FINNISH WORKING CULTURE – AND HOW TO APPLY FOR WORK
As in any other country, there is not only one way to describe the working culture in Finland. There are many ways to manage the company and the personnel working there. But there are some similarities, and we hereby share some pieces of advice which hopefully will help you to understand the Finnish working culture.
The Importance of the Tourism Industry in Finnish Society
The tourism industry is now growing bigger and faster than ever. Tourism offers plenty of work in Finland and the number of jobs is expected to increase considerably over the upcoming years. This means that there are many new companies offering work and they don´t have so strictly established routines to run the business. This can be an advantage but sometimes it can appear as the company is missing management – or at least it might feel like that if you are used to working in a very well-organized working environment. Many of the companies are small and often family-run businesses and plenty of freelancers and part-time employees are also needed.
Equality at Work and in Finnish Society
Finnish society, in general, is a society of low hierarchy and equality is one of the most important values in Finland, partly due to our equal educational system. You can meet ministers and even the President of Finland walking in the street and having a coffee in some of the cafeterias in the city center of Helsinki. At work, the directors very often have lunch and coffee breaks in the same lunchrooms with staff.
In general, there is a very low hierarchy also in Finnish workplaces. In many places, all the employees can give their opinion about how to solve everyday problems and tasks. On the other hand, it also means that everyone is expected to take responsibility for what one is doing. Sometimes it might cause the feeling that you should not ask too much, but we encourage you to do so – it´s better to ask than make mistakes.
As Finnish society is equal and the hierarchy is low, it is also a very effective society based on trust. Employees are expected to follow the rules established in the workplace. Timetables need to be respected and employees are expected to be flexible at teamwork, which means that sometimes one might have to do work which is not exactly what he/she has been hired to do.
Efficiency does not necessarily appear as a speed: due to the fact that Finns are calm, doing work might sometimes look slow compared to other working cultures.
The Dress Code
Dress code can be very informal in many Tourism companies. In the case of leisure destination with activities, all the staff might have an established casual dress code.
There are other industries such as the game industry and influencers, we all know who have established a new dress code in our society in general. The most famous one is Peter Vesterbacka who was Chief Marketing Officer at Rovio, where he created the character/brand Mighty Eagle for Angry Birds. He is often seen in public events dressed in his own brand hoodie.
Apart from the most casual dress codes, there are companies that have established quite a traditional dress code. You will get instructions what to wear when you start to work.
Some professions, like waiters and chefs, have the same established dress code all over the world, also in Finland. You normally get working clothes and uniforms from the employer if you are expected to wear one.
When working outdoors in arctic conditions proper clothing is especially important and you will get good advice on how to dress.
Communication and how to Connect with Colleagues
At work, everyone is talking to each other in a very familiar way (even the employees to managers) but it´s correct to speak to the director or manager by using “te” instead of “sinä” during the first encounter or during the working interview. They tell you during the conversation if it is correct to say “sinä". When talking to older customers or colleagues, it´s always polite to start by “te”. You can ask your colleagues´ advice on how to get a better understanding of this item.
If your tasks at work include communication by email or by any other digital devices, please, note that you are expected to react as soon as possible which means that you should reply in 24 hours (Monday to Friday) or at least in 48 hours time. You should give a call back to any missing telephone calls as soon as possible.
Finns tend to follow promises literally; if a Finn promises to call you next day at midday, your phone probably rings exactly at noon. Finns expect you to do the same at work and mostly during the leisure time, too.
Being active in many ways is very good advice by Eric in this following video
It may take some time to make deeper connections to your Finnish colleagues at work. Many Finns separate quite clearly working life from private life and don't share their personal opinions or experiences at work. You can encourage them to talk more and maybe invite colleagues to do something together out of the working environment.
There are some traditional events like Christmas dinner (which can take place at any time from November to January) when all personnel are invited to have fun together. Outdoor activity events organized by an employer are also popular in Finnish working societies. And Sauna is always a good place to get to know your colleagues! Frank from the Netherlands tells his Sauna experience with colleagues.
In general, Finns are shy and sometimes shyness may seem like unfriendly behaviour, even though it´s not meant to be. Try to “break the ice” between you and your Finnish colleagues – there are warmhearted persons behind, interested in knowing you.
Talking about the weather is always a good way to start the conversation. In Finland we have the advantage that weather can be discussed in every four seasons and experiences are always different. Everyone living in Finland certainly has a favourite season to talk about.
How to Apply for Work in the Tourism Industry
The tourism industry is developing faster than ever in Finland which means there is more work to apply for and it certainly is an industry full of opportunities! There are also challenges to solve. One of the biggest problems for employers in Finland is to find motivated and skilled professionals for seasonal work. Employers and employees have challenges to meet each other in the hospitality business, especially in restaurants.
Open vacancies can be tracked through many different media apart from the most official ones like unemployment offices, which also are very good options. There are several temporary work agencies and new mobile applications to connect employers and employees have been developed. Please have a look at this application, it is very easy to use ( #elamysduuni): ELÄMYSDUUNI
Most of the companies announce open vacancies on their own websites. Following social media is a very good way to stay up to date. LinkedIn is highly recommended, as well as professional groups in Facebook.
Seasonality is one of the challenges also for employees; there is work in Lapland in the winter season and in southern areas in the summer season. If you are ready to move from one place to another, it helps a lot to get work. Good news is that the long-term goal in the tourism industry is to equalize the seasons as it is also the most sustainable way to develop destinations.
Our Testimonials Want to Encourage you!
Paco gives you some advice about when to apply for work in the Hospitality business
Frank from the Netherlands has been living and working in Finland for four years and encourages you to promote your skills. He also thinks that a good way to promote oneself is to make visible the value one can generate to the company.
If you are two steps away from going to work in Lapland or not, listen to Paco´s experience
It has also been said that foreigners seem to have a difficult time developing networks and opportunities to get proper work when not speaking fluent Finnish. Many jobs have been announced only in Finnish and in networks which foreigners can´t easily be reached.
Phung has noticed this as well and recommends you to learn at least the basics of the Finnish language.
Things are changing and several big tourism companies, including Finnair, have declared to have English as their official working language and more companies are following their example.
To be honest, the necessary paperwork is also a big challenge if you don´t have any Finnish language skills or Finnish speaking persons helping you.
You can also ask help in your local Employment agency (TE-toimisto) and we recommend you to be active in networking, starting from the Social Media groups.
To integrate to a new country and its society, connecting with locals is the best way to learn the language and culture. But also the support of your compatriots certainly is important.
Matkailudiili, (Tourism deal) launched by The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland is a Project developing solutions to help employers and employees to meet each other. There is also a website MATKAILUTYO.FI gathering all the information in one place.
You can find more practical advice on how to apply for work in our next lesson about Rules and Laws.