I hate asking for help. Well…that’s not quite true. From a small subset of people I am quite happy to ask for help, as my long-suffering PhD office mate will attest, but from people in authority? People I want to make a good impression on? Strangers? Forget it.
Thus it was probably not my smartest idea to move to a country where I don’t speak the language. I’m going to start by saying I am well aware that it is way way, easier to be a non-Finnish speaking person in Finland than it is to be a non-English speaking person in the UK. For starters people here don’t get mad at you for not speaking Finnish. They also don’t say Finnish words very loudly at you in the hope that this will magically make you understand. Most organisations have an English section on their website, even if it is a bit limited, and most Finns under the age of 40 speak English. (Quick hint, if a Finn says they speak “a bit” of English it means they are practically fluent.) That said though, there are still problems. Foremost among these is Finland’s apparently unofficial policy that foreigners can’t have electricity.
So you have an apartment sorted? Congratulations! You even managed to do this without asking for much help (though you still needed some, to your eternal shame). Now you need to open a contract with the local electricity company. Unlike in the UK, you need this contract before they will turn on the power to you apartment. Say you want to move straight in when you arrive in Finland? You should probably call the set up the contract about a week before you move. Step one is getting past the Finnish robot voice to find someone who speaks English (if you have a Finnish-speaking friend in the UK you’re going to have to ask for yet more help), but here’s where the fun really starts. In order to open your contract you need to have a Finnish ID number. In order to get a Finnish ID number you need TO ACTUALLY BE IN FINLAND. Once I arrived getting it only took me a couple of days in the end, but it involved a trip to the police station and then to the town hall, all accompanied by a helpful Finn (who also called the electricity company for me after my hilarious failed attempts to communicate with them). Nevertheless, this meant several days of darkness. Good job it’s not winter!
You kind of need an ID number for everything here. It leads to a weird system where you can’t get an employment contract without a number, and you can’t register for a number without an employment contract. Thankfully, the University is wise to this and simply puts a temporary number on your first contract to neatly sidestep this issue.
My current issue is getting a tax card; actually issue makes it sound harder than it is. As you will soon see this particular problem is entirely of my own making. All the online advice says to simply fill out a tax form and take it to the local tax office. Easy right? So form in hand I (eventually) located the nearest tax office and paid them a visit. I walked in, looked at all the different desks and waiting areas, read the (entirely Finnish) signs, dithered for a bit, and then walked out.
Yeah, I suck. I should have just found a staff member and asked them what to do. Failing that I should ask a Finn to come with me and translate the signs. Instead my new plan is to try and send the form in the mail, thereby neatly avoiding any human interaction whatsoever. Problem is I first need to ask someone how the mail system here works….
Maybe I could just pay 60% tax instead? How bad could it be?