Réka came to Finland for half a year as an Erasmus exchange student in 2001. She studied graphic design, and applied for MA studies a year later and got accepted. These days, she is an illustrator, graphic and pattern designer, children’s book author and founder of an independent children’s book publisher.
1. If I could change one thing about Finnish working life it would be… that people seem to be afraid of making mistakes and being unsure about something in Finland. Instead of asking a simple question to clarify the situation or asking for help, they pretend to be strong. Asking for help and making mistakes are not weaknesses – we’ve all been there. We learn from our mistakes, and helping someone will make you and the other person feel better. Try it!
2. My favourite things about Finland are… the closeness to nature, berries, public transport system and very peculiar humour.
3. How I got my current job is… already before graduating I worked as freelancer in the field of culture. I continued as a freelancer and shared a workspace with talented graphic designers and illustrators. Many of us were involved in the world of visual storytelling and children’s books. My first picture book was published in 2012 in collaboration with Marika Maijala, and the next two books followed in 2013 and 2014. With great enthusiasm for picture books, I established an independent children’s book publisher in 2014 with my colleague Jenni Erkintalo. We used all our savings and ran a successful crowdfunding campaign in Finland for our very first books. Today, I’m both writing and illustrating my own books, designing patterns as well as taking responsibility in our company for editorial work, foreign rights and licensing deals.
4. The piece of advice I would give to someone contemplating coming to work in Finland is… take time to understand Finnish values and the way of communication. This country is very individualistic and work often means finding solutions to problems on your own. Be creative in this. Often communication is straightforward without added politeness. This can be interpreted as rudeness or someone being angry with you, but that is not the case. People communicate differently. Adapt to Finland but stay true to yourself.
5. The best way to enjoy the weekend after a working week is… sleeping, eating nice food with friends, having long walks in nature.