The reason MJ ended up in Finland is education. She came to Finland in 2011 to study for a master’s degree. Her initial plan was to study for two years and then return to Korea. More than eight years later, she is still in Finland because of a multitude of positive reasons. “And I am happy living here,” she adds.
When asked for a piece of advice she would give to someone contemplating coming to work in Finland, MJ says, “Just come and try! Finland has lots of charm you can only find when living here. And the winter here is not that bad for those who think Finland is always cold and freezing.”
1. What I find surprising about working in Finland is… you are treated as a human, not as a resource. You, as a person, have a personal life, hobbies, opinions and feelings. Here, you can say out loud that you have a personal life. For example, ‘I need to work remotely as my kid is sick’. And I have no problem sharing my opinion in a professional manner with anyone in the organisation – there is such an amazingly low hierarchy. And people I have met at work are genuinely kind and honest, which I respect very much. It might seem that Finns are not working hard considering all of the holidays here etc., but that’s false. People are working very effectively, and many have ambitions to achieve their goals.
2. If I could change one thing about Finnish working life it would be… speed – the other edge of the sword. As there is a great balance and respect between work and personal life, it might get in your way sometimes. For example, if you have something urgent but the other person is sick or on holiday, you cannot really reach them. But that’s the way it should be, and your sick leave or holiday is respected anyways.
3. My favourite thing about Finland is… that first of all it is very, very clean – the air, water, streets and public spaces. As we have a sustainability crisis all around the world, the fact that you can breathe the cleanest air and drink the cleanest water in the world here is definitely the best thing you can have.
Let me name a few more: the beautiful colour of light in the sky during summer time, forests that are open to anyone, small animals that you can encounter in the middle of the city, hot sauna followed by swimming in the lake, you name it.
Also, everybody is equal here, at least people believe that everyone should be treated equally. And the leaders try to give back to the next generation for the sake of the whole nation, which I’ve learnt especially in the startup ecosystem.
There are many things that make Finland amazing, and people are definitely one of them.
4. The Finnish word that best describes working here is… eloista (lively). In many countries, you go to work because it’s work. But here you are actively living your life. Not just doing because you have to.
5. The most influential Finn in my life is… well, there are many, from successful entrepreneurs to philosophers and artists. If I have to choose one group of people, it would be students, the next generation of Finland. Everyone I met during my studies, everyone I have met during my working life and those who are working within the startup ecosystem – their attitude, the way they work and live, the passion – it’s all very inspiring.