans are quick to take advantage of the outdoor activities in Finland.

After Reykjavik, Helsinki is the northernmost capital in the world. Seasonal changes in Finland are dramatic, and the country is noted for its thousands of lakes, its great forests and rocky islands. Short winter days contrast with the summer “white nights.” In addition to a wealth of unspoiled scenery, Finland offers medieval churches, ancient culture and modern, progressive cities. Finland also offers the intellectual challenge of learning its language.

The Host Country

Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 7/14/2005 4:53 AM

Finland, the sixth largest country in Europe, occupies an area of 338,312 sq km (130,622 square miles) — about twice the size of the United Kingdom. Its coastline, excluding indentations, is 1,100 kilometers long. Finland is bordered on the east and southeast by the Russian Federation, on the west by Sweden and the Gulf of Bothnia, on the north by Norway and on the south by the Gulf of Finland. Most of the country is low but not necessarily flat. Because the soil (mainly moraine deposits from ice age glaciers) is very thin the topography reflects the contours of the Archean bedrock. Elevations greater than 640 meters (2,100 ft) are found along the northwestern frontier with Norway, and in the extreme northern region of Lapland. Most of Finland’s 60,000 lakes, comprising 10% of the total area, lie in the southern half of the country and provide important waterways and log floating routes. An extensive and imposing archipelago, reaching from the Russian border on the south, westward to the Aland Islands and there northward, provides an important fishing and vacation area known for its magnitude and grandeur.

Another impressive physical feature and natural resource of Finland is its forests which cover 65% of the land area (the highest percentage in Europe). The forests of Finland are mainly coniferous; a limited area in the south and southwest contains hardwood deciduous trees. In Lapland, the spruce and pines disappear and dwarf birch usually forms the timberline.

Virtually all of Finland lies between latitudes 60°N and 70°N, but the Gulf Stream and the prevalence of warm westerly winds make the climate several degrees warmer than elsewhere at the same latitude. Summers are short and mild, and the days are long. In June and July only a 2–3 hour period of twilight separates sunset from sunrise. In the extreme north the sun does not set for 73 days during the mid-summer period. Precipitation, averaging 63cm (25”) annually, is distributed over all seasons. Winters are long and cold. Snow is possible from October through April, with January through March having the heaviest accumulations. Temperatures may vary from north to south, as does the snow coverage from one winter to the next.

Despite Helsinki’s location on the Gulf of Finland, the humidity is low compared to the coastal regions of the U.S. The city’s average temperature is +5°C (42°F). February and July mean temperatures are -5°C (23°F) and +17°C (63°F) respectively. Average temperatures in Lapland are -12°C (10°F) in January and +17°C (63°F) in July.

Population Last Updated: 7/14/2005 4:54 AM

Finland’s population of over 5 million includes some 3,000 Lapps. Since World War II, a rapid industrialization, the growth of service industries and expanded educational opportunities have fostered a movement of people from rural areas to urban centers, but in recent years this decline/growth cycle has stabilized.

Finland has two official languages — Finnish and Swedish. Under the constitution, the government must meet equally the cultural and economic requirements of both language groups. Finnish is spoken by 94% of the population and Swedish by 6%. Finland also has a small Lapp-speaking minority.

The local school curriculum, especially at the secondary level, emphasizes foreign language study. The most widely spoken foreign languages are English and German. English-speaking visitors to Finland will generally have little difficulty communicating in Helsinki.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 7/14/2005 4:55 AM

King Eric of Sweden introduced Christianity to Finland in 1155. For 300 years the Catholic Church was influential, but during the Reformation the Protestant religion became predominant.

Today Finland has complete freedom of worship — 85.2% of the population belong to the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church, a state church. The bishop of the Diocese of Turku is the archbishop of the Church of Finland. The Finnish Orthodox congregation, with 1.1% of the population, is also a state church, but it owes allegiance to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. Another 1.1% of the population belong to other congregations and religious communities, and 12.6% belong to none at all.

Historically, Sweden and Russia controlled Finland for long periods. From its first conquests in the 12th century until the surrender of Finland to Russia in 1809, Sweden ruled. Then, Finland became an autonomous Grand Duchy of Russia but kept its old constitution, government, laws, and administration. A growing sentiment on the part of the Russians to absorb Finland was paralleled at the same time by an increasing awareness on the part of the Finns of their distinct character and spirit. The result was the creation of an independent Finland in 1917 amidst the chaos of the Russian Revolution. The immediate result of the proclamation of independence was a 3-month civil war between the “Reds” and the eventually victorious “Whites.” A new constitution was proclaimed in 1919.

During World War II, Finland twice fought the Soviet Union: in the Winter War of 1939–40, and again in the Continuation War of 1941–44. Finland suffered heavy casualties and lost 11% of its territory to the Soviet Union. Over 400,000 Finns had to be resettled. The Treaty of Peace between Finland and the USSR, signed in Paris on February 10, 1947, provided for the cession to the Soviet Union of the Petsamo area on the Arctic coast and the Karelian Isthmus in southeastern Finland. Another provision leased the Porkkala area near Helsinki to the USSR for use as a naval base and granted free access to this area across Finnish territory. In early 1956 Soviets returned the Porkkala area to Finland. The treaty also provided that Finland pay the USSR reparations in goods valued at an estimated $570 million (completed in 1952). Finland’s defense forces were limited by the Peace Treaty to 41,900 troops (army 34,400, navy 4,500, air force 3,000). However, in 1990 Finland stated that it no longer felt bound to these limits.

In April 1948, Finland and the Soviet Union signed a Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance (FCMA). Under this mutual assistance pact, Finland was obligated — with the aid of the Soviet Union, if necessary — to resist armed attacks by Germany or its allies against Finland or the USSR through Finland. The FCMA Treaty became null and void with the collapse of the Soviet Union and was replaced by the Treaty on Neighborly Relations in 1992. This treaty simply requires the parties not to use or allow the use of their respective territories for an armed attack against another party. The Treaty will remain in effect until 2001 unless in the unlikely event it is repealed prior to July 2001.

Finland’s former official policy of neutrality changed throughout the 1990s and is today called non-alignment. Finland maintains good relations with other countries regardless of their political systems. Finland joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace Program in the spring of 1994. Finland actively participates in the UN, the OSCE, and the human rights organization, the Council of Europe. Finland supports and is actively participating in UN peacekeeping operations.

Finland joined the European Union in 1995 and is also a member of the European Monetary Union; it will revert entirely to the European single currency in January 2002. Finland served as presiding country of the EU in the second half of 1999. In the EU, Finland is an active participant, seeking a leadership role and at the same time defending the rights of the smaller member states. Its Northern Dimension Initiative is now part of the EU official policy. In the Nordic Council, an interparliamentary organ of cooperation among the Nordic nations, Finland works closely with its Scandinavian neighbors on matters of intra-Nordic concern.

Finland is a Western-oriented republic. Under the new Constitution, which took effect in 2000, the powers of the President of the Republic — until then stronger than those of his or her counterparts in most European countries — were reduced considerably in favor of greater powers for Parliament. The President, elected for a term of 6 years, nonetheless controls foreign affairs (minus EU policy), is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and can dissolve Parliament at the request of the Prime Minister and following consultations with parties in Parliament.

The Cabinet includes the Prime Minister and the ministers and associate ministers in charge of the 13 government departments. The Parliament (Eduskunta) is unicameral and consists of 200 members directly elected every 4 years through proportional representation. Suffrage is equal and universal; all citizens over age 18 have the right to vote. Finland was the first country in Europe to grant full political rights to women (1906), well before the U.S.

Finnish policies on most basic domestic and foreign issues have been consistent, notwithstanding a relatively rapid turnover of cabinets since World War II and periods when no government commanded a parliamentary majority.

