[Preface] Hi folks! This is a personal blog. 🙂 A rant post like the following, in all its raw honesty, is emotionally charged. So here is a more toned down version. For economic/statistical evidence on why I lack faith in the current Finnish economy, read  “Why Finland can consider moving towards a more open economy: A Macroeconomic Perspective and how 2015 evidence from The World Economic Forum shows that Finland’s labour productivity is LOWER than the EU15 average. 

Fundamentally, I am against mediocrity because I know Finns are smart and more of them can become world leaders should the system support and reward ambition–Read:  In Praise of Ambition, Entrepreneurship and Vision for Finland. This system is the current troubling Finnish macroeconomic and political environment; prevailing risk averse attitude in Finland–“The fear of success, and fear of failure”; and unnecessary bureaucracy when it comes to entrepreneurship in Finland.

I know however, that it is presumptuous–not to mention disrespectful–to assume that everybody is for change. Helsingin Sanomat ran a neutral commentary on this post, even though the said reporter published the article without first asking me for permission and also mis-spelt my name. I don’t think that is respectful at all.

All that being said– Why are YOU so affected by this post? Is the truth that unpleasant for you? 

And guess what: due to austerity measures and planned cuts to Finnish university funding, Helsinki Sanomat reports that more and more ambitious Finnish academics are choosing to leave the country too.

UPDATE 19 May 2016: Read– “Finland can be for the ambitious: The 3 things I’d learnt from my interview with Peter Vesterbacka “.


Hey guys! Today I am going to blog an opinion piece on why ambitious foreigners/Finns should just leave Finland if they feel unhappy. This is as opposed to the alternative of trying to stay on to “fight for change”. You are hearing from a foreigner who heard many, many stories of other ambitious foreigners who fought, fought and fought but failed every single time, due to injustice or otherwise. I fought too, far less battles, but got really tired eventually.

Let’s start with a question: Have you ever seen any ambitious foreigner or Finn who are doing their own thing in Finland, and are wildly successful? Of course there are! But can these people be considered the norm, or the exception? And as exceptions, are these people constantly recycled as poster ambassadors to sell the concept, to both Finns and foreigners, of “Oh look, we are so international as One Finland?”

In fact, I’m currently of the opinion that if you are ambitious, you should just not even come to Finland. Go to some other countries that treat the ambitious better, such as Sweden, America, Singapore or Hong Kong. And as a relatively ambitious person, I’d take my own advice at this point in my life because I’m convinced that fighting for change in Finland is a waste of my time and youth.

So YES! When I finally graduate from Aalto University in 4 months I’d be going back to Singapore to work, to push for changes, to execute tons and tons of stuffs. A lot of my classmates don’t even turn up for school, having decided that they have better things to do, which I totally understand! Life is so much more than grades, especially when you are staying in such a beautiful country as Finland. As I am typing this, autumn leaves are falling zen-ly in the forest outside my house.

If I had learnt this sort of thinking earlier, I would also skip school to watch the pretty leaves fall with a cup of Juhla Mokka in my hands.

Don’t get me wrong– I’m grateful for the European experience while I am based in Finland: To be able to travel to countries with rich legacies Sweden, Norway, Italy, etc. I LOVE Norwegians! I stayed in Norway for 2weeks+. I love the fact that most Norwegians I’d met are pretty open-minded and kind hearted folks. I am grateful for the European worldview I now have, on top of my life experiences in Japan and Korea, that no amount of money can buy.

Also, I’m grateful for the chance to stay in Finland for 1+ years, to have met so many smart people in Finland, to witness for myself how some Finns live their lives, and to learn Finnish philosophy, history, arts and culture. Language, not so much, because I’m not that linguistically-inclined.

However, Aalto University did make me take an English test–in fact, it made ALL Asians take English tests while all EU folks are exempted, so that really made me feel that Asians are being slighted here.

I wrote in four times to tell the higher folks at Aalto how Asians in some previous British-colonies countries like Singapore/ India/ The Philippines are native English speakers, and they were like “Oh we didn’t know”. So it really did make me wonder if anything would be done about this issue, because nobody did explain to me why this rule was so.

This is an example of what I view as institutionalized discrimination. And also a strong example of how things in Finland make me feel that things never really change. To me, this is a simple rule related to language, and if such a simple rule never ever changes, it’s a probable indicator that bigger issues concerning foreigners is unlikely to change, too. I’m curious to see if this rule will ever be changed.

So I did grow up! Until I’m convinced that the Finnish system will change in the near future, I will urge ambitious folks to consider other options. For example, there is a viable alternative of bringing your business to Estonia, with their e-residency initiative.

I deviate. Let’s get back to the topic. By “ambitious’ I mean foreigners who want to:

  1. Dream big, execute big, and accomplish things in their career/ businesses;
  2. Want to compete based on meritocracy.

With that definition cleared, let’s begin!

In Finland, you got to go with the flow.

In general, in Finland there is a huge fear of failure. But what is usually counter-intuitive is this: there is a huge fear of success too.

Why? Because most Finns are nice people and they believe in equality.

Sure, you have the occasional crazy Finnish person who is refugee-hating and dresses up like KKK, but if Finns don’t believe in being equal, they will not be compassionate towards refugees. Finns can always delay the registration of refugees, or do some other tricks to make the refugees leave on their own accord, if they do hate refugees. But no, Finland is estimated to be taking 50,000 refugees this year alone.  This shows that Finns have good hearts.

And let me just say that it is perfectly sound to fear success and failure simultaneously. This is because a Finn will then have incentive to do everything correctly. Which is gold for any business owners, and gold for a functioning society! Imagine this utopia where everything is done perfectly and everybody just does things according to their job scope: Nothing more, nothing less. You can just get off work on time, have a great work-life balance, live a slack life and watch leaves fall from trees.

I think it’s a really ideal life to have!

So–why on earth does the government even want to change this system? The reason is that the Finnish government is running out of money, and on debt. Fiscal debt is however, not necessarily always bad–it’s okay to borrow money to spend on education. It’s only bad when the government borrows money and spends on unemployed people who have no intention of work.

In short, long-term unemployment, and people who are eternally out of the workforce because they are not even looking for work, are a real problem to the Finnish economy.

So you see, the Finnish government already sensed that bad things are coming up because some people don’t really want to work, and faced with an aging population, they have to do something. However, if–as a local, you are used to a relaxed life all your life, why would you listen to the government, or even want to compete with foreigners who are more hardworking and vocal?

Look: If I were the Finn, I’d be feeling angry and intimidated by the ambitious foreigner.

And why would I as a Finn give priority to the foreigner even if the latter is more capable? It just doesn’t feel right–remember, it’s the foreigner who spoils “work-life balance”, who is more vocal and hungry. Who is to say that the foreigner won’t overtake me in future? And how about respect? If I were to promote the foreigner, what would other patriotic Finns think?

The war history doesn’t make it easier for Finns either–Why should you trust any capable and suspicious foreigner?! On the flipside, it’s a FACT that if you stay as a foreigner and get a job, you are indeed snatching the job away from a Finn, because jobs are already limited in the first place due to the prolonged recession.

Actually, is this phenomenon unique to Finland? I would say: Not! What is happening in Finland is happening in Japan too. It is extremely rare to have a foreigner on the board of directors on any Finnish/Japanese MNCs. This is normal and even logical. It is the responsibility of the government to attract foreigners, because obviously hardworking foreigners are good for the Finnish society.

You need to over-promise to attract foreigners into your country, to sell foreigners the dream of a Utopian city that is “equal”, and to market to them the delusion that they can eventually carve a fulfilling and exceptional career in Finland. The goal is to get ambitious foreigners into Finland, with them thinking that they can eventually enjoy fruits of their labour so that they work really hard, but the reality is that foreigners will always be treated as second-class residents in Finland.

Again, this is only logical. It is definitely not the responsibility of the government to ensure equal career progression of foreigners as compared to locals. In fact, governments and local firms should always put locals first, no matter how “equal” they claim to be.

“Equality” does not mean meritocracy. In the Finnish context, it means mediocrity.

So I’d say, if any foreigners want to just stay in Finland, it’s best to just live a slack life, enjoy the leaves, and make some coffee. Taking life easy IS a prerequisite to staying in Finland long-term as a foreigner. Maybe even for a Finn, too.

So if you’re an ambitious foreigner like me–just leave. Don’t fight, nobody appreciates it, and you’re just wasting your own life. Keep your sanity, bring your talent elsewhere, live a good life, and keep a good relationship with Finns! 🙂

If the average Finn wants to think that globalization is a choice instead of the inevitable, so be it. Always remember–behind every successful ambitious person is an entire eco-system which supports ambition. Most likely, you won’t be able to find this system in Finland. The system in Finland encourages mediocrity, not ambition. But mediocrity is okay, it can value-add society as well! There is no point imposing your views on the Finnish society because if even the Finns are OK with this, who are you as a foreigner to say otherwise?

Move on, do well, and keep strong ties with Suomi!


  1. Ah Wan Wei, your blog is coming at the right time! I am a foreigner in Finland, a graphic designer & illustrator (here is my stuff: http://misul-do.com/) and I am having the most epic difficulties in finding a job here. I’ve been employed here already 2x, but both times mostly part-time and it would be kind of nice in my 26 years of age to actually start building some career – but no. NO. Can’t find anything, though I am trying hard. My boyfriend is Finnish but I think I will have to go back to central Europe (I am from Slovakia) where there is much more stuff to do and I am 6866x more likely to get a job. Sorry Finland, it’s not me, it’s you!

      1. Well said Wan Wei, Finland is a wonderful country to live if you just “wanna live”! If you are ambitious and you want to excel and stand out, LEAVE!!! I have lived here for so long, I am fluent in Finnish, done that,and seen it all. I have studied here, raised my kids, worked here, started a business here, whenever it starts progressing, something comes up!!! and puts me back to the “LEVEL OF EQUALITY”, equality in Finland brings everyone very close, the hardworking, the ambitious to the unemployed! Just sad. Now that many people here do not see the value of going to work, I mean could be a foreigner or a native, the government has no money left to cater for this lifestyle!! Shaking!!. My oldest daughter studied and graduated here, she has since last year moved to a third world country where she is running a chain of businesses and she has already earned a tittle of a “YOUNG MILLIONAIRE” living a life in the first lane, this would take her a life time in Finland, she just comes here to visit. I am encouraging the other two to follow those steps, and when they are all gone, I am packing my bags, my work here will be done, if its not for them kids, I would have left long time ago… long story. I totally agree with you, if you just want a ” slack life and watch leaves fall from trees.” then Finland is paradise for you.

        1. Barbra I respect you so much for the sacrifice you made for your children. You are a really powerful woman, I’ve just read the article and it’s couldnt be any better, everything is described perfectly.
          I study in Finland too, i first came here for my bachelor degree and they put me in open university saying I don’t have the level, knowing I had a excellent secondary diploma and a ILETS with 7.
          I didn’t like the discrimination, racism, way of behaving especially I am a social person and In Finland if you try to be nice and start a conversation you are insane hahah.
          I went to brussel and started my studies and it couldn’t be better, teachers are sweethearts, administrators are there 24/7 to help students. And people are so welcoming, and my dad forced me to go back to Finland, when they saw that I have studied in a good university they accepted me right away even if my attempt to fail the test.
          And now I’m suffering, and your daughters experience kind of touched me in the heart because I felt like if she has been through the same experience of lack of employment and motivation. I give all my best when we are having a group project because I’ve always dram big and want to be successful and make my parents and my self proud of me.
          I hope she’s doing great and I wish the best for you.
          I would love to hear more about her experience to know what to follow because I’m lost now.

    1. Its absolutely not you. My question to you is, are you really good at what you do career wise? are you confident you have the competent skills in your career field ? Do you want to move higher and higher in your career? if your answer is yes, then you most likely are an ambitious person. My advice to you is get the hell out of this country! I tell other people same thing. Your boyfriend? hmm… if he believes in you then he would not want your career dreams to perish. If he really loves you, he would follow you wherever knowing that you would not be happy to spend most of your life partly employed or unemployed. I hope he loves you to move with you and say bye to Finland. Otherwise, move on with your life. You are not yet married. I am married to a Finn and I have conservative believes. For example, one should strive to keep marriage. The good thing is that my wife is ready to move abroad to some other western countries with me. I love Asia and Africa though. But I consider my wife knowing she is not capable to cope with living in those continents. So… when I graduate next year from my master’s program, I will leave this country for good. Sorry Finland, its not me, it’s you!

      1. Hey bro! Thank you for sharing your experiences. Haha I’m quite ambitious and vision-driven actually, if I say so myself. 🙂 i will think seriously about what you have said! Thank you for your comment once again!

      2. Thank you for your kind comment 🙂 Thankfully, my boyfriend loves my hometown (where my employment chances are high), so he told me that he is ready to move with me wherever I will find a job….so probably, somewhere in central Europe. I don’t mind not having work for a while, but here in Finland it’s a perpetual problem! Very frustrating. And yes, that’s lovely, do move out – maybe to Austria? Also Czech republic is nice, or Netherlands, Denmark, Portugal… (I wouldn’t mind Portugal the slightest ^^)…luckily, Europe is so varied and there are countries where life is less struggle and more growth than in Finland, so let’s make use of this 🙂 Good luck and big hugs!

  2. This is an ongoing discussion in the Aalto Ventures Progam – where entrepreneurial spirits are pushing for change. It’s clear that Finland is not at the moment able to take advantage of international talent. As a foreigner, I’ve also struggled with finding suitable work (read=work suitable to my skills, talent, education, background – not working as a cleaner with a M.Sc. degree). I’ve promised myself to give it a good year after graduation to find something or find some clients for freelancing. But who knows, I may have to go back to the US.

    I also thought of Finland as embracing “equality” but it’s amazing what racism emerges when people feel threatened, e,g, with the refugee crisis. This is a broad generalization. We see the racist face of Finland plastered across the papers and news, but no one is showcasing all those that are working for true equality for foreigners in Finland – Startups for Refugees comes to mind.

    Of course, this closet racism is not unique to Finland but I think happens in many countries – when the majority fear being overtaken by the minorities. But as you point out, for some of us (because we have a choice) it’s easier to look for greener pastures somewhere else. Unfortunately, not all foreigners in Finland have that choice. :/

    Thanks for this unique perspective!

    1. Kiitos Paige for the comment! You know how much I respect you as a professional–having attended Capstone and the entrepreneurship class together @Think Helsinki. ^^ I think I used to say, “Let’s be optimistic and work hard! It’d all work out!”

      But after returning to Singapore and getting so many things done just within three months, I realised that my life is really short to take gambles. This is obviously a Finnish system problem which rewards mediocrity, not a human error on my part. The difference between delusion and optimism is in statistics. I think to myself–if the ambitious people before me kept failing, who am I to succeed? I’m nobody unique lol, just another typical ambitious person.

      Maybe, the system works for most people in Finland, they’re perfectly happy, so yay!

      Having said that, I’m sure there are foreigners who love a slack life too! I wish them all the best in Finland ^^.

  3. I really liked this article, as a student from third world country sometimes i just feel like we are bought here just to fill the labour gap and every year we have to renew visa for studies. and the irony is that even if you have completed lots of credit in education, its hard for you to renew visa incase you do not have a job and the ones who doesn’t bring a required credit as per the rule but has a job gets instant renewel of visa. I am really thankful for the free education here but at the same time i feel i am only here to do small level work because the labour gap in Finland is huge.

    1. Hey Kovid! Thank you for your comment. 🙂

      I’m grateful for the free education too! But it’s probably true that foreigners get tons of red-tape as well. Don’t be disheartened! I hope it will get better. 🙂

  4. Spot on! Can’t add much to the top because you already said it too well.

    But I should also mention a conventional wisdom that pretty much every society on earth is specifically designed to promote its own people from the inside, not the ones from somewhere else. This situation can be found everywhere not uniquely in Finland! You also had a great saying in “go with the flow” because that seems like we, foreigner in Finland, are left with 2 choices: adapt or get out.

    I myself possess a Vietnamese passport which is considerably one of the shittiest on earth so moving to Finland (or to Japan as many fellow Vietnamese did) opened up dozens of opportunities and learning experiences for me which I greatly appreciate. So IMHO, it’s safe to say Finland is not for the ambitious to settle down but a learning ground for the ones from poor areas to rise ~ 🙂 There’s a reason why you hardly see any full-time students from the developed nations (US, UK, Japan, South Korea, Sing… etc) in Finland because the truth is that they have much more interesting and dynamic options with their background. Why should they go to Finland then?

    1. Xin chào Tùng ^^

      I agree 100% with you and I want to share this other blog post by my Vietnamese friend who is my course mate: http://sylvietruong.com/fed-up-with-finlands-immigration-policy/

      “Yes, so because we are from a “third world country”, you had to make sure you throw in there such ground to reject us in the scenario that you cannot find any proof for your suspicion? Yes, we are judged based on the place of our birth, which we do not have any choice on, and so we are immediately denied of any right which comes so easily to our counterparts born in other countries, which is in this case, can be just as simple as the benefit of the doubt. If you have any reason to think my husband may reside illegally, at least give us the chance to provide more information and document before making your decision. Don’t you think if he were to attempt illegal immigration, he would have a perfect application and you wouldn’t be able to detect anyway? I guess the reason he is doubted is because he has applied for several permits, but thinking about it, none of it is his fault. The first time he was rejected on a ground that doesn’t even exist explicitly, the second time the application is still being processed until God knows when because migri doesn’t keep its damn promise.”

      I love Vietnamese people btw. Three of my best girl friends are Vietnamese.

  5. I have been living in Finland for a decade now. I have had may notions about Finland during this period. There were times I liked Finland a lot and there were times I hated Finland. But it would be wrong to blame Finland for my not being able to do something here. Finland is a small country, and has its own language. Finnish government is responsible to provide jobs to all its citizens, preserve its unique culture and language, it’s true that for job vacancies, native Finns are given priority over foreigners and that, to me at least is well-justified. I honestly don’t see anything wrong in doing that. You have said that you visited Norway for two weeks and you liked Norway a lot. But I think you are making an unfair comparison there because you would have felt the same about Finland, if you had visited Finland for a short time, as a tourist. I agree with you to an extent that if you want to do something here, language is a must. But that applies not just to Finland but to most of the European countries. If someone wants to live here, it is advisable that s/he learns the local language.

