Fabien Fédy, France. CEO & Co-founder
“There are so many organisations supporting entrepreneurs and promoting the international workforce in Finland.”
Work, education and relationships are the most common reasons why international talent moves to Finland. But French-born Fabien Fédy likes to do things differently. During a holiday trip to Finland, Fabien made a bet with his best friend that he could learn the Finnish language in six months and then move to the Nordic country. And that is what he did. In summer 2017, after half a year of intensive language learning, Fabien packed his bags and changed his address from Berlin to Helsinki.
In the beginning, Fabien’s Finnish skills were limited, but he didn’t let that slow him down. In fact, for almost a year, he pretended not to speak a word of English. This was quite incredible for Finns, but the tactic worked and Fabien learnt the language. He worked as a user experience and business designer until two years ago, when he jumped on the startup bandwagon and co-founded a food kit delivery company.
I got into the food business in Finland because… I wanted to solve my own problem: how to easily make food at home that is healthy and delicious.
As a kid, I was inspired by my grandparents, who ran a traditional bouchon restaurant (a typical restaurant from the city of Lyon) in the middle of Paris. Somehow, l remember all the fun stories I was told at that time and realised that I could be the one telling new stories to my kids.
The Finnish foods I love and dislike are… I love salmon in all its forms, but it sometimes feels there is too much of it here.
I hate mämmi [a traditional Easter delicacy in Finland] since food needs to look good.
The main difference in working life in Finland compared to other countries where I have worked is…. that working as an employee in Finland is very relaxed. This is when I compare to other countries where I’ve lived in, such as Germany. Employers respect employees’ private life and enable them to, for instance, work remotely or pick their own working hours. For this reason, the [COVID-19] pandemic didn’t change work habits here as much as it did in countries such as France.
As an entrepreneur, I try to keep a similar lifestyle, but it isn’t always easy as I have hard deadlines to meet. That means I work a bit longer than until four in the afternoon.
The challenges that I have encountered and overcome while adjusting to working life in Finland are… the lack of social events, such as team lunches or after-work drinks, which help build relationships with colleagues outside the context of work.
However, in most companies, Finns socialise through sports and sauna. So to connect with them, I registered for different sports such as football, floorball and boxing. There I made some great Finnish friends.
The startup community in Finland is… very supportive of newcomers. It is also very international and multicultural, much more than corporations.
There are so many organisations supporting entrepreneurs and promoting the international workforce in Finland. A good starting point to network with peers is to register for one of the multiple pitch events, such as the Tahko lift pitch or Slush in the winter time.
My favourite thing about Finland is… mökki [summer cabin] and nature.
What I enjoy most about living in Helsinki is… I love Helsinki’s underground culture, like Sompasauna and electronic music festivals in the forest, and specific events like Vappu [May Day]. And the Christmas atmosphere in general. I love having different seasons which offer different types of joy.
The hobbies that I have really enjoyed practising in Finland are… fishing, cross-country skiing and jazz guitar, among others.
The piece of advice I would have for someone thinking about moving here for work is… try to learn the Finnish language before you arrive. It will help keep your motivation high to communicate with people in Finnish from the start. Too many foreigners start to learn Finnish five years after they arrive, and it’s hard to switch languages after first building relationships in other languages.