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Business Infrastructure

Transportation and Communications

Finland has a well-developed infrastructure.  Finland’s transportation system is based on an efficient rail and road network, supported by a wide network of freight forwarders and trucking companies.  Finland's domestic distribution system for goods and services is efficient.  Finland has over 50 merchant shipping ports, of which more than 10 are located on inland waterways connected to the Baltic Sea by the Saimaa Canal.  Twenty-three seaports are open year round. Finnish ports, 15 of which deal with transit traffic through Finland, can handle a wide range of cargo.  The 10 biggest ports handle more than 75 percent of all sea-borne cargo traffic.  The ports near the Russian border (Hamina, Kotka and Mustola) concentrate on forestry goods, bulk cargo and free zone activities.  Ports are secure and automated; loading and unloading operations are consistently quick and trouble-free.

The well-functioning transportation system and the fact that Finland's rail gauge is the same as Russia's make the country a good transshipment point for Russian trade.  Among other projects, Finland is developing the "gateway" concept further by maintaining and extending a highway in southern Finland that would reach the Russian border at the southern Vaalimaa border crossing point.  The E18 road, from Kristiansand, Norway, through Sweden and Finland, to St. Petersburg, Russia, is part of the European Union Trans European Road Network system, connecting EU-member Nordic capitals with efficient roads.

Finland’s telecommunications environment is one of the most advanced in Europe.  Finland has also one of the highest numbers of computers per capita worldwide connected to the Internet and is the world's leading country in electronic banking.  Also high-speed Internet connections are available at all business hotels.  Voice communication services have largely moved to mobile networks in Finland.  Today, broadband connections for data services have widely replaced fixed telephone network based dial up connections.  At the same time the number of fixed telephone network subscriptions is diminishing.  The popularity of mobile broadband is growing rapidly.  For information on telecommunications in Finland, please visit www.expat-finland.com/telecommunications_and_media/index.html

Almost every Finn has access to broadband networks.  Fiber optic cables cover 95 percent of Finnish municipalities and 99 percent of the population live in these municipalities.  Altogether 98 percent of Finns live within a few kilometers of high-speed fiber optic cable networks.  However, two years ago Finland’s high-speed broadband network penetration rate was 0.73 per 100 inhabitants, according to Eurostat.  The large number of connections in educational institutions and workplaces compensate for the relative lack of household connections.  The change in household structures in the direction of single-person households is slowing down the spread of IT through the population.

In 1999, significant steps were taken to establish a digital television system in Finland, when the Ministry of Transport and Communications granted licenses for digital television channels.  The government also granted licenses for three special digital channels and a television channel that broadcasts regional programs.  Digital transmissions began on August 27, 2001.  At present, 100 percent of Finns have access to digital television broadcasting so Finland has finalized a complete switch to digital television broadcasting and phased out analog television.

Finland is one of the first countries to explore the use of digital television networks as a distribution channel for services received via mobile stations.  The services of the fourth digital television network would be based on technology that combines digital mobile networks, television networks, the Internet and reception via mobile stations.

Education

Finland invests more in education than the EU countries on average.  All children aged 7-15 – even disabled – attend school in Finland.

Comprehensive school is a nine-year compulsory general schooling for all children aged 7-16.  The municipalities pay for teachers’ salaries, books, health care, and school meals.  After completing comprehensive school, students may attend high school for three years or receive vocational education.  High school prepares students for university studies.  Tuition at universities is minimal.

Helsinki has International, English, German, Russian, French, and Jewish schools in which classes are taught partly in foreign languages and partly in Finnish.  The International, English, German and Jewish schools are private and charge tuition.  University level education is mainly in Finnish, with exception of English language BBA and MBA programs in certain universities and polytechnics.  

Medical Services

Medical facilities are widely available.  The public hospital system will not honor foreign credit cards and/or U.S. insurance coverage.  However, private hospitals and clinics that accept major credit cards are widely available.  Travelers have found that, in some cases, a letter from their carrier describing supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage has proved useful.

A foreigner is usually covered by the Finnish social security after moving to Finland, with health care as one of the benefits.  Services are provided within each municipality.  The quality of public health care is equivalent to care given by private doctors.  In addition, the employers subsidize occupational health care.

Housing

Most people in Finland own their own housing.  The cost to rent an apartment varies depending on the size, age, condition and location.  Rents are generally quite high, especially within the Helsinki area, and most places come unfurnished.

Food

Despite prices converging with other EU levels, Finland’s price structure regarding food and household needs is the lowest of the Nordic countries and only slightly above the OECD average. Finnish food is consistent to produce that is in season, which provides an array of berries, mushrooms, seafood etc. Potatoes are a main staple and accompany most evening dishes.

Temporary Goods Entry Requirements

Temporary exemption from duty can be granted, for instance, to the following:  

  • Goods intended for public displays at exhibitions and fairs
  • Commercial samples
  • Professional tools and equipment

If the goods are put to unauthorized use or are not exported within the prescribed time they must go through normal customs clearance and become liable for relevant duties and taxes.

In Finland, the ATA-Carnet, the international customs documentation for temporary duty-free admission is issued by the Chamber of Commerce.  The ATA-Carnets are frequently used for temporary imports e.g. samples, exhibition materials, and professional equipment (laptop computers, software), and are valid for one year.