    But I think we should always look at the brighter side. Finland has a lot to offer, if you just open your eyes. We shall not be too judgmental. You can get all the help in English, if you want to start your business here. Should we not appreciate the fact that Finland is offering us free education? it would have cost a fortune if you had studied the some course in the US, the UK or elsewhere where you need to pay tuition fees. I don’t think the quality of education is bad at all, it is very good and world-class, as long as a student is hardworking. Despite the facilities provided, if we cannot be successful over here, we should hold ourselves accountable, not the entire system. 🙂

    1. Hello!

      1. On the Norwegian point–> Nope, I am not making comparisons: you are. I’m just randomly saying how much I love my Norwegian friends. My boyfriend is Finn, my good friends are Finns, I love my mummi and my bf’s family and they have been nothing but kind to me.

      2. On the Finnish language point: Are you so sure that once you are fluent in Finnish, your career opportunities will be equal to a local, native Finn?

      3. On starting a business and getting help in English: I disagree. Once your business gets larger than a certain size (say employees>10) , you will face a lot of red-tape filling up forms in Finnish, not English. How do I know? My network said so, and I did my own research because my own Singaporean company might be expanding into Finland 5 years from now if things go well.

      Most importantly, I’m not saying that the education system here sucks. I adore some professors in Aalto and I wish they have fan clubs so that I can join! However, I gave up a full scholarship in America (inclusive of living allowances) to come for free tuition here, so LOL can you understand my angst?

      1. Hi Wan. I think you are going hard at TwoCents here, he’s making some good points. Firstly, although you weren’t ‘directly’ comparing Finland with Norway, indirectly it certainly came across that way. Secondly, I don’t think TwoCents is saying you would be equal with Finnish language skills. In fact the opposite, he is supporting that priority rightly be given to Finns, which I as a non-Finn, to a certain extent I agree with – there should be a bias. Thirdly, he is talking about ‘starting’ a small business, not larger businesses. Compared with the UK I can tell you there is 10X more support here for starting a small business. I agree with you that there is too much red-tape but that goes for SME’s in general, whether Finnish or foreign. Finally, the point on education, you’re right, you weren’t being negative. However, I think TwoCents is probably coming from a very different life position than you, as are many. You clearly are a high-achiever and to have been granted a full-scholarship in the US is some achievement. My question is – why on earth didn’t you take it? Either way, most non-EU foreigners are quite grateful for the opportunity they get re: education in Finland, and quite rightly so. In general I think your whole blog is coming from a perspective where you, as an individual, have had other choices and opportunities that others haven’t. Given that, I can understand why you would be frustrated and I think your general conclusion is spot on. Don’t sweat it because there’s a much bigger world out there. For me, Finland is my home now and what they don’t do well I will stay and help them improve because for me, it’s all about society. Finland is not perfect, but it’s pretty damn good and I would like to contribute where I can to make it better!
        Great to read your viewpoint in general though – thank you!

      2. If I went to China and became fluent in Chinese would my career opportunities be equal to a local, native Chinese?

        I have worked abroad and governments and companies are always in a fine balancing act to prioritise their own nationals and still provide ample and/or adequate opportunity to foreigners. As a foreigner going to another country this is the choice I make, to deal with all of this and to also deal with the bias against me – as someone foreign, as someone different, as someone “not from around here” or “not one of us”.

        Having had businesses (an dealing with red-tape) in other countries I know that many will not provide me with forms in English to accommodate me, but expect me to do it like everyone else. I am not a unique snowflake and so if I want to work and do business there I have to conform. Could this be improved upon? Of course, but Estonia is the trailblazer with their e-residency and many countries are nowhere near ready to do something like that yet.

      3. @ementry: the last I checked, 300+ people based in China saw this post today. Id let them get back to you. I am interested in knowing the answer as well.


    2. I beg to entirely disagree. I am a foreigner with master education from another european country, was hired here from abroad and witnessed the top and fall of Nokia. I must say that a giant with 40% of the world mobile phone market can fall to exactly zero in about 5 years only because generalized corruption, irresponsibility and generally grasshopper attitude (consume all resources, cash the money, don’t build a future). There is amazing nepotism and disregard to competence at all levels. If a foreigner works hard and has results, the locals tend to see it as their are entitled to that as they accepted him/her and just give him more stuff, however when about reward, he is the last one to have it, the nepotism pyramid takes precedence.

      “it’s true that for job vacancies, native Finns are given priority over foreigners and that, to me at least is well-justified. I honestly don’t see anything wrong in doing that.” Why am I paying taxes then? I don’t want to build your country if I and presumably my future kids don’t have equal rights to the pie.

      I applied for a volunteer position in organizing some competitions this summer. To my surprise, I was the only non-norwegian speaker from the whole crew (40 people or so). They took the trouble of taking me aboard and speaking english for the sake of one person. That’s the spirit, if you want to contribute, we encourage you. Finland is light-years away from that, in fact Norwegians, Danes and even Swedes have a very bad opinion about Finland and finnish society. “Can you actually live there as a foreigner?” was quite an usual question.

      I agree with the original poster, ambitious, business oriented, achievers.. are not for Finland. My estonian friend who speaks perfectly finnish is always complaining about marginalization and discrimination at work based on her.. accent. So no, learning finnish won’t solve your problem. And changing the society is not possible either. With their mentality, they would rather suffer “to preserve their culture” than embrace growth (material but also psychological) and good life. Because “there is only one way of doing things, our way”.

      Remains to be added that another finnish friend, top class researcher, quit his 5 years job here and went abroad. Felt like suffocating in the current non competitive environment. So, Finland, start by keeping your own talents here, as they go to Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark.. etc where they find more opportunities for personal development (Nokia, anybody?). And that’s because of tribal, non-competitive, non-meritocratic society.

  6. Good article about how Finland is. I’m private entrepreneur myself(manual neuro headache specialist). During my life I’ve been living multiple times overseas and permenent relocation out of Finland is under work right now. No country is perfect but as an entrepreneur I’m totally seen enough and also experienced enough our country’s super heavy rules and byrocracy games. It is just idiotic. Also as a person who has greated something unique also on a international scale, this is really not a good country to be. I have fought to change things that they’d be better but Finland is not really ready for the change, so I’m pass caring. Over and out.

    1. Hello Jyrki! Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry you have to face so much red-tape. Anyway, do consider setting up your company in Singapore! If you are interested in contacts and government grants I can introduce you to some people. 🙂

      1. Thank you very much for your response Wan. At the moment I’m setting up an online self-care service for people suffering from migraine. Main market is in United States. Also one non-profit project is under planning in US too. I’m very much considering London to be. Might be a great also to my wife who is immigrant. Though I’m very much intetested a global thing.

  7. Another new and interesting trend in Finland is, now most of the Finns look at foreigners (who are brown or black or look like Iraqis) as refugees. I am not racist to refugees, but I do not like that look from people when people drag me in that level. I came here as a student 7 years ago. I work here, I speak Finnish and know enough about this country. But, this suspicious look of Finnish people is very disgusting.! Thinking to move from this country in near future!

  8. Thank you, Wan Wei, for sharing your feelings, which are so familiar to many foreigners living in FI. I have been living here for 1 year. Doing my 2nd traineeship now and trying to learn Finnish :). I am still quite optimistic about my professional future. I realize that I should speak Finnish, because we live in small city. I really hope that my PhD in chemistry will help me to find a good place among Finns. I wish you all the best!

  9. Thanks for the post, it’s really interesting. I am currently living in Denmark, and my experience here is similar to yours in Finland. I came attracted by the promise of an “equalitarian” society and I found out the hard way that you are treated as a second-class citizen. The fact that you are better educated and pay higher taxes than the vast majority of the “indigenous” population does not matter: after all, you have the wrong passport, and “wrong” means anything out of Scandinavia.

    Moreover, the media maintains a deeply disturbing stance on immigration, exaggerating the refugee issue, to the point where some of them use of the term “immigrant” and “refugee” indistinctly. The idea is that all immigrants come here to profit from the “solidarity” of the Danes.

    1. Hello InDenmark! Thank you for your comment! ^-^ I couldn’t agree more with you!!

      I agree that a huge portion of the hatred is fueled by the media. There is this website Migrant Tales (www.migranttales.net) which sometimes talks about how the Finnish media loves to demonise migrants. I don’t agree with all posts there but it does give a good idea of how the Finnish media likes to over-sensationalise stuffs.

      I concur that the equivocation of the terms “immigrant” and “refugee” is unwise and confusing in any intellectual or popular discourse. My friend was saying recently that sometimes, he doesn’t even know exactly what protest Finns are taking part in because of this fallacy– “Against multiculturalism”? “Against immigration”? “Against refugees”? “Against expats”?

  10. I completely agree with the blog. There are few more things to add up….
    1. There is silent racism.
    2. Very strong bureaucratic barriers.
    3.. Deep sense of fear against foreigners and wrong understanding that foreigners are taking money from their social system.
    4. No incentive for hard working foreigners.

    In the end i am also moving out next year. I run business and see the same problems.

    1. Hey Mehedi! Thank you for your comment.

      You actually pinned down the additional points really well! I think passive aggression/ silent racism is very real! Personally I have no idea how to overcome it either. Do let me know if you have some tips for me! =)

  11. ‘Imagine this utopia where everything is done perfectly and everybody just does things according to their job scope: Nothing more, nothing less. You can just get off work on time, have a great work-life balance, live a slack life and watch leaves fall from trees.’

    This is true and in order to do this everything is more or less the same thing in Finland. Businesses offer ‘standard’ products… They all operate in the same way… Service that is offered or products or the best example food. There is nothing really bad about it, but its also not really good as well. When things are to special, or changing or you have to think to much or work extra time, Finnish employees do not like it so much… So its also the best that the companies are a bit bigger so they operate in a standard way and offer just the same product(s).So everybody happy… Workers are happy becouse not to much stress and cliënt is happy becouse they do not really seem to need anything special anyhow.

    So as an entrepreneur if you come up with something different, there is no interest of the people or partners where you have to cooperate with or the government makes sure you are not going to do that and they will. Also money that government is making available for innovation is mostly used to copy systems that they already know and keep the current system running but not for innovation at all.

    Problem is that the world is changing place 🙂

    1. Hello Bert! Thank you for your very insightful comment.

      “When things are to special, or changing or you have to think to much or work extra time, Finnish employees do not like it so much… So its also the best that the companies are a bit bigger so they operate in a standard way and offer just the same product(s).So everybody happy… “–> this is very true!!

      When I was doing my master’s thesis, I was told–and I quote the exact words– “It is inconsiderate for you to ask for help when it is not part of a professor’s job scope”. So this “nothing more, nothing less” mentality: I do have first hand experience, lol!

      I agree too that the world is a changing place. And increasingly complex, too. I hope more people can think like you and help Finland have a breakthrough in systems!!

  12. Thanks for sharing your views. I have to be a bit harsh in my comment just as a counter to your harsh blog.

    I hope you write an article about hidden racism in Singapore when you are back there. Like my cousins Chinese neighbor’s telling their children that they shouldn’t play with his children because they are Indian. As an Indian its easy to find a job in Singapore but there is definitely a hate wave in Singapore intensified after the rioting in Little India. Singaporeans have forgotten that their first president was of Indian descent. Indians are ok with this because there is a big Indian community in Singapore and they do not have to mix with the Chinese or rely on them much. The new PR rules are also stricter and immigrants are not getting PR by default if they qualify, there is some scrutiny in place.

    Finland has its share of problems and over regulation as you have highlighted is one of them. But to claim that Finns are partial to foreigners is a myopic view. Most having this view are just blaming Finland for their incompetency or lack of prudence/luck.

    I found a job in Finland with absolutely no connections here while I was still in India. I’m the only non Finnish person in the company.

    I went to apply for a one year VISA extension recently, and the cop there out of good will converted my application to a Permanent residence after explaining to me that this is in my interests. So much for friendly systems for foreigners.

    At work I’m the most pampered person and my customers switch to English in the meetings even when I’m the only non Finnish speaking person. Compare this to Netherlands, where my friend working for a dutch company was told that they are not going to switch languages just for him. He did not blog though or give up in frustration, he just learnt the language quickly.

    Life in Finland is so good for me that its making me complacent, but this is not Finland’s problem, its just me. A person becomes complacent if he or she is made too comfortable.

    And this Norway – Finland comparison, is again you meeting some nice people and extrapolating your experience to whole country. Too bad you did not go to Iceland, Icelandic people are the most friendly one’s in this part of the world, at least I think so because I made so many friends in just one night.

    Best of luck though and hope you have great success in Singapore.

    1. Hello Biju! Thank you for your comment. No–your comment is not harsh at all!

      I think racism exists everywhere! I agree 100% that racism exists in Singapore too. It’s human nature. And YES I WILL blog about racism in Singapore if I am inspired enough to.

      I’m happy for you, really, that you have found an excellent working environment in Finland! Once again, this post is not talking about finding jobs in Finland. It’s talking about getting promoted in Finland as a foreigner. That’s what I mean by ambition.

      “Most having this view are just blaming Finland for their incompetency or lack of prudence/luck.” <– you just insulted more than half of the people who commented on this blog post. 🙂

      I guess we all speak from our personal experiences, don't we? To claim minority/majority requires statistics. So again, my point is this–even if you are fluent in Dutch/Finnish, are you confident that you will stand an equal chance at promotion as compared to the local person? My point is NOT "can a foreigner get a job in Finland"?

      And once again, no, I'm not comparing Norway with Finland. I'm just randomly saying I love my Norwegian friends. And yes!! I'd heard about the nice Icelandic people too–I have Icelandic friends, and they're super nice. ^^ If I had a chance I'd love to visit Iceland–heard so much raves about the natural landscape!!

      Just to clarify, this post is NOT meant to be anti-Finland or whatever. It's just saying that if foreigners feel that Finland is not for them, they can just leave, because they will be unhappy if they stay! Simple as that.

      Last but not least, I'm NOT blogging with malicious intent, which "He did not blog though or give up in frustration, he just learnt the language quickly" seem to imply. I'm blogging with an intention of goodwill. My boyfriend is a Finn, and I wish nothing but success for Finland, because I have family ties here. If I didn't care, would I bother spending time properly articulating this issue, which is close to my heart?

      1. I said “lack of prudence” or incompetency. Sometimes you are not lucky even though you have everything right for the job. And sometimes your skills are not a match for a specific task. I’m a competent IT guy but totally incompetent carpenter or welder. Feeling insulted is not dependent on the other person, its totally up to the reader.

        I understand that writing has its dimensions and your views aren’t really covered here, but its the same with my comment. My intent was to create a balance in this space because its mostly attracting folks who have failed, and your blog is only gonna help them sulk. I want my comment and my case to inspire them for at least one more try.

        And congratulations your blog is already a success 🙂

        1. OK bro! 🙂 I’m glad we had this talk ^^ You have a great heart!! ^^ <3

          Come find me when you're in Singapore!! 🙂 I'd treat you to some nice food and I'd love to hear about your life experiences. 🙂

  13. Very well written. I have worked here a lot. I started paying taxes here,when I was just a month old here. Started my studies and after my studies professional job.

    The Finnish Suspeciuos Look!! haha I love it. and sometimes I think despite all your talent that you have and got a job sitting besides your Finnish colleagues, No such real appreciation comes from the working ecosystem. And let me tell you about foreigner efficiency, I have worked more than a year, despite being married, Never missed a single working day. I work hard to be on top, but then i feel some intangible force dragging me down, i think that may be my ethnicity or my non Finnish Look.

    The system of equality in Finland, I love and if you know your rights here that will make ones life more easier, and the Finnish system make sure that you get your right. Yup if you are not ambitious enough then Finland is a good place to stay…. Just go with the FLOW 🙂

    1. Hello Moody! Thank you for your comment!

      Happy to read your comment! You got my point on “ambition”. =) and yes!!! the suspicious Finnish look is funny!! 😀 I always tease my boyfriend and some of my Finnish friends about it. “Just frown and be suspicious?” haha. ^^

      They are adorable 🙂 <3

      Yes! I love your comment. 🙂 Thank you for taking time to read my post properly and not frivolously accusing me of statements I didn’t make. 🙂

  14. As an anglophone Finn who grew up in Finland, studied abroad and came back to Finland to work, I have to agree with you. Because I’m Finnish I’ve never experienced tacit discrimination (although my father is foreign and he sure did), but I can say that Finns do not appreciate internationalism or ambition. My degree from a well-respected UK university was simply labelled ‘not Finnish’ and thus dismissable, although in rankings my university outshines Helsinki university. My Bachelor of Arts was taken as ‘Art history’ by a few prospective employers (I studied political thought).

    I think the differences in university-level educational culture in the UK and Finland really sum up differences in the workplace and general cultural sphere vis-a-vis ambition. UK universities place a strong emphasis on argumentation, critical thinking and cultivate a healthy animate, passionate attitude towards study. Resultantly people really immerse themselves in their studies and try to excel. You can’t resit courses or lengthen your studies indefinitely because the rest of your life is busy: you only get one shot and you have to do it well. Outside law and medicine, in Finland most university students see studying as a lifestyle rather than an all-encompassing occupation. Resitting courses and failing exams due to a busy social life is common. People go study biology or chemistry for a few years to kill time while reapplying to medschool, try out a subject and change switch-mid degree because they realise it wasn’t their thing. At the level of the system, there is no external pressure to preform and very little is at stake. This isn’t to say all Finnish students are lazy – I know some amazingly talented and ambitious students in Finland. But they are so by choice, the system does not engender it in those who don’t have a natural tendency for it.

