Finland ranks among the best in the world on several indicators. A small country of approximately 5.5 million inhabitants is at the forefront when measuring e.g. society performance, children’s wellbeing, and education. It is also a top-ranking country in terms of freedom and equality.
We think it is also a great country to relocate as a software developer, so we gathered this list for inspiration, to you who are considering relocating to a new country.
The text has been updated from the 2018 version.
Why consider Finland (and why we love it)
Finland, the little and feisty country in northern Europe just chilling between Sweden and Russia. Finland is the land of Santa Claus, lakes, snow, and reindeers. We also have four amazing seasons, clean nature and air, over 100 000 lakes, the buzzing tech industry, and probably the best health care (free) and education system (free) on the planet. Plus no small talk.
Finland is also one of the safest and most stable countries in the world with equal opportunities in life, low corruption, and the lowest income differences. Why wouldn’t you want to live here? Ok, fine, there are some tiny little hiccups like the moody weather and with good luck, the sun doesn’t shine for months during winter in the north. In autumn, it’s mostly just quite dark, rainy, and cold, some might even say miserable. You might even think there’s an unwritten agreement between citizens not to make eye contact or any contact what so ever with anyone outside their own circle of friends for those dark months, but there isn’t, it just comes naturally. It’s quite funny actually.
Anyway, after those cold, dark days come spring and summer, and they are actually amazing here. First rays of April sun and Finns crawl out of their holes, put shorts on and start practicing some eye contact again. By the mid-summer festival, in Finnish Juhannus, when the sun doesn’t go down, people are somewhat merry and happy again. It is a kind of phenomenon that only those living in Finland understand.
There is a buzzing tech industry and a shortage of developers in Finland, so as a skilled developer you’re in a great position! The buzz is mainly focused on the capital area, but there is a pleasant humming in other big cities such as Tampere, Oulu, and Turku too. As a senior developer, the world is your oyster. You can quite freely choose which company gets your 7,5 hours five times a week. What does your heart desire? Getting your hands dirty in the startup scene, developing games for every phone and computer in the world, or maybe the versatile and changing consulting projects? If you wish to do something meaningful, there are several interesting companies and apps that work for improving people’s wellbeing.
The easiest way to relocate to Finland is to find a company that’s willing to sponsor your relocation and some companies even have a relocation assistant to help you get settled in the first few months. If you are from the Nordic countries or EU citizen you don’t need a visa to live and work in Finland, but outside these, you probably need to apply for one. Everything about the residence permit and the right to work can be found here.
Starting your own business and becoming an independent software consultant has also been made quite easy. There is quite a lot of bureaucracy in Finland, but if you know what you are doing, then it is not difficult, it only requires a little work. Luckily, Sam Hosseini has compiled the Freelancing in Finland guide, where you can find simple instructions made specifically for a software developer who wants to become an independent consultant.
Buzzing tech industry
In Finland, the technical education and know-how, as well as the quality of code, are top-class. When working with the developers of the North, you’re working with the best. Finnish software companies value agile methods, modern ways of working, learning, testing, and code reviews, and have a relatively flat hierarchy and spread autonomy. You’re also on a first-name basis with the CEO. There are a great number of generalist roles in comparison to other countries, and you’re given lots of responsibility, pervasive tasks, and opportunities to develop your skills.
Helsinki has an active startup ecosystem, which includes a great number of technology companies and startup enthusiasm has gradually spread to other parts of Finland as well. Even the world’s leading startup event Slush is from Finland. We also have big global companies, which you have may hear of, such as Supercell, F-Secure, Nokia, Finnair, Reaktor, Rovio, and Remedy.
As said earlier, there is a shortage of developers in Finland and the battle over experienced coders is fierce. Every software company and consultant house is competing over the same talents so there are some nice perks companies offer in order to lure developers. In Finland companies also offer occupational health care (in addition to the one that society provides) and paid sick leave. You generally can stay home for three days with your own announcement when you get sick, and one parent can also stay home with a sick child.
These may also interest you: Software Developer’s Top 50 workplaces in 2021 and The best workplaces for developers for different life situations and needs.
According to Developer Happiness Index 2021 report carried out by .Cult, developers in Northern Europe are most satisfied with their work-life balance — they also work the shortest hours.
In the shortest working hours list, Finland is second, only Austria has shorter working hours. Finns work 37,5 hours per week and this seriously means you can leave home at 4 pm or 5 pm because so does everybody else. It is more likely for your manager to advise you to go home and spend time with your family or friends than asking you to work extra hours (extra hours and the wellbeing of employees are closely monitored). Besides this, you are also given annually five weeks of paid holiday.
Furthermore, Finland loves babies! Mother (or father) is offered 9 months of paid maternity/paternity leave and even after that, the parent can stay at home with the child without losing his/her job. The Finnish public childcare system is affordable (even free for low-income families).
If you decide to stick around longer or you already have school-aged kids, there is no need to save for the school tuitions for a decade because world-class education is free. Do something fun with the money, like a five-star holiday in Fiji or buy a summer cabin by the lake.
It is true that it might take some time to gather a new circle of friends in Finland, but it is definitely not impossible. The easiest way to get to know people is through work and after-work, hobbies, meetups, and industry events. Be bold and talk to people! Finns are too shy to make the first move but are happy and talkative when someone else does!
Income and taxes
Salaries in Finland aren’t as high as maybe in San Francisco or New York, BUT weighing the pros and cons, this is just a teeny tiny minus among the mammoth size amount of pros! You might not get 200K a year, it is more like 70K, but when you save up on not having a money pit health assurance (as mentioned before, you don’t need one in Finland), or not paying 4000$ for an apartment per month, or another 2000$ for child care (x child), you are probably left with more coins in your pocket in Finland than for example in the US. In comparison to the rest of Europe, the salary level can in some cases be lower than in Central Europe but is higher than in Eastern Europe. When asking yourself where to relocate as a developer, keep in mind it’s not just about the salary, but the high quality of life in Finland you get in return.
Then the big tax monster. This is a myth! There are taxes, like everywhere else, but it’s about the same level as many other western countries. Taxation is predictable here. You just have to go online and write the number of your yearly salary to the system. The system will then calculate your tax rate and you’ll see how much you’ll pay taxes, which allows you to plan your finance.
The big difference is that in Finland we can literally see where those tax euros go. Free health care, which studies have shown to be one of the most cost-effective and best in quality in the world, is paid with tax money. Oh, and it is for everybody! Our public child care and education system are also paid with tax money. Furthermore, there is a social security system and a safety net that helps when people, for example, lose their jobs or get sick.
Despite the darkness and cold Finns are, for the third year in a row the happiest people in the world according to the World happiness report. Finns generally speak fluent English, so if you open a conversation, yes, we usually respond and are happy to discuss even more. Our sense of humor is dry and dark at times, but when you get it, it’s super funny IMO. We know we might come across as anti-social but that is just a cover. When you crack that wall you’re in for life! We are also a law-abiding nation that will stand still, waiting for the green light in traffic lights in the middle of the night, when there is no-one around. The character of our entire nation is well reflected in the Finnish word; sisu.
Still not convinced?
More detailed information about moving and living in Finland.
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