Rüdiger first came to Finland on an exchange. The spontaneous decision come here was made because of the very positive experiences of previous exchange students but not really because of any in-depth knowledge of the country or culture. He has since grown to love the sauna, the Moomins and the feeling of coming home from a business trip to the clean air and calmness of Finland when his Finnair flight lands at Helsinki Airport.
1. My initial expectations of Finland were… expensive, remote, socialist, lots of trees and a language similar to Swedish. Well, the country is expensive to live in, and you can find a tree or two, but the bubbling capital with its bars, night clubs and cultural life, the amazing archipelago, the love of freedom and space you have, and the rather different language all surprised me.
2. What I find surprising about working in Finland is… the accessibility of top management for discussions at short notice, maybe best described with the phrase “management by walking by”. In Finland, being available to your employees, having time to think, and keeping meetings short and on track are widespread. In contrast, in my home country Germany, being always “busy” and having a fully booked calendar is a prerequisite for being considered successful. Managers in Finland have time and freedom to pick up their kids from day care or school at 15:45 and might flexibly continue work later at home. Working days do not need to last 12–14 hours.
3. If I could change one thing about Finnish working life… is it’d be creating more mentorships and creative thought exchange also beyond company borders and beyond the “old boys’ network”. I think the ability to network in very diverse settings will be a core asset for the future.
4. The piece of advice I would give to someone contemplating coming to work in Finland is to… be hard on yourself about learning the language. It takes your full attention, so if you are impatient with learning a language reconsider your country choice. You get far with English in Finland, but you never dive into the Finnish soul and hence you stay an immigrant, an outsider. Work is only one side of the coin; life is the other one – and the latter one counts.
5. The Finnish word that best describes working here is… ‘luottamus’ – trust. From day one, you are entrusted to do your tasks, so ask when you need help and give it your all. And trust is the way you conduct business. Breaking this trust ruins your reputation, and in Finland reputation is difficult to regain. For example, in the IT industry, you can’t just move to the next company; the country is heavily networked – everybody knows everybody.