    This culture of passivity and lack of animus is also present in the workforce. The Finnish workplace is built around work-roles, not individuals. At my workplace I constantly expressed my genuine eagerness to do more than my job called for just to put my skills to use, and engaged my superiors in discussion about the inner workings of the organisation because I genuinely wanted to learn more. The responses I got were informative and matter-of-fact. Completely fine, but people rarely took a bite and started to explain to me their personal views on matters such as what kind of changes the organisation needed to make to respond to changing circumstances (when this did happen it usually happened at the pub, not in the office). If your official position does not include something, you will not be engaged in conversations about it, let alone be allowed to participate. I was noted as being the ‘talented intern,’ but nobody thought about using my eagerness and ability to do things free-of-pay outside my work role. Me putting my skills to use was seen as my problem – not an opportunity for the organisation. Most people over the age of 35 in the workforce tend to exhibit very little passion or animation – projects are done to fill the description of the funding application, not to do the best project possible. Its a very subtle difference to the UK, but it wears on you in after while and pushes you to mediocrity, just doing the 9-5 instead of doing your best.

    Currently I am studying abroad (again) for my MA, and I will most probably come to Finland to work for half a year because I now have contacts that can secure me a decent job. But work-wise for the long term I should move back to the UK. It’s a shame because I have friends and family there, really like Helsinki as a city and love Finnish people (surprise coming from a Finn). But I can’t really see myself being fulfilled there without passionate and driven people around me.

    This comment turned out to be a bit longer than expected, sorry!

    1. Hey Jenz! Thank you for your comment and sharing about your UK vs Suomi experience. It was an eye-opener for me!!

      Be happy, my friend. I love Helsinki as a city and Finnish people too. My closest Finnish friends are DAMN SMART–they always think before they speak and I know their hearts. I feel you fully. 🙂 I think it’s a great idea to also keep family/friends ties with our beloved Suomi, while living somewhere else, if not to preserve our own sanity. 🙂

      Love you! <3

    2. “Outside law and medicine, in Finland most university students see studying as a lifestyle rather than an all-encompassing occupation. Resitting courses and failing exams due to a busy social life is common. People go study biology or chemistry for a few years to kill time while reapplying to medschool, try out a subject and change switch-mid degree because they realise it wasn’t their thing.”

      That’s the peril of free education… 😀

  15. Thanks for the article. It has inspired me to look elsewhere. I came to Finland in 2014 to study a new course at university of Helsinki. Our class is made of 7 students; 4 foreigners and 3 Finns. But funny enough the Finns are not interested in the course but rather an opportunity to just make the extra euros the government is paying to students(kela). I lived with a Finn in my students apartments. First of all I don’t blame the lazy and uninterested in working group. I blame the government. The Finnish guy in my apartment doesn’t work but lives more comfortable than me. He has Kela money to depend on. I have heard(unconfirmed) that benefits for students go up to a total of €800. I do part time work, and monthly salary ranges between €700-€800. My question is do you think this Finnish guy will work. Knowing that if he work he earns at most 800 and government is willing to pay him the same amount not working but just studying.

    1. Hello Nkansah, thank you for your comment! 🙂

      Hmmmm… my view is that as a foreigner in a foreign land studying, we have to work to support ourselves anyway. Unless we’re on scholarship. This is the difference between locals and foreigners in any welfare states, which I can understand! 🙂

      As for the Finnish guy, if what you say is the norm, I guess if I were him–I won’t work!! hahahaha! I’d be very happy taking life easy and playing computer games, which I think is a great student life. ^^

      1. Just to expand on those unconfirmed rumours; 800€ might be around the maximum amount of support that a Finnish student can get with the KELA support AND the student loan (that has a better interest rate than normal bank loans, but a rate nonetheless). so it is not just free money. And you still have to be completing enough study credits, otherwise Kela can demand it back.

  16. Interesting points of view Wan, which I am sure will ruffle some feathers. Hopefully most people are open minded to think about it rather than reject some of your assertions outright in the blog. Yes in Finland there is a bureaucratic & regulatory brick wall for people with entrepreneurial spirits. Also there is a strong focus on work roles and hours clocked in by employees rather than actual productivity (in many industries). It would be beneficial if the general mentality changed to viewing that you should be payed for how you perform and how you add value, not how many years you have done something or hours you sit at your desk. I think this is one of results in having powerful trade unions, which collective negotiate pay and other things. They are useful in markets with traditional oligopolies (for a small nation) to ensure income equality and redistribution of wealth. It is not necessarily so good in a free market with competition, nor for SMEs and individuals that are innovative, creative and want to grow when they are putting their blood and sweat to make something work.

    Indeed, if you are ambitious and feel that there is a brick wall, young people should try working in one of the globally integrated cities of the world. These cities offer opportunity where your nationality is not that important, but are more focused on your mindset. I work in London and love the fact that my colleagues and senior management all come from different countries with versatile backgrounds. It really promotes a sense of meritocracy and allows you to think from different perspectives. I do believe this also reflects on the balance sheet of the company in a positive manner. You just need to keep an open mind and be willing to get out of your comfort zone!

    Its a shame that Finland doesn’t maximize its international talent. There is also a lot of individual talent brought up and educated by the Finnish system, with a strong value system and sense of ethics they have gained from the society. Hopefully Finland can retain more of this talent in the future and also be open to providing opportunity for those that want to come back to Finland in the future (so far I know a lot of expat Finns who struggle when they move back).

    Of course my reply is solely focused on your theme of ambition and excludes a lot of the positives in Finland.

    1. Heya Mike! Ok I’m a bit taken aback by “ruffle some feathers”, so please let me do a disclaimer again: This post is written with good intention, but at the same time I do understand that sometimes my words can be easily misconstrued when taken out of context.

      Firstly, thank you for seeing that my post is centred on the theme of ambition. ^^ I LOVE SUOMI and my Finnish Boyfriend, haha! 🙂 I wrote many other positive and happy things about memories in Finland in my other posts, just click on the tab “Suomi” to check them out! But I just feel that as someone not so old yet, under 30, I should be working hard and executing many many purposeful things fast, challenge more boundaries and kick some doors. Hmm…in my experience so far in Suomi, I realised that sometimes when I try to challenge myself, the spirit isn’t “YEA! LETS DO IT!!” but silence. So all I’m saying in this post really is that ok, maybe Finland doesn’t have what I’m looking for…

      Regarding the payment by productivity: It’s good in theory but I think it’d be difficult to execute, not only in Finland but in all countries. But it’s not a bad idea, though I’m not sure how many people like the stress. I’d been reading up tort and labour law recently, and I think most labour unions in the world go for employment benefits to their workers (i.e. fixed monthly salary) instead of variables like 100% commission or management by objectives (MBO) salaries.

      Yes! I have Finnish friends who are educated in UK/US/Aus and when they come back, the logic is that they need to start networking locally all over again. Which sort of makes sense in the Finnish context.

      And I definitely hope Finland can keep more of these talents as well! 🙂

  17. Spot on. I just wanted to add that this is also true for European foreigners in Finland. It’s not always skin color, I have experienced the same and I am white.
    “So if you’re an ambitious foreigner like me–just leave.”
    I agree on this advice, many people waste a lot of time here trying to make it work.
    “Don’t fight, nobody appreciates it, and you’re just wasting your own life.”
    Also very true. However, you have connected “ambitious” and “fighting”, as if these qualities automatically go together, but I think they don’t. Those people who are ambitious, but don’t “fight” and instead see clearly how they can benefit from the Finnish system and the Finnish way of doing things, will benefit from Finland and find support and promotion.
    “Most people over the age of 35 in the workforce tend to exhibit very little passion or animation”. This made me laugh, trying to imagine a passionate Finn :-). I think it already starts much earlier. It’s just not them.
    And this: “Me putting my skills to use was seen as my problem – not an opportunity for the organization.” That’s just how it is: if they can’t see your skills as an opportunity for themselves or their organization, they will not support you. It’s like with customers. It really doesn’t matter how good or ambitious you are, if they can’t perceive the value for themselves, they won’t buy. That’s the only thing you have to learn here, if you want to succeed in Finland: to sell anything you do to Finns in a way that they can perceive the or a value for themselves. Otherwise you hit a brick wall. Good luck to you, wherever you go!

    1. Hello Joseann! Thank you for your comment + comment on other people’s comments 🙂

      I love this part: “Those people who are ambitious, but don’t “fight” and instead see clearly how they can benefit from the Finnish system and the Finnish way of doing things, will benefit from Finland and find support and promotion.”

      Shall think about it! I never thought about this perspective before! Ambitious + Go with the flow sounds excellent. Any examples of such a strategy? 🙂

      1. Hi Wan Wei, I am not sure, if there is a strategy and if so, I am not sure I would know it. If you look at some of the best known companies today in Finland, like Fazer, Stockmann, Paulig, Sinebrychoff etc., they were all foreigners, they “saw a market need” and were able and willing to deliver. Most famous German Roman Schatz has found his niche (telling Finns how much better Finland is compared to Germany 😉 ), Mohammed el Fatatry is a great business man who really got promotion in Finland, I am sure there are more.
        Just have look at the market and find out, what is needed and how you can deliver so that they can see an advantage for themselves when hiring you or working with you. Finns, mostly, see their own advantage and unfortunately it’s as to promote our advantage to them so they can see it. I work today as a freelancer in tourism, there is a demand for people who speak the languages I speak, but it’s also clear, should there be a scarcity of clients, I’ll be the first to be taken of the list, so Finnish tour guides can remain in business.
        All I can do is to use the good training I get to build my own reputation and profile so that I can move on when they dump me. Keep your ambition and combine it with a “need” that is already existing, if you want to succeed here. As I don’t know your profession, I don’t know, if there is a need. If not, move on to a place where there is a need, really, unless you have “hormonal” ties to Finland. Can you increase export for companies? Get new contractors?
        Whatever, if they see money to be made, they’ll listen :-). It’s as simple as that. If you have made them money for 20 years and done a good job (like Mr. Engel building Senate Square, also a German), they might even start to like you and you’ll get a memorial plate at some place in Helsinki ;-). I experience Finns as task oriented and down to Earth practical. Do something that THEY consider to be valuable and that’s it.

  18. I agree with you on most of your points but I believe most of the issues you have raised exist in every County. I came here to study 8 years ago and I am working as IT systems manager and I got this with no connection.
    Another thing we do forget is Finland opened its doors to the international community few years back and it’s growing slowly and we can’t compare Finland to Hong Kong and the rest where the population is 4 or 5 times the Finnish population which is a little bit over 5 million and the economy is small. It surprised me when foreigners come to Finland for 1 + years and they start complaining about the system. first of all you are getting free education that you should have paid in your country or any part of the world. No matter how you see the education either challenging or not, they are producing graduates that are making a difference in society. How ambitious are you that it makes you think you can say if you are ambitious don’t come to Finland? In life ambitious people create something, they don’t get addicted to salaries. So if you are ambitious create something please and let us the less ambitious also offer this great country something back.

    1. Hello Zuberu! Thank you for your comment.

      Nope, this post is not a complaint–it is a statement. It’s a statement that foreigners should do something about their plight instead of compromising and being unhappy. And this post is actually a proactive post. It’s saying that if you can stay in finland happily, it’s a beautiful place to stay in. If you feel unhappy however because you want to challenge yourself and move faster, you should just leave. That’s all!

      About university–nowhere did I say that I’m ungrateful for my free education, did I?

      my main disappointment with school is the English test requirement they made all Asians take, even when English is sometimes the native language of some Asians. This is subtle institutionalized discrimination and should be acknowledged and changed. And this is why I wonder why it isn’t changed to date.

      I have no doubts foreigners who are so called “less ambitious” will contribute strongly to the finnish economy! 🙂 And like you, I do think ambitious people will eventually create something good for finland. But that does not mean that they have to stay in finland to do so–that’s why I said leave the country, do your thing, but maintain strong ties 🙂

      This discourse was never about money–not once did I mention it in my post, you said it :p This post is about pushing boundaries and challenging what one can or cannot do.

  19. I see you have edited the blog, so I have clarify. Just to ensure people don’t believe your grass is greener on the other side story.

    The reason for me bringing Singapore into context is because you started the comparison. These are your statements and not mine.

    “….In fact, I’m currently of the opinion that if you are ambitious, you should just not even come to Finland. Go to some other countries that treat foreigners better, such as Sweden, America, Singapore or Hong Kong……”

    You mean Singapore treats foreigners better than Finland deal with ambitions? You mean the rich ones? The refugees are coming to Finland because they have some hope. Did you read about how many places Singapore offered for Syrian refugees? This is also ambition, a refugee risking his life to find a better living comes to Finland, best example of ambition. Your definition of ambition is someone making it big in his career, the syrian and iraqi’s have a different definition.

    “how far you can go with your opportunities and working hard as an ambitious person/foreigner in Finland.”

    The CEO of new Nokia is an Indian guy – Rajeev Suri. He lives in Espoo.
    That’s how far you can go if you are a smart hard working foreigner who can bring results.

    I have nothing against Singapore, and am big fan of what you have achieved under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew. In 1960’s he wanted Singapore to be Mumbai and today every city in India wants to be Singapore. But this blog is giving some wrong impression about Finland and I have to counter it to stop a unilateral view from building among your readers.

    1. Fair enough– I do strongly agree that Singapore can do more in relation to refugees. Good point and thanks for providing perspective!

      The context of my quote however, is mainly for foreigners who want to compete based on merit. Singapore, london, Sweden, Hk are definitely faster-paced and offer more opportunities to fresh graduates, for instance. My definition of ambition is clearly stated in the two points in the post.

  20. Hi, I think if your reply to me is exactly as what you wrote in your blog I will agree with you. but you just said you are of the opinion that if you are ambitious don’t come to Finland.

    About the language test. Please don’t bother yourself about that because I was in class with many Asians who speak horrible English. So forget about that. It’s not only in Finland if any Asian intend to study in USA or Canada they need it. Would you have had issue with the language test if you were studying in USA or Canada?
    You don’t have to be ambitious to contribute to an economy, everyone makes a change one way or another, so just don’t write things you don’t know about.

    1. Regarding English test: yes, if in US or Canada they make all applicants take it Id have zero issues. I’m talking about Asians belonging to ex British colonies like SG, the Philippines and India: we are all native speakers. Most US/Canadian/Norwegian/Swedish schools exempt previous British colonies: so I do know what I’m talking about. The language policy now in Aalto exempts all finns and EU/EEA students, but all Asians have to take it.

      Ummm Yep of course we can all contribute to Finland. I’m just saying if one is ambitious and face tons of roadblocks in finland, there are other countries to consider too. Simple as that!

      1. But it’s not just Asians. The language test is also required for people from Africa, Latin America, etc. From the Aalto University for example for Technology and Engineering:

        The following groups are exempted from the above mentioned language test requirement:

        1. Applicants who have completed a higher education degree and the requisite studies

        – at a university or a university of applied sciences in Finland in Finnish, Swedish or English;
        – at a university or polytechnic in an EU/EEA country in English. The language of the degree must be stated in the degree certificate or its appendix, the transcript of records or other official document, such as diploma supplement, issued by the higher education institution in question.
        – in an English-medium programme requiring a physical on-site presence at a university in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom or the United States.

        2. Applicants who

        – have attended Aalto University as an exchange student in the field of technology (an Aalto University transcript of records or certificate of student status required);
        – are EU/EEA citizens from partner universities of Aalto University’s schools of technology (Erasmus partners, Cluster, NordTek, Nordic5Tech or other official partner in student exchange). Applicants whose official transcript of records does not contain language studies in English shall provide certificates of sufficient language proficiency provided by their home universities.
        – are applying to non-degree programmes subject to charge.

        Only the above-mentioned groups are exempted from the language test requirement. For all other applicants the official language test result is a compulsory application document and applications without the test result will not be processed. There are no exceptions to the above-mentioned requirements.

        So even EU/EAA students whose official transcript of records does not contain language studies in English have to do the test (TOEFL, IELTS, etc.)

  21. Some pretty good points, some (like being irritated by formalities every country has) seem to be a bit like they were inspired by being in second phase of culture shock (in most cases between 6 to 18 months of entry). Helsinki is much smaller place, Finland’s history has led it to be much more homogeneous than the other countries she mentions – almost by definition, that means it’s harder to get into the inner workings of society, not to mention companies. I am not saying you are in culture shock, I am just saying I wouldn’t be surprised if you were – despite Finnish boyfriend and friends.

    I have done transformation to become native at least to some extent in Los Angeles, but it took four years, graduation with top grades as second best in extremely competitive MBA class from one of the local top universities (luckily I understood most of the lingo), and some really really hard work, starting from lawn mowing and going on to consulting one of the global companies with top talented team handpicked by myself.

    Yet, I really did not expect to get hired by any of the some 20 companies I got invited for job interview after graduation. I guess that’s one reason foreigners in most countries do start more businesses and some then succeed much better than you would expect. Despite that most companies, some cities and countries try to promote being more meritocracy based, people tend to – statistically speaking – promote people who are more like them than those who are not. That’s biology and evolution in emotional level.

    Sad but true is that Finland is not where it should be yet. But it’s changing faster than people realise. And this change is led by young entrepreneurs who are getting more space and chances than ever before here. But they are busy doing their thing, they are not doing it in big corporations yet. And their own companies are not yet so big and organised that they would get to Aalto to look for talent like you. But they have many non Finnish people working for them and they are very networked globally, too.

    One minor point about refugees: the newspapers, at least in this phase, mostly report about the racists and opposition, that sells. They don’t much report that there are plenty of people doing the exact opposite – eq that the “church house” nearby housing 100 asylum seekers, most young men from Iraq and couple families from Syria, has attracted close to hundred volunteers that give their time and knowledge in order to get those guys to feel welcome.

    It’s a pity you didn’t feel at home hear, but that might be good for those newcomers I mentioned, now they have another link to world.

