Espoo has established a new web portal for foreigners looking to move to the city, with step-by-step guides containing all the advice they need at different stages of the process.
It was an idea inspired by Nga Phanhang, who came to Espoo from Vietnam.
“When I moved to Finland about seven years ago it was actually so difficult for me to find information about how to live in Finland, and that’s why I am working using my own experiences and knowledge to make this website” says Nga.
“The structure for the Hello Espoo website is created based on a lot of feedback and ideas from our partners as well as non-Finnish or Swedish speaking inhabitants” she explains.
The Hello Espoo website has three checklists for aspiring residents:
The first is a guide about things to consider before even moving to the city, like getting familiar with the Finnish immigration processes; getting a residence permit; finding a study programme or even advice on how to start a business.
Other practical considerations include information about bringing your family to Finland and finding a home in Espoo.
The second checklist is aimed at newcomers with important things to do once they arrive, including how to register as a local resident; opening a bank account; how to start using public transport and becoming familiar with local healthcare and education opportunities.
The third checklist opens up the concepts of what it means to be an Espoo resident, finding city services for families, joining a pension scheme and finding leisure activities that the whole family can participate in.
Developing the welcome website
The Hello Espoo website was put together with residents at the very heart of the process.
“In Espoo everything we do is based on customer and resident feedback and wishes […], and one of the key points that was missing when we did research, was in the service portfolio of the city” says Milla Ovaska, Head of International Affairs at the City of Espoo.
“We were missing clear information on how to navigate the bureaucratic things that you have to take care of when you move to a new country or city, and this is something we wanted to solve with Hello Espoo” she says.
All the information was previously available, but it wasn’t easily accessible – “it’s in a hundred different web pages” says Ovaska – but Hello Espoo collects the information into one place and makes a clear brief of everything new residents should take care of before and after they arrive.
Moving from Mumbai to Espoo
During the summer Anupam Chakrabarty and his wife Amrita made the move from India to Finland.
The couple had some idea of the changes they faced, since Anupam works for a Finnish company and had been commuting back and forth between the two countries for several years.
“I think this was on the cards for a long time, and it was a choice of when to get the family here. And now my kid is in 9th grade, so if we didn’t come now it would be a couple of years before I could then shift them” Anupam explains.
Leaving their home in bustling Mumbai behind to settle in Espoo, the couple had an easy start with a warm summer, but have not been quite so prepared for the darkening days of autumn and winter.
“We moved in the summer and it was a completely different picture, all bright, beautiful, colourful and sunny” says Amrita.
“But now it’s autumn and the feedback from my neighbours and friends is that October and November are kind of challenging, but so far so good!” she adds.
Finding a job and carving out a new life
One of the biggest challenges the Chakrabartys faced moving to Finland was how Amrita could continue her career.
At home in Mumbai she ran her own music school, and spent a few years trying to figure out how to keep on doing the job she loved once she came to Espoo.
“I was in touch with people, with contacts, and I met them when I came here. I had to work hard, lots of hard work from Mumbai over the last two years to find this job. It was not easy at all.”
However now she found a job as a vocal teacher at the Espoo Music Institute and is able to carry on with the career that she had already established in India.
The new Hello Espoo website will be able to make an arrival in Espoo even more smooth for future residents, but Anupam Chakrabarty has one piece of advice that can also come in handy – ask a local.
“Everything is pretty well managed. If you know how to get your way around, and a little bit of support from the local people here, it is not difficult.”