|Preface Last Updated: 7/14/2005
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
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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
The operation of a motor vehicle is strictly forbidden after the
consumption of alcohol; the law is explicit and the penalties
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
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
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
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
www.helsinginsanomat.fi, 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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,
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.
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
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
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
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
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:
firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.ish.edu.hel.fi 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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: www.formin.fi/english
Finland Prime Minister and Ministers: http://valtioneuvosto.fi
U.S. Embassy Helsinki: www.usembassy.fi
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,
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