  22. Im truly sorry that the author has had a sub-par experience as a foreigner in Finland. However I believe when writing posts like this its important to do two things: a) put things into context b) stand by your opinion. Unfortunately neither are true in aspects of the post, which quite frankly undermine the entire message. Not being able to deal with the government in english in Finland is not unique to Finland. Just try pretty much any nation where english isn’t one of the national languages. Foreigners having worse possibilities for employment and promotion than native residents, try any country in the world. English-language tests in universities for foreigners outside of the EU but not inside of the EU is based on a simple EU-rule (free movement of people) that requires the treatment of any EU-national with the same rules as the locals, when it comes to education, healthcare, opening a bank account, you name it. So the choice here is likely between language tests for everyone, including Finns or only students that come from the outside of the EU. So unless the author has some sway over the four basic pillars of the EU, the requirement for language tests for students outside of the EU likely won’t change anytime soon.

    Noting all these points as if they are shortfalls of Finland in particular dilutes the point even if parts of the post are accurate. Perhaps whats worse is when the author replying to comments suggests that the only thing she was suggesting with this whole post was that if one is uncomfortable somewhere as a foreigner, one should not stay and suffer. Which is of course, stating the obvious. Which then again dilutes all the other shortcomings mentioned in the blog post.

    If the intention of the blog post is to state the obvious, then the author should state it and the blog post should be about self-reflection on the issues that make one feel at home as a foreigner in another country and which should weigh in on the decision to stay or leave, not about a particular country or its shortcomings.

    If the intention of the blog post on the other hand is to highlight shortcomings of Finland as an individual country and by changing which policies the country could establish a competitive edge over other countries as a desirable destination for foreigners, then the author should at least understand which factors of their own experience are a result of Finland and which are general factors of being a foreigner in a country, irrespective of the country.

    1. My intention is to express what I think–good, bad, flawed, politically incorrect. I reply to comments because people took the time to read my post.

      So, why doesn’t Aalto make all applicants take the English test then? Only fair this way, right?

      1. That’s a good question. Out of the two alternatives, why choose not to make all applicants take language tests? Although I don’t have facts about that, it wouldn’t surprise me that (being a society that likes to regulate things) there is a piece of legislation that requires universities to accept the language qualifications of graduates from Finnish high schools that they have obtained through the matriculation exams. That combined with the EU-requirement to treat other EU-nationals equally to Finns means the only de facto choice is to administer language tests to non-EU nationals only. This type of ridiculous over-regulation likely causes practices like this. But its certainly not a matter of discrimination by an individual university (Aalto) but rather likely a combination of discrimination by EU-legislation and a piece of national legislation that was put into place to save on administrative costs.

        1. Hello Sampo, thank you for your explanation: now that you have explained to me like this, it’s an explanation I can accept whole-heartedly.

          So my question now is, why is it that for the four times Id written in to the administration and people who can make decisions, I’m only faced with silence? Haha.

          ultimately my point to the post is also that there must be something antagonistic in my character as well, that gets things done in Singapore but not in Finland, for instance.

          Which is why I think it is better for me to just build my dreams in Singapore, first. This is a difficult decision too, we have a house in Finland and outside the house is a beautiful Forest which Id fallen in love with! So to your previous point on my post lacking a strong context, it’s probably true. Because all I feel is ambivalence. it’s not easy to leave finland also, because it’s a beautiful place filled with calm and nice people.

          Is it better to have loved and left, than never to have loved before? I think sometimes the latter is wise, but the former definitely makes a person’s life richer. -sigh- but trust me when I say I write this post with good intention.

          It’s never easy for an ambitious person to fit into finland I think. I tried my best Id say! But well I’m not perfect too.

  23. Good society can’t be designed for the odd few people that like to do their own thing and somehow manage to be fabulously successful.
    Finland is easily one of the best countries for an average person. When one gets sick, produces offspring. Equality is highly valued in these occasions, which is why huge number of expat-Finns return when these questions become suddenly relevant.

    You are a winner by the virtue of your hard work and other circumstances. That’s why some of the quirks of the Finnish society might seem to be less than optimal for your ambition. But we stand on the shoulders of other people. None of us is really a success on their own. Finland is one of the best places if you don’t get to choose the family you get born into. In my opinion that’s a very reasonable idea to base the design of your society. Where everyone can be at least a relative winner, just not select few that grab the jackpot. Social mobility and income equality create stability and are in general rather nice things to have.

    There’s probably a lot to improve, but we have to listen to both the successful and the unsuccessful people, because sometimes they do the exact same things but end up in different places due to chance/timing.
    I admit sometimes Finland does feel like it’s too “complete society” already, which leads to staleness and people trying to hold on to what is here now instead of pushing for better things. We can and should strive to be more inclusive.

    Getting a job isn’t exactly easy these days for even a native Finn. We probably produce too many university-educated people for the job market whereas there’s a distinct lack of manpower in the trades.

    1. Yea! I love your first sentence–and that’s why a society must never restrict anyone. We are living in a globalised world: it’s best, really, for finns to leverage on finland + somewhere else in the world. I feel that we must embrace globalization, not fight it.

      I’m not saying singapore’s meritocratic system is perfect; neither am I walking out on Finland!! Singapore’s society is very cut throat: having said that however it’s still easier and faster to get things done there.

      My point is to maintain strong ties with Finland overseas…even if you choose to leave. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing. That should be the way! 🙂

      The intention is key, I know for sure that no matter where I go, I learnt the concept of “vision” from finland. I learnt how to take care of trees in finland. And I learnt how to appreciate silence in finland. So when I say good intention, I mean that wherever i may be, whatever dreams I have, finland will always be a consideration.

      And yes I am thankful that Aalto has a strong practical cirriculum too: this is something that NUS lacks.

  24. Firstly, amazing blog and so ib point. I don’t have anything to add and I have been feeling this in my 7th year of living in Finland. I noticed that the country doesn’t encourage or support foreigners with high ambitions. And I personally appreciate my scholarship but like you the best decision is to move back home and make a difference. I think most of my mates should have been smarter like our Asian mates and just go home.
    10 years in Finland with my Finnish language skills and I totally agree with your blog, is time for me to go. And I made this decision last year so thank you for reassuring me that ny decision to relocate is valid. I had so much reading it and good luck with your school work and keep the fire burning. Brilliant pieces!. 🙂

    1. Hello Sarah! Thank you for your comment. Yea!! 👍👍

      I was thinking just now that maybe people who leave Finland shouldn’t be seen as traitors– we can be seen as positive, energetic bridges between finland and the host country!

      And also I’m sure we will do good and add tons of value to the world due to our experience with Finland and Finnish nature 🙂 wishing you all the best and nothing but happiness, my friend! ❤️

  25. Statism is the problem here, 1st. 2nd and 3rd. I’ve lived here for 28 yrs., the potential for greatness has always been here, but it’s snuffed out by cronyism and big government intervention. Consensus driven politics and the complete inability of people dissatisfied with the political status quo, to exact change within their parties due to the lack of the primary system. It’s all a rigged game. If not for big government (statism) and lack luster pseudo conservatives (neo-statists) willing to manage the welfare state instead of challenging, Finnish decline will continue and and its economy implode.

    The “refugee” situation here is one of economic tourists trying to get the best social benefits in Europe, and many are now being disillusioned with the reality that they’re being curtailed. It’s a giant fraud. Bosnian refugees in Finland never acted this way, they truly were looking for safe refuge, most of these so called refugees are men from Iraq in the Basra region and have show the Finnish contempt for their hospitality.

    1. Hey kegsfin! hm I see where you are coming from. Consensus driven politics is indeed sometimes challenging, coupled with a strong will for democracy. I don’t know how this is going to be changed in the next five years.

      Id love to hear what you think! Is there hope for suomi? How can there be hope given such a political situation? 🙂 quite curious to hear from you since I think you make sense!

  26. Hey,

    Just to make sure. So you were a student in Finland for 1 (one) year and in that time period you noticed that the work life is completely racist, you were not able to make progress in your career and uh… what?

    While I may be agree to some of your points I just don’t understand how you came about these realizations without actually trying to make a career in Finland?

    1. Hello! Are you the real Timo Soini? 🙂 if so, can I have your autograph? I love your jytky remix and campaign! 🙂

      Hm I don’t think finns are racist at all towards Asians. What I am against, however, is any form of institutionalized discrimination (whether intended or otherwise), because effects are so subtle.

      Because I network a lot in suomi, I have some entrepreneur friends and they have been sharing their experiences with me. I also have finnish friends who already started work so they share stories with me too! Also in school, I do observe interactions between natives and non-natives. I think the laid-back attitudes will rarely change.

      But let me just say that I love my friends for who they are! Sometimes there is no need to push oneself too hard, which I tend to do. So I learnt to slow down too, and I am grateful to have met this group of awesome friends!

      The point of this post really is not “racism” but how willing are people in Finland when it comes to challenging themselves and pushing for personal and professional growth. Because I think sometimes, life in finland might be a little too comfortable. And before im 30, have a kid or family etc, Id like to use my energy to execute changes and stuffs, to kick more doors and challenge more boundaries 🙂

      Anyway good day to you, Sir! Finland needs you.

  27. Hi Wan Wei!

    I really loved your article! Most of the points you make are spot on and you actually conclude some of the reasons backing my decision of doing my undergrad in Economics and Finance here at the University of Hong Kong.

    As a native Finn I think you just summarized the most fundamental underlying reasons behind the Finnish stagnant economy and slow-paced way of life. Encouraging mediocrity instead of excellence is a principle that nests deep down in the people’s hearts. That is what the term “equality” means in Finland, mediocrity, humbleness and modesty.

    Now let me elaborate on this point a little bit. This is a norm that no one is socially allowed to escape from without being discriminated, doesn’t really matter whether you differentiate yourself positively or negatively, you are not part of “the general public” anymore. “The general public” includes probably 80-90% of the population. If you stay in this “box of mediocrity” in terms of academic or career ambition, you are fine. And you actually might do better than people who are part of the small ambitious group, since “the general public” is more trustworthy.

    However I somewhat disagree with your points on discrimination in Finland. I think discrimination is not anymore based on your ethnic backround, color or on any other easily detectable physical traits. In Finland different mindsets are discriminated. Your mindset has to fit in the box,
    after that you will be accepted. Obviously Wan Wei, to be fair, your mindset defers from this box of modesty and mediocrity, so to speak. As a result you have probably faced some stiff opposition or even ignorance, because your ambitions don’t align with “the general public”.

    For ambitious people there is very little room to move in Finland. It starts from primary school where talented students are ignored because “they will do great anyways”. As a kid I even used to deliberately give wrong answers to some of the exam questions just to get the same marks as my friends, so that I could be accepted.

    Now to compare this Finnish mindset to that of the America’s or Hong Kong SAR for example, countries where I have lived too, the problem is that in Finland you are neither encouraged to dream nor fail. These two are the fundamental building blocks of many wildly successful economies such as the US, Hong Kong, Singapore, and compared to Finland at least to some extent, even Sweden.

    I love my country and it does possess great potential to be the next top-story of economic success. Highly educated work-force, strong legacy in engineering and small population density e.g. give Finland the means to sustain their Nordic social welfare system.

    With relatively small rearrangements of legislation Finland could as a small country easily dodge the bullet that Japan could not. Something has to change though, and fast. That’s not a thing Finland’s good at. I prefer not to waste my youth gambling the results of the so-called consensus-policy that has stagnated Finland for so long.

    1. Thank you Markus for your comment! Hey let me think about some of your points and get back to you again! agree 100percent with the academic ambitions part!

      Thanks for sharing really–your perspective is something important and new that everyone should think about!!

  28. Huomenta Wan Wei !

    I really liked your blog and it is really nice to see you reply so quickly. I can agree with you in a lot of scenarios. I have been living here for the last 4 years and I find it pretty difficult to get in the job market here as a foreigner. I have been applying for my field job since last one and a half year, and I have been getting rejections. The startups I apply in tell me they are small and need experienced people or if I ask them that I would work for half the money just to get that experience, they tell me that they have to prove the government that they didn’t find any Finn for the job. I graduated last year from my Master’s and I have a telecommunication background, I haven’t been able to get a single internship just because the companies are reluctant to hire foreigners, and to put the cherry on top I am from one of the third world countries, so as they mentioned in the migri website, first priority to a Finn, second to the European and then comes the third world country. I started to learn Finnish as a language just thinking it would change my situation but alas my skin color always gets in the way. And if you think Finn are really innocent let me correct you. I applied for a Ph.D. in the university from which I graduated from. They really gave me a lot of hopes and even made me work for free in the University for six months to eight months and in the mean time I survived by delivering ‘mainoksia’ which have a horrible pay, you would get 85 euros for delivering 350 papers. And it is a tough fight in unforgiving winter here. But to end it all I still didn’t get the Ph.D. and it was awarded to a Hungarian who was totally new to the project and me who was knee deep in the work and projects was later relieved of since they now had a official worker, but before that I had to guide the new kid on all the research work i had done. So to sum it up I had a pretty shitty experience here and I am also leaving in the end of this year.
    In the end if 60% was my fault the rest 40% was Finland. I hope everyone here get what they wish and work for. 🙂

    1. Hello Azeem! Yea I reply fast because im a social media manager haha. But going out to walk in the forest soon! 🙂

      I’m really sorry you have to go through all these 🙁 Thank you for sharing your story and I wish the best for you! Don’t be too harsh on yourself, be happy, and let’s move on! 🙂

  29. Interesting article. I’m a 26 year old woman who came back to Finland (after a 2 year stay in my country) to live with my son. Currently I’m living in Helsinki and studying Swedish to pursue some of my dreams. My perception of Finland has changed greatly this time since I came decided to mingle with the right people (more positive, more ambitious, more sociables ones, etc.) and integrate myself to this country by the hand of the Swedish-Finnish community. So far it has paid well, I’ve made great friends, contacts and experience some working life where I’ve been recognized and supported. The same goes for education since whoever with a high level of Swedish can make it into higher education.

    The only detail that made me a bit upset was to read many comments that suggest being unemployed is a synonym of being less ambitious. I believe that every person has its own reasons for being in such a state, specially in a country like this one where one may have to deal with problems like depression, home-sickness, etc.etc.etc… In my personal case I’m oficially registered as unemployed and yes, I must accept that neither I’m not being active at seeking for a job at this moment but neither do I see it as something I must apologize for since I’m having more time to focus on my language studies which will lead me to a full-time job at some point and more importantly in my motherhood which will result on a well-educated Finnish-Peruvian citizen of the future.


    1. Agree! Actually my point on unemployment was strictly from an economics and GDP perspective. I’m sorry if some of the comments in this section from other readers has hurt you. You are a strong woman and I wish nothing but the best for you. 💝 respect you, Grace!

  30. Nice article! As a Finn, Aalto graduate, and very ambitious entrepreneur for nearly a decade now, I can certainly identify with large part of the problems (or charasteristics) here.

    Just a couple of things left me wondering.

    First: not sure if something changed as of lately, but at least I had to take the English test (just as everybody else regardless of the origin) at Aalto School of Business – even with the completed Master in Technology including university level English studies behind me. There were no exceptions, it was mandatory for everyone. Even with fluent English skills, I found the English course and test especially beneficial for Finns themselves.

    Second: ambitiousness is a very, very good ground for a successful and forward-going career, but it certainly is not enough (or a guarantee) in Finland or elsewhere to go through to Director / Board level positions in major enterprises. Especially in the smaller countries, networking and personal relationships always play a big role. On the other hand, you don’t go too far with networking and contacts only; you have to have them both – go forward, be ambitious and build a good network in the field where you want to succeed. In successful private enterprises, the owners are on average, way smarter than people think, in making decisions on board structure based on hard and soft facts both; capabilities of a person, connections, networks, integrity, loyalty and proven track record for maximizing shareholder value. In the end, it is owners’ power and decision. The power structures at this level change only gradually, I find also similar complaint over small number of women in CEO and board level positions. I think that person’s gender or origin are secondary criteria, root causes are elsewhere. This is not an easy feat for foreigner in Finland nor a Finn to accomplish. And surely with companies directed at domestic market, language skills are one key factor, there’s no denying that and Finns have an advantage. While thinking equal, Finns themselves are far from equal position in competing for important positions. I don’t see this much easier elsewhere in Nordics, Europe, Asia or in the U.S for example. Actually, I find the less ambitious Finland potentially easier for ambitious people because such a great proportion of people settle for mediocracy, fear for fail and success.

    To conclude, I’ve also hired successfully two foreigners, one from Central Europe and other one from Asia. Both of them have permanent roles in our company during the last couple of years. We’re very happy with their contribution to the company’s succeess and find them an integral part of our community these days. And these people seem quite settled and happy here in Finland too. Both of them are learning also Finnish, but it is not really seen a major issue in their current roles. But it’s a fact, that some level of Finnish skills would certainly open up a lot of new doors for them in the future.

    1. Nice to hear a Finnish voice here. It made me wonder, if the focus of foreigners on their “foreignness” is actually hidden self-sabotage? I realized, that, whenever I made a failure or rejection about “me being a foreigner”, it made me a powerless “victim”, because I can’t really change the fact that I am a foreigner here. It prevents me from staying focused on the question “how can I achieve my ambitious goals?”. And it prevents me to look elsewhere for reasons why I didn’t succeed, so I can’t improve. As you show, it takes a lot of skills and qualities to succeed in the work world and we better learn where we need improvement instead of getting stuck on being ‘a foreigner surrounded by “racists” ‘ .

  31. Wery good points here 🙂 I think many findings here applies even fo a native finn. In Finland we have strong culture to not to stand out from the crowd. This can be due to the history, if you did stand out, the Tsar and kasakkas would send you to Siberia 🙂
    Just based on a feeling and not much facts (ok, 7 years of industry experience), I would say that mediocratic ideas and projects are more liked than really ambitious ideas and concepts. People tend to favor ideas that are not ambitious, because when you eventually fail, you dont fall from high 🙂 At the same time I am aware of the fact that great companies come from Finland, like Rightware, Supercell, Ponsse etc.
    About the language test: we finns have to learn swedish at the school for 7-12 years, so from this perspective a language test for some hours doesnt sound like Siberia to me. Even thought I understand the annoyance. Swedish is a language with little or none practical implementations in eweryday life: the swedes prefer to speak english and the finnish-swedish prefer to speak finnish.