Nine political parties are represented in Parliament. Nearly all Finnish governments are coalitions of several parties, although at times it has been necessary to form cabinets composed of nonparty technical experts. The average life of Finnish Cabinets was only 12 months until the late 1970s, but for the past couple of decades governments have normally survived the parliamentary term of 4 years. Finland has had only five presidents since 1946.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 7/14/2005 4:55 AM

Much of the richness of Finnish culture derives from the folk element. A wealth of songs, costumes, traditions and buildings has been carefully preserved over the years. Finnish literature in its oldest form comprises epic poems and tales passed from generation to generation by word of mouth. Since the first half of the 19th century, a determined effort has been made to preserve the Finnish national culture through the creation of a Finnish-language literature. Many of the resulting literary masterpieces, both in poetry and prose, reflect a historical context and regional spirit.

Finnish architecture is justly famous, from the earliest achievements seen in medieval castles, through the elaborate wooden buildings of the 18th century, to the innovative and functional design prevalent today. Alvar Aalto (1898–1976), the modern Finnish architect, influenced urban and regional planning, interior decoration and industrial art.

In the fields of music, painting and sculpture are found many fine examples of Finnish genius. Glass (e.g. Iittala, Nuutajarvi, Humppila), porcelain (Arabia), textiles (Marimekko, Vuokko, and Pentik), jewelry (Lapponia and Kalevala Koru), and furniture (Alvar Aalto and Ilmari Tapiovaara) are some of the many items that bear the unique stamp of Finnish handiwork and design. Hvittrask, now a museum and restaurant, served as home and studio to Finnish architects Eliel Saarinen, Armas Lindgren, and Herman Gesellius.

Finland, with virtually no illiteracy, has an advanced education system that is free and includes all textbooks and a broad medical care program. In addition, pupils receive a hot lunch daily. Special schools have been established in the larger cities for children who are handicapped or have learning disabilities. Four basic levels comprise the school system: preschool education, compulsory education (the 9-year comprehensive school), upper secondary education, and the universities and colleges.

Finland has a strong state-subsidized adult education program, with classes held at community schools or institutes. This program supplements and/or completes the basic education and provides for advanced vocational training or cultural and intellectual pursuits.

The Finnish higher education system has undergone a major expansion since 1958. The national government is now the major financing source for this new state-supported system. The largest university is the University of Helsinki. It has spearheaded the country’s intellectual life since the 17th century. The Helsinki University of Technology, located at Otaniemi in Espoo, is another well-known school of higher education. Finland has 21 university-level institutions. The facilities in Helsinki, Turku, Tampere, Oulu, and Jyvaskyla are the largest.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 7/14/2005 4:56 AM

The standard of living in Finland is at the same high level as the other Nordic and Scandinavian countries, with Finland ranking in the top 10 nations in the world in per capita income. The Finnish economy has sustained a period of strong economic growth in the late 1990s, after recovering from a severe recession triggered by the collapse of the Soviet Union market in the early 1990s. Production of electrical products, a field dominated by mobile phone giant Nokia, has propelled Finland to the cutting edge of globalization and the economy has been growing at a robust rate. An exception to this overall favorable outlook is the inflation rate: average inflation rate reached 3.4% in 2000, becoming one of the highest in the Euro zone. Prices are relatively high by American standards.

Finland has a market-based economy. Most businesses are privately owned; however, some larger industrial enterprises in sectors such as energy, steel, and mining are partly government owned. Railroads are state-owned and the Finnair airline is majority state-owned. Ownership of the telephone system is split between the partly government owned Sonera and privately owned companies. Oil refining has been a government monopoly, but retail gas stations are owned both by the state and by private companies. The government has a monopoly on retail sales of alcohol. There has been a significant degree of privatization and merger activities since Finland joined the EU in 1995.

Finland’s main economic strength is in manufacturing — often for export. At present, the electronics industry accounts for approximately 29% of total exports. Forest industries are also strong. Agriculture has, over the years, been declining, but farmers are supported by EU subsidies and maintain national self-sufficiency in basic food production. Of the total workforce of 2.2 million in 1999, 6.5% were engaged in primary production, 27.9% in industry and construction and 65.5% in services. The EU is Finland’s biggest trading partner. The U.S. is Finland’s most important trading partner outside of Europe. The total value of U.S. exports to Finland in 1999 was $2.5 billion. Major exports from the U.S. to Finland are machinery, aircraft, aircraft parts, computer, peripherals and software, electronic components, electric machinery, chemicals, telecommunications equipment and services, medical equipment, and some agricultural products. The main export items from Finland to the U.S. are paper and paperboard, ships and boats, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, paper industry machinery and electric machinery. The U.S. is Finland’s fourth largest customer after Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The U.S. share of Finnish exports in 1999 was 7.9% or $3.3 billion.

Finland, as a participant in many international economic organizations, supports free trade policies. Finland became a member of the EU on January 1, 1995. Finland and 10 other EU countries entered Stage Three of the European Monetary Union (EMU) in 1999. The Euro conversion rate for the Finnish mark is 5.94573 as of March 2001. On January 1, 2002, the Euro replaced the Finnish mark.


Automobiles Last Updated: 7/14/2005 5:04 AM

All staff members may import at least one car duty free. Diplomats may purchase or ship a vehicle into the country duty-free at any point during their tour. Administrative and techical (A&T) staff can purchase or ship a car into the country duty-free only within the first 6 months from their arrival date to post. If the vehicle is not needed in the States, ship the car as early as possible since it takes from two to three months to arrive in Helsinki. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA), upon request, may authorize importation of a second vehicle duty free based on demonstrated need. A car imported duty free may be sold without taxes after it has been in the country for 3 years. The MFA reserves the right to refuse permission to sell any additional vehicles before leaving Finland. Your car should be shipped to arrive as soon as possible, as the date your car is registered determines the 3-year eligibility date for duty-free sale. Most cars purchased new at the time of arrival and sold after 3 years sell for about the original purchase price. Duty-free cars may also be purchased upon arrival in Finland. Prior to registration, which must be done within 30 days of the car’s arrival, a car must pass inspection and be insured. Inspection costs about 150 Euros, and an appointment can be arranged through the General Services Office. Cars must meet European Union safety standards; cars with U.S. specifications require a rear-window defogger, rear fog light, side blinkers and a change in the lighting system. Modification costs average about 600 Euros. Catalytic converters should not be removed as Finland requires them.

Third-party liability insurance is mandatory and must be purchased locally. The General Services Office can arrange for coverage, which is unlimited for personal injury and limited to 3.3 million Euros for property damage. The basic cost of coverage is approximately 750 Euros per year. A statement from your former insurance company(s) as to the total number of years of accident-free driving will substantially reduce your premium. Bring it with you, if possible.

Automobile registration plates are issued by the MFA. A valid driver’s license from the U.S. or a third country needs to be presented along with your application. An international driver’s license is not acceptable. Vehicle license plates cost approximately 28 Euros.

The operation of a motor vehicle is strictly forbidden after the consumption of alcohol; the law is explicit and the penalties severe.


Local Transportation Last Updated: 7/14/2005 5:04 AM

Helsinki offers excellent public bus and tram service. Taxis are readily available at taxi stands closest to your location. Commuter trains serve certain suburban areas, and a subway line is open to suburbs in the east, with plans for further expansion of this network to other areas.


Regional Transportation Last Updated: 7/14/2005 5:05 AM

The Finnish State Railways operate on 9,000 kilometers (5,600 miles) of track, with lines to Sweden and Russia. Public roads and highways are well maintained but not as efficient at transporting traffic as expected for a modern industrial nation, so travel time is frequently longer than might be anticipated. Finnair, the majority state-owned airline, has regular service throughout Finland and Scandinavia; to major European capitals; and to Montreal, New York, Seattle, and Los Angeles, among cities on other continents.

