Altering Contracts

Vaasa-themed gift from coworkers at the old work. Orange stuff is made from sea buckthorn, a berry which is very common on the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia

Apart from actually making a rental agreement for the new apartment and terminating the one for the older apartment, there is some more bureaucracy involved with moving. It’s not difficult at all, you just need to remember to do it.

First of all, you need to make an official notification of move (muuttoilmoitus), just like you did when you moved into your original apartment. It can be done online, of course, as you’re living in the glorious Finland, where this sort of things can be done online. It can be done up to a month in advance, and it’s good to do it as early in advance as possible. The notification of move normally updates both your address in the population registry and for post delivery. For a month your post (letters at least, not parcels) will be forwarded to the new address for free. I’m not sure what is the best option to handle the gaps, such as the one that I had; there is a possibility to lose some mail there. Hopefully I didn’t. In any case I made this notification as soon as possible, putting in 1.7. as the date of the move.

This is how you tell your new address to the Finnish state. Various companies that have contracts with you, including, for example, very likely a bank and an insurance company, also generally need to know where you live. Luckily, these days you usually don’t need to tell them that your address changed, as they can learn this from the population register automatically. Still it’s a good idea to try to remember any companies that send you bills or something, and recheck, whether you should also tell your new address to them explicitly.

Very likely you had some home insurance for your old place (if you didn’t, you really should have, and the new place might actually require it). Home insurance is obviously bound to a specific home, and you should update its details by hand. All my insurances are from OP-Pohjola, and it was possible to do this online, just as I originally bought them online. Home insurance cost of course depends on the apartment area and location and will likely change with the move.

Curiously and annoyingly enough, my car insurance costs also did change with the move, growing from about 800€ to over 1000€ per year (that’s both mandatory liability insurance and collision (kasko) insurance). I guess driving in Espoo is considered inherently more dangerous than driving in Vaasa. Well, the insurance company kinda has a point here, in practice the only possible ways to have a car accident in Vaasa, with its very light and calm traffic, are either being blackout drunk, or hitting a moose outside of the city. Then again, in Vaasa I was actually a lot more likely to drive to work than in Espoo/Helsinki, as my new work is in the downtown Helsinki where parking costs are rather prohibitive (36€/day in the nearest undeground garage, or 300€/month). In any case I didn’t have to do anything, they just issued me a bill for the difference soon after the move. Maybe I should change an insurance company. Then again, I’m very lazy about this sort of thing.

For at least electricity and broadband Internet you normally make contracts entirely separate from your rental agreement, and those you should also update. For electricity contracts, there are always two companies involved: one that produces electricity and one that distributes electricity. You are free to choose the first one on a free market, so you can buy electricity in Helsinki from a company in Lapland, if you really feel like it. The second company cannot be chosen, which makes sense, as there’s only one power line physically coming to a house, and this line has only one owner. Nonetheless, you make contract only with the electricity production company, and they send you the bills for both production and distribution, and deal with the electricity distribution company themselves.

This in practice means that you can keep your electricity company when you move, just notifying them that you are changing your contract. I didn’t have any complaints with my previous company, and so I ended up living in Espoo but still paying for my electricity to Vaasan Sähkö, after changing my contract with them online. The distribution company of course changed, from Vaasan Sähköverkko to Caruna; as far as I understand Caruna handles electricity distribution for all of the Helsinki area and a good chunk of the rest of the country. I believe their tariffs are a bit higher as well but I’m too lazy to recheck now, we’re not talking big amounts anyway.

The Internet didn’t seem like a huge priority, because I never upgraded for the free 10 Mbit/s connection in the old apartment, and so I actually dealt with it only after move. In case of the Internet I had to break off the old contract and make a new contract, as the Internet providers for the old and the new buildings were different (Elisa and DNA, respectively). The new building also had a free 10 Mbit/s option (it looks like a more or less standard thing these days), which I went along with. I was prompted to make an agreement with DNA when I plugged my router in the new apartment and tried to go online. A bit annoyingly, my Internet only actually started working not immediately but only a day or two after I made this agreement. Of course this wasn’t a big deal, as I could use Wi-Fi tethering through my phone.

That’s about it, I think. Maybe there are some things I forgot to mention here (or some things I forgot completely that would bite me in the ass later), but I don’t think so.


