I moved to Finland after reading it was the happiest place on earth. Here are 6 things that surprised me living and working here.

I moved to Finland after reading it was the happiest place on earth. Here are 6 things that surprised me living and working here.
Jorge Reyes was surprised that the no-shoes policy enforced in most Swedish homes extended to the offices.Jorge Reyes
  • Jorge Reyes had never been to Finland before he moved from Bogotá, Colombia, to Helsinki.
  • He was prepared for the extreme weather, but other aspects of Finnish culture shocked him.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Jorge Reyes, 27, who moved from Bogotá, Colombia, to Finland, rated one of the happiest countries in the world. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I moved to Helsinki without ever visiting Finland because I read that it was the happiest place on earth.

When I moved to Finland from my hometown in Bogotá, Colombia, I experienced a completely different lifestyle from what I had been used to. I knew that the weather was going to be a huge change, but there have been other interesting surprises along the way.

Finnish people don't wear shoes in the office

While it's not unusual to take off your shoes before entering someone's house, most Finnish offices also have a no-shoe policy. Some offices will have "indoor shoes," but for the most part, colleagues will wear socks.

When I first moved from Colombia, I didn't bring any socks since I came from a warmer climate. I had to go out and buy interesting, fun socks with different fabrics and styles for the workplace. I bought some Pikachu socks and socks with funny logos.


People around the world style their wardrobes for the workplace, but in Finland, we style socks.

Naked saunas with friends and colleagues are normal

There's a strong culture of saunas in Finland. Everyone usually has a sauna in their house or their residential building, and many offices even have one at their workplace.

The interesting thing, which I was not aware of until I moved, is that it's the cultural norm to enter the sauna naked. People will chat and talk in the sauna, completely undressed. It's normal because the naked body is not considered taboo here. People have a high level of respect and decorum for each other, so there are no awkward stares or gawping.

Personally, I have only used my building's sauna. It's not mandatory to go undressed, so in the beginning, I would wear swimming trunks. Over time, I've become more comfortable going naked.

Investing in good blinds is a necessity

During the summers, especially in July and August, there is barely any darkness, and the sun is always shining. It can be 2 a.m. in the morning, and there will be a glaring sun outside.


I found it surprising how much time and effort people spend in choosing the right blinds and curtains. But I soon realized without the proper materials it can be difficult to sleep. I had to put extra curtains on my blinds so that I could sleep well and not have a detrimental impact on my sleep hygiene.

The summer is also when people are always out because the sun is a rarity. When I first moved, it was hard to manage the amount of light we got, especially when the sun didn't set for a few weeks.

Bear and reindeer meat are often served at markets and restaurants

In most of the world, especially where I come from, they don't have access to bear or reindeer meat. But here, they serve it in the markets and restaurants as a meal.

They prepare the reindeer sausage as kebabs. Reindeer meat tasted good to me, very tender and rich earthy flavor. I haven't tried bear meat yet, but I heard it has a similar texture to pork.

It's my understanding that it is a popular dish in Finland and is often served during the winter holidays. I see reindeer meat mostly sold in local markets throughout the city.


There are still many options for vegetarians and vegans, so the culinary scene is evolving.

Getting public transport is so easy

I am impressed by the wealth of options for public transport and how easy it is to get everywhere. In Helsinki, you can choose between the tram, metro, trains, and renting bikes.

In Colombia, we only had the metro and the bus, but it was not easy to use and didn't go everywhere. Here, the transport goes directly to the airport, and there's a central station where all the modes of transportation converge.

In the summer, I bike everywhere, but since it's so cold in the winter, I opt for these other modes.

Finnish people are happy to shop secondhand

Though people are fashionable and dress well here, they don't mind wearing secondhand clothes as an environmentally friendly option. People don't seem to care as much about wearing expensive clothes and prioritize comfort and their personal preferences over name brands or the price tag.


In Colombia, it would be unusual to wear secondhand or thrift clothing. I don't even think we have that many stores to go to.

Save dinner for the second date

Although Finns use similar dating apps like Hinge or Bumble the way others do around the world, one key difference is how they treat first dates. I was warned early on that going to a nice restaurant on a first date may be considered "too much."

In Colombia, on the other hand, first dates tend to be a nice dinner at a restaurant. Here, it's recommended to go to bars and cafés on the first date.