Most freight and much of the passenger traffic is by sea; harbors are kept open year round, with regularly scheduled ferries to Sweden, Germany, Poland, and Russia.


Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 7/14/2005 5:06 AM

Private companies in Finland operate the country’s domestic telegraph and telephone services. Telegraph service is available at Finnish post offices (POSTI). The Embassy will assist new arrivals in obtaining telephone service. The employee is assessed a standard monthly charge, as well as an additional charge for each local call. Direct dialing is available to many foreign locations, including the U.S. Direct dial is available through Finnish international service providers, and through AT&T, MCI, and SPRINT using an American international calling card.


Internet Last Updated: 7/14/2005 5:07 AM

Finland is clearly one of the most Net-centric countries in the world. Of Finland’s 5.2 million people, 2.15 million are online, giving it one of the world’s highest Internet penetration rates at about 43%. Over 70% of Finns have mobile phones, the second-highest percentage in the world after Iceland. Finland is by far Europe’s most “wired” country. A million Finns use online banking, the highest proportion in the world. Home Internet connections are available through telephone and broadband.


Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 7/14/2005 5:08 AM

Personnel at post use both APO and international mail facilities. APO mail is dispatched and received by air. Under normal conditions, letters can take 5–10 working days, and packages 1–4 weeks. APO mail costs the same as the current domestic U.S. rates. Parcels are limited to a maximum of 70 pounds and 108 inches in length and girth.

The APO address is:

NAME American Embassy Helsinki PSC 78 BOX H APO AE 09723

The POUCH address is:

Department of State 5310 Helsinki PL Washington, DC 20521–5310


Radio and TV Last Updated: 7/14/2005 5:10 AM

Finland television programs are broadcast nationwide by three television networks. The state-owned Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE broadcasts national programs on TV 1 and TV 2. Both channels also broadcast the programs of YLE’s Swedish-language section, FST (Finland’s Svenska Television). There are two commercial TV operators nationwide, MTV Oy (MTV3) and Oy Ruutunelonen Ab (Nelonen). YLE has announced plans to begin digital broadcasts by August 2001.

YLE’s Radio Finland broadcasts daily programs by VOA, NPR, BBC, CBC, etc., on FM, short wave, and medium wave. Digital radio broadcasts by YLE are also available.

News materials produced by YLE, MTV3 and Channel Four are also available online.

Cable television is available throughout the country but requires an initial hook-up charge and a monthly fee. Cable carries a wide range of television programming, including CNN and other major international broadcasters (BBC, Deutche Welle, and RAI), as well as sports, children’s, and entertainment channels.

Foreign programs shown on Finnish television, including American, British, Canadian, and Australian, are broadcast in the original language and subtitled in either Finnish or Swedish. Since Finnish TV uses the PAL standard, it is advisable to obtain television sets, DVD players and VCRs with the proper technical standards in Finland. Multi-system TVs, DVD players and VCRs are recommended for use with local systems and U.S.-produced videotapes.

A fair selection of musical programs, mostly popular, are available throughout the day on Finnish AM and FM radio, but bring audio equipment and an assortment of compact discs and/or tapes for your personal enjoyment.


Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 7/14/2005 5:11 AM

The first Finnish newspaper was printed in 1771. Today, over 220 regular newspapers are published in Finland. The largest circulation newspaper is the politically independent Helsingin Sanomat (circ. 455,000 weekdays, 533,000 on Sundays). It is also the largest circulation morning newspaper in Scandinavia. The daily Hufvudstadsbladet (circ. 59,000) is the nation’s leading Swedish-language paper. No English-language paper is published in Finland, but Helsingin Sanomat publishes, on its Web page, an English-language summary of its main news items (weekdays only).

Many U.S. and European newspapers and magazines are available at newsstands in Finland. Others can be obtained at the main train station, in lobbies of larger hotels, and at the two main bookstores. All imported and foreign-language publications are more expensive than in the country of origin, but magazine subscriptions and book club selections can be received through the APO.

The American Resource Center (ARC) has a good selection of books as well as U.S. magazines and current affairs publications and periodicals. ARC is the former USIS library and now is part of Finland’s National Library, the Helsinki University Library.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 7/14/2005 5:12 AM

The level of public health in Helsinki is comparable to that of any city in Western Europe or the U.S. There are no special precautions for dining, drinking water, and food preparation recommended beyond normal caution and habits of good hygiene. The level of medical care available is also comparable to that of a European or American city of similar size.

Finnish medical standards are high. Physicians are educated at the University of Helsinki, and many have studied or done research abroad. Many physicians speak English, as do other medical professionals.

Hospitals are modern and well equipped and the treatment is good. Optometrists and ophthalmologists are available, and opticians fill most prescriptions promptly. Professional dental care is readily available, including orthodontic treatment.

Most medicines are available locally. They might not, however, be the same compositions or brand names prescribed by U.S. physicians. Bring a supply of the medicine you will need until you have time to consult a doctor to determine the proper Finnish equivalent. The national health care system in Finland is very different from that in the U.S. Access to certain specialists can take time.

The Embassy has a Health Unit that consists of a contract nurse as well as an Embassy medical adviser from one of the local hospitals. The regional medical officer’s headquarters is in Moscow and he/she makes periodic visits to Helsinki for consultations on any medical problems.

Health and Medicine

Community Health Last Updated: 7/14/2005 5:13 AM

The general level of community sanitation is high. Public cleanliness and controls are good and adequate to prevent serious outbreaks of disease. Helsinki water is dependable but not fluoridated; fluoride tablets are available for children. The sanitation standards and safety of locally purchased goods are comparable to those in the U.S. Sewage and garbage disposal is excellent.

Helsinki’s long, cold winters may aggravate conditions such as neuralgia, asthma, rheumatism and sinus disorders and skin problems.

Health and Medicine

Preventive Measures Last Updated: 7/14/2005 5:13 AM

At least two (2) months prior to departure for Finland ascertain what current inoculations and vaccinations are required. Since there are long periods without adequate sunshine, multiple vitamins for the whole family are recommended.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 7/14/2005 5:15 AM

There are occasional employment opportunities at the Embassy for spouses and dependents. At present, spouses fill several EFM positions: CLO Coordinator, Administrative Assistant, Postmaster, Voucher Examiner, GSO Assistant, Courier Escort and the American Embassy Employees’ Association (AEEA) employs a Country Store Manager. Occasional contract work is also available for spouses. The CLO tries to find work for teenage dependents during the summer vacation period.

Finding employment locally is difficult and opportunities are limited, but it has been done. Several spouses have been able to teach English at various local firms, business schools, and even at the University of Helsinki. In addition, some qualified teachers have found employment as full-time or substitute teachers with the International School. If you would like to teach at the school, it is recommended that you apply prior to arrival.

Once a spouse or dependent receives a written offer of employment, the Embassy Administrative Section will assist in obtaining a work permit from the Foreign Ministry, which is usually granted. All dependents working locally are required to pay Finnish taxes on income earned and adhere to local labor laws.

Community Liaison Office. The Community Liaison Office was re-established in the fall of 1988 with the appointment of a part-time CLO coordinator. The CLO serves all American U.S. Government employees at the Embassy and is responsible for developing many different programs; assisting new arrivals; distributing information and maintaining files on U.S. and Finnish education opportunities; guiding employees and dependents departing post; and maintaining a “skills databank” for dependents seeking employment. The CLO also serves as an important link between the Embassy and the Finnish community.

The CLO Office houses a small but growing library of U.S. catalogues, Scandinavian, Russian, and Finnish travel information, and information about Helsinki and the environment. The CLO resource library also contains a growing collection of boarding school, summer school, and college information.

The CLO Coordinator is selected by the Embassy’s “Dependent Employment Committee” from among the applicants for a 1-year period; the appointment may be extended for a second year if the Committee agrees.

American Embassy - Helsinki

Post City Last Updated: 7/14/2005 8:53 AM

Helsinki, capital and principal city, is a Baltic port on Finland’s southern coast. It is a modern city, yet it has areas that give a genuine and comprehensive picture of the atmosphere and architecture of the past.

Helsinki was founded in 1550 by Swedish King Gustav Vasa. Great fires destroyed the old wooden Helsinki many times, but it was always rebuilt. The massive walls of the Suomenlinna Island fortress date from the 18th century. Helsinki became Finland’s capital in 1812. Many of the city’s historically interesting sights date from the beginning of the 19th century, when the administrative center was built around Senate Square. The Cathedral, the University, and the Government Palace, for example, are among the finest architectural achievements of Helsinki. It has been said that the Helsinki of the Empire period was the last European city designed as an entity and created as a work of art. The historic Senate Square is one of the most remarkable achievements of neoclassicism at its height.

Helsinki today has a modern look, with some buildings designed by internationally known contemporary Finnish architects Eliel Saarinen and Alvar Aalto. In planning new areas and developing old ones, the aim has been to make the city a balanced whole with several regional centers, each with its own schools, sport fields, libraries, and shopping centers. The idea is to combine the advantages of urban living with those of rural life. Over one-half million people reside in the city, which is the administrative, cultural, commercial, and industrial center of Finland. Over 950,000 people live in the greater capital area. Helsinki has many points of interest: one of the most popular is the harbor area and the Market Square, where the Havis Amanda fountain symbolizes Helsinki rising out of the waves. Other attractions include the Olympic Stadium (site of the 1952 summer games), the Sables Monument, the “Church in the Rock,” Finlandia Hall, the City Museum, the National Museum, and Seurasaari and Suomenlinna Islands.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 7/14/2005 5:16 AM

The Embassy residence, Chancery, and Chancery annex occupy a large tract at Itäinen Puistotie 14, overlooking the entrance to Helsinki’s south harbor. The residence and Chancery are in a Georgian red brick building designed by an American architect and completed in 1940. A four-story converted apartment building at Itäinen Puistotie 14B, acquired in 1947 and subsequently renovated, houses the Management, Commercial, Public Affairs and Consular Sections; the Defense Attaché‚ Offices (DAO); the Community Liaison Office, Embassy Club, game room, and large sauna; Marine Detachment Commander’s Office; and the APO Mailroom office.

The American Resource Center (ARC) is located at the University of Helsinki National Library where the ARC collection is used by specialists as well as the general public and staff specializing in providing information on American political, economic, social and cultural life.

The Embassy unit established to support U.S. posts in the former Soviet Union consists of two separate facilities for secure and nonsecure logistical support.

The Embassy switchboard is open during working hours; the number is 358–9–616–250. The after-hours emergency number is 358-9-6162-5475 or 358-9-6162-5322.

The Embassy is open to the public five (5) days a week Monday through Friday excluding American and local holidays, between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Duty personnel are assigned on a weekly basis starting Fridays at 8:30 a.m. and are on call during the entire week.

Upon arrival, new personnel are met by members of their section and/or their sponsors. The latter are designated by the Embassy and will provide basic information and answer initial questions about life in Helsinki. Write to the Management Officer as soon as your assignment is firm, giving family size, special requirements, if any, and travel plans so that suitable arrangements can be made.

A pay lag of about 4 weeks may occur while leave and pay records are transferred from the former post to the Regional Finance Center in Charleston, South Carolina.


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 7/14/2005 8:54 AM

Post attempts to move all new arrivals directly into permanent quarters. If quarters are not available, new arrivals may stay in a hotel. New arrivals should advise the Embassy of their travel plans as far in advance as possible in order to secure adequate accommodations.


Permanent Housing Last Updated: 7/14/2005 8:54 AM

The Ambassador’s residence is an attractive three-story building, one wing of which is the main Chancery. The main floor has a dining room that seats 18 comfortably, living room, paneled library (with 60 feet of shelving), powder room, and two lavatories, as well as a large kitchen and pantry complex. The second floor has a master bedroom with dressing room and bath, two other bedrooms with bath, and a small sitting room with bath. The third floor has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a sitting room, and a sauna with an adjoining after-sauna area.

The house is tastefully furnished and fully supplied to meet all representational requirements. An Ambassador normally brings personal items such as decorative china, pictures (Art in Embassies program may be useful in decorating), vases, and art objects.

The DCM’s home is located on the Baltic Sea in the Helsinki suburb of Westend, about 11 kilometers from the Chancery. The house is basically on one level. The dining and living rooms are separated by glass shelving and when combined offers a representational area of approximately 240 square meters and a beautiful lawn area. Also included is a study with fireplace, a built-in desk and bookshelves, master and spare bedrooms with bath, and an additional room. The remainder of the house consists of a large kitchen, pantry and breakfast room, a sewing room, and a cold storage room. A fully equipped laundry and additional storage rooms are in the basement. The house is fully furnished, but the DCM should bring pictures and personal decorative objects.

A small guesthouse situated alongside the main building consists of a bedroom, bath, and a sitting room and is ideal for a live-in couple. A two-car garage also houses a freezer and second refrigerator. A sauna house is on the shoreline of the large grounds.

All Embassy staff members (DOS, DAO, PAO, FCS) occupy government-leased or owned quarters. Many of these homes are fully furnished. Newly assigned personnel should contact the post regarding the furnishing of their assigned quarters.

Dwellings are normally described by the number of square meters (1 square meter equals about 10 square feet.) A typical dwelling averages from 140–180 square meters for a family with two or more children, depending on availability and representational responsibility. Helsinki itself is an apartment-living community, but some detached homes and row houses are available in the suburbs. Newly assigned personnel should advise the Embassy as soon as possible of any special housing requirements that need to be considered by the Post Housing Board. The Embassy tries to locate suitable housing for new personnel prior to their arrival at post. Because of the tight housing market and the difficulty of locating rental properties exceeding 200 meters, families with more than five members should anticipate a 3–6 month stay in transient quarters or a hotel.


Furnishings Last Updated: 7/14/2005 8:55 AM

An Embassy Welcome Kit is available for use by newly arriving personnel until their airfreight shipments arrive. The Welcome Kit includes bed linens, towels, dinnerware, cooking utensils and kitchen appliances, and miscellaneous tools. Airfreight should contain these same basic items to allow maximum use of Embassy kits, especially during the heavy summer personnel turnover.

Note: Since Finnish living space is smaller than in the U.S., contact the Embassy’s General Services Office to determine room dimensions and whether any personal furniture items that you might decide to bring will fit into your assigned quarters. The Embassy does not have a warehouse or other storage space available for personal use by Embassy personnel.


Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 7/14/2005 9:20 AM

Finnish homes and apartments are well heated. Electricity is 220v, 50-cycle; AC. Therefore, any 110v appliances, radios, etc., require step-down transformers that you should bring with you, since transformers are very expensive in Finland and GSO provides only three to four transformers per residence. Refrigerator/freezers and stoves are generally provided in rented apartments but are small by American standards. A supplemental refrigerator and freezer are available to Embassy personnel if needed. European washers, dryers, and dishwashers are normally provided by the landlord or the Embassy. It is often impossible to provide or install some American appliances due to space or electrical restrictions. An electric roaster oven is a useful appliance to have, as Finnish ovens are small and often do not have broiling facilities. It is also advisable to bring a good oven thermometer.

U.S. light fixtures can be used merely by changing the electrical plugs.