Hartman Building, where I worked in Vaasa

So I worked my last few remaining days. On the day before I planned to leave my old apartment, I did a big big cleanup. Really big. I’m pretty sure it was the biggest I’ve ever done in my life. Windows, stove, fridge, everything. The reason of course was that I didn’t want to get charged for insufficiently good cleanup. Well I was somewhat worried about being charged for something else; there are for example some stains on the bathroom floor, which didn’t go away no matter what I did. These stains were there when I moved it actually, but I hadn’t really paid attention to it back then. But in general thankfully I didn’t really do any damage to the apartment in 1.5 years.

The next day, which was Thursday, 20.6., was my last work day. In the morning I packed my remaining stuff in the car; the mattress and the microwave and everything else were going to travel with me for the next week and a half. I dusted the floor one last time, double and triple checked the apartment was completely empty of my things, and then drove away. I even made a small sentimental video of me leaving my old place FOREVER.

Attentive readers might ask, why was I leaving on Thursday and not, for example, on Friday. Well, Friday 21.6., was a Midsummer (juhannus) eve, and a public holiday. As I was going to a trip to Norway on Saturday 22.6., this meant in practice I had to move out of my apartment by Thursday, 20.6., because I needed to return its keys, and this was only possible to do in work hours of the housing company office.

So I drove to the center of Vaasa, parked my car in the underground garage, walked to the housing company and returned my keys. Then I got to work and spent my last few uneventful hours there, mostly wiping and reinstalling my work laptop. In the late afternoon I left, got back to my car, drove out of the underground garage and out of Vaasa FOREVER.

Well, I don’t know, chances are I probably revisit Vaasa someday, for example, if I want to take the ferry to Umeå in Sweden, or just to look at the road they had been rebuilding under my windows, when it’s finally finished. But not any time soon for sure.

Kvarken Archipelago. View from an observation tower in Klobbskat

I drove to the Kvarken Archipelago, going up a new observation tower in Klobbskat, and looking out to the Gulf of Bothnia for the last time too. Then I drove to a hotel (well, a room at an AirBnB-like place) in Lehtimäki, some 140 km east of Vaasa, stopping to buy some food in Seinäjoki on the way. There I stayed for the next two nights. The reason it was in Lehtimäki in particular was that my friend Annika, with whom we were about to go north, was at the moment in the same village with her parents as well. So the next day I didn’t do much apart from visiting Pyhä-Häkki, a small national park 100 km away, and on Saturday I picked Annika at her parents’ summer house, and we set off to the north.

There we had a pretty good vacation, mostly in Lyngen in North Norway, but also staying in Enontekiö on the way there, around Nordkapp for two nights afterwards, and in Rovaniemi on the way back. We got to do a good deal of hiking, and also got to see a great number of reindeers, and as we all know this is basically the most important reason to have a vacation in the north at all. On the morning of Monday, 1.7., we set out from Rovaniemi straight to Helsinki.

Rovaniemi to Helsinki is about 800 km by road. It is a very annoying drive, as it goes along the National Road 4, which is the busiest road of Finland. Particularly the 350 km long section between Jyväskylä and Oulu is very boring and has a ton of trucks, and is mostly a very basic road with a single lane in each direction. Normally I would have picked a parallel road, for a longer but much quieter drive, but this time we needed to go as fast as possible, because I had to be in Helsinki early enough to pick the keys for my new apartment.

Reindeers in tundra near Gjesvær on the North Norway trip in June

The keys were available for pickup at Lassila-Tikanoja office (they are the maintenance company for my building) in Pasila in Helsinki proper. Actually we wouldn’t be able to make it on time (at least without leaving ridiculously early), but by a lucky coindidence it was the 1st of July, and they have longer hours in the first and last days of the month. So after a long and exhausting drive, with a stop halfway (in Pihtipudas) to eat, as something like 19.00 we were in Pasila, where I indeed successfully picked the keys. Funnily enough I had to speak Finnish in the Lassila-Tikanoja office. They just began in Finnish, and I actually understood so I tried to answer in Finnish because it would be kind of stupid to ask for English, and it just continued on. I think this has been my longest spoken conversation in Finnish to date.

Then I dropped Annika at the ferry terminal in Katajanokka in the center of Helsinki, where she boarded the ferry to Tallinn, where she lives, and I went to my new home in Kilo, Espoo. Dragged my stuff inside, parked the car, and opened a sparkling wine that I bought beforehand. Yay, I was no longer homeless!

Moving In

Espoo turned out to have more wildlife than I suspected. A muskrat in Laajalahti

I was pretty pleased with my new Espoo apartment. I had already quite liked it when I had come to check it out before, and now it was all mine, all clean and shiny. However of course it wasn’t all over yet. I still had to bring in my furniture from that farm near Vaasa.

