Finland has been ranked as the world’s best country for expatriate families for the second consecutive year by InterNations, a global community for people living abroad.
InterNations reports that expatriate families in the country are especially appreciative of the availability and low cost of child care and education, the high quality of education, and overall family well-being.
“The Nordic country receives top scores in all sub-categories,” it highlights in reporting the results of its annual survey, Expat Insider. “An impressive 72 per cent of respondents living in Finland with their kids think that the education system is excellent, compared to the global average of 26 per cent.”
Expat Insider is a survey distributed annually to expatriates around the world to compile a country ranking based on how satisfied expatriates are with life in their country of residence. The survey utilises five categories to gauge life satisfaction among expatriates: the general quality of life, ease of settling in, ease of working life, ease of family life and personal finance.
This year’s edition of the survey was distributed to over 12,500 expatriates representing 166 nationalities and living in 188 countries or territories.
The respondents were asked to rate their country of residence on a scale of one to seven based on a maximum of 43 factors. The factors included both emotional factors, such as making friends, and fact-based factors, such as personal safety.
InterNations defines expatriates as both people on overseas secondments and people who have moved abroad for other reasons.
Relatively good quality of life, working life
Finland may have retained its position as the best destination for expatriate families, but its performance in the four other categories examined in the survey was far less impressive.
Expatriates ranked the country 16th out of the 65 countries and territories included in the survey in terms of the quality of life, 22nd in terms of working life, 53rd in terms of personal finances, and 60th in terms of the ease of settling in.
Finland made it into the top ten in two of the five sub-categories making up the quality of life index, ranking fifth in health and well-being, and eighth in safety and security. Expatriates, on the other hand, felt that their quality of life was affected negatively by the lack of leisure options in the country.
The country was one of the biggest winners in the working life category, jumping from 41st in 2016 to 22nd in 2017. The survey indicates that expatriates were particularly pleased with their ability to find a work-life balance but would appreciate more job and career advancement opportunities.
“A welcome as cold as the weather”
Finland and the rest of the Nordics are considerably difficult for expatriates to settle in and make friends, according to InterNations.
Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, it highlights, all ranked inside the bottom ten in the finding friends sub-category and in the ease of settling in index, with Norway, Denmark and Sweden making up the bottom three.
The Nordics give expatriates a “welcome as cold as the weather,” summarises InterNations.
Over a half of the expatriates surveyed in the region revealed that they have found it difficult to make local friends and over two-fifths that they consider the local population to be closed and distant. Finland, however, stood out favourably in comparison to its neighbours in that over a quarter (27%) of respondents said they have mostly local friends.
The percentage is higher than the global average of 19 per cent.
Language is likely as a factor contributing to the struggles of expatriates to settle in in Finland, with the vast majority (85%) of respondents – compared to 49 per cent in Sweden – estimating that the local language is difficult to learn.
InterNations points out, however, that the language barrier is not as exclusive as it might appear to be as each of the four countries ranks inside the top five of the World Economic Forum’s English Proficiency Index.
Almost a half (45%) of expatriates told they find it easy to get by without speaking the local language.
The difficulties in settling in are seemingly offset, at least partly, by the first-rate and low-cost education and health care systems, the ease of family life, and the ability to find a suitable work-life balance, the results also indicate.
Finland, as a result, ranks 21st, Norway 20th, Sweden 22nd and Denmark 30th in the overall ranking of the top destinations for expatriates.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva