More Than the Degree

My Experience in Living in Greater Helsinki Area pt. 2

Read part 1 here!

Now, let me talk about the nature of Greater Helsinki. I probably don’t even have to talk about how famous Finnish nature is. But one thing that’s interesting is that nature is really close to the cities. In some places like Otaniemi, nature and buildings are intertwined. They basically coexist. That really shocked me because I have always lived in very dense cities without that much nature. Of course, there were parks from place to place but it was nothing compared to what you get in finland. If you’re into nature, then Helsinki is a good place for you. You can literally take one bus and in 40 minutes you will be in Nuuksio, one of the most important natural parks in Finland.

Helsinki isn’t a vertical city (unlike Hong Kong, NYC, Istanbul). It’s rather a horizontal city in my opinion. You won’t see many tall buildings or skyscrapers. In fact, the buildings that locals here call skyscrapers are the ones that we call regular apartments in Istanbul.

What defines the characteristics of a city is the people that live there. For example, I know that Istanbulians are very stressed out people, that’s why Istanbul is a chaotic city. But Helsinki is just the opposite. People are super chill. They’re not rushing. You won’t see anyone running in the Helsinki metro. You won’t see people that walk so fast to be on time for their work that it almost seems like they are walking.

Helsinki has a dark side as well. You can see the dark side of Helsinki when the winter comes. There will be considerably less people in the metros, most people will just stay at their homes, and the city will be much more quiet. You will feel as if the city has lost its energy or something. But the winter doesn’t stop life here. People just live with it. In Istanbul, when the weather was snowy, people were always stuck on the road and the schools were canceled. That doesn’t happen in Helsinki, luckily.

Now, let’s talk about living in Otaniemi. Otaniemi is the neighborhood that Aalto university campus is located in. It’s a very green place, and aesthetically pleasing in my opinion. A lot of students are living in the student apartments inside Otaniemi so it’s always a vibrant environment. You can literally find anything in Otaniemi. I feel like it’s a small city in itself. There’s barbershop, market, bars, multiple restaurants, houses, gyms, hotels, many different school buildings, student cafeterias, pharmacy, alcohol shop, metro station, bus stops, party houses, a lot of saunas and much more for you to discover. I personally believe that there’s so much to do in Otaniemi that it’s impossible for one to discover everything there. There will always be some hidden place that you’ve never heard of before. Honestly, I love living in such a place like Otaniemi. It makes me feel happy, just by its landscape and aura. I can assure you that you will never get bored in Otaniemi, there’s always something fun to do.

As you now know, the Greater Helsinki Area consists of Espoo, Vantaa, and Helsinki. I talked about Helsinki a lot, so let’s now talk about Espoo and Vantaa. Espoo is the second largest city in Finland. Compared to Helsinki, it’s a much newer city. You won’t see Helsinki’s historic old buildings in Espoo. However, I must admit that Espoo is a very progressive city. The municipality is now working on using autonomous buses (without drivers) in Espoo which is super crazy to think about! Also, Otaniemi of Espoo was the pilot testing location of Starship robots which are used to deliver groceries to people’s houses. So there’s a lot going on in Espoo in terms of innovation and technology. Espoo municipality is also organizing a lot of career events and recruitment fairs - especially for international talent living in Espoo. Honestly, I’ve never seen a municipality work that hard for its citizens. Vantaa is another city in the north of Helsinki. Frankly, it’s not my favorite. For me, Vantaa feels like a town for old people. There’s not as vibrant an atmosphere as Helsinki or Otaniemi. It’s mostly just middle aged people living in their detached houses with their children. Most neighborhoods of Vantaa are assumed to be super safe, aka “good neighborhoods”. So if you have a family and small children, Vantaa might be a great place to live. 

- San, Second-year bachelor's student in Computational Engineering

San standing by the water during sunset.
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