Not Getting Lost in Law in Helsinki

Hey! My name is Alexandra, I am a second-year master degree student at International Business Law programme. I run my own Lostinlaw blog ( Today I am going to tell you how not to get “lost in law” actually in Finland. I base my observations on my common sense, a couple of years of experience of working in legal/related field and my experience of being an international student myself.

First, a couple of general advice. You shall remember that it is impossible to know EVERYTHING about the risks you may possibly meet when renting your first apartment in Finland, signing your first work contract in Finland or opening a bank account. But you should always ask yourself following questions:

  1. How much shall I pay?

Controlling your costs and expenses is vitally important especially when moving abroad without perfectly clear picture in your mind. You shall not be a math wizard to secure your expenses. Just pay attention to signs. For example, you may be fined for not paying for a metro when you are still moving down the escalator just to see off your friends. Whatever your intentions may be, you have already walked pass the ticket machine, crossed the yellow line of the floor and thus silently accepted the rules of “I can pay EUR X for the ride or I can risk and pay a fine” game.

  1. Know your deadlines.

You rent a flat and see a deadline for monthly payment on the invoice. Do your best to comply it and calculate how not to fail it if for example, you don`t have online banking service and travel abroad on the date of the payment. First, you have to pay a small fine for not complying with deadlines. Second, the housing market in Helsinki is not that big and getting future housing very much reminds of getting a job with all your CVs, online searching and pitching to landlords. Just minimize the risks of something spoiling your portfolio!

  1. Read carefully and remember you are abroad.

I got my first summer job in Finland and signed a contract (it was even in English) in hurry. By that time, I had been working as an in-house lawyer for some time in Russia. What did I do was that I transferred my perception of Russia labor regulation (mainly, the idea, that the final payment of the salary shall happen on the last working day of employee). What I figured out only one week of the summer employment, was that the salary will come one month later than the supposed date. I called the Ministry of Justice to clarify the issue and found out that it was perfectly normal, “because it is a freedom of contract”. I did not dig deeper into this situation, but learned two things for sure. That is, try to read between lines and filter your expectations.

  1. Know whom to ask.

Always write down your concerns and try to address your questions by phone, e-mail or online. – there you can browse through the answers by tax authorities or submit own question. I tested this service myself, responses are quite prompt and detailed, and you can ask more detailed questions in the continuation of the more general question. Virka-info has a chat and you can also reach it by phone. Service is really prompt, and you can discuss many important matters before addressing more concrete questions to the authorities. Ne-Rå can also listen to you and help you in many matters, including filling in forms and dealing with authorities. Student-lawyers of the University of Helsinki provide free legal aid on migration and discrimination matters and consult start-ups under careful supervision of teachers and lawyer.

There are some resources that have useful information. Infopankki has some information on moving in and living in Finland.

And, surely, a disclaimer. Nothing in this article can constitute a legal advice. If you feel that you have a complex situation, do not hesitate to contact a professional lawyer or state authorities who will consult you how to get accessible legal aid.

Hopefully, everything will go smooth. But anyway, remember – you will be heard and supported during your stay in Helsinki.

Text and Photo: International Student Ambassador Alexandra Shtromberg