My name is James Perkins, and I recently turned 43. I am not married and have no children. In 1995, I came to Finland on student exchange to complete some coursework for my Master’s degree in Organisational Psychology. I graduated later the same year from the University of Queensland, Australia, with half a year of course credit from the University of Joensuu in eastern Finland.
After my studies, I felt I would like to live in Finland more permanently. Being from a non-EU country, I needed to get a job to stay here. My first job in Finland was with Nokia. At that time, it was a relatively unknown electronics manufacturer that had just started making GSM mobile phones. At first, I was a technical writer, because Nokia wanted native English speakers to write their English-language product manuals. Later, I moved to Human Resources, which was the best place for my education and skills. I did recruitment, training, team building, and management development: a Human Resources all-rounder.
These days, I have my own consulting company called Koala Consulting and Training. I teach presentation and leadership skills, specialist English for Human Resources, and I do some copywriting and proofreading of English text. Training (with people) and writing (alone) give a good balance to my work life.
Finns are a little quieter than Australians, which took some getting used to at first. The more introverted Finns concentrate on work tasks rather than the extraverted Australians, who focus more on work relationships. Australians tend to be rebels, but Finns prefer to follow rules, which means they are a little more orderly, although they don’t always discuss issues when there are differences of opinion. Both countries have strong trade unions and a keen sense of fairness in the workplace.
I moved to Finland nearly 20 years ago, and things have changed a lot since then. From an administrative point of view, because there wasn’t so much immigration at that time, it wasn’t as well organized as it is today. Finnish people might come across as a little shy sometimes, and it’s usually up to you to make the first move in establishing contact. But Finns are very welcoming, and you’ll be glad you did!
My English language skills have always been in high demand here: I was using them as a technical writer, and I was the proofreader for many HR documents going out of our unit in Nokia. Today, my business is based around teaching and writing in English. Finns like to learn, and this has made it a lot easier to use English at work because local people always want to practice their language skills.
The Finnish language is certainly a challenge. After 20 years, I am reasonably fluent. However, while working in HR, there were a few occasions when I had some problems, mostly because the law was usually published in Finnish, with no English translation available, and legal text can be difficult, even in your native language. However, these occasions were very rare. You don’t need fluent Finnish to live and work here, but some knowledge of the language is helpful and makes things easier.
Finland is a very pleasant place to live, with a high standard of living, a spacious and gorgeous countryside to enjoy, and it’s lots of fun to work here. If someone told me they were thinking about coming to work in Finland, I’d say, “Don’t hesitate. Do it!”