    1. Haha I like your point on the Swedish language! No wonder my boyfriend was quite chill about my angst towards the english test haha–he had to sit through learning Swedish for years! It’s a great way to think. 👍👍

  32. Good writing, Wan Wei, thank you! I can share your view about our societies situation here in Finland, as a native 23yo Finnish male. I have been in the situation of not wanting ‘anything’ from life (really didn’t have enough perspective of self (the potential of human being etc))and lack of self-realization was the real reasons) and have been surrounded by the lazy and negative people and didn’t know how to protect myself from those negative energies. And why I was like that, was because it is completely fine for the people around, as they are in same situation. No motivation, people who listen and care are not around, too much family(ego) centrism. Many people still believe (especially the older generations, and since many young still believe the old people, they are on the same ‘level’) that it will always be like that, or they are waiting the change to appear from their daily television news. And that is one of the main problems also, people here lack of motivation, because they are looking it outside themselves, and don’t realize it is only one self who can make difference, really. Also I do agree that the fantastic fear of everything is here very much reality, like you said they fear failure but they also fear success, which is very much shame, since there is so many talented and capable people around. But fear is basic human emotion which will fade away when you face it. They just need to go out more and experience the world, try different things without prejudice and do them whole hearted. What has worked for me is meditation, it is really a medication for the confused and shattered mind. I highly recommend it to anyone especially if you naturally have vibrant mind and have difficulties concentrate. After Ive started doing it, I find myself much more compassionate, easy to socialize with and to start new hobbies and studies, and basically it all comes from the ability to concentrate and to be able to practice whole heartedly.

    For me I look humanity as more like one and I don’t like any kind of patriotism since most of the time it is only causing conflict against the nature and human being, which we all are so it is better to learn to share the wealth of the planet earth and work together towards unity. And for that the spiritual practice is needed. Yes I’m a dreamer, and the thing is everyone creates their own reality and chooses how they think. And everyone can change and realize it’s only oneself alone who can make the change. And that it doesn’t happen in one week, it should be happening for the rest of the persons life.(A Saint is a sinner who never gave up, Paramhansa Yogananda), so better not to give up and keep climbing that rocky mountain, and even tough it’s sometimes tough it is better to adopt the thinking that it will make you more strong and capable human being, and inspire people around you.

    Glad to see you are educating yourself here in Finland, I hope it has given you prosperous spirit to enhance your own and other peoples abilities in future. One love, peace!

    – Visa

    1. Thanks for sharing, Visa! 🙂 love this comment. I think I should try to meditate too! And love your positivity, thumbs up!

      Yes and finland did indeed give me the prosperous spirit to enrich the lives of my immediate surrounding! Before I came to finland, I didn’t know anything about vision. I learnt it from an ambitious finnish prof–and I think that made all the difference.

      You have a great heart, bro! I think finns have noble values incalcuated in them since young. 🙂

  33. You’re too ambitious to stay in Finland, I agree. If someone wanna take bigger world, of course anyone can explore the world to broaden themselves for their ambition.

    But after reading your post, I just feel bad. I am in SG now, and studying at the same Univ where you graduated. Critics and complaints can be foundation of the development of countries, politics, systems, and individuals. I understand your point, you’re talented, smart enough, very ambitious, eager to go further more and more. You have freedom to make any comments on things whatever it is. So this comments about your posting is also my freedom, so don’t get it as too personal.

    When you say ‘Leave’ whatever the reason behind of that, it’s a bit uncomfortable for people who love to stay in Finland, and admire their things. SG would have their own governmental problems, Japan, States, Norway, as well. Don’t get it its always should be equal for you. The only equal thing is that everything is unequal.

    Live in your country well, and be taken big world more and more. I will do as well, but don’t say to your friends who ask how about the life in Finland, “Hey, the country is sucks”

    1. Nah: I think you misread my post completely. I’m okay with mediocrity! In fact, it’s a healthier way to live. I wrote it too on my blog post. Why are you judging people who opt for a more relaxed life? I am offended by YOU judging Finns, it’s rude.

      By the way– expressing my most honest opinions to a place I love isn’t an act of betrayal. It’s an act of hope: of open discourse, of building a better multiculturalistic society together. This is a matter of honest communication– I want to love Finland just as I am, to raise Finland’s profile globally, NOT sweep problems under the carpet.

      Finland has tons of positive things too– good air, good water, high quality childcare. Why do you measure ambition solely by money and wealth? I measure it by value-added.

      I’m ambivalent towards Finland, so I will never say “Finland sucks”.And ambivalence is a strong emotion that only makes life in finland more worth living. You however, seem to paint Singapore in a very bad light.

      I suggest you be happy in Singapore too! As I have repeated in this post, Singapore isn’t perfect, but things get done fast. Make some friends, be more comfortable with yourself and have a nicer life on your terms!

  34. Finland has only opened up to foreigners over the past few decades. In the 1980s, there were hardly any foreigners in the country. I believe that time is on our side and things will change as young Finns travel the world and live in other countries. People start accepting one another foremost as persons, less as representatives of their nations. Personally, I feel more connected to people with a similar educational background and professional experience from all around the world than to random Finns with whom I happen to share the same native language.

    One anecdote from my own work life related to favoring people from your own nation. I work for a Finnish-Dutch company and over the course of the past two years, I’ve recruited some 30+ people to my team in both countries. I used to work at Nokia before so I was not used to differentiating between people’s countries of origin and told the headhunters to search for best talent globally. However, a year ago, I had to stop recruiting foreigners – in the Netherlands. My team had become an odd, global team in the Dutch environment. Our internal customers did not like to speak English in meetings and they felt that the foreigners were not enough “Dutch” in their behaviors. Since then, I – a non-Dutch-speaking foreigner – am only hiring Dutch people. 🙂 While I think it is shortsighted to forego subject-matter expertise based on nationality, first and foremost, I want my team members to be successful in their jobs. I’m not on a mission to change the Dutch company culture. (That, too, will happen over time.) — In Finland, the foreigners on the team have not had any integration issues.

  35. As a native Finn I can’t comment on discrimination, but I think you are absolutely right that the two driving forces in Finnish society are mediocrity and risk aversion. It starts almost immediately when you’re born. Finnish elementary schools don’t usually do any kind of grouping of kids according to strengths and weaknesses. Until you are 15, you sit in the classroom, bored out of your mind, while the teacher paces everything according to the slowest learner. If you’re lucky, your high school may offer faster, more thorough and slower groups. In the university you may finally be actually required to do something.

    I’ve soon worked for 10 years and I can guarantee that the same phenomenon continues in the workplace. Even very successful companies tend to be very risk-averse. The taxation deals the final blow. Your gross income makes no difference because after taxes the result will always be roughly the same. For this reason Finnish companies compete in perks, fun and free time rather than salary.

    After 30 years here I’m ready to see if there is an approach that works better for me. I’m moving to the U.S. in a week without plans of returning. I hope to see a litttle less mediocrity and a little more effort. I believe it doesn’t have to mean 0 free time either. I plan to have a pretty decent work-life balance, just work a little more efficiently with fewer things holding me back.

    1. Hey Vesa! Thank you for sharing, it’s very interesting for me to learn that this phenomenon starts from young! While I can appreciate the whole concept of equality and inclusivity, I am a little surprised that the teacher paces herself according to the slowest learner–I used to think it is the “average” learner! It’s very interesting!

      All the best to you in America! 🙂 I’m sure you will have tons of fun and a good work-life balance there. 🙂 Wishing you nothing but happiness!

  36. Dear Wan Wei,

    I just recently discovered your blog and I must say you take a very professional approach managing it – I seldom see anyone reply to comments that much! Great work!

    I would like to comment two things in your post. First, you brought up university rankings and expectations, so I will comment on that. Then, I will comment on the actual topic of your text, which I understand to be why ambitious foreigners leave / ought to leave Finland for better career.

    Your text is a bit bumpy regarding university rankings and your expectations (or at least I didn’t find it easy-to-read at first). You wrote that Aalto university did not meet your expectations and that it is not ranked as high as NUS. Also, indiscreetly expressed your opinion about having to take an english test whilst coming to Aalto from NUS.

    I am not sure which university ranking you are referring to, but please bear in mind that the rankings are often based on research. Finnish universities are not funded like NUS for example, so your comparison between Aalto and NUS is a bit unfair in absolute terms. I understood you have studied economics, so you can understand that a survey exploring how much much quality research the university generates per dollar spent would be a better metric. Still, even having that said, research does not comment on professor/assistant per student ratio, or available computers per student. I haven’t been to NUS, but I could guess you would always find a seat / computer in one of Aalto’s libraries.

    Also, when I apply overseas I understand that I must prove my language skills by some other metric besides the university on my CV. I know that Singaporeans do speak english, but I still have hard time understanding Singlish that some of my colleagues from NUS speak. What comes to intra-EU agreements; that’s EU and has nothing to do with Singapore. And put this to other context; a friend of mine had a temporary job at University of Helsinki and she screened overseas student applications for the uni. After learning how far some applicants go in terms of twisting who they are and what they have done, I can only support any sort of screening when one applies somewhere.

    Then, I can understand your frustration in terms of foreigners struggling to penetrate the labour market. Quite often I find it’s actually the foreigners who are more hungry than the average-Finns, whom all have a safety-net to fall upon when something goes wrong. As a foreigner, you are on your own. Still, since you come across as a bright-minded young professional I don’t think you would have a problem finding a job in Finland.

    My closing comment will be that yes, Finns have academic freedom and sometimes it is abused. I have skipped lectures as I have been hungover, but more often I have skipped some as sitting lectures is not the way for me to learn things. I am quite confident you do not have this culture in NUS. It’s hard to tell which system is better. All in all, I believe you can make a difference in Singapore (and in Finland) as you have been cooked (or should I say frozen, pun intended) in another culture.

    Lauri in London

    1. Hello Lauri!

      Thank you for your comment! I edited out the university rankings part in the later part of my post, because I knew it would cause confusion. The main discontentment was the English test, and I used university rankings as an evidence to back up the notion that, it doesn’t make sense for Aalto to make ALL Asian people take English test, even if their school is ranked so high on the QS ranking. NUS modules as you know, is 100% taught in English for non-cultural subjects. Also, Aalto had exemptions for anybody who had previously studied in EEA/EU universities, so my point is, why can’t they exempt EU/EEA + universities of previous British colonies too? Now, this is nothing novel, American, Canadian, Norwegian and Swedish universities are doing that. Even Hanken–the school right in front of my school– is doing that, haha.

      Again, this English test thing is a very minor issue, but to me, I’d always viewed it as a subtle form of institutionalized discrimination. Furthermore, the FACT is that in spite of writing in four times to Aalto higher ups, I did not receive any satisfactory reply, or am faced with silence–is extremely destabilizing. This reinforced–accurately or inaccurately–my view that Asians are being slighted in Suomi.

      NUS has tons of computer labs actually, so computers are always no issue.

      Actually, I really do think that it isn’t difficult for any foreigner to enter the labour market if one speaks Finnish, for instance. Yet–what’s next? Can a foreigner really progress as fast as he/she would like, as a hungry person? Actually I don’t know, but what I’d heard from my friends are that it’s extremely difficult. You’re not even supposed to appear hungry. 😀 If you are ambitious, maybe people will even make things difficult for you.

      And I’m replying to comments because I appreciate and am interested in the worldviews of my readers, not because I’m professional, haha. I’m learning so much just from this comments section, and sometimes it’s very surprising! And I’m happy that you see my heart that I want to contribute to Finland too. Thank you! 🙂

      Kiitos Lauri for sharing your thoughts! 🙂 Wishing you all the best too (in London?) 😀 <3

  37. Hello Wan,

    First of all thank you for sharing your thoughts and your point of view on how your experience of living in Finland has been. I’m not sure how many years you’ve lived here so far, but after 7 years under my belt and 2 businesses later, one thing I can say for sure that just as it’s native population Finland does not warm up to you easily. But I guess that’s the charm of living in Finland. You’re given a housing allowance but you have to earn everything else.

    I know the wait is frustrating and pace of life might seem mind-numbingly slow, but I don’t think anyone would ever tell you that Finland is New York of Northern Europe 🙂

    I’ve read a few comments where people have acknowledged that it’s very brave of you to voice your opinion for going as far as calling the Finnish work ethics to be skewing towards slacking. I can see how one can arrive at that conclusion. However, the basis for your argument is nothing more than a gross generalisation.

    Don’t worry, I’m not here to attack your opinions or start a baseless rant. Just as you have shared your thought, I would share mine and let you be the judge of the intellectual integrity of my argument.

    Before I go further I will introduce myself so there’s no doubt that I’m in any way more privileged than any other non-white foreigner arriving in this country. I am not white, in fact I am from Pakistan, I have a muslim last name (not necessarily the best thing to have in Europe these days) and even after 6 years of living in this country my Finnish skills are less than satisfactory.

    In the years that I have lived here I have started 2 businesses, completed a degree and now have a stable job. It didn’t happen in a year and it took time and a lot of pain. To begin with I think it rather immature to believe that foreigners in any other country have it any easier than in Finland.

    Finnish people, just as any other nation on this planet have a right to their having their own culture, preserving their way of life and promoting their language. When the French or the German would expect you to speak their language, I don’t hear many people getting offended any more than taking it as an amusing trait of the French or the German people. Then why do we expect Finns to be any different?

    Should everyone know how to speak English? Yes. Must we all make English our official language? No. As many other Asian countries, getting educated in Pakistan (no we are not at war and yes we have highways and computers :D) you end up learning more than one language. You learn your national language (Urdu for me), then you learn your provincial language (Punjabi for me) and at the same time you learn the country’s official language (English for me). I myself like many other Pakistanis speak English as well as any native speakers, simply because we learn it from a very young age. However, when we do business with each other we speak our own language. As humans preserving our cultural heritage is the essence of protecting our tribes.

    I’m sure I can do business in English when working in Singapore, but will it not make me so much more endearing to the native population if I spoke their language? It’s just another way of showing respect to each other.

    With that out of the way, I can resonate with some of the points that you have shared in your post. However, the way you make your case makes it seems no more useful than a child arguing over the ownership of a toy that doesn’t belong to him in the first place. It’s just anger and frustration and lacks concrete thought.

    I would say that whether you’re a foreigner or a Finn, you’re slowly conditioned to never criticise the system. It’s the system that pays your health care bills, gives you over 30 days of paid leave, pays for your education, supports your children and promises to put a roof over your head when you’re in need.

    I’m not sure what your area of education is but I’m certain that you are more than familiar with the intricacies of socioeconomic systems.

    Let’s just for a minute forget the eternal fear Finns have of foreigners disrupting their way of life and ask ourselves if there’s reason behind this seemingly absurd idea. Running social systems like the one Finns have created requires A LOT of standardisation. And new ideas are a bad mojo for standardised systems.

    At the same time, I think we can all agree standardisation isn’t known to promote ground breaking innovation – Nokia is just a cliché and now you can add the gaming industry to the mix as well. The system isn’t designed to support the chaos and disruption that is required for innovation. Innovation is rarely a proper or a neat process without any rough edges. That’s why in a true Finnish fashion of making things look good on paper we are more in love with the idea of innovation than the process itself.

    I personally know and have worked with enough Finns to know that mediocrity and willingness to conform isn’t a trait valued by everyone. The fact that we can’t overlook, is that the majority of the Finnish work force is employed by the service industry. Service industry doesn’t support ambition. It requires conformity to status quo. As counter intuitive as it may sound, in the Finnish service industry you don’t get paid for the value you produce. It’s the number of years under your belt obediently following the status quo that determines your worth.

    I think it can be argued that service sector all many other economies suffers from the same problem. What’s unique about Finland, is that mindless labour has been turned into an art form. Finns are really good at making processes that can consistently deliver the same results over and over again. I agree that people seem to value their coffee breaks far more than changing the world with new ideas. You can say that we live in the promised land of work-life balance. I agree that it’s a far cry from the chaos that some of us are used to. But is it really so far fetched to also ask yourself why that could be?

    Trust me I’ve been just as frustrated with the system as any. Fact still remains that it’s damn near impossible to dent a socialist system that’s this ingrained in the way people live. Here’s how I’ve been able to find my zen (and i still lose it in a second) – Can anyone of us really say that Finns somehow are less goal oriented or ambitious than any other group of people? I highly doubt it. People are frustrated and they do want to be so much more than what they are. Not everyone but enough of them. You don’t need everyone to be passionate, you just need enough and I can confidently say that enough (Finns & foreigners) have that passion.

    I should probably start wrapping this up.

    If we were to look past the clear racial, ethnic bias that Finnish system has towards foreigners and purely concentrate on the socioeconomic structure the society we live in, can we confidently say that people like you and me are doing enough to promote ambition and curiosity? I don’t think we are. And as much as I would want the Finnish government to strap on a pair, it isn’t logical to assume that bringing about such a fundamental change in the way people view their lives isn’t going to push the country into anarchy (may be too far fetched? Since Finns hardly ever protest).

    Anyway, for some of us this cold harsh land is home. Against all the odds it’s our obligation to ourselves to make our home a better place. So no I don’t think that ambitious foreigners should leave simply because it’s too hard. Or that we should stop being ambitious for that matter. For people who want to make a difference there are opportunities, they might not be what we are looking for but sometimes we have to take to on the responsibility to build the foundation before we can build a sky scraper.

    There’s no doubt that as a foreigner making a life here is hard – it’s damn near impossible, but like you wrote in your blog post, it is possible. It’s been done before and it can be done again. All we need to do is build critical mass. We can work together with each other and with our mild-mannered Finnish hosts and we can make it happen. But it certainly won’t happen if we pack up our bags and leave.

    People like you and me are a part of a global information work force. We can work anywhere there’s a demand for our skills. It’s our generation that can actually lower the value of holding on to outdated ideas of nationalism and protectionism. In order to achieve that goal, just as the generations before us, we have to do what is necessary not just what is the easiest. Talented young people like you should do what seems best for your career but I would say that your overly generalised arguments do seem a tad disrespectful towards the rest of us.