I had already decided that I would rent a van for this part. A (big enough) van has a lot more space in it than a trailer, and is a lot easier to drive as well. Or at least I hoped so, as I had never tried to drive a van either.

Just like renting trailers, renting vans (which are called pakettiauto or more affectionately paku in Finnish) is a fairly popular service in Finland. Especially of course in Helsinki area there are quite a few companies doing that. They seem to offer roughly similar services and prices, so I went with the one that seemed the biggest, which is 24Rent. Vans with their branding are a relatively common sight on Helsinki streets, although so are others like for example ones from PakuOvelle (“Van to the door”) company.

Renting a van with 24Rent turned out to work rather differently from renting regular cars from companies like Sixt, although I don’t know, maybe that’s how Sixt does it these days too, I don’t really have that much experiences with renting cars. The process is fully automated, and in normal case with 24Rent you never so much as hear the voice of a fellow human being. As you can immediately see on their website, their vans (and cars) are scattered all around the city, just parked at various locations without any staff attending; and as the name suggests, you can in principle rent them at any time of the day.

When you rent a van through the website, they first ask you to verify yourself, if you had never used them before. For that they ask you to upload a selfie and a picture of your driving license. I was mildly worried whether my Russian driving license would be alright (I still have some months to exchange it for a Finnish one), but there weren’t any difficulties. Oh and by the way the regular B-license is enough for a van as well, at least for vans of the size they actually rent out. The terms of service also state that 24Rent can ask you to pay a deposit afterwards. I was a bit worried about that part as well (who knows how big of a deposit they want), but they approved me pretty quickly and I was clear to go without any deposit.

Rental van at the front door of my Espoo building

The van that I picked was one of the biggest ones they had (I think), a Renault Master with a 15 cub. m cargo bay. I didn’t really have a good idea how much space I would need, and decided to be as cautious as possible; after all the drive from Espoo to the farm was 400 km, and I really didn’t want to do it several times over. It cost me about 160€ for a full day of rent, which consisted of 120€ for the rent proper, 15€ for unlimited mileage (default is like 100 km per day), and 25€ for extended insurance. The default insurance has a 1800€ deductible, and those 25€ extra lower it to 900€. In principle this probably is not a very good deal, paricularly since the insurance doesn’t cover the kinds of stupid things you’re actually likely to do with a van, which would be putting gas into it instead of diesel or damaging the top by attempting to drive into somewhere like an underground garage with low vertical clearance.

The actual day of the move was Saturday 6.7. (so I lived quite a few more days on my mattress), and the rental period started, I think, at 8.00 in the morning. Thankfully I wasn’t doing it alone; Annika came from Tallinn again to help me load and unload stuff, which was much appreciated, although the drive must have been extremely boring for her. So in the early morning we came to the place where the van was parked, which was in a parking lot of some big ugly stores (something like car parts) in Konala area of northwestern Helsinki. As I checked beforehand, there was a free unlimited parking lot there, so we could come by car, leave it there and get into van.

Shortly before the rental period starts, 24Rent sends you a link to a webpage, from where you can control your rental. First you are supposed to take pictures of the van from four sides and verify that existing scratches and other body damage match what the diagram on the webpage shows. The van wasn’t a particularly new one (clocking at 95,000 km) and certainly had plenty of minor scratches. I was not sure about one of them and reported it separately through that webpage (and uploaded a picture of it). As long as you do this before unlocking the van, obviously no one can claim the damage is done by you.

Afterwards you tap on a button on that webpage, and it remotely unlocks the van doors. The actual car keys are in the glovebox, and you can use them also for locking and unlocking the van when you temporarily leave it. Thus the rental period begins.

I started the van and carefully made a few circles around the almost empty parking lot. It wasn’t the most pleasant thing in the world to drive, to be sure, but I didn’t seem to have any particular difficulties either. Reversing of course wasn’t very pleasant (you had to do it basically blind), but way easier than with a trailer. It did also have air conditioning and speed limiter, that is, the two most basic things for driving comfort. So without further deliberation we departed to the farm 400 km away. As usual, I used TomTom application on my phone for navigation, and I temporarily brought my regular phone holder and charger to the van.

