Finland is situated in Northern Europe and shares borders with Sweden, Russia, Norway and the Baltic Sea. Although the surface area is the 8th largest in Europe, we have only around 5.5 million inhabitants. Finland is well known for its pure nature and tranquility combined with modern technology. Up to 75% of Finland’s area is covered with unique forests and over 188 000 inland lakes. Finland is officially bilingual, but the majority of Finns (88 %) speak Finnish as their mother tongue. Besides we have minorities of Swedish speaking population (6 %) and Sami people.
Fun facts and numbers:
Finland has estimated 2 million saunas, over 100 000 islands on 188 000 lakes!
Finland's national food is rye bread.
Finland's de facto national anthem is called "Our Land", which can be sung both in Finnish and in Swedish, but the melody actually originates from Germany!
Finland is known for its clean nature, safety, education and health care but also arts - especially design.
Finland is the biggest coffee consumer per capita in the world - a whoppin 12 kg a year! Coffee breaks are common in almost every work environment!
The Finnish health care system is mainly public, with a historical aim and ideal to provide good health care for everybody regardless of how wealthy they are and where they live. However, the role of the private sector has grown during the last decades. The costs of using the public health care in Finland are higher than in most other European countries. Yet, health care is one of the biggest expenditures in the both the governmental and the municipality budgets.
The basis of the Finnish health care system are the health care centers where primary care is offered. In addition to this, primary care organized by employers for their workers is a significant part of the health care services available to the working age population. Specialised medicine is concentrated to bigger hospitals. We have five university hospitals and dozens of central hospitals, which have 24/7 call on duty and nearly all specialities covered.
Nowadays one major problem is how we are going to finance health care in the future. The standards for what a person should be entitled to are rising constantly, and at the same time the population demographic is changing and health care gets burdened.
In order to overcome these challenges, the government, with the help of the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), is working on one of the biggest reforms in public services in Finland's recent history. The social welfare and health care (SOTE) reform remains as one of the hot topics for discussion both in Finnish media, and among health care professionals, and divides opinions across the country.
What can be seen as an advantage to the entire health care system is that Finnish doctors are well organized in an academic/professional society. Moreover, there are many organizations for patients with different kinds of diseases. The organizations hold up and provide forums for discussing how our health care system, our ways of working and our schemes for treating could be developed.
The Finnish health care system has a very high quality according to several surveys. Most of the modern diagnostic and treatment methods are available and a lot of frontline medical research is done in Finland.
Finns start school at the age of 7, with 6 + 3 years of free compulsory education. Over 70% of Finns continue after basic education either at vocational school or general education at high school for 3 years. Upper secondary education is required for applying for any of the 14 universities or 23 universities of applied sciences.
Five universities in Finland have a medical faculty: Helsinki, Kuopio, Oulu, Tampere and Turku. The medical curriculum is generally 6 years long and education is free (apart from small student union fee). All medical programs are taught in Finnish, except in Helsinki where it is also possible to study in Swedish.
There are quite a lot of differences between the curricula and the teaching methods in different cities. Some universities base their teaching more on lectures and the others take more use of the problem-based learning system. Generally speaking, the preclinical studies last two to three years after which the students fully enter the clinic. People are mostly very supportive and positive towards medical students and students get a lot patient contact during their studies. It is possible to work as a junior house practitioner in a hospital after four years of studies and as general practitioner in health centers after completing the fifth year. Obligatory internships vary from 3.5 to 4 months. There are very good possibilities to start research projects during the studies and some students may enter a doctoral program even during the preclinical stage.
Flying to Helsinki is the easiest and usually the cheapest way to arrive in Finland.
In Finland the public transport is good and reliable, but somewhat expensive. Trains and buses are good for getting around.
In Helsinki you are sure to become well acquainted with the public transport system, but in smaller cities getting around on foot/by bike is often the best and a sufficient option.
Visiting other LCs is highly recommended. Each city has its own specialities, it is easy to travel between them and local exchange teams can help you with the accommodation and other things.
Sauna+lake - anywhere at any time of the year ;)
Finland has very low pollution and a lot of untouched nature. The landscape varies across the country and throughout the year – we have four very different seasons. In the summer it’s very light even in the evening. Around midsummer the sun does not set at all. A typical Finnish summer scene includes blue sky, green woods, a still lake and a sauna cottage next to it. In the autumn you may encounter the most breath taking ruska (the autumn colours of the leaves). In the winter the temperature can vary from around zero to even -30C! Most of the day it’s quite dark but we usually get a lot of snow to help the situation. Up North you may catch the amazing northern lights (aurora borealis). After the long and dark winter, spring is always very welcomed with its bright sunshine that melts away the snow and the ice.
Finns may seem somewhat shy or reserved especially with people they don't know, but this is often a stereotype. Underneath their surface most people are really curious about foreigners and eager to get to know them. Most people are friendly and helpful and they also usually speak very good English. There is a saying in Finland that once you get acquainted with a Finn you might just have gotten a friend for a lifetime.
In Finland punctuality is valued and expected and it is important to follow the rules.
In Finnish universities teachers and professors treat students as equal colleagues. When speaking to the professors and supervising doctors, they are usually not addressed formally with titles like Mr, doctor or professor. Professors usually encourage students to take part in discussions and show their interest in learning new things and are usually happy to answer any questions you might have.
Please, also check our LCs' ExPlore pages for more information on each city.
Welcome to Finland, we are waiting for you!