Hello Espoo – The pilot project to enhance city services for international residents

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2020-12-08 13:49

In Espoo, the foreign-language population is increasing rapidly: from 8,3 % in 2010 to 18 % in 2020, and it's estimated to grow to 30 % in 2035. Hello Espoo project is an engaging initiative to enhance city services and support international residents to settle in Espoo as one of the most fantastic destinations for a thriving and great quality of life.

Hello Espoo website – A comprehensive information for international residents

Espoo was the first city in Finland to adopt English as a language of service in 2017. The purpose of developing English-language services is to improve customer experience in English and help people who moved from abroad to Espoo. “Although the administrative decisions will be made Finnish and Swedish in City of Espoo, we set out to offer high-quality services to residents and clients not only in Finnish and Swedish but also in English,” says Tero Lohimäki, Project Manager of “English as a Service Language” development project.

Finland is a diverse and international country with more than 400 000 persons who have foreign backgrounds (Statistic Finland 2020).  In order to understand the needs and typical challenges faced by Espoo residents who need city services in English, the City of Espoo conducted a survey for international residents in 2018. According to the survey results from about 600 international residents, 92% of respondents mentioned that it was important for them to get services in English and they prefer to communicate in English.  Hence, the City of Espoo decided creating a new website to help international residents in Espoo and improve English services of the city.  

The Hello Espoo website (www.helloespoo.fi) was developed in 2019 to provide comprehensive information and useful guide for international residents before, during and after moving to Espoo. The Hello Espoo website collects accurate and meaningful information for the different audiences. It also includes a web chat service where residents can ask questions about city services. 

After one year launching the Hello Espoo website, there are about 14 000 users of the website. Aligned with the overall strategy of Espoo, the new Hello Espoo website does not only enhance the municipal information services, but also supports the city identified as a unique, positive, diverse and international city.

Hello Espoo website

Picture 1. Hello Espoo website – A comprehensive information for international residents.

Hello Espoo events promote Espoo as an open and fair place to live in 

The Hello Espoo events are an opportunity for two-way communication between the city and its international residents. “With the increasing international population in Espoo, the city strives to provide the best possible services to each and every resident, while hoping also to enhance international residents’ sense of belonging and make Espoo feel like home. The Hello Espoo event is an open and fair place for international residents to explore city services, Finnish culture and much more, in English”, says Tuula Antola, Director of Economic Development of the City of Espoo.

The first Hello Espoo event was held in Autumn 2019. More than 140 participants had a great time exploring public services in Espoo, enjoyed music performances from the International School of Music Finland and exhibitions in 4 museums. A Finger Animals Workshop was also organized for children at the toy museum Hevosenkenkä.  After much positive feedback, it was decided to continue Hello Espoo events annually.

Hello Espoo event 2019

Picture 2. Highlight pictures of the Hello Espoo event 2019.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the second Hello Espoo event was held online in September 2020 for all English-speaking residents to explore the diversity of cultures, libraries, sport and exercises, youth centre activities as well as Finnish education in Espoo. Experts from the Education and Cultural Services of the City of Espoo presented their services and answered participant’s questions.  The Hello Espoo event 2020 video was published on the City of Espoo’s Youtube channel.

A platform to build an international community

Hello Espoo community is built around the Hello Espoo Facebook group which offers all English-speaking residents a welcoming, positive and diverse space for sharing news and events, information about city services and living in Finland in English. In addition, all English-speaking residents can participate in discussions related to Espoo services and influence decision-making in the development of the city.

Hello Espoo Facebook group, Hello Espoo Facebook group

Picture 3. Hello Espoo Facebook group is a platform to build international community.

The City of Espoo aims to provide public services with equality, humanity and tolerance. The Hello Espoo project emphasises the role of the strategical vision of City of Espoo to continuously improve and provide public services openly and fairly to all citizens, the significance of municipal communication to its English-speaking international residents. With other initiatives from City of Espoo such as The Espoo Town Hall Meetings, Talents Espoo, the Hello Espoo project is a part of the ecosystem of a diverse and inclusive Espoo for international talents.

This article is part of the International Espoo series, through which the City of Espoo aims to share information about ongoing activities and initiatives that are developed for the benefit and active involvement of Espoo residents.

Do you have any ideas or initiatives for the development of city services?

Please write to us! Stay tuned to the International Espoo series for more information regarding the City of Espoo’s international initiatives! Please feel free to contact  international@espoo.fi  for any further queries.