Food Last Updated: 7/14/2005 8:55 AM

Most food items and specialty items can be found in Helsinki. In addition to a plentiful supply of local fish, various cuts of beef, pork, lamb, reindeer, and local fowl are available. Eggs, milk and milk products, especially yogurt and cheeses, are excellent. Because the selection of fresh fruits and vegetables is limited for much of the year, many items are imported and are expensive. Many vegetables and especially berries, plentiful in the summer, are frozen for year-round use. Wild mushrooms abound in late summer and fall, and mushroom-picking excursions are quite popular among Finns and foreigners who have studied the many species available. Baby formulas and baby foods are produced locally and are of very good quality. Generally, however, locally purchased food will be more expensive than in the U.S.

The Embassy Association (AEEA) is open to all American employees at the Embassy. At present, a refundable deposit of $300 per family and $150 per single employee is required for membership, entitling participants to use the Country Store. Commissary orders are placed from a comprehensive computer printout of products available on an as-needed-basis. Billing for APO charges, Country Store purchases, personal food orders, and the video club is provided monthly.

The small Country Store is located in the basement of the Chancery and is open three (3) days a week for six (6) hours per day. The store is stocked with high-demand items procured from the U.S., a limited assortment of frozen items, but no fresh produce. Although there is a markup on these items, they remain below local costs.

A ship handler (ME Group) in Helsinki provides foodstuffs, nonalcoholic beverages, cigarettes, cosmetics, etc., at prices cheaper than in the local market. The shipstore generally makes its price list of products available to Embassy personnel for large caselot orders. Orders can be placed by phone for pick-up in person. A Finnish discount grocer also provides services to members of the Embassy staff. These stores are particularly useful when purchasing large quantities. A variety of items may also be ordered through the free-port concerns Peter Justesen Co. and Ostermann Peterson Co. in Denmark. Catalogs are available in the Embassy’s General Services Section and in the CLO coordinator’s office.

Clothing Last Updated: 7/14/2005 8:56 AM

When preparing your wardrobe for Helsinki, remember that winters are long and cold; fall and spring are rainy and cool; and summers are short. Layered outfits are ideal for differences in seasonal temperatures as well as the changes from indoors to outdoors. All clothing items can be purchased locally, but prices are higher than in the U.S. Good sales occur locally during January and July, so it is best to shop at these times. Locally available winter outer garments and boots for men, women, and children are well made and ideally suited to the climate. They are generally worth the extra cost. Items can be purchased from the U.S. through mail order. If you are difficult to fit for shoes or clothes, bring extra items with you.


Men Last Updated: 7/14/2005 8:56 AM

Fall-weight suits can be worn throughout the year; winter-weight suits from October through May. Tuxedos and dark suits are worn to the Marine Ball and other social functions during the year. You will need rain gear, overcoats, overshoes, and boots. “Informal” on a dinner invitation usually means dark suit and tie.


Women Last Updated: 7/14/2005 8:57 AM

A useful wardrobe will include one formal dress or skirt; several short cocktail/dinner dresses; sports attire; casual dresses, skirts, and pants; and sweaters and blouses. Rain gear and heavy winter coats are a must; beautiful fur coats and leather coats are available locally. Accessories depend on your needs and tastes.


Children Last Updated: 7/14/2005 8:57 AM

Warm, water-resistant winter snowsuits and boots are a must. Rubber overalls from local department stores are useful during periods of rain and thaw. It may be advisable to have a second set of outdoor clothes for the winter if your child participates in winter sports. A fall-weight coat or jacket is necessary during spring and fall.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 7/14/2005 8:58 AM

Bring a good supply of cosmetics and home medicines. Local and European brands are available, but the cost is high. Some toiletries are available at the Embassy Country Store, but quantity and variety are very limited.

Supplies and Services

Basic Services Last Updated: 7/14/2005 8:58 AM

Laundry and dry cleaning are expensive. Bring your own cleaning compounds for spot removals. Certain neighborhood dry cleaners offer “kilo pesu” or dry cleaning of items with the charge based on weight. These items are not steam pressed, but the cost is less than cleaning the items individually.

Supplies and Services

Domestic Help Last Updated: 7/14/2005 9:00 AM

Household servants are difficult to find, but you can place an ad in the local paper for domestic help or inquire among your Embassy colleagues for recommendations and names.

Some cleaning women are available part time, and it is possible to hire extra help for dinners and receptions.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 7/14/2005 9:01 AM

Many religions are represented in Helsinki. Services in English are offered weekly by the Nicholas Agricola Lutheran Church, Saalem Free Gospel Church, and the Temppeliaukio Lutheran Church; St. Henrik’s Catholic Church offers English services two Sundays a month. Other places of worship include: Uspensky Russian Orthodox Cathedral; two churches of the Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Helsinki’s Jewish Synagogue; and Islam House.


Dependent Education

At Post Last Updated: 1/16/2004 9:12 AM The International School of Helsinki is operated as a private, nonprofit educational institution under a school board elected by the parents of the enrolled children. Many different nationalities are represented, both in school and on the 9-member Board of Directors. Children pre-kindergarten through Grade 12 are eligible for enrollment in the International Baccalaureate Program. Children who will be 5 during the first school term are usually accepted. Exceptions to this policy are decided at the discretion of the principal and the school board. The school is made up of 15 classes, with an average size of 21 students each, using a curriculum based on British-American standards, with a fulltime staff consisting of British and American teachers. The school has a learning disabilities program and hopes to expand to include grades 11 and 12. The school is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and the European Council of International Schools.

The International School occupies a section of a private Finnish school, so it is able to take advantage of its facilities. Limited extracurricular activities are also offered after school. Bus and metro transportation are available; school and bus fees along with tuition are within the authorized allowances. Additional information can be obtained from the Office of Overseas Schools or by writing directly to the Headmaster at:

International School of Helsinki Selkämerenkatu Helsinki 00180 Telephone: 358–9–686–6160

The English School, a Catholic-affiliated institution, is supported by the Finnish Government, since it is primarily intended for Finnish students who wish to learn and maintain English-language skills. Religious studies are not part of the curriculum. About 310 students are enrolled, of whom some 10% are non-Finnish. Classes run from Kindergarten through Grade 10. There is normally a waiting list, so you should contact the school as early as possible to ensure enrollment. Additional information can be obtained from the post Administrative Officer or by writing directly to the school principal:

The English School Mantytie 14 00270 Helsinki, Finland

Private bus transportation is not available to this school, but all tuition, school fees, and the cost of public transportation are covered by the post educational allowance.

A small private French school, L’Ecole Francaise d’Helsinki, is run by the French Embassy. Schooling is assured for all ages, including Kindergarten and follows the studies set down by the French Ministry of Education. The staff is composed of French teachers provided by the French Government or recruited locally. Enrollment of about 30 children of various nationalities is open to any French-speaking family. Again, private bus transportation is not provided, but tuition, fees, and the cost of public transportation are covered by the post educational allowance.

The German School, long established in Helsinki, offers Kindergarten through High School, leading to a choice of either a German or Finnish high school diploma. The school has a reputation for giving its students a very good education. The teachers are German and Finnish; instruction is entirely in German. German-language books and materials are up-to-date and attractive. The school is a part of the Finnish school system with similar holidays, number of school days, and regulations. The staff welcomes children without fluency in German in the first few grades but generally discourages those who are at higher levels from entering due to the difficulty of catching up to classmates in the language.

Finnish and Swedish-language public schools accept foreign students. Beginning school age is 7. The post education allowance will normally cover expenses for a private tutor. Local Kindergartens are also available. Parents can obtain more specific information on arrival or by writing to the Administrative Officer.


Dependent Education

Away From Post Last Updated: 1/16/2004 9:13 AM The Defense Department School serving Finland is London Central High School in High Wycombe, England, which is a pleasant suburb located about half-way between downtown London and Oxford. DOD dependents attend this school, which has an excellent athletic and social program; it is also the most similar to U.S. schooling, with full credits for high school graduation and college entrance.

Under the post education allowance, State personnel may currently send their 9th through 12th grade dependents to private boarding schools in England, Switzerland, other European countries, or the U.S. Some boarding schools in the U.S. offer special tuition arrangements for dependents of Embassy personnel. The Overseas Briefing Center at F.S.I. has more information.


Special Needs Education Last Updated: 1/16/2004 9:13 AM

Special education opportunities in Finnish schools are available for children with learning disabilities and the physically handicapped, but all instruction is either in Finnish or Swedish. Families coming to post with physically handicapped children should write to the headmaster of the International School, or to the post administrative officer, to ascertain what facilities are available in each case.


Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 4/5/2004 9:20 AM

In addition to the University of Helsinki, which is the largest university in the Nordic area, Helsinki has a technical university and two schools of economics and business administration; all are very good. Although courses in the English department are taught in English, instruction in the other departments is in Finnish or Swedish, making it difficult for most students to carry a full academic course load.

The University of Helsinki offers excellent language courses in Finnish and Swedish for foreigners, charging only a nominal fee for the cost of materials. Courses are taught at all levels of proficiency, during the day and after working hours, providing an excellent opportunity to learn Finnish and meet other foreigners.

Any employee or dependent wishing to learn Finnish may join the excellent Finnish-language daytime courses offered year round at the University of Helsinki.

Recreation and Social Life Last Updated: 7/14/2005 9:02 AM

The sauna is a national institution in Finland. Finns normally take a sauna at least once a week, and it is a custom that most Americans learn to enjoy. Saunas are particularly enjoyable after physical exercise, especially cross-country skiing, and as a means of socializing. Mixed saunas are not customary.

The purpose of taking a sauna is to cleanse the body by undergoing great changes in temperature. After the heat of the sauna, you either shower or swim in a pool or lake, or plunge through a hole in the ice. After a sauna, a cold beer or soda is a necessary thirst quencher. Most Finnish apartment buildings have saunas, and their residents have regularly scheduled sauna periods each week. Almost all houses have saunas, some with pools. Summer houses, although quite modest, are usually on a lake or the sea, and all have saunas

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 7/14/2005 9:03 AM

Finland first rose to prominence in sports at the 1912 Olympics, when it took first place in wrestling and second place in track and field. In succeeding years Finland has become famous for long-distance running, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, speed skating, and target shooting. Sports unique to Finland are bandy, a form of ice hockey, and pesapallo, a game resembling American baseball. Soccer and hockey are popular spectator sports, with basketball following closely and on the rise in popularity.

From the first of June until late August, daylight hours are long, and outdoor activities such as boating, sailing, sunbathing, swimming, hiking, picnicking, kayaking and motor trips may be enjoyed in the immediate vicinity of Helsinki.

Helsinki has four golf courses, two of which have 18 holes, and a rising number of indoor and outdoor tennis courts that are usually booked in advance.

Squash is also popular; court time is booked on a half-hour basis. Cycling possibilities are excellent in Helsinki suburbs, and hiking and jogging trails abound. Sail and motor boating begins in May and extends into September. Swimming and sunbathing in Helsinki’s numerous municipal beaches and outdoor pools are also popular summertime leisure activities. Swimming is also possible year round at several indoor pools.

Winter sports include both cross-country and downhill skiing, skating, ice hockey, and ice fishing. Excellent trails for cross-country skiing are available in and around the city, many of which are lighted for evening use. Several smaller towns within a few hours’ drive offer good weekend skiing, and spring skiing trips to Lapland are popular. Downhill skiing is increasingly popular, with several areas located near Helsinki. For the best conditions and hills, however, most skiers go further north into Lapland, especially during the spring skiing season. The city has many good outdoor skating rinks and a few indoor rinks. Figure skating lessons are available for children.

Fishing is popular, especially salmon fishing in northern Finland, and ice fishing throughout Finland during the long winter months. Moose, deer, hare, and bird hunting are possible, but on a limited basis.

Sports clothing and equipment made and used in Finland are of excellent quality, but, with the exception of cross-country skiing equipment, is more expensive than in the U.S.

Recreation and Social Life

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 7/14/2005 9:04 AM

Fine museums, parks, and playgrounds are located throughout the city. A zoo on an island just outside Helsinki harbor is open year round. Marvelous outdoor recreation and touring opportunities are plentiful throughout Finland, particularly to Lapland and the Lake District.

Lapland, land of the midnight sun, northern lights, and reindeer, is the northernmost province of Finland. The principal towns in Lapland—Kemi and Rovaniemi—are about 800 kilometers from Helsinki and are accessible by air, rail and car. The overnight train, with space for cars, is a popular way to get to Rovaniemi, a transit point to the tourist and resort areas of Pallas-tunturi, Kilpisjarvi, and Inari farther north. You can also drive north and view the Norwegian fjords. Lapland is especially popular in early April, when days are longer and skiing excellent; in June, for midsummer’s night to view the bonfires and other midsummer festivities; and in September, when the foliage changes color.

The Lake District, comprising most of southeast and central Finland, provides excellent opportunities for scenic travel by car and steamer ship. A wood-burning steamer ship offers an unusually scenic 12-hour trip from Savonlinna to Kuopio. The Olavinlinna Castle in Savonlinna, dating back to 1475, is the site of the world-class Savonlinna Opera Festival in July.

Day trips to Turku, Hanko, and Porvoo are popular. In Turku, the Cathedral and Castle, both dating from the 13th century, and the summer open-air handicraft museum are popular attractions. Hanko, a coastal city 2 hours west of Helsinki by car, is one of the best Finnish saltwater bathing resorts during July and August. En route to Hanko is Tammisaari, a charming seaside town with narrow lanes bordered by Empire-style wooden houses. Porvoo, another idyllic old coastal town, is located east and can be reached by car in about 1 hour or, during summer, by boat from Helsinki harbor. Porvoo was the home of the poet Runeberg and is the site of a charming, historic “Old Town” area, as well as a popular Doll Museum.

A tour in Helsinki provides excellent opportunities to travel to Sweden and Russia. Two ferry lines have overnight service between Stockholm and Helsinki; ships also travel to Tallinn, Travemunde, and Gdansk; and daily Finnair and Aeroflot flights as well as trains link Finland with St. Petersburg and Moscow. All excursions to Russia require a visa. Since accommodations must be booked before a visa is issued, have a travel agent in Helsinki make all arrangements. The Embassy can request visas by diplomatic note from the Russian Embassy in Helsinki, but visa processing can take from 10 days to 2 weeks.

Recreation and Social Life

Entertainment Last Updated: 7/14/2005 9:04 AM

Since its designation as the nation’s capital in 1812, Helsinki has developed into a cultural center. Many of Finland’s most important museums are located here. The largest is the National Museum, with its extensive prehistoric, historic and ethnographic collections. The largest art museum is the Art Museum of the Athenaeum, located across the street from the railroad station. It contains Finnish art from the 18th century to the present and foreign works of art. Occasionally, large foreign exhibitions are shown there. The Art Collections of the City of Helsinki and the Amos Anderson Museum of Art are also excellent; these noted museums often have exhibitions in addition to their regular collections.

Many good movie theaters in the city and suburbs offer the latest American, British, Italian, French, German, and other films in their original versions as well as locally produced films in Finnish. Strict regulations prevent children from attending movies featuring violence, whether accompanied by parents or not.

Helsinki has two permanent symphony orchestras—the Helsinki Philharmonic and the Radio Symphony Orchestra—plus the National Opera with both opera and ballet companies, and the government-sponsored National Theatre. Concerts and recitals are performed in the renowned Finlandia Hall, the Taivallahti Church, the Sibelius Academy, and the House of Nobility, among others, making for a rich and varied musical life. Summer festivals throughout Finland feature well known Finnish and international artists and musicians. Included are the Kuopio Dance and Music Festival, the Jyvaskyla Arts Festival, the Kaustinen International Folk Music Festival, the Savonlinna Opera Festival, the Pori Jazz Festival, the Turku Music Festival, the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival, the Lahti International Organ Festival, the Tampere Summer Theater, and the Helsinki Festival.

