Finland? I must admit, before the door to work and life in Finland opened for me, this Nordic country was not consciously on my geographic radar. Looking back, I ask myself: How was that possible?
Wherever you look, Finland is scoring high in the rankings – nature, innovation, education – you name it!
Despite the current anti-globalization attitude, companies are continuously aiming at attracting and retaining international talents as well as foreign professionals are looking for overseas experiences and assignment. In order to secure the economic performance and the availability of skilled labor, Finland will need more foreign workers – similar to many other European countries.
Working in Finland
My first day in a Finnish company was truly eye-opening: the amount of laughter I heard on the corridors or from open office doors was more than in any other workplace I had around the globe. And I began to understand why:
Finland is under the top five happiest countries in the world, according to the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s (UNSDSN) World Happiness Report 2017. Factors such as gross domestic product per capita, healthy years of life expectancy, social support, absence of corruption, freedom to make life decisions and generosity were looked at in the statistic. Finland ranks also higher than the average OECD score in general satisfaction in life: on a scale from 0 to 10, Finns gave it a 7.4 grade, higher than the OECD average of 6.5.
Finland has a stable and predictable operating environment – not only referring to the word of corporate investment, but also to the day-to-day business environment. You will notice that most of your Finnish colleagues will be on time for meetings and appointments, will answer to Emails dutifully and things will get done when they were agreed to get done. To some people this might sound inflexible and stiff but if you think about it: this can make business, processes, communication and collegial relationships so much easier as it is steady and reliable.
Once you have your foot in the door, there is incredible amounts you can learn from your highly educated colleagues underlining that Finland ranked number one in the Human Capital Index 2015. But believe me, they are just as eager to learn from you, and with reserved curiosity you will slowly but steadily establish pleasant relationships. Nevertheless, be prepared to hear one question a lot: “Nice that you are here, but why did you pick Finland?”
This shows that most Finnish people are very humble in many regards. Especially modest are Finns about their language competences. Even though statistics indicate that over 90% of the Finns under 30 speak English, most Finns I have met are quite timid about their English skills: “Oh sorry, my English is so bad” – just having correctly completed a phrase with no grammatical errors and an advanced vocabulary! It becomes increasingly common to use English as a working language. According to a survey conducted by Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce in April 2016, 75% of the responding companies have experience with multicultural employees, and almost 75% of the respondents use English as a working language.
The most outstanding features of Finland is not only the nature – I will come to that later again– but equality. Equality is one of the Finnish core values that runs through history, politics, and the corporate and societal world like a red threat. For instance, Finland was the first country in Europe to give suffrage to women in 1906 and gender equality is still part of Finnish culture today. Low levels of hierarchy and a high level of co-operation will be the sweetener of your daily work life.
There is more in life than work…
… and there is certainly a lot more in Finland!
The list of Finland’s pull factors is infinite. Here are just a few examples:
- Nature: Experience ‘The country of 1000 lakes’ – which is a mild underestimation as there are almost more than double that amount-, and experience the endless forests and scenic sea side and see them change along the latitudes and seasons of this diverse country. But not only foreigners come to Finland in bulks to have a piece of the cake, also Finns are enthusiastically grateful about their nature. Outdoor activities from different sports and berry picking to festivals and sauna enriches the schedule all year round and inspires even the biggest outdoor grouches to some nice nature hideaways.
- Helsinki: The modern, vibrant and yet natural capital offers an original and highly versatile cultural life, holding activities and events for everyone’s taste. In summer, Helsinki and the rest of Finland blossoms like the nature itself, whereas winter demonstrates the real practicality, functionality and dexterity of Finnish life and lifestyle. This European capital has an extremely attractive and unique character and should be on everyone’s bucket list.
- Education and social support: I guess it is not new to you that Finland has one of the best educational systems in the world. Along with that, it ranks among the top five nations in the world in terms of child well-being. Not only education, but also child care, governmental support and other social welfares are the reason for making not only Finns feel supported and safe here. The variety of services can be accessed in various different languages.
- Not to miss out on: Food from delicious rye pastries and fish soup, reindeer meat, fresh berries and salmiakki to Finnish beer and liquors, there is a wide range of culinary specialties that you not only should, but have to try. Adding to the list is the experience of a real Finnish sauna – but you will most probably get invited short after your arrival.
- Last but not least: What would a country be without its people? “The Finns”: Most Finnish people I met are some of the kindest, most honest and funniest people I encountered so far. The stereotype of Finns being quiet, reserved and uncommunicative has not complied with my experiences. However, it does happen that there are longer pauses than one might be used to in conversations and that the beginning of them are a little bumpy, but if the time and place is right for a small chatter, you will get valuable insights to Finnish culture and way of thinking – try it out!
As seen above the circumstances are favorable: There is not only a need for foreign talents but there is an enhanced readiness from companies to increase their international workforce. Take your chance and use the opportunity to be part of this great country, absorb, contribute and learn- it will change you more than you would expect in the beginning.
Intern at COME-project