Guest pen

Jenna, 35, runs local media for East Helsinki to dispel prejudices about the area: “I’m happy living here”

For people who live somewhere else, they think East Helsinki is about a shopping centre or the surroundings of a metro station. However, East Helsinki is much wider and more diverse than the headlines suggest, writes Jenna Lehtonen.

235x174

It’s never boring here. That’s one of the reasons why I love East Helsinki. Anyone can start a conversation at any time, on the metro, at a dog park or in a shopping centre. Here, between the metro and the sea, there are contrasts. One day, you can visit a seafront house that is worth seven million euros, and the next day you can peek into a boathouse built in the 1940s.

I’m lucky to live in an area with 170,000 other people that offers endless experiences and sights. In East Helsinki, you can walk around yard sales, laugh until you cry at a stand-up gig and sit on the cliffs staring out at the sunset, all in one day.

Anyone can discover the local history on the lands of former villas and manor houses where steamboats used to dock. Sometimes, it seems like those who have a completely different image of East Helsinki forget the past. 

When it comes to East Helsinki, there are plenty of opinions. I sometimes hear that I live in a “no-go zone”. At other times, I hear that I live in a place where I need to wear full body armour just to walk around safely.

The strongest prejudices are usually found among those who have never actually visited the area. These people form their opinions on the news, films, TV series and headlines.

East Helsinki is an area that almost everyone is aware of, but few actually know. I started running local media dedicated to East Helsinki because I got tired of reading stories about my neighbourhood from outsiders. The East Helsinki in those write-ups was not the East Helsinki I know.

The time has come to bust the myths surrounding the area — one myth at a time.

East Helsinki is close to services

Everything you need is close by at East Helsinki: nature and metro.

“East Helsinki is so far from everything,” says the person who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. For me, the area has never been distant or barren – quite the opposite, in fact. Everything you need is close by.

I grew up in Vuosaari, which is known for its many nature reserves and sea vistas. It is also known as the final stop on the metro line. I can’t think of an easier way to get to the Helsinki city centre than by taking the metro.

However, you can usually get off at Itäkeskus, because East Helsinki has plenty of services. Here, you can enjoy delicious treats at beach cafes, go shopping and explore different sports venues, all of which are within walking distance. Whether you like to use public transport or drive yourself, East Helsinki has got you covered.

East Helsinki is close to nature

Many people see the suburbs as gray concrete jungles. I see East Helsinki differently.

My earliest childhood memories are awash with the warm romantic colours of a suburban life spent outdoors: building forest camps and biking to the beach or library. Before the Internet and mobile phones, we kids in the neighbourhood spent our time playing with water pistols or throwing superballs.

This required space, and in East Helsinki there’s plenty of that.

Although new buildings are constantly going up in the area, there are still plenty of fields and nature trails here. From my childhood home, you can still reach the old shore in Rastila, the woods in Ramsinniemi or the manor houses of Rastila.

The 23-kilometre eastern coastline runs through vistas that highlight the two greatest assets of East Helsinki: the sea and forests. During the summer, you can also admire them on an island cruise that departs from Vuosaari. On the cruise, you can spot the Roihuvuori water tower and the brand-new towers in Vuosaari.

East Helsinki is safe

Contrary to what people living elsewhere claim, there is no need to be afraid in East Helsinki.

I currently live in Vartiokylä, which is a five-minute walk away from the Tallinnanaukio square and the shopping centre in Puotinharju. Both are often seen as places where something unruly is always going on.

Of course, that’s always possible in areas with a lot of people, but I don’t think East Helsinki is any more dangerous than, say, the city centre.

Nowadays, the biggest threats are probably the magpies stalking the berry bushes.

235x174235x174

When I was young, I took a night bus from Railway Square to Vuosaari countless times without ever worrying about a thing. I still have the same opinion, although the my housing has changed over the years.

Nowadays, I feel like I live in a safe haven, where the biggest threats are probably the magpies stalking the berry bushes and schoolchildren stealing apples.

Admittedly, East Helsinki has a certain edge and character that is connected to the locals’ pride about their home. People in East Helsinki always find each other.

Of course, a large area cannot always be just rainbows and sunshine, but if you stigmatise East Helsinki based on threatening images, you lose a lot. I would recommend Marco Kosonen and Petri Stenman’s book Itä Meidän (Our East) to those who want to explore East Helsinki on foot, one residential area at a time.

East Helsinki is communal

East Helsinki and it's events have a special community spirit.

“Do you hear Finnish there at all?” This is yet another stereotype that I’m sure almost everyone living in East Helsinki has encountered.

It is true that there are people from many different cultures living in East Helsinki, but you don’t need to learn a new language if you speak Finnish. Whether you live in Kontula, Mellunkylä or Roihuvuori, you can catch up with your neighbours without any language barrier.

The different people in the area make East Helsinki more appealing. There is something here for everyone.

East Helsinki has everything I need and more.

235x174235x174

As a local reporter, I constantly hear stories where the common thread is East Helsinki’s community spirit. You can see it in playgrounds, at recreational venues and at cultural events.

Here, it is easy to approach people on the street, and sometimes people help you before you even ask. If your wallet falls out of your back pocket, it won’t be long before someone is tapping you on the shoulder.

That is probably the reason why Roihuvuori has the most active cycling community in East Helsinki, and why football enthusiasts come together in Puotila, Kontula and Vuosaari.

East Helsinki is an area where you can step outside your bubble and get to know different people, from artists and athletes to decision-makers and police officers.

I don’t see any reason why I should move somewhere else. East Helsinki has everything I need and more.

Jenna's news tips in East Helsinki

–Itahelsinki.fi (in Finnish)

–The Ramsinniemi nature preserve in Vuosaari

–Events at Puotila Manor 

–Porvariskuninkaan Beach in Jollas

–Auringonnousuranta Beach in Vuosaari

Lumo rental apartments

Would you also like to live in East Helsinki?

Find your own rental apartment here
235x174

Test your carbon footprint!Test your carbon footprint!

Take our new carbon footprint test and see how sustainable your lifestyle is! You will also get personalized tips for a more sustainable life.

Take our new carbon footprint test and see how sustainable your lifestyle is! You will also get personalized tips for a more sustainable life.

Start the test