    Again, kudos to you for sharing your thoughts and starting a rather interesting discussion.

    1. 🙂 great sharing! Yea I’m well aware that this post is provocative– but if I don’t provoke, can it turn viral and start a discussion? 🙂

      Haha anyway I’m not having any housing allowances, never took anything from KELA and Nope: no disrespect is intended via the post.

      “However, the way you make your case makes it seems no more useful than a child arguing over the ownership of a toy that doesn’t belong to him in the first place. It’s just anger and frustration and lacks concrete thought.”

      When did I do this?

      “Talented young people like you should do what seems best for your career but I would say that your overly generalised arguments do seem a tad disrespectful towards the rest of us.”

      Really? Which arguments exactly did I overgeneralize? Why do people think that leaving suomi is a bad thing–if they can contribute to suomi too from abroad?

      Is staying in suomi the best option to raise finlands profile to contribute in a meaningful way?

      Okay how about this: the next time anyone argues, can you guys quote and pinpoint exactly where I said what and where you disagree with? Lol.

      This whole damn post is about SYSTEMS. a system which produces average capabilities, instead of a system that encourages meritocracy. I don’t get where the disrespect comes from. Please don’t put words in my mouth.

      Also I’m not against slacking. Slacking is a prerequisite to being productive; don’t you think?

      Again a “me” vs “rest of us” argument, really? Am I so different from you?

      Keep the discussion going, folks 🙂

    1. LOVE IT!

      I think one of the things I could have been clearer about in this post too, is the definition of “ambition”. I didn’t define it anywhere. But I would not define it as “$$$ + material”–I would define ambition as having a successful career on your terms. To me that successful career IS value-adding the people around you.

  38. Thank you all for sharing your views! It helps to know you are not alone in fighting this. I graduated last year, I did 57 credits in one semester and conducted a fieldwork to collect the data so cherishable that my professors told me themselves ‘you have done a job, which even the 90% of the faculty here can never do’ Grades are of the chart! Have been loking and applying for PhD since but no luck. Every time the list of selected candidates appear, I see only Finns and Finns. Of course, there proposal might be better than me, I told my self and moved to Helsinki to look for a odd job. I got an early morning delivery job as a post man. I started to work in the night and work on my publication in the day, writing which required some expenses. Forced, I started to work 7 days and continued doing that until after 6 months, I suffered a knee injury so svere it coukd not let me take a single step! You must be thinking, oh no problem, this person is insured by the company. Well, let me tell you the only treatment I received from the doctors were the pain killers and ‘use ice on it’! I did not get paid for my sick leave! The doctors told me to rest because you have over used your knee! Can I rest knowing that I cannot survive here?! Is the story Epic? I guess not yet, I went and talked to my my boss and she replied ‘oh, we cannot renew your contract’! Sad? There is a good news, I have finally published my article in collaboration with one of the highly prestidged Norwegian institues. However, I am still not sure if it would help! I have applied for q funded PhD position in the University I graduated from. The chances, however, are slim in my thinking. Do not know what am I going to do if I do not get it. Head back to my home country? It is good to know that The author has the returning option as viable! The place from where I come from, if I go back, who is going to provide for my family?! Partly forced to and partly I wish to, I am going to fight this fight until I breath! Quiting ain’t an option! However, I just hope I was healthy enough to be able to embrace the challenges ahead. To the aithor and commentators, I can only say; I hope you all get what you are striving for! This all from a fellow comrade, lol…

    1. Have a look at this, it will help you when you get sick the next time. http://www.kela.fi/web/en/amount_employees

      It’s just a matter of applying at Kela. If you continue to get paid while on sick leave, the Sickness Allowance is paid to your employer. If your wage is smaller than the allowance, the balance is paid to you. If you are not paid at all the SA will get paid completely to you. But there’s a three day grace period, which isn’t covered (so your employer won’t be reimbursed for the starter days or you won’t personally get SA). Basically it rules out everyday flus and other everyday aches, for which you might not bother to get a sick leave permission (so called A-todistus) from the doctor.


      1. Actually the grace period of Sickness Allowance is a bit more case-by-case:

        *the day you get sick + 9 next working weekdays.
        *the day you get sick, if your sickness is for the same diagnose than your previous SA grant within the last 30 days
        *the day you get sick + 3 next working weekdays if you are YEL-insured (entrepreneur)
        *the day you get sick + 3 next working weekdays if you are MYEL-insured (farmer)


      2. Thanks for sharing, Juha! Okay that’s really good to know. Hope it helps @another_victim.

        Aside to that, I hope the Singaporean media + government reads this part of the comment! We can learn from the Finns and do more to improve affordability of healthcare for the elderly and low-income groups in Singapore, for instance!

      3. Thank you for info, the post was getting long so I just kept this portion deliberately out. Getting to the point, it is not easy to get a Kela card! Nit for foreigners, the two main requirements are to have A permit (residency) and secondly permanent job contract. I have niether

    2. @another_victim: Thank you for sharing your experience! I feel you fully, even though I dont think I had ever been victimized in Finland.

      Btw do check out the link on HS– even talented finnish academics/researchers are thinking of leaving higher finnish institutions:


      So Id encourage you to explore your Nordic options too! Just like these finnish researchers/academics!!

      On a sidenote: I think some commentators and people hating foreigners with any forms of negative experiences in forums don’t even UNDERSTAND —

      1. What we go through as foreigners in a country love/once loved ;
      2. What this post is really about– about a system which creates mediociety as the norm, not exception. I’m not even talking about HUMANS!

      All those myopic commentators who can’t argue properly, or worse, think that they can when they can’t, have one thing in common–

      –They think that if you have a negative experience, you should just shut up and leave. Not say a bunch of things and leave.

      Let me just say this again: when you fight with someone you love, do you just silently get a divorce? No! You thrash it out and hope things get better!

      Having said that dear commentator, I feel your struggles and pain and I hope things get better for you!

      1. Thank you Wan Wei, very well put! I have been victmized by my boss, I think. I have heard it is not even legal to allow you to work for 7 days for almost six months. In my job, the doctors have deemed 2 days of minimum rest neccesary after each 6 days of work to avoid injuries. Like I said in my original post, I just began working and that is why I wanted to earn as much and work as hard and much as possible, My inexperience did not allow me to forsee the consequences but my Boss has been doing it for a long long time and she knew this would happen! Why did she not let me know? Ok no problem if she did not but why did they start asking they are going to fire me, is beyond reasoning. ‘It is like tossing a tissue paper after using it on the road to leave it to get crushed by some passing car’ (sorry for negativity but it is the truth)

  39. Great post Wan Wei! I think whatever society or culture or character we are, we should get rid of the “frog in the well” mentality. In Singapore or Finland, we are made to believe we live in the best country in the world but we need outsiders, foreigners to see things we don’t see and put us in our place. Accepting criticism and negativity is the first step to improvement. Not for the foreigners sake but for your own sake. I agree Finland is not great if you are ambitious and competitive person. As a Singaporean, I’m starting to hate our competitive attidude though and perhaps that’s why Finland may seem so attractive. Equal opportunities for all is a vision that I can get behind 🙂 whatever it is, everyone is entitled to their own opinions and wherever you stay, make it home!

  40. The tendency for risk aversion has historical background: just in 1915, one hundred years ago, the population was under 3 million, but most of them were farmers; farmhands, crofters, peasants, farm owners. Just to live through the winter, you had to do the farming and other tasks as you and your ancestors had always done, and by doing more of the same you might get a day of slack time. Investing in any new machinery was for the bold, getting a bit more potatos to sell for less effort would not likely cover the loan interest. Add a few wars, a shared dream where nobody is left hungry even if the summer night freezes their crop, and those 3 million teaching their offspring (and them passing that on to our parents) how anyone will end up hungry if they don’t stick to the norm.

    1. Hey thanks for sharing this piece of history! I’m not against risk aversion by the way. It’s the system which encourages mediocrity as a norm, not the exception–that’s what I’m saying 🙂

  41. It’s great that someone says these things. I know plenty of Finns who know it is like this and also want to push things on, but they know how it is here.

    ‘…generally-slack Finnish society.’ That’s a bit sweeping, but I know what you mean. People don’t often go the extra mile here, but that is down to many factors such as over education, not enough support for small businesses and entrepeneurs, low job opportunities, small population and lack of confidence among many other things.

    I remember Mia Istokova contacting me before she moved to Finland. It’s nice to hear she is doing something here, but sad to hear it’s not going how she wants it to. It’s difficult here to be freelance. There aren’t enough opportunities for sure, there isn’t enough support and in many ways it also comes down to the fact that there just aren’t that many people here. Helsinki is tiny. Finns think this is a big city. It’s nothing compared to London, Paris or Berlin. Then there are the really big cities around the world. There’s just no one here!

    I get frustrated also. I’m in a full-time job and thankful for it. I know it would be hard to go freelance here. If I did I’d go global on the internet, not offer my services just here – quite simply because there aren’t enough people or opportunities.

    I am totally with an open mind that I could leave here. My dream isn’t to have a summer cottage, a boat, my own sauna, car, etc. Yet, I gave a family and one thing Finland is good at supporting is families. I have issues with the daycare and late schooling, but the fact that it is very flexible here, the daycare is affordable (unlike London where it is around £1,000; here it’s more like 250€), work places and people are supportive and understanding and the government has been, until now, very supportive.

    Would I stay here if I didn’t have a family? Hell no. If you don’t have a family here and don’t really like it here then definitely go. There are much more interesting places full of more interesting people. If you have a family here or plan to then that is a different story. It’s much harder and less human in other parts of Europe and the world.


    1. Thank you for sharing your experiences!!

      Yea this post is meant to be provocative because I want people to pay attention! A non-provocative reflection to this post is here: https://thehieno.com/2015/10/11/the-non-provocative-reflection-on-finland-is-not-for-the-ambitious/

      Also, note that I don’t hate Finland, the truth is that I am ambivalent. I have close finnish friends, a mummi whom I adore, the finnish Bf and his family, etc. this post is about systems: finland has an excellent childcare, healthcare and primary education system.

      Yet on the flip side, it also has this “equality”, mediocrity thing which is terrible for economic growth and funding the very good systems that makes finland a good place to live in.

      Margaret Tatcher once said that there is nothing wrong with a welfare state, just that one day we will run out of spending other people’s money, didn’t she? I think we are witnessing this real-time of finland now.

  42. Great text, Wan! I mostly agree with you and would like to stress that this is one of the most important topics we can have a widespread discussion about.

    I think that a big part and source of ‘the equality problem’ is jealousy. We are a very jealous nation. Equality for us Finns means not only pulling people up to our level (of welfare, chance, education, you name it) but also dragging them down to our level. Now, we have a very comprehensive social security system. It takes care of helping the less fortunate, at least that is an easy everyday supposition to make and to live by. What’s left is ensuring that no one will have it better than the average. This is frighteningly apparent in things like public discussion about taxation, etc. A Finn wants everyone to have it as bad as he/she has it.

    The most important lesson we can learn from history is that progress has the power to lift the well-being of the society as a whole to another level. It may appear in the short term to widen the gap between the two ends of the spectrum but that is a distortion caused by focusing on the outliers, if I may borrow the language of statistics. Our biggest problem is that once we see a talented leader, entrepreneur, or whatever, reap the fruits of their labour and talent, we immediately want to bring them down to the average. We are mortally afraid of outliers.

    We want to do what we did yesterday. And so, we will again get what we got already yesterday.

    I sincerely hope that this discussion reaches from the youthful and dynamic depths of the internet to the rigid ivory towers of old men who, for some reason, have been given the power to decide.

    1. Hey Joonas, thank you for the insightful comment. Old people are sometimes tricky when they refuse to listen and accept that the modern world is ever changing!!!!

      Im intrigued by your point on jealosty, my boyfriend often tells me about jealous people randomly scratching nice cars, but I just couldn’t understand. My de facto thinking would be “Huh well you just need to work hard and buy one for yourself, no?”

      1. You must also remember that in most other countries, nice cars aren’t kept on the street side, but in guarded carparks. They are not accessible to those who could become jealous. In fact, as a Finn who has lived and worked in Europe, outside the highly achieving, English speaking expat community, where people tend to be likeminded, I must say this kind of jealousy exists everywhere, it is just much more visible in Finland. This is such a small nation, and the social policies have been markably egalitarian driven (taxation progression being a prime example, that an employee hits a 50 per cent income taxation before making six figures salary, in euros… making “working hard to buy a nice car” hard) since WWII.

        I have more to say about this later, but since I have to run, would conclude that while Finland wouldn’t be an ideal environment for a startup of a Global Scope, I fail to see outright xenophobia many have named in our system. For instance, even the Finnish quoted companies, not speaking of the public sector, mainly operate in domestic or regional market, where language skills outside English are a vital requirement. We are provincial, but so is all of Europe, outside big financial centres. This must be addressed, but as someone who was 18 the very year Finland joined The EU, I’ve seen the reality just 20 years ago, before Nokia, people now in their 20’s or even early 30’s would not recognise.

    2. @Tuikku That is a great point!

      I have this smart Finnish friend who once told me about a potential fear of Finns switching to English for operating language in countries–they fear the dilution of Finnish language and culture.

      I need to think more about your xenophobia point. =) Thanks for sharing your perspective!

  43. Well, i am just wondering what to say but i am so tired of people who have benefited from the system one way or another bashing it. Whether it is an observation or otherwise, i think it is only wise to respect the way things are done in a country that has been so nice to you. They say, ‘when you go to Rome, do like the Romans’. No country is perfect but i dare say that Finland is an example of an ideal country if not one.

    This past week, marked my 7th year since i arrived here and i have more positive things to talk about Finland than the negatives. I have had opportunities that my own country could not provide. I had the same feeling when i arrived here because i am an ambitious person, I felt disillusioned that i was not going to progress in my career, the way i had envisioned.

    The idea that one has to permanently remain in a country when they go for studies or for other reasons should not prevail. For me, when i came and saw the way things are and that there was not going to be any prospects for the progress, at least the way i had figured out, i decided to stay as i try to make my next move. I am still in that process. I know people who have moved on to other places or back to their country and are happy.

    My point here is, nations are not going to change for you. It is you who has to change. You do not have the underlying reasons as to why finns do things the way they do. And if you do not feel like changing, then, move on like many have done.

    I respect your sentiments and ‘feel you’ Wan Wei, but this is the way i feel.

    1. Yep! Precisely my point, I agree with you completely– You articulated my sentiments beautifully. Thank you for the comment! If you want a non-provocative reflection to this post, it’s here: https://thehieno.com/2015/10/11/the-non-provocative-reflection-on-finland-is-not-for-the-ambitious/

      The point on “When you are in Rome, do what the Romans do” is very true. But honestly, just read the 100+ previous comments– are the “Romans” themselves really happy? That aside, I would like to change myself too, if I can. 🙂

      1. Good for you, at least you got one precious thing….a new family but not an opportunity to showcase your entrepreneurial prowess, or how ambitious you are so it is not all lost.

        I’m not commenting for fun either, I’m a busy person too with loads of work to do but sometimes it is important to put in your 2cents even if they don’t make sense to some.

        And i do completely understand when Finnish people say they are not happy with the way things are in their country especially those who have had an influence of other cultures. But i also think, what Finland has, has taken them hundreds of years to build and i guess they are not ready to be broken by a streak of ungrateful foreigners. They have to jealously guard what they have acquired with a lot of hard work. Give it up for the Finns with a cup of Juhla Mokka or Presidentti.!

  44. Finns are hard working people you know (not the kill yourself just to live working type), what I mean is they do what’s expected from them to do nothing more nothing less because for most finns money is not all, they seek also balance in hobbies, friends and themselves, so for them TIME is as important as money… It might be something true on what you said but I have the feeling what Finnish corporations or society as a whole feel more incline towards it’s TRUST not patriotism, (I for once being an inmigrant myself would trust a Finn more blindly than I would do for any other (even my own fellow country men)), not because of fear but because of experience. Finns are more reserve talking about their salary and/or financial related stuff, foreigners (not all of course) on the other hand!!??
    Competition and progress it is not always good you know. Corruption plays another part on that matter, in this country even the word corruption is frown upon by most.
    Finns are different. They, you and I were just raised differently, grew up differently and have different outlook of life and that’s what most of us foreingner fail to understand.
    I, before coming to live here I knew beforehand what was Finland like… it is not a perfect country but I like it the way it is, for who am I to jeopardize what they have high regard for?

      1. Thanks for reading my post.
        I understand very well why some Finns are disgruntled about the way things are going and how it’s been handled.
        Then again, we are talking about a system that has been able to give balance, equality and provide its citizens of richness and wealth (not only monetarily) for decades which somehow has created a lifestyle that many locals or foreigners alike now fully enjoy, I don’t mean by that that the system has been perfect but it is the one that has worked till now.
        What I think it is FEAR not unhappiness what Finns want to express, fear of a uncertain future, fear of something that last generations have never experienced before (high unemployment, immigration, economic crisis, etc). They don’t simply know how to deal with it!
        There is also a phenomenon happening not only in Finland but in other wealthy European countries as well, countries where patriotism is on the rise “buy locally, support local bussiness/farmers/products, jobs for locals”. The kind of patriotism that refers back to this whole thread where lenguage, culture, history make it hard to succeed in a country like Finland which itself differs from others where TRUST is also part of the heritage; I remember a Finnish couple I met long before coming to Finland who told me: “once you win a Finn’s trust they will trust you forever”.
        It’s not imposible to us foreigners to succeed we only have to try twice or sometimes trice as harder. Just do it good, be honest, learn the lenguage, work hard and with sisu and then you’ll reap the fruits of your commitment and then Finns will appreciate it.

        1. Hey J Paco Legnar,

          How do you then suggest people in Finland (all residents, Finns/non-Finns) deal with this challenge of “fear”?

          agree with the mentality of most finns that ““once you win a Finn’s trust they will trust you forever”. 🙂 I like to go to the K-supermarket near my house and a Finnish uncle likes to tell me this everytime he sees me. haha.