We drove 400 km non stop, on National Road 3 through Hämeenlinna and Tampere, turning off at Kurikka, and then following some smaller roads for the rest of the way. The maximum speed limit for such a van in Finland would be 100 km/h, which certainly feels more than enough. One major annoyance was that something was making a pretty loud and annoying screeching sound, most loudly at 60-80 km/h. I have no idea what it was (some belt maybe?) and it sounded quite worrying, but it never really affected driving in any way, so we went on.

No one was at home at the farm, but they told us where to get the keys. Since we were able to drive right up to the garage door, it was pretty easy to load all my things. Thankfully there was more than enough space. We set out back immediately, although soon enough we stopped to refuel and to have lunch in Jalasjärvi. Probably it wasn’t even necessary to refuel; it seemed from the gauge that we would be able to drive all the way from Helsinki and back on one diesel tank, but you never know with these gauges. The thing ate about 10 l/100 km, which wasn’t too terrible, particularly since it ran on diesel which is noticeably cheaper than gas.

Fully loaded

At around 19.00 we were back at the front door of my building. Moving furniture up in the apartment was a lot more annoying than loading it at the farm, since I live on the 6th floor (naturally there’s an elevator but still). Took probably over an hour. Winter tires and a few other things immediately went to a storage locker in a special area the first floor. All (I think) Finnish houses have such a thing. There was one in Vaasa, too, although there it was in a separate building in the backyard, and I never used it, keeping tires on the balcony instead (as is the old Russian tradition). The balcony in the new apartment seems too nice to keep tires tires, though.

The van was mine until 8.00 next day, but of course there was no reason for me to keep it anymore, so immediately afterwards I returned it to the original parking lot in Konala, refueling it nearby one more time. You have to tap a button on a webpage again to end the rental period, and repeat the four pictures thing. Then I drove home on my own car, and only then the whole adventure was over.

Overall it cost me about 260€, so, 160€ for the van and 100€ for the fuel. Sounds more or less reasonable to me for a move over 400 km.

It took me a while to actually assemble the furniture back, I only finished it by the next weekend. There are (as of the time of this writing) still quite a few items I want to buy for the new apartment, but that’s absolutely not urgent and restoring my savings, in which I had to dig, takes priority over that.

One thing most definitely was urgent though, and that was a washing machine. As I mentioned before, this building didn’t have a common laundry room, which meant I urgently needed a washing machine of my own. I ordered it from Gigantti store immediately after moving to the new apartment, paying 250€ for the machine itself (a very ordinary Bosch) and 40€ for delivery; I wouldn’t be able to bring a washing machine home on my own, and Annika of course cannot help me with everything. They delivered it on Friday 5.7., so actually one day before the van quest. As expected, delivery experience was quite annoying. They didn’t specify expected time any more precisely than “10-18” and of course in the end they called at 17.45, apologized, and said they’ll be at like 18.15. Well, what matters is that I got my washing machine. I also got to learn how to install it, which wasn’t difficult but involved looking for a hose clamp in a hardware store.

With the furniture and the washing machine, the move was basically over. Well, I suppose I can mention some very minor things, such as getting a card for public transport here (actually I ordered it online a few weeks before the move) or getting a library card for Helsinki area libraries (of HelMet network). On Monday 8.7., I started my new work as expected.

The final move-related thing was getting my deposit from the Vaasa apartment back. The deposit there was equal to the original rental cost for 1 month, which was 623€ at the time in 2017. On 25.7. I was refunded 593€, so, almost all of it. I don’t know what’s with the missing 30€. Probably I missed something minor while cleaning, or broke something small. I didn’t get any calls or emails, but maybe they’ll send a paper letter afterwards. But anyway, it’s not a huge deal.

Overall, considering I got back the deposit for the old apartment, and didn’t have to pay a deposit for the new apartment, I can say I made my move extremely cheaply.  260€ for the van trip, 290€ for the washing machine and its delivery, maybe 50€ for various small expenses (gas expenses for moving things from Vaasa to the intermediate storage at the farm, cardboard boxes from Clas Ohlson store, and maybe 150€ for all the bus trips to Helsinki to find a job and check out the new apartment; so around 750€ maybe, and subtracting the refunded deposit, it gives less than 200€ actually spent. I’m, of course, not taking into account the fact that the new apartment is more expensive (as that will be an ongoing expense from now on, and there was no “overlap” when I had to pay rents for both apartments at once), neither the Norway trip expenses (which is not really related to the move and would have happened either way). And of course every move is unique in its own way, and among other things I enjoyed great help from Mattias, his dad and Annika, which also helped me to save a bit of money and a lot of nerve cells.