Recreation and Social Life

Social Activities Last Updated: 7/14/2005 9:05 AM

An elected board runs the American Embassy Employees Association (AEEA). In addition to its official functions of maintaining the Country Store and Embassy Club, it also sponsors Christmas parties for Embassy children and employees and spouses, “Hail and Farewell”parties, and the annual Fourth of July family picnic.

The American Women’s Club, founded in 1969 by a group of Embassy wives and American women living in Finland, has expanded over the years to include Finnish men and women of other nationalities who have an interest in American life. The group meets on the second Thursday of every month from September through May. Monthly tours to points of interest are arranged, and varieties of interest groups are maintained. Members pay annual dues established by the club.

The Helsinki Chapter of Finnish-American Society is a cultural and social organization linked to the League of Finnish American Societies (LFAS), with some 70 chapters and 60,000 members throughout Finland. The Chapter sponsors many cultural and social activities throughout the year. A special Ladies Club and Men’s Club meet monthly. All Americans may join for a nominal fee.

Other clubs include the Finnish-American Chamber of Commerce, the Club of ’32, Consular Corps, Helsinki Diplomatic Association, Helsinki Spanish-Speaking Club, International Women’s Club, Rotary, Lions, etc.

Official Functions

Nature of Functions Last Updated: 7/14/2005 9:06 AM

Social life in Helsinki, apart from official dinners and receptions, is basically what you make it. Cocktail parties, dinners, informal gatherings and coffees can all be part of your social calendar. Embassy officers and their spouses might have a full calendar for a good part of the year, but July and August often provide a respite from a busy schedule.

Official Functions

Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 7/14/2005 9:08 AM

In Finland, both men and women shake hands upon meeting each other. Children also shake hands with adults and should not be excluded from the ceremony. Punctuality is a must. Guests are expected to arrive within 5 minutes of the stated arrival time for a dinner party.

When visiting a Finnish home, it is the custom to take flowers to the hostess or to send flowers proceeding or following the visit. Flowers taken to the hostess are usually presented in numbers of 3, 5, or 7. In lieu of flowers, other small gifts may also be presented.

At a dinner party it is customary for the host to make the welcoming speech as soon as the first course is served and all the wineglasses filled. No one touches his or her glass until the ritual has been performed. The honored guest makes a toast and thanks the host and hostess as soon as the dessert has been served.

Finns observe the name day as well as the birthday of close friends, relatives, and prominent people. The important birthday celebrations are the 50th and 60th, which are recognized by extending best wishes personally, by phone or telegram, or by sending flowers. Names for the day are published in local newspapers.

A 15% service charge is included in all restaurant bills. There is no need to tip bellhops, hat-checkers, and door attendants. A posted charge is usually paid to coatroom attendants in most public places such as restaurants or concert halls, theaters, and elsewhere.

Calling cards are necessary only for personnel on the diplomatic list. State Department personnel may have cards made at the Embassy free of charge. Locally printed calling cards and invitations are of good quality and can easily be obtained, but prices are high for such items, so you may wish to bring some from the U.S.

Special Information Last Updated: 7/14/2005 9:09 AM

Post Orientation Program

In view of the post’s small size, the CLO coordinator orientation program is offered only during periods of high personnel turnover (usually every summer). A sponsorship program is in place to assist all new arrivals in finding their way around Helsinki, placing commissary orders, and being briefed regarding life at post to include security in-briefings on the current climate in Finland. Chiefs of sections assume responsibility for orienting employees to U.S. policy objectives.

International School of Helsinki Fact Sheet

International School of Helsinki Selkamerenkatu 11 00180 Helsinki, Finland Tel: 358–9–686–6160 Fax: 358–9–685–6699 E-mail: Web: 2000–2001

The International School of Helsinki is an independent coeducational day school, which offers an educational program from kindergarten through grade 12 for students of all nationalities. The school was founded in 1963. The school-year comprises of two semesters extending from August 16 to December 15 and from January 8 to June 13.

Organization: The school is governed by a 9-member School board, elected annually by the Parents’Association, which sponsors the school. Membership in the Association is automatically conferred on the parents or guardians of children enrolled in the school. The Parents’Association is a formal association registered with the Finnish Ministry in accordance with local legal requirements.

Curriculum: The curriculum in kindergarten through grade 12 draws upon both British and American influences. The curriculum is internationally focused. English-as-a-Second-Language instruction is provided for students needing language support. The school also offers a limited Special Education program. Languages taught are French and Finnish. The curriculum emphasizes meeting the individual need of students in small classes. There is an after-school clubs program. The School is approved by the Finnish Ministry of Education and is accredited by the New England Association of schools and Colleges and the European Council of International Schools. The school is authorized to offer the International Baccalaureate Program in grades 11 and 12.

Faculty: There are 48 full-time faculty members in the 2000–2001 school year, including 8 U.S. citizens, 15 host country nationals, and 25 third-country nationals.

Enrollment: Enrollment at the opening of the 2000–2001 school year was 310 (K–5: 132 and grades 6–12: 178). Of the total, 57 were U.S. citizens, 101 were host-country nationals, and 152 were third-country nationals. Of the U.S. enrollment, 32 were dependents of U.S. government direct-hire or contract employees; 5 were dependents of U.S. business and foundation employees; and 20 were dependents of other private U.S. citizens.

Facilities: The school moved to its new facility in August 1996. There are 25 classrooms, 2 science labs, 2 computer labs with networking and Internet access, an art suite with darkroom/kiln, a music suite, a cafeteria/auditorium, a full-size gymnasium, a library for 12,000 texts and a sports field. There are also school radio, TV channel, and satellite TV accesses. The International Baccalaureate Center, built in 1999, is located 300 meters from the main building.

Finances: In the 2000–2001 school year, the school’s income derives from regular day school tuition and fees and Finnish government grants. Annual tuition rates are as follows: Kdg.–Kdg.2: $7,076; grades 1–5: $7,384; grades 6–8: $7,692; grades 9–10: $8,000; and grades 11–12: $8461. The school also charges an enrollment fee of $923, a capital fee of $769, and a non-residency fee of $1,332. The enrollment and capital fees are onetime payments. These fees are payable in Finnish marks. (All fees are quoted in U.S. dollars.)

This Fact Sheet is intended to provide general information. The Office of Overseas Schools (A/OPR/OS) may have more detailed information. Prospective users of the school may wish to inquire further of A/OPR/OS or contact the school directly for more specific and up-to-the-minute information regarding curriculum, special programs, and the like.

Information and statistics have been provided by the school.

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 7/14/2005 9:11 AM

Travelers should make sure their routings comply with the Fly America Act.

Use accompanied airfreight to ship a wardrobe of suitable clothing, bedding, towels, and kitchen equipment needed to set up housekeeping until the arrival of household effects.

Shipments by air average 3–4 weeks. Household effects arriving by sea from the U.S. take a minimum of 6–8 weeks in good weather. On occasion, ice conditions delay arrivals.

At least 12 photos, size 1½” x 1½” of each adult family member are required upon arrival. Do not ship them in airfreight.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Customs and Duties Last Updated: 7/14/2005 9:13 AM

The Embassy’s General Services Section clears unaccompanied baggage. Household and personal effects of officers on the diplomatic list are cleared without exception. Although effects of nondiplomatic personnel are legally subject to inspection, customs authorities do not generally exercise this right. No special charges, quotas, restrictions, waivers, or exemptions are levied other than those cited above.

All personnel are granted free entry of personal and household effects; shipments may arrive duty free at any time during their tour for persons on the diplomatic list.