  45. I think most Finns are not so patriotic. Many foreigner students come here for “free” studies and then they want to stay here to get work. Unfortunately they can not get work, because they don’t speak Finnish enough well. This is a small country and most companies requires that you speak Finnish, even though most young Finnish people can speak English. Only IT companies can give work for English speakers.

    It would be good if government would make English official language, but unfortunately it is not going to happen soon. So many talents goes away.

    1. Hello muumi. Yea, it’s sad. 🙁 But i’m thinking, if these talents can contribute back to Finland from their home countries, it will be a great idea too! ^^

      1. Practical solution? That is simple: increase export and economic turnover. Any ideas? Finland’s economy needs to make more money in order to finance the social welfare system. The government only knows one direction: cut down and save money. But that’s not a solution. How could all these ambitious personalities here on this blog do something FOR the economy? That would be something…

          1. The currency of the new age is information. With higher quality informed discussion, more people can be empowered into change. 🙂 Furthermore, we always don’t know what we don’t know, and this might potentially be fatal in the information age–but can be overcome by talking to random people, not necessarily on this blog, but on reddit, facebook forums and elsewhere. If the goal is the same, i.e. to think about how one can make Finland a better place, I think there would be tangible benefits to discussions.

            For example, people (especially silent readers) can go through the comments with an open mind, and consider another possibility of a better Finland–one that is economically powerful AND still takes good care of its citizens. I went through most comments, gave serious thought to some, and learnt too.

            This learning is powerful economically. Why? Because it is the first step to thinking in a different way. 🙂 And I think the will for unified economic + political change starts with vision. After that, we can talk about exactly HOW to execute things.

            I think all in all, an open mind and the right intention is essential. If the intention is sincerely to make Suomi a better place for all–in both securing funding + high quality oublic service, then listening to perspectives will result in significant economic progress.

            This posting after all, is never about me–it’s all about Finland. Good intention is key!

  46. Hi, you have many good points and some not so good. But I will point out the one little historical detail that you got wrong – since that’s facts. The other issues might be more philosophical and cannot be labeled as wrong nor right. Finland has never been under Sweden. Finland and Sweden was one great nation (eastern kingdom and western kingdom) – so there is no reason to why Finns shouldn’t trust the Swedes…and I like to think we do.

    1. Hey Familja, okay! Noted with thanks! Id make the changes.

      Which points are not so good? And just curious–what is your opinion on the relationship between Finns and Russians?

    2. Familja! Can’t see the extreme tension most of Finns have toward Swedes? Seriously? No Swedes believe any association or similarity between Finland and Sweden! They simply ignore Finland. But, this is only Finns who are jealous of Sweden, hate Sweden, but at a same time pretend to have so many similarity to Sweden!

      1. Finland has been under the Swedish kingdom, just like Russian (how does it become one great kingdom under one empire and slaves of another?) Or maybe one can put it some other way. There is lots of jealousy and stereotyping of Sweden, especially mocking at multiculturalism and humanitarianism. However, Finland is first to copy Sweden almost anything innovative. Finland has some unique things but wastes most energy in hate and childish comparisons.

      2. I really can’t see it. We like to joke about Swedes in a rather nasty way and there’s some tension in ice hockey games, but besides that, no-one really seriously hates Swedes. Finland and Sweden are very similar and many of the political decisions are strongly inspired by the Swedish system. There’s jealousy, I give you that.

      3. “but at a same time pretend to have so many similarity to Sweden!”

        I take it you haven’t visited Kokkola-Pietarsaari (eller Karleby-Jakobstad) region.

  47. Great to read such an honest text. Finns, such as myself, love reading about Finland and the fact that the text is just a tad pessimistic makes it even better for the average Finn!

    Jokes aside, it’s nice to see that exchange students find their way to Finland and find things to comment on, even the less nicer ones.

    I would like to ask you if you think that the general distrust rooted in Finnish mentality against foreigners in Finland (something we can all agree on atleast to a certain degree) is a big reason that we don’t get many white-collar foreigners to work here? Or do you think it’s possible to differentiate between the opinions regarding expats and say refugees? I get the feeling that in your text you are primarily referring to expats (ambitious and educated) and I wonder if you think that a drunkard in Lahti has a significant effect on their presence in Finland as well?
    Personally, I do believe that a bigger reason behind this is the lack of large companies in Finland; the type of firms that usually attract expats. Look for example at Australia that has very strict immigration and refugee laws but still manages to attract quite a bit of expats.

    The reasons behind this lack of companies is of course an entirely different matter. You did brush on some of the major causes but I’d like to point out if I may something I don’t think you mentioned in your text, but that has in my opinion a great effect on the Finnish work forcely. Namely, alcohol. Sure, it’s also the butt of all jokes about Finland and the Finns, but the sober truth (pun intended) is that it affects nearly all aspects of Finnish society (health care, crime and the majority of people marginalized). This is a trend more common in Eastern Europe than Western Europe it should be added.

    Anyway, great text. You seem like a very bright person and it gladdens me that you’ve made som ties between Finland and Singapore during your stay.


    1. Thank you for your comment OR. Hmm actually I don’t find this post pessimistic at all…Finland is a great country with super smart and strong people. My intention is also to encourage more younger Finns to be able to put themselves on the line more, so as to assert their opinions in an intellectual and constructive way.

      We all want a better Finland–and I believe the younger generation of Finns are ready to articulate their views in English confidently. Just look at the comments to this post! 🙂

      I think one method to “change” the existing structure is to act with a great sense of vision. A Finnish asset is the knowledge of vision–the ability to see things beyond yourself, the ability to contribute greatly to the world, the ability to think on behalf of other people, to create empathy. In fact, so far my unpleasant experiences with Finland has only to do with narcissistic jerks. My encounter with most Finns have been positive, though I feel agnst whenever I see a smart friend not pushing himself/herself more, because I see his/her fuller potential. But honestly, even that sort of “pushing boundaries” thinking on my part might not be ideal HAHA because I don’t have a healthy sense of work-life balance all the time. 🙂 But the idea is to be able to have an opinion, defend the opinion, live with haters and execute big things that are beneficial to the world.

      To everyone reading this post, I want to encourage you guys to think and execute ideas boldly about how to make the world a better place. Don’t just sit on your idea, be brave, put yourself on the line, and execute it. This is what I mean by ambition: Let’s break out of our comfort zone with all the smartness and education we have from Finland and do big things that benefit the world, not nonsense that benefit only the capitalists. This IS the Finnish strength and I hope more Finns find the courage to do it!

      Hmm I think the Finnish media can consider distinguishing 1. refugees, 2. multiculturalism, 3. expats, 4. immigrants altogether, for a clearer public discourse. And yes in the context of this post I’m talking mostly about expats.

      To the seemingly deep set of mistrust–> On the contrary, I think most Finns tend to be very curious and kind people! To attract more white collar we need better Public Relations + Communications. The challenge is that perhaps, Finns are sometimes reluctant of putting themselves on the line to make themselves and be more articulate about their cultures–when someone is unhappy about a situation, they just keep quiet and accept: Passive aggression maybe? Perhaps more white collar workers can come to Finland once Finns get used to the idea of marketing Finland a bit more aggressively. Public Relations comes into play!!

      One of the reason why I blogged such a provocative post too, and try to reply to as many comments as possible, is also because I want to encourage public discussion. The best sort of opinions come when a reader can clearly say, “A, B, C is what I agree with; E, F, G is what I disagree with; and I’d like to hear your views on X, Y, Z.”…

      …not quietly sulk into one corner and write “what a naive post” in Finnish, with zero justification, as I’d seen on some of the FB comments. hahahaha, thank God 95% of the comments are positive though.

      And nope, I’m not an exchange student, I’m on a 2 year masters programme at Aalto. Been dating a Finnish guy for 4.5 years already…Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate the Finnish culture,

      …and wow the alcohol point is interesting indeed! I’d think about it. Unsure if it has any economic effects.

      1. Thanks for a quick and extensive reply.
        Maybe pessimistic was a poor choice of words on my part – maybe pointed is more to the point haha.

        I’ve had some personal experience from working in Hong Kong which might be comparable to Singapore at least in the sense of work ethics. And I can safely say that the differences to Finland and most European countries in general are quite staggering. People work very long hours and whilst many are ambitious and this ambition is the driving force for their work, working long hours did not apply to only white-collar workers. The culture in Hong Kong at least sets a great deal of importance and pride in work. Pride in what you do is unfortunately becoming quite rare in Finland and people expect to have a high income more or less naturally. Finland also has a quite strainous relationship between employers and employees in Finland, something which became sadly clear after the austerity measure demonstrations a month back. You might have noticed these?

        But in the end, Finland is a tiny country and this has of course it’s good and bad sides. A good side is that it doesn’t take that long for measures to come into effect: if we could find a new strong industry and a couple more companies such as Kone, investors would probably return quickly. Sadly, the fall of Nokia has had an inverse effect on things and there haven’t been any major listings on neither of the stock exchanges in Finland – a troublesome sign.

        Oh yeah the alchol plays a quite fascinating part in itself: it may sound crazy but I would argue it definitely affects also the economy. Death by alcohol related disease is 9x as high for long term unemployed (https://www.thl.fi/fi/web/hyvinvointi-ja-terveyserot/eriarvoisuus/hyvinvointi/tyollisyys). Also alcoholism counts for a fair share of people on disability pension as well, people who you won’t see in the unemployed statistics. But you’re right that other kinds of structural changes should be made as well and we can’t blame our love for Koskenkorva for everything.


    2. Hello OR!

      Hmm I think you might have a point with the alcohol problem. Thanks for sharing the link!

      I agree that there are good and bad sides to Finland. In the immediate term, the obvious downside is a lack of jobs in the job market for everyone. I’m curious about one thing though: what are your views on the fall of Nokia–what do you think caused it?

      Oh yes, I don’t want to come across as that I don’t care about the older generation in Finland–They are the ones who laid the foundation of this nation and we should appreciate their good works. Finland’s society is very well structured, and I think the younger generation here should be capable enough to come up with an idea on how to progress as One Finland.

      Personally I’m also intrigued with the idea of how to create a functioning society that is people-centric (like Finland does well), but do not ultimately run out of $$$ to fund the good structures. Because this balance is what Singapore can do well by learning from, too.

      BTW, are you only 17????!?!?!?!

  48. Thanks for a post which sums up allot of what I’ve felt along the road here. Mostly correlates with my experiences. I moved here after 4 years of South Korea. I was devastated by the nonchalant attitude and ignorance. However after grinding for 15 years, I’m beginning to understand that talking will get nothing in this country except someone claiming your idea for their own. Also the disappointment comes from not getting a tap on the back or a ‘good job’ when you do something excellent. That’s the hardest part. To keep doing awesome stuff and not caring about the bullshit. It’s not worth your time.

    1. Hello Sumuli, thank you for your comment.

      I’m truly sorry to hear about your experiences! 🙁 Do you think it is a intercultural communication issue? I was reflecting about my own experiences, and I think cultural differences might be one of the reasons why I need to change my style when talking to the locals.

      Also, I’m curious about the “someone claiming your idea for their own” part. 🙁 That’s just terrible.

  49. I’m a Finish person who you might consider a high achiever. I’m working in finance in London after I graduated from Imperial College.

    You say that finish people are lazy and the whole nation is going bankrupt because of this.
    Have you actually looked at statistics on how Finland is for example doing in terms of GDP per capita terms? Finland is ranked top20 in IMF, world bank and UN reports on the issue. Leading nations such as UK and Germany. Also when you look into debt statistics in the eurozone the public debt of Finland is again lower than pretty much any eurozone country.

    Sure Finland is currently in a quite a bad economic situation at the moment. However perhaps it’s not laziness, but a combination of a failed monetary experiment in the EU, EU sanctions against one of it’s biggest trading partners Russia and the absolute collapse of what used to be one of the 10 biggest companies in the world when compared by market capitalisation.

    Sure job opportunities in big metropolises around the world are better than in Helsinki. Are prospects better in other cities of similar size, e.g. in Canada? It’s common for high achievers from all small places to end up in such “world capitals” as you mention.

    However you really have to be at the top of your game to be able to say that London for example offers you more. Only a select few get to work at the best companies in the world such as Google, Goldman Sachs or Apple. Mainly people who have graduated from Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, LSE or UCL.

    The rest get to work at no name companies, companies with a starting salary of 27k pounds per year, getting to have no more prestigious things in work than what you would have in Finland. 6k of your salary in London is gone after taxes and National Insurance. Another 10k will be gone after you’ve paid your rent in a what by finish standards is a pretty crappy bedroom in a shared apartment. Most of your remaining money will go into things such as food and transportation.

    Are you perhaps studying something that is not respected in Finland? The respected things to study are medicine, law or engineering. These people don’t have problems finding jobs or advancing if they are ambitious. The more you go towards humanistic soft subject the worse your career prospects become. This isn’t just a thing for foreigners, but for finish people as well.

    1. Hi Tommi! Thank you for your comment! First thing first, this post is about the finnish SYSTEM, not the Finnish PEOPLE. For Finns to reach excellence + be ambitious, I believe they have to go overseas (out of the system), have a cosmopolitan worldview (like yourself) and THEN they can be non-mediocre.

      1. “You say that finish people are lazy and the whole nation is going bankrupt because of this.”

      Exactly where did I say this? Curious how you got that impression. I think I clearly meant fiscal debt/ unhealthy fiscal deficit, not a nation bankrupted. Funding public services on heavy fiscal borrowing, especially for the long term unemployed + people out of the workforce because they are not looking for a job (“discouraged workers”) may not be the most prudent idea. Taking fiscal debt to fund mothers who took time off work/ quit their jobs to take care of their children is OK however, and taking debt to invest in education is a great idea too.

      I think Finland will never go bankrupt, BUT there might be a lack of growth in the medium term, due to the fiscal deficit positioning.

      I am pushing the point however, that the current system might be pushing Finns into mediocrity. Also, “being slack” does not equate “being lazy”, and being slack is not necessarily negative, even for economic growth.

      2. Also, I do not define ambition narrowly in terms of $$$. I’m challenging the mentality of not just doing what is required/ do what is minimal as dictated by the job scope. I’m saying that with the skills, talent, will to contribute to the larger good of the world, Finns can be more ambitious in putting themselves on the line and being influential to the outside world.

  50. After I have been living for 15 years in Both Finland and Sweden, I can say that I agree with you. However, I have to say that you are not offering any strong argument to provide support for your statements. Your article can be understood only by people who know the context.

    I believe you should point out
    – how high is the tax pressure on the middle class
    – how high is the taxation for entrepreneurs. If you employee yourself you get about 35% of the gross amount.
    – The ridicolously high cost for hiring employees
    – The tax system that levels everybody down to the middle. Earning well is seen as something to punish, not the result of hard work. You see that when you compare the lifestyle of a bus driver versus an engineer (or different combinations). Pretty much everybody ends up driving an average car, lives in a pretty small flat with Ikea furniture, cannot enjoy to eat reasonably often in restaurants.

    I am not saying that there should not be equality and fairness in a society. It is a big achievement and a merit for a society to make sure that eveybody can live in a decent apartment and can grow a family in decent conditions. However, an educated hard working person should be allowed to achieve more than that, without contributing to the State expenses so much more than he receives from it.

    Remember also that high taxes are not for the rich. Rich people can pay accountants to fix their tax bills, can reduce them by using corporations and tax arrangements, can move the business abroad or live abroad.

    Taxes are paid by the vast majority of people, the middle class.

    If you would elaborate more on these arguments, you would receive less angry comments, I think. It is more difficult to contradict hard facts.

  51. Evening Wan Wei,

    First of all, it’s good to see passion and incendiary debate about a country I have lived in for a over a decade and love dearly.

    It makes me sad however to see so much vitriol aimed specifically at one country and people with such little informed perspective.

    Do you believe that if you were about to graduate in say London, New York, Singapore or Delhi you would be at this point ready to bring about sweeping social reform?

    Is it not possible that in other countries there is also a misguided belief that the long term unemployed or migrants are more costly than high-end tax evasion or capital emigration?

    I admire your eloquence but your blog only reminds me of myself and other students struggling to find a foothold in the world and I can tell you… When you leave Finland it will be exactly the same where ever you go. If you have ambition and drive you will make it in Finland… But it won’t be easy.

    Finland is a land not for the faint-hearted, the silver-tongued nor the impatient if you want to achieve here you gotta work at it every day.

    Time-wasters need not apply.

  52. Hello Wan, Your post is really fabulous in a way that you said the bitter truth without offending someone belonging to Finland. I myself spent a long time in Finland about 3 years. I came there to did my Master’s degree. Finland is an exceptionally beautiful country. The colours of spring, lakes, summers, fairy white nights of winters I miss them a lot. I would have loved to Finland forever, and I tried briefly, but then I soon realised that living in Finland forever for a foreign born person with very high qualification is rather impossible.

    Finland is a paradise for all those foreigners who want to work in cleaning, newspaper deliveries or food sector business where you are paid below minimum wages. If you are happy with these professions and if you want peace and serenity, then Finland is a best place to live.

    Otherwise, if you really want to excel in professional life + have a social life + make friends then leave Finland immediately as soon as you graduate. I rarely saw any of my collegues/students getting a professional job. Finns are good and honest people, but still racism is rampant in the society. Though its not visible but its everywhere. Its not spoken verbally, but you are made it felt that you are an alien, you look different and you have different skin colour. Helsinki is multicultural, but try living in any other part of Finland. I would not blame the Finns about their nature, because its just their nature or culture, that they wouldn’t trust someone. No eye contact, no social interaction, no social greetings of Hi or bye, no smile. All these things are considered rude in every part of the world except Finland.