Life in Espoo

Kilo station, from where I go to work

So how’s life in Espoo/Helsinki different from Vaasa? I actually don’t think I can make a very informed comparison so far, as it hasn’t even been a month yet. At the moment I certainly like it here better, but there’s the obvious novelty factor too, so I don’t think I can be really objective. But at least I can tell a few pretty obvious things.

Obviously Helsinki area is much, much bigger than Vaasa. We’re talking about 20 times bigger. Some people would say that the central Helsinki is the only place in Finland that actually feels like a proper city. There are such things as metro, trams, beautiful old buildings, shopping centers, government institutions, offices of a great many of the biggest companies in Finland, and of course indecently huge crowds of  people.

Metro and trams are truly unique in Finland, although the city of Tampere has started building a tram of its own. In general, public transport is the thing I like maybe the best. You can truly live here without a car. If I moved from Russia to Helsinki originally, instead of Vaasa, I probably wouldn’t bother getting a new car; I would just buy some old clunker and then would rent a proper car when going to vacations.

I live next to a train station, where there are normally four suburban trains every hour. It takes only 15 minutes to get to the central Helsinki station by these trains. From there there’s a short walk to my work, and overall it takes me only 30-35 minutes to get to work, even though I live outside Helsinki proper. Public transport for me is also a very convenient place to read books; I’m too ADHD to do this at home usually. Here I actually often use a longer route from work back home, by metro and a bus, to be able to read longer. Since I’ve got a 60€ month ticket, it’s all the same to me. I can also get to various places in the city by public transport, and would be even able to go to some nature locations by public transport (such as Nuuksio and Sipoonkorpi national parks outside the city). This is all pretty mind-blowing after Vaasa with its very bare bones bus service.

But Helsinki is also a transport hub speaking more globally. Trains, planes, ferries, it is the main destination for it all. Only 3.5 hours by train from St. Petersburg suddenly means that my friends can visit me and I can visit them far more easily than before. An airport means that I could for example go to Lapland for a multi-day hike by just flying to Ivalo or Enontekiö, if I just want to. I could travel to all over Europe from here fairly cheaply if I wanted, and my parents can fly here from Yekaterinburg in the middle of Russia with much less hassle as well.

Helsinki is very diverse. Vaasa itself was fairly diverse as far as small cities go, as it was a university city. But in Helsinki you hear English as often as you heard Swedish in (largely Swedish-speaking) Vaasa, and you hear Russian as often as you heard English in Vaasa. You don’t feel like an outsider that much here, and don’t feel such a strong pressure to speak Finnish already, and that is just good for the nerves. On the flip side, in my case I do want to learn Finnish well and integrate into the Finnish society as well as possible, and without special effort this is not really easier in Helsinki than in Vaasa. The company where I work now in particular might be somewhat of an outlier, but I generally get the impression actual Finnish employees are a minority there.

Here are many more Russians, too. Some at my work, and quite a few in general. I even got to know a few in person very soon after moving. Again, while I don’t necessarily particularly want to be surrounded by Russians, this kind of makes you don’t feel like such a complete outsider.

White-tailed deers in Porkkala, Kirkkonummi

The nature is surprisingly distinct from Vaasa. Sure, to a first approximation most of Finland is just one big uniform forest, with fields sprinkled in the west and in the south. But forests around Helsinki look subtly different from ones around Vaasa, even fairly noticeably so, if you lived in Vaasa for 1.5 years. Many more decidous trees, more diverse-looking undergrowth. In the very first week I saw white-tailed deers in Porkkala, fairly close to Espoo. The coast of the Gulf of Finland also looks distinct from the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia (and honestly is prettier). In general I’m pretty excited that I can now easily visit national parks and other cool places in South Finland, which were mostly out of reach from Vaasa.

The capital region has more shops and services. This didn’t seem like it would be an important thing for me, as I’m a rather frugal person anyway, but yet there are all kinds of small things. Like that there are far more McDonalds’es, or those online van rental companies, or the availability of Ikea. None of this is anywhere close to essential, just nice to have.

And probably most significantly, unlike Vaasa, this is definitely the place where I’m going to settle for good. Of course, who knows what happens in the long run; maybe I’ll die (hopefully not but hey things happen), or run into some immigration troubles, or move somewhere else in Finland or elsewhere because of something completely unexpected. But all these chances are rather slim. So here I probably should start thinking about such silly adult things as buying an own home. If I ever do, I’ll write about it here of course, but don’t hold your breath, it’s almost certainly not going to happen at least within the next five years 🙂

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