Large families were quite normal in the old Finnish agrarian society, with several generations often living under the same roof. Even in the first half of this century it was still common that a son brought his wife home to live with his parents. As the economy diversified, more and more people changed over to new occupations and left to live in the towns and cities. The large family disappeared, and nowadays it is very rare for grandparents to live with their children. The children have left to study or work elsewhere, leaving their parents to continue their life in their home area. When the time comes to retire, people often go to live in centers where they have retirement flats, or to some senior citizen's center especially designed to cater for their needs. There are also special homes for old people no longer capable of looking after themselves.
The mass migration of people from the countryside to the towns in the fifties and sixties caused an acute housing problem as it was almost impossible to find rented accommodation because tenants were so protected in law that landlords had found more attractive ways of investing their money. These protective laws have now been repealed. Finns are, however, encouraged to buy their own homes and it is not unusual for the first apartment to be brought while studying. Finns own approximately 400 000 summer cottages in addition to an apartment or a house. Even when students study in their home towns, they move out to be free and independent.
Class distinctions in Finland have narrowed so much that nowadays the difference is more in lifestyle than income. True poverty has virtually disappeared following the improvements in medical care, unemployment benefits and pensions since WWII. Although there are still differences...