7 reasons why Finns are living in the future

HDR photo of a sunset by Timo Newton-Syms

70 years ago Finland was still something of an agrarian backwater. Fast forward to today and Finns live in one of the most futuristic societies on earth. They might not be teleporting to their summer cottages yet or clearing snow with robot servants, but here’s are 7 wonderful ways that Finns are already enjoying life in the future every single day.






Data usage per SIM per country for a number of nations. Source: Tefficient

1. They’re always connected to super fast mobile internet

Finland is a sprawling affair, but carriers in the country maintain extremely cheap access to 3G and 4G networking across the country, with pre-paid limitless access costing only around 20 euro per month.

That is, no data caps. And that shows in the usage, where Finns truly lead the way with all the Netflix and chill they can eat at the summer cottage.

There are dark spots on any coverage map, but in Finland, the big carriers serve even suburban and exurban environments pretty well.

In Finnish cities, congestion is quite rare and getting even more manageable at mass events with the advent of small femtocell base stations. Even the capital Helsinki’s underground Metro tunnels have been covered for years.



View or Helsinki from beside the Helsinki cathedral

The Helsinki cathedral, a symbol of this very connected capital. Photo: Rob Hurson

2. They have a fundamental right to broadband

Per 2010 legislation, Finnish citizens have a right to access broadband services. While the definition of broadband at 1 Megabit/s, feels a bit too generous, that kind of speed can still be used to pay the bills online etc. But on the other hand, Finland being a big but sparsely populated place, this speed is non-trivial to provide in all the kinds of wilderness Finns continue to live post-agrarian, suburbanized lives.


3. They use the world’s strongest personal online authentication


For years, Finnish banks have provided a defacto standard for providing strong digital authentication. Provided by all major Finnish banks, the TUPAS system is used to log on to all kinds of services from government benefits to merchant services. By being tied to banking, the system inherently supports whatever multi-factor authentication schemes each bank employs, making identity theft a slightly less pressing issue.

Estonia has outdone Finland in this respect with their national ID card and E-Government. The Baltic wunderkind of post-Soviet recovery has however made too rapid, and potentially disastrously insecure progress towards digitalizing national elections, per IT security experts. So, in our mind, the situation can still be called a tie.


Nokia 3310

These guys killed out payphones, Photo: James Whatley

4. They haven’t needed payphones for over a decade


The Nordic telecom giant TeliaSonera (Telia these days) removed the last payphone in Finland back in 2006, due to outdated technology the company didn’t feel like maintaining. That’s less than a decade after mobile phones became universal in Finland, or anywhere in the world, really.

Whether it’s progress to not have payphones is a different discussion altogether. But cheap, prepaid phones being considered universal just three years into Skype’s existence, that’s kind of futuristic.




5. They’re experimenting with basic income


Job markets are likely to change rapidly in the following decades, with automation and globalisation taking its share of industrial-era employment. As has been reported around the globe, Finland is currently experimenting with providing a number of underemployed people access to set figure of cash every month, sans bureaucracy.

Universal basic income may be provoking to some. But it’s a fact that Finland’s system of benefits is complex, requires paperwork that’s hard to handle for those who need it the most, making it, in fact, underused by people who most need a hand.

Furthermore, the current system is hard to manage in terms of getting gainfully employed: part-timers, people with lots of gigs and entrepreneurs get cut off in tragicomical ways. So, we’re hoping that the universal income experiment shows encouraging signs of activating people who otherwise would lose benefits for a few days of work.


Tennispalatsi cinema

Tennispalatsi in Helsinki, one of the bigger movie theatres in Finland. Photo credit

6. They’re master linguists (thanks to subtitled movies)


Whether movies be in English, Norwegian, Russian or Chinese, Finnish movie theatres, TV stations and streaming services show them subtitled. While skillfully performed dubbing a-la Germany or France is to prefer over subtitles comes down to aesthetic preference, subtitles have the clear benefit of creating passive language skills.

If Brexit and Trumpistan cause Transatlantic hegemony to collapse into some dystopia straight out of The Handmaid’s Tale or Children of Men, Finns will probably adjust to Russian, Chinese and Turkish popular culture in just a few decades.


Even Suomenlinna, the museum like sea fortress outside Helsinki can be reached through undersea tunnels. Photo: Ari Helminen




7. They have an underground city beneath Helsinki


Here’s something you probably won’t notice or think about when you visit Helsinki: the city’s 200 km worth of service tunnels carved into the bedrock under the urban centre. In fact, relatively few infrastructure and service workers use the tunnels directly, but they’re central to the flow of the city. A small taste of the tunnel system can be had by using the central tunnel, which connects the central railway station to the Kamppi and Forum shopping malls, a nice perk during winter.

From resupplying major shopping centres downtown and the obvious metro and sewage systems, Helsinki’s tunnels even reach the Suomenlinna sea fortress, which can be reached by ambulance from under the sea. Likewise, several of the city’s hospital campuses are well connected.

Some of the tunnels are non-public, belonging to the parliament, military, archival intuitions among others.


Title photo by Timo Newton-Syms


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14 replies

  1. My unlimited pre-paid mobile internet is only €16 per month here in Finland , & Iove the tunnel from Forum to Kamppi! Found it last year & thought it was such an excellent idea!

  2. When I spend 6 months in Japan, I totally missed Finnish internet services. It was very difficult to catch free Wi-Fi, and 4G was very, very expensive. Almost 50 euros for month! And it was limited too..

  3. I am so proud to always read/hear positive things happening in my Finland. I have yet to hear anything too negative. Rock on!

  4. “They haven’t needed payphones for over a decade” Nokia connecting people and killing payphones 🙂

  5. “If Brexit and Trumpistan cause Transatlantic hegemony to collapse into some dystopia straight out of The Handmaid’s Tale or Children of Men, Finns will probably adjust to Russian, Chinese and Turkish popular culture in just a few decades.”

    That’s… optimistic

  6. I wish the underground city would be this truly huge thing that’d prevent any unnecessary dealings outside during winter

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