Finding a job in Finland is possible – language barrier or not

By group 7: Anniina Makkonen and Hannele Järvelä

Finland has traditionally been a country of emigration, but now the immigrant population is growing slowly. Most of the foreigners and migrants that live in Finland are between ages 15 and 64. Migrant workers include both EU citizens and outside EU area.

Largest groups of foreign citizens in Finland come from Russia, Estonia and Sweden. Estonia and Sweden are EU states, but also neighbors. Largest groups from other EU countries are Germany and United Kingdom. In 2005 nearly 3 000 Brits lived in Finland.

One of them is 31-year-old Elle.

She is working as a concept designer in an advertisement company in Helsinki. The start in Finland was rocky, but now Elle is really enjoying her life in the country of long, dark winters and green, bright summers.

 “I think I came here like many foreigners do – I fell in love with a Finnish dude. They’re just so good looking, I couldn’t help it”, she laughs.

At first I hated this place. People are so quiet and don’t talk to you and the weather is really awful most of the year”.

She also felt quite alone at first.

 “I didn’t know anyone and nobody knew who I was, a part from my husband of course. Then I started to make friends and understood what Finland and Finnish people are all about – they are not so talkative and bubbly, but they are very loyal and have their own, weird sense of humour.”

Language can be a problem for foreigner jobseekers

In 2010 there were 39,000 foreign jobseekers, and 18,000 of these were unemployed. Possibilities for foreign jobseekers are the Employment and Economic Development Office (TE) and the European Job Mobility Portal (EURES).

In general employees in Finland are expected to be highly educated. Qualified people who are willing to update their skills are the ones that do best in the labour market. Learning Finnish or Swedish can help in getting a job.

Elle feels that people in the advertisement business are more open for English speaking workers, so it is easier to find a job. But easy doesn’t mean something to take for granted.

 “Yes I struggled at first, of course. You have to be really good in what I do, and there were hundreds of applicants for jobs – and they all spoke Finnish as their mother tongue. But I started by doing small jobs to companies to get more name in Helsinki and now I have a steady position in a job I love.”

Customer meetings are an important thing in Elles industry and sometimes she notices that language barrier is a problem.

 “We normally use English at our meetings and sometimes my customers need to think really carefully, what they are saying. I also wish I could understand the copy texts fully. I have someone to explain them to me, but of course it’s not the same.”

Multiple adult education centers, folk high schools and open universities give education in Finnish. Even though she would have had the chance, Elle didn’t consider studying Finnish at any point.

 “The language is so difficult and you should speak it really fluently to make a difference. I don’t think that couple of months are even a year in a course organised by Employment and Economic Development Office would have made any difference at my situation.”

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