- Jorge Reyes, 27, moved to Helsinki from Bogotá, Colombia, without ever visiting Finland.
- He says he was interested in why people characterize Finland as the happiest place on earth.
- Reyes says she loves how Finns connect with nature and support each other.
This told essay is based on a conversation with. Jorge Reyes, a 27-year-old professional from Bogota, Colombia, moved to Finland less than a year ago. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
Ever since I was in high school, my teachers have told me that Finland is a safe and wonderful country, with a strong education system and a good government and society that coexist.
Finland was the polar opposite of my hometown of Bogotá, Colombia, and a stark contrast to the Caribbean backdrop where 40 degrees Celsius, beaches, and sunshine are the norm. But I wanted a change.
I learned on social media that Finland is ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world. I needed to know why. Ironically, Colombia was also on this list, but I felt I needed to experience Finland with my own eyes.
I found a job in Helsinki on LinkedIn and packed my bags.
Even though I had a great job at HubSpot, a software company in Bogota, I logged on to LinkedIn and searched for job opportunities in my field in Finland. I found a job as an account executive at a Finnish startup company called Supermetrics.
In March 2023, I packed up my life in Colombia and moved, even though I didn’t know anyone. My new company paid for my relocation costs and $1,200 for a one-way flight from Bogotá.
I speak English and Spanish fluently, so at first I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to communicate with others, but people here speak English very well.
My friends and family weren’t surprised when I told them I was moving. Because I lived overseas in Spain and traveled a lot.
The past nine months have been a life-changing experience.
Logistically, the visa process was easy. For my job, I signed a professional skills contract and qualified for a specialist visa. Once we arrived, we were able to easily obtain identification, open a bank account, and find an apartment. I rent a studio near Helsinki city center and pay about 950 euros per month.
It takes time to make friends with Finns.
At first, it took time to make friends and find a community. Finns take time to warm up to each other, but once you make friends, the relationships last for a long time.
The dating scene here is also easy. There are popular apps like Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge, and people are open to going out for a walk or coffee, but that first dinner might be too much for Finns.
I feel safe and connected to nature in Helsinki
Families leave their children alone to sleep outside and acclimate to the weather. I never felt unsafe walking alone at any time. Sometimes you leave your laptop or personal belongings at a cafe and come back a few hours later and they’re still there.
There is a culture of walking in nature here. There are many open forests, most of Finland is covered with coniferous trees, and people spend a lot of time on long walks and walks without being afraid of their surroundings.
This immersion in nature provides a complete break from the hustle and bustle of city life. Unlike parks, forests never actually close. This will help you feel more grounded and reduce stress from the fast-paced lifestyle of working in the technology industry.
In winter here, when it starts to get dark at 3 p.m., people help each other by checking in on each other more often, hosting sauna sessions, and making more plans together. There is a “we are the ones who stand against the darkness” mentality, which helps build a sense of community.
More disposable income and more respect at work
In terms of expenses, I spend about 200 euros every month on groceries. I pay about 35% of my annual income in taxes. My salary is taxed at 25% plus other deductions, which vary based on my income. I have more disposable income here than back home.
The lack of bureaucracy in Finland made my job easier than in other positions I have held. I don’t need permission to talk to different people in the company, and my values and opinions about my work are respected.
I miss home, but I’m getting used to Finnish manners.
I have never experienced racism. I’m sure smaller cities within Finland may not be as welcoming to foreigners as larger cities, but they are becoming more and more welcoming.
Additionally, traveling within Europe is easy. I have visited Sweden, London, Estonia, Amsterdam, Italy, Paris, and Spain.
My biggest challenge is missing my family, friends, music, and food back home. However, I am gradually getting used to the environment here and learning about Finnish manners.
Life here certainly exceeded my expectations. I came here with an open mind and a desire to enrich myself with new experiences.
i am documenting my journey tick tock Because I want to show the world how powerful it is to move to a new country and return home.
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