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Why Finland?

James O’Sullivan, an Australian journalist who moved to Finland 10 years ago, tells why he and his wife are still living in Finland.

Earlier this month I found myself chatting with a Finn who had recently returned from holidaying in Sydney.

“It’s paradise down there,” he exclaimed. “What the expletive are you doing living in Finland?”

Now, given that this gentleman stood around two metres tall, it seemed unwise to challenge his unbridled enthusiasm for my country of birth. Nonetheless, his blunt question lingered with me for some time afterwards, akin to an imprint left by a hammer.

After ten years living in Helsinki, why are my wife and I still here?

Well, one obvious reason is that she is Finnish. So that’s pretty much her covered. But for me, choosing to live here boils down to many things: the peaceful abundance of forests, trains that run on time and tumbleweed blowing through the space where unnecessary small talk normally resides. Also, the convenience of a small city can only truly be appreciated after one has lived in a hulking metropolis.

Finland’s capital has the air of a country town. Whether it’s young children walking unaccompanied to school, people meaning what they say or simply just making sure the water bucket is full for the next person at a public sauna, there is a quaint sense of community here. The heavy hand of Mother Nature also accentuates the feeling of being in the same boat together – one that’s often surrounded by frozen sea, no less.

The local startup scene perhaps best epitomises this collective approach. Instead of cards being kept close to the chest, knowledge and experience is shared frequently, freely and openly. Fuelled by government funding from Tekes and a growing number of accelerators and investors, this attitude has spawned a globally recognised innovation hotspot.

And, dare I suggest that the list goes on.

So, Mr Tall Guy, while the grass is undeniably green Down Under, keep in mind that what’s growing in your own backyard is no less an enviable colour.

James O'Sullivan
James O’Sullivan is an Australian journalist who moved to Finland 10 years ago.