Parcel post packages sent through Finnish postal facilities are subject to customs clearance before release to the Embassy.

No restrictions are placed on the amount of currency, traveler’s checks, bank drafts, letters of credit, etc. that can be imported to or exported from Finland.

All Americans, except the Marine Security Guards, may import at least one automobile duty free. See the Transportation, Automobiles section for more information on certain restrictions applying to administrative and technical (A&T) staff.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Passage Last Updated: 9/15/2005 8:09 AM

A visa is not necessary for entry into Finland. Americans planning to remain in Finland more than 90 days must obtain a residence permit after arrival.

Diplomatic members desiring to bring domestic help from abroad may obtain a work permit for the domestic immediately after the diplomatic member's arrival. For assistance in this regard, please contact Post's HR Office at 358-9-6162-5367.

With the exceptions of Scandinavian citizens, a nominal fee (depending on nationality) is required to obtain a residence permit and work permit. The renewable work permit is valid for 1 year.

No regulations govern movement of travelers, personal baggage, or vehicles when arriving in Finland by car. A valid passport, U.S. or foreign auto registration certifying vehicle ownership, and an international “Green Card” (liability insurance) are the only travel documents required. For automobile safety modifications required under Finnish law, see Transportation.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Pets Last Updated: 1/16/2004 10:10 AM

Effective June 1988, the quarantine requirements applicable to all cats and dogs were removed. A veterinarian’s certificate from the country of origin indicating that the animal has been vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days but no more than 365 days prior to entry into Finland must be presented. The document may be in Finnish, Swedish, German, or English and include the name and official position of the veterinarian who has issued the certificate, as well as the date and place of issuance.

The Embassy needs to know the exact time of arrival of the pet and whether it is arriving as airfreight or accompanied baggage. Pets should not arrive on weekends or Finnish holidays. Personnel bringing pets should furnish information on the type and size before arrival and be able to produce the necessary health certificates upon arrival.

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 7/14/2005 9:14 AM

Firearms and ammunition may be shipped, but not mailed, to post without an export license provided they are consigned to U.S. personnel for their personal use and are not for resale. All requests for the importation of weapons must be directed to the RSO, in advance, for review. Final approval of the Chief of Mission is required.

Only the following non-automatic sport and hunting firearms may be brought into Finland: pistols and revolvers, caliber not to exceed 9mm or .357, with a barrel length of 4” or more; and shotguns and rifles. No military or police-type firearms are permitted.

Local requirements for hunting licenses are handled by the police. The RSO can assist you in obtaining the appropriate license from the Finnish police authorities.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 7/14/2005 9:15 AM

The unit of Finnish currency, the Euro has a floating exchange rate. Bank notes are in denominations of 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500 Euros; coins are in denominations of 5, 10, 20 and 50 pennies and 1, and 2 Euros. Banks and international newspapers have current rates of exchange.

Personal dollar checking accounts in U.S. banks are useful to pay for goods bought outside of Finland as well as to buy Euros locally. Traveler’s checks may be purchased at local banks for dollars or dollar instruments. A local currency account is essential as local bills are paid electronically or by debit cards linked to a local currency account. ATM machines are available all over Finland. Credit cards are accepted in most stores and restaurants.

Finland, as a participant in many international economic organizations, supports free trade policies. Finland became a member of the EU on 1 January 1995. Finland and 10 other EU countries entered Stage Three of the European Monetary Union (EMU) in 1999. The Euro replaced the former currency, the Finnish mark on January 1, 2002. The Euro conversion rate for the Finnish mark is 5.94573.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 7/14/2005 9:15 AM

Finnish currency regulations are reasonable, and clearance formalities upon arrival are not demanding. Personnel may bring foreign currencies, and other means of payment, such as traveler’s checks, in an unlimited amount.

The Embassy Financial Management Office does provide limited accommodation facilities for exchanging dollars or checks to Euros. Employees may exchange dollars for Euros at any authorized Finnish source such as banks; Stockmann’s Department Store, hotels, or the like. These authorized sources will accept U.S. currency, foreign currencies, and traveler’s checks for Euros, and some banks will accept the personal check of personnel accredited to the Embassy. The Budget and Fiscal Office has only a limited amount of U.S. currency, and its disbursement is restricted by regulations.

The importation, sale, or export of personal property, including cars of American employees, must be in accordance with the laws, regulations, and conventions of the host country. Personal property, including motor vehicles, brought to Finland by American employees must be for bona fide personal use or that of their dependents and not with intent of sale or transfer. Autos purchased for shipment to post should be unostentatious and modestly equipped.

At present, employees are not allowed to sell personal property, including motor vehicles, for profit; however, permission to do this is continuously under review and subject to change. Such profits would be subject to U.S. taxation under the provisions of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.

The sale of major items of personal property, including cars, to persons other than those with duty-free import privileges requires Embassy notification. Such information must be submitted in writing to the Management Counselor.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 7/14/2005 9:16 AM

These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Jacobson, Max. Finland Survived: An Account of the Finnish-Soviet Winter War 1939–1940. Otava Publishing Co.: Helsinki, 1984. (This book was published earlier by Harvard University Press under the title Diplomacy and the Winter War.)

Jacobson, Max. Finnish Neutrality. Praeger: New York, 1969. An accounting of Finnish foreign policy following World War II.

— Finland in the New Europe. Praeger, 1998. Explores Finland’s changing role as a player in the EU.

Klinge, Matti. A Brief History of Finland. Otava, Helsinki, 1997. A respected and widely translated political history.

Pesonen, Pertti. Politics in Finland. Published in Shively, W. Phillips, Comparative Governance. McGraw-Hill, 1998.

Ries, Tomas. Cold Will: The Defence of Finland. Brassey’s Defence Publishers: London, 1988. A history of the Finnish defense forces from 1918–1987.

Schwartz, Andrew J. America and the Russo-Finnish War. Public Affairs Press: Washington, D.C., 1960. An account of U.S.-Finnish relations through the Winter and Continuation Wars.

Tillotson, H.M. Finland at Peace and War. Michael Russell Publishing. 1996.

Upton, Anthony. The Finnish Revolution. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, 1981.

Wuorinen, John. A History of Finland. Columbia University Press: New York, 1985. Perhaps the best overall survey of Finnish history; written in English.

Web Sites

The following sites provide endless general information on Finland as well as valuable links.

A comprehensive source of information on Finland-society, institutions, history, politics, economics:

Finnish Foreign Ministry:

Finland Prime Minister and Ministers:

U.S. Embassy Helsinki:

Finnish Culture and Society

Bradley, David. Lion Among Roses. Holt, Rinehart & Winston: New York 1965. An account of the experiences of an American family during a 2-year stay in Finland.

Finland: An Introduction. Sylvie Nickels, ed., et al. A collection of articles on Finnish culture, politics, and economics. Last revised in 1977.

Kolehmainen, John. Epic of the North. A study of the Kalevala.

Bosley, Keith (trans.). The Kalevala. Oxford University Press, 1989.

Linna, Vaino. The Unknown Soldier. Nicol, Gladys, Finland. Hastings. New York, 1975.

Smith, John Bolton. The Golden Age of Finnish Art. Otava Publishing Co. Helsinki, 1975.

Local Holidays Last Updated: 7/14/2005 9:16 AM

New Year’s Day January 1 Epiphany January 6 Good Friday Friday before Easter Easter Monday Monday after Easter

May Day May 1 Ascension Day Thursday, about 40 days after Easter Whit Sunday Sunday, about 50 days after Easter Midsummer’s Eve Friday preceding Midsummer’s Day Saturday closest to June 25 All Saint’s Day Saturday closest to November 1 Independence Day December 6 Christmas Eve December 24 Christmas Day December 25 Boxing Day December 26

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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