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Finnish cities have top quality of life

Finland is seeking to retain its students upon graduation. The University of Oulu offers 21 English-language master's programmes and three bachelor's programmes.

University of Oulu

A European Commission report has found that many aspects of life in Helsinki and Oulu are worthy of applause.

Altogether, the Report on the Quality of Life in European Cities looked at 83 cities from 36 countries across the EU and neighbouring countries, including the UK, the western Balkans and Türkiye.

The Finnish capital, Helsinki, and the northern city of Oulu were the only two cities from Finland to be included in the report.

According to the European Commission, Helsinki excels as a good place to live as an immigrant, ranking ninth overall. Oulu, meanwhile, was named the second-best place overall for families with young children to live and also came runner up among people who agree that it is easy to find good housing at a reasonable price in their city.

The rankings come at a fortuitous time for the Finnish government, as it has been making a concerted effort to attract a greater volume of skilled immigration to its shores in order to double work-based immigration by 2030.

The government has introduced fast-track entry for specialists and startup entrepreneurs in an effort to clear bureaucratic bottlenecks. Helsinki was named among Europe's top 30 biggest startup hubs in 2023.

Based in Helsinki, Maria01 is the largest startup hub in the Nordics.

Wasim Al-Nasser

Efforts are also being made to integrate existing foreign expertise here and retain students in the country upon graduation.

Aside from offering competitive opportunities for professional development, one leading aspect in Finland’s corner for nurturing foreign talent is the collective appreciation of work-life balance.

“More ‘human’ working hours mean you can enjoy a work-life balance that is the best in the world,” emphasised Laura Lindeman, head of the Work in Finland unit at Business Finland. “We place a high value on work-life balance because happy workers are more productive and innovative as a result.”

Carmen really appreciates the proximity to nature in Helsinki.

Carmen Lorenzana

Elsewhere in the report, people in Helsinki were the fourth-most satisfied with public transport and cultural facilities in the city, and fifth most-satisfied with green spaces in the city.

“What I enjoy most about living in Helsinki is the opportunity to experience real nature, even in the middle of the capital city,” said Carmen Lorenzana, a menstrual cycle and fertility awareness educator who moved here from Mexico. “Whether it’s the sea, the forest or the beach, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy it and connect with it.”

Helsinki was also ranked second in satisfaction with the quality of the air in the city and Oulu was fifth.

“My life in Oulu is slower, calmer and relaxing,” admitted Shiho Kaneko from Japan, who decided to stay in Finland after she graduated from a master’s degree programme and ended up working for games studio Fingersoft. “I’m happy that I have plenty of time to enjoy my hobbies and explore new things.”

Oulu residents are also the most satisfied with the noise level in their city; Helsinkians were ranked ninth.

City of Oulu

“Even though Oulu is a small city compared to my hometown, it is still quite international. I’m so happy to be able to take part in the various international events here such as the international food market,” she added.

People in Oulu agree that most people in their city can be trusted (sixth) and are the eighth most likely people to be found cycling on a typical day; the latter an unsurprising statistic given the city’s global reputation for winter cycling.

By: James O’Sullivan