The reason Daniel ended up in Finland is education. According to him, Finland has one of the world’s best education systems and, when he applied in 2013, it was free for students from outside the EU. He had originally studied mechatronics at a top university in Vietnam. However, he soon realised this is not something he wanted to do for the rest of his life and started looking for a change.
Daniel applied to only one university in Finland, got accepted and came here to start all over again – this time to become a businessman. He has been more than happy with the outcome: moving from Vietnam to Finland is the biggest and best decision he has ever made, he states. He noticed that Finland has a well-developed entrepreneurship and startup ecosystem, but he felt that there was no platform for entrepreneurs to share their stories. He founded the online platform Entrepreneurs of Finland, which he sees as the missing piece of the puzzle, featuring stories of entrepreneurs from all walks of life.
1. What I find surprising about working in Finland is… that everyone knows everyone. Finland is a small country; many would argue it is a “country club”. As a result, it’s important to uphold your integrity and manners since word spreads fast among the circles. If you want to build a network in Finland, start by building trust with your Finnish connections. Once you prove yourself and gain their trust, they will always remember you and come back to you when they have opportunities or problems. Furthermore, there is no hierarchy in an organisation. Top management leaders are like everyone else, they still need to queue at the cafeteria at lunchtime! In Finland, you can go to events and meet and talk with high-profile figures, the biggest influencers, millionaires. They are approachable.
2. If I could change one thing about Finnish working life it would be… to be faster and more flexible to changes. In Finland, people culturally have high uncertainty avoidance and a low tolerance for risks and exceptions. If something goes as planned, they act according to what has been defined. However, if something unexpected happens, something that has never been discussed or predicted, Finns are hesitant, confused and avoid to make a decision, and sometimes ignore the issues since they can’t find what has been done before in a similar situation. It’s like if you control something, you can ignore it or ban it until you figure out how to deal with it.
3. My favourite thing about Finland is… the startup and entrepreneurship ecosystem. Finland has a well-developed startup ecosystem: startups, incubators, accelerators, venture capital firms, supporting organisations. You get a lot of support and free services as an entrepreneur, especially if you have a startup idea. Whichever stage your business is at, there are always organisations that help you to be successful, most of the time free of charge.
4. The piece of advice I would give to someone contemplating coming to work in Finland is… be proactive. Don’t wait for people to come to talk to you. Go talk to them instead! Don’t complain that Finns are cold and distant. If you want to make friends, be the one to break the ice and take the initiative. Don’t just complain that this country does not care about you. It’s you who decides your own life. Opportunities abound. Don’t wait for them to fall into your lap, go to them, create them. Finland is a “dreamland” to immigrants. Anything is possible in Finland. You can be whoever and do whatever you want. Finland gives you that opportunity to thrive. It has everything for you to build up a new fulfilling life and make your dream come true, but you are the one who has to make the move.
Also, it is important to know that workplaces here are extremely productive. Whenever Finns work, they always have a plan, then they follow the plan and get all of their work done during their working hours. That’s why they can have time for themselves and their families. It’s very important to have a good work-life balance in Finland. Once they are on holiday, they don’t work at all!
5. My initial expectations of Finland were… that it is highly developed and expensive. Yes, the cost of living here is quite high compared to that of my home country. However, the minimum salary here is like 10 euros an hour! Still, Finns live a simple life and don’t like to show off. By the way, everything is transparent in Finland, including your income as the numbers are opened to the public every year by the Finnish tax office.
And Finland is indeed a highly developed country, but that does not necessarily mean high buildings and skyscrapers everywhere. In fact, the architecture here is simple and focuses on functionality. You rarely see a building that has more than 10 floors! More importantly, the buildings always incorporate natural elements so that people can live close to nature.