    Just forget the racism in professional job, even odd-jobs have racists Finnish bosses. I can give just one small example. Once I burned my hand while working as a cleaner, because gloves my cleaning company provided me to do dishwashing were leaking (By then I was graduated with distinction with Master degree). I told my boss about it, and rather than giving me comfort, she started questioning me which cleaning liquid cause this burning, then she said come to office, and show her my burned hands which was terribly painful. I barely went there with hurting hand and then she went with me to the supermarket where I was working. I had to tell her the cleaning liquid that burned my hand. It was clearly evident that she did not trust me. Since I was on a sick leave and it was written on the sick leave paper that I cannot be called for any office work but still she said I should come to her office and do nothing just sit around. I said why? I know my rights and that thing is written on my sick leave paper that I cannot be called. She said I dont trust you, you could be working somewhere else. or watching movie at your home. Just imagine, would she say that to any Finnish person who burned his hand? Ultimately within 1 week after that incident she fired me and hired another person.

    I see no opportunity in Finland. Even the jobs which required no English skills, never ever I got a response. Once I applied in a very good company and then I called the manager who was recruiting, He received the call, and he had very thick Finnish accent. I said Hi , as soon as I started talking , he said, I am looking for a Finnish person for this job and then without apologizing or whatsoever he hung up. That’s only one small example. But I met with some amazing Finns also. Now I am in New Zealand and its so great !

  53. Hello,

    What I understand from this article is that, Finland is not a country for the persons who want to settle there or want to do a job but what would you suggest me If I want to go to Finland for my PhD in University of Turku or UEF? Is it a good opportunity from research point of view? Can you share some experiences related to this?

  54. Love your post. I’ll probably pay attention to Finnish culture regarding ambitiousness and foreigners more in the future. While some of what you say feels completely foreign (excuse the pun), it does tug at a few strings as well.
    I’m a Finn through and through, I love the country, the nature, the people (though they do have their downsides too), etc. But I’ve also lived abroad for a few years and often get told that I’m not the stereotypical Finn – a generalisation obviously but something that at a time I took pride in.
    I’ve come to think though, that the stereotype they’re referring to is probably more adequate when applied to previous generations, not the younger, new, ‘leaner’ generations.
    I like to think (I do say like, not that it’s necessarily the truth) that currently Finland is a lot more open and welcoming to foreigners, the people more sociable and such though it might not be the truth.
    I guess living in a bubble of like-minded people – kind, welcoming, considerate and thoughtful – has immersed me in a bubble and blinded me from those who are not any or somewhat to what I described above. I guess having been an expat, associating oneself with others alike and current expats in FInland turns you blind to what the society-at-large is really like.

    What makes this doubly interesting to me is that lately, I’ve been playing with the thought of entrepreneurship and come to the conclusion that I am not up for it due to lack of ambition, something I’ve seen in a lot of people I’ve been in contact with over the past couple of years. But maybe that is just because in the gaming startup scene, people just dream big with no guarantees of actual success? Now I’m starting to think whether I’ve been unduely harsh on myself for lacking something that those people have.
    I’m surely going to be looking at things from a different perspective now, thank you for that.

    1. Hello Omnilion! 🙂

      Thank you for the kind words! I love Finland, Finnish nature and Kimi Räikkönen; Wrote a fangirl rave on all three on Helsinki Times before.

      You know, I think this Finnish “system” only applies when people are staying in Finland. Like feeling judged by others. So I think for yourself, you DO have the advantage of living abroad for a few years. Therefore you have been exposed to other worldviews, perspectives and ideologies too. 🙂 This is awesome!

      BTW, I’d love to connect you with two Singaporean professionals in the gaming industry, since you mentioned that you’re interested in the industry. I’d assume that your contacts are so far mainly Finns. The Two Singaporeans–One has a successful gaming company while the other has crazy views on gaming and life. I suspect their perspectives will be different from yours–and that can be only good for brainstorming. I’d link all three of you up on facebook later if you don’t mind, hope this value-adds you! 🙂

  55. First I would like to say you have in my opinion flattened the term ambitious to suit your own idea of what it means to strive for greatness. Since the 1970s people have mostly traded their time for things that they don’t need making themselves dependent on stuff and status while forgetting to wake up and grow towards goals that will support a happy life even without huge financial success or neighbors that envy your job or prestige. A person can be ambitious and strive for maximized well-being by working 100 days a year, 6 hours a day. It is a personal choice. An ambitious person can be a guy cleaning up streets and aiming to actually care and nurture the personal relationships that he or she has in his life. This being said, I do think Finns generally are insecure and lack the courage to tell people what they’re good at and what they’re not. I’ve also noticed a great progress in this regard and even the primary education system has revised their designs to support people to become more confident in the future. Change just takes time to settle in.

    Your point that Finns are patriotic is also one that will change as generations and progress sweeps the world. A small, northern nation which still remembers war and famine and have little experience with foreigners are bound to be patriotic and rasist until the world catches up and they are no more. You also empathize with Finns with alarming inaccuracy. You speak of us being alarmed by foreigners taking our jobs and competing with us – this is not the Finland I know so I must conclude we both have our own subjective experiences that we use as a source of information. Provocative but rather pointless. Please do excuse my sharpness but if you write a provocative post you should be expecting the same in return.

    You seem to idealize working hard and feel that it isn’t appreciated in Finland. You may be right. The huge advantage of drinking coffee(Juhla Mokka is shit, try Löfberg’s) and enjoying the view is that you might have time to think, breathe and understand that in 50 or 60 years the society we know will be no more. There will be no work for 240 days a year and 8 hours a day. Our productivity is already amazing and it will exponentially increase over the years. What would you have if GDP per capita grew in a linear fashion like some people seem to think is optimal? Now people have two cars, a house and a summer cabin. Will you in 60 years own six cars, three houses and three summer cabins? When you add this to the equation that supermarkets are already made smaller, people’s ideals about consumerism are changing and some young people don’t even want to own a car, I am forced to think that “putting yourself on the line” is secondary to actually having people who have the capacity to think and design systems that secure a quality life with a minimal income. I do hope that you succeed in Singapore and finally get to execute your tons of stuff. In Finland starting a company takes about an hour online and costs 330 euros. You have to put in a minimum of 2 500 euros of capital but that’s your money that you can spend how you wish. So you could have probably executed at least one company instead of blogging.

    Yours sincerely,
    Olli Montonen
    A native, lazy Finn

  56. Usually foreigners who do not make friends, or end a relationship decide to leave. It is brutal to not have friends here as people dont have a greeting culture and so on.

    Especially if you have no intention of learning finnish fluently you may feel quite isolated. We are a finnish speaking country, not english speaking.

    I am not sure exactly what you were studying, but we do have a lot of ambitious people, too, it just varies between the place and field. In our physics department in Helsinki we have lots of people working 12hours+ a day.

    But good luck with your life.
    Hope you will find what you seek for


    1. Haha, thank you for your kind comment, Esa Pekka. 🙂 I do speak conversational Finnish.

      I think for my case I do have friends and I’m not ending my relationship though! But again, I could be the exception. Just like how the hardworking people at the department of physics are exceptions.

      Hope Helsinki University isn’t too affected by the funding cuts.

  57. Same sh.t here in Belgium. A society dominated by mediocrity, with no desire for professional self-improvement. Hard-workers being punished with higher taxes reaching 55%. As a result nobody wants to work more because salaries after taxation are almost the same for most professions.
    Graduates from high school or college get special benefits amounting more than 1000 euro/month until they get their first job. Guess if they are in a hurry to start working 🙂

    Local companies would never recruit a foreigner if they have a Belgian candidate for the job. And people who don’t speak the local language are often neglected or even treated as retards.

    1. 🙁 looks like it’s really a “system challenge” across most European countries, and that Asia + America are where the growing markets are…

      Thanks for sharing, Stefana 💕

  58. Hi,
    as a Finn who has been an expat in the UK for nearly 15 years (with no plans to ever move back permanently), I really enjoyed your piece. The lack of ambition is even there in Finland’s much lauded school system which is all about raising the lowest level of attainment but not encouraging pupils to really shine. As a result you get higher-than-average marks in PISA etc which obviously has many valuable societal implications in terms of eradicating abject failure. But it doesn’t enable/encourage anyone to shine! I was shocked when I came to a British Uni after 2 years academic’ study in Finland and discovered that even the ‘cool’ kids chase that 1st class honours degree. I mean in Finland it was such a social embarrasment to do well at anything. Yet, there was simultaneously a weird expectation that you *will* do well enough, just don’t be happy/proud/inspired while you achieve it. Not sure where this is going. Just very happy to be bringing my own kids up in an environment where having an inquisitive mind and wanting to show your best is an asset, not an embarrasment. Great blog, keep writing x

    1. Hello Anna!

      YES!!! Couldn’t agree more!! Thanks for sharing!

      I have this finnish friend. He’s super good looking, but really terrible at giving presentations. Then I got really curious and wondered why, because I feel that in Singapore and Japan, If one is THAT good looking, he could get away with ANYTHING he says! Plus he actually isn’t talking nonsense and has good English and a great smile!

      So I thought, could he be thinking that good looks is an unfair advantage he has as well? Because in finland it’s all about being fair and you are not supposed to be so shiny! Hahaha!

      Such a weird argument!

      The primary education here is really good though. I couldn’t agree more.

  59. Hi Wan Wei, I would like to comment about the requirements for foreigners to take English proficiency test. I’m from Asia too. After I read your article about the ALL Asians for English test but exemption for EU folks, I was so angry, I argued with my Finnish boyfriend, for how unfair that Asian being treated in a country with a slogan of “equality”. So I looked up for some informations for postgraduate study here. For example, I assumed US has pretty good relationship with Singapore but when I looked for the English requirements for Harvard university, here (https://college.harvard.edu/admissions/application-process/international-applicants) stated that “A strong knowledge of English is essential for successful study at Harvard, including the ability to understand and express thoughts quickly and clearly. Although you are not required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or other proficiency exams, you may submit your scores if you have done so.”, so I feel there is some hidden requirements that you will only know if you apply the study. For MIT: “All applicants whose first language is not English, not further examples given and MIT prefer IELTS rather than TOEFL score! However, in the University of Washington, “International students whose primary and secondary education took place in Australia, Canada (English-speaking provinces), Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, or the U.S. are exempt from this requirement. Students born in one of these countries yet educated elsewhere are still required to satisfy the English proficiency requirement.” I think this is very fair requirement for “English proficiency” instead of my “citizenship”. And I found an interesting thing, In Cornell University (http://gradschool.cornell.edu/admissions/english-language-proficiency-requirement), “Applicants who are citizens of India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, or Singapore, are not exempt from the requirement.”

    For UK, used to colonise Singapore, what do they think about the English Proficiency of general Singaporeans. For example, in Cambridge University (http://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/international-students/competence-english/will-i-have-language-requirement), I input Singapore as nationality, Singapore as the country of your most recent course of study, it came out that “You are required to be assessed by the University Language Centre, or you may provide a valid language test”.

    On the other hand, the University of Melbourne gives exemption for citizens of Singapore and some other English speaking countries, who have completed undergraduate studies in English and have subsequently worked in an English speaking country (https://futurestudents.unimelb.edu.au/admissions/entry-requirements/language-requirements)

    To sum up, Australia has geographical advantage for being nearby Singapore if compared to Finland, so this might be the reason they can waive the English requirements for Singaporeans like The University of Melbourne as they know what is going on inside Singapore more deeply if compared to Finland. Some Americans (University of Washington) think more deeper, even you are born in English speaking country like U.S., it doesn’t make your English good, it’s the education you receive that count. So the statements about Aalto for making you to take the English test is unfair. But I agreed with the point of making EU folks special in pursuing education is wrong. EU is politics, English requirement is education. Many Europeans don’t speak good English but pro-caucasian statement you mentioned is a bit racist to me which I don’t think that’s the true purpose for Finnish system, I think they are just didn’t have a good guideline for politics and education. Cheers!

    1. Hello Jade! Thank you for your comment. Well two wrongs don’t make a right! Plus, I’d argue that US universities already do speak the native English…so…

      1. Hi Wanwei, I agreed with the point of meritocracy, perhaps Aalto and other universities in Finland should constantly review the admission requirements.

        I agreed with you about the point of the tendency view of “Asia” as one entity based on my experience with Finns and I, personally feel, Finns give exception for Japan from being apart of the “Asia as One Entity”, because they have better feelings towards Japan among other countries in Asia. Please try to discuss with Finns something which is common in Asia or East Asia, perhaps Finns will tell you “well, it is different if it is Japan” (Japan thing is my very personal opinion, many people might not agree). “Good things must be from Japan, bad things must be from China, South East Asia is a region full of 3rd world countries” <— again, my personal experience. Another personal experience from me is my family or friend(s) see ALL Caucasians are same, the cultures, people, habits, ways of thinking are same which I'm sure all of the Europeans will disagree with it. In fact, Toyota’s unintended-acceleration crisis (bad Japanese car example), good Huawei wifi router (good Chinese product) and Singapore as a developed country in South East Asia region. What I tried to say is discrimination is common for all if we have zero or little knowledge about certain thing, human tends to make bias judgment like my family sees all white people are same, white people see all Asians are same. We lack of knowledge about the other side of the world and make us unable to detect the differences one another. This happens not only in Finland but other countries as well, so try not to so harsh on Finland/Finns 🙂

      2. Hi Wan Wei, I don’t know if this problem only exists in Aalto. I study in Haaga-Helia UAS in a english language programme and there all students were required to take take an english language test, even the Finnish students and/or people who did their high school here.

        1. Hello dear!

          YES! Precisely, that should be the way! They should make everyone take the English test!! 😀 Not exclude by nations, because the implicit assumption would then be “some nations cannot speak English, in spite of the FACT that some of the Asian/African nations have English as first language”!

  60. I agree with several of your observations, however you’re looking at it from the Asian viewpoint where success in professional life overshadows everything else. I personally fail to see the point in it if “ambition” means working so much that you don’t have any spare time during which to enjoy the fruits of your labour.

      1. Also, since you seem to be disguising this as a matter of how to bring about a “better” society, do you realise that no demographic model is possibly able to sustain a fertility rate of 1.3 found in the most-workaholic countries like Japan and Singapore, where young people simply do not have time (or even will) to start families? What’s going to happen to such a country in the future in your opinion?

        1. “disguising”? lol nope, i’m OPENLY saying that we should all have open discourse about a “better society”. Why do you think I’m replying to all comments in English and SEOing this blog?

          TO answer your question: –population is a huge challenge in Singapore too!

          And this is why Singapore, for instance, is reworking its population policy. We are slowing down our import of foreign talent, encouraging more free time in our workplaces, and restructuring our education policy to focus less on grades and more on skills. (feel free to google “skillsfuture”).

          Singapore would be fine for the next 50 years. The question is only to what extent it can live up to its “full potential”. 🙂

  61. I clicked on the link to this article expecting a juicy article full of foreigner-angst trashing the Finnish system but was pleasantly surprised to meet with a logical blow-by-blow of how the writer came to her own personal revelation of what she wants, and where she hopes to go in life. This was quickly followed by amusement while looking through the comments, that turned into bewilderment, anger, disgust, and wry acceptance in quick succession. The comments on this post can be largely categorised into three broad bands on a spectrum:
    1. People who really disagree
    2. People who disagree and barely maintain a facade of civility
    3. People who agree

    Now, before we start looking at the breakdown, we must keep in mind that in this day and age, even though the Internet is a veritable cesspit of keyboard warriors, it still takes a lot of emotion and thereafter, motivation, to galvanize the everyday person to comment on any sort of post that isn’t on FaceBook and requires the reading of anything extending beyond a short sentence. The people who have written in to comment are not the majority of the people. We are a very visible misrepresentation of the general populace. When we write, it is with intent and purpose. So what do all three factions I mentioned earlier have in mind?

    1. People who really disagree: for every nation, every law, there will be people who choose to subscribe, or rebel against traditions or culture. It’s beneficial for identity-building purposes, but it’s also dangerous. Why? Everything is not okay because ‘its always been like that’ or ‘it has always worked’. This group of people more likely than not, treasures what they have (which really isn’t a bad thing), and hope to preserve the status quo. They’ve experienced the benefits of ‘being lazy’ and would prefer to term it as ‘having a good work-life balance’. As what any researcher, or at least well-read person worth their salt should know, statistics isn’t what you should just swallow, hook line and sinker. It’s the presentation of the numbers that matters. Using stats or studies to back yourself up in a debate regarding perception doesn’t make sense. The writer is writing about her thoughts and views on ‘ambition’ and ‘success’. Maybe if you sought to clarify what those terms mean to her, and come to a common understanding of these otherwise intangible terms, would you seem less of a pompous ass.

    2. Then there are those who outwardly seem to be sitting on the fence. They say they agree to some, but not to others. Yes, Finland could do better, but you as someone here by our grace should show some gratefulness and bow to our way of life or just get lost. And I wish you the best in your future endeavours, yada yada. You want others to think that you’re being logical, reasonable and nice, to push home your more critical intended comments. Well, niceness isn’t going to cut it, bitches. Learn how to make a good argument, and maybe you wouldn’t need to hide behind a mask of false niceness.

    3. People who agree. These people have felt the same way for a long time, and have good things to say of the article. By the time you’ve gotten to this part of my essay you would be expecting me to fully be on the side of these people, wouldn’t you? Wrong. This is also a bad sign. People who have felt this way for ages, haven’t bothered to speak up against these things on their own. These silent dissenters bear grudges until someone somewhere cares enough to voice their concerns, which they then ride on. Where would society be headed toward if people who see what’s going wrong don’t say anything about it?

    Read with an open mind. Use that mind. Think about what you’ve read. Question, but don’t attack.

    Well done Wan Wei, for freeing these otherwise unheard voices.

    1. Hey Samannthathalia, thank you for your wise response! Yeah the comments are interesting, aren’t they?

      I think each comment is highly revealing of the character of each poster. 🙂 so don’t sweat it– you are someone who can understand logical reasoning and context and I appreciate that. :p

  62. Hi Wan Wei. Thanks again for putting this article out there. I would have few years back also condemned this article as I had not yet grasped the concept right. After living in Finland for 8 years….unfortunately that long…. I finally got it and took off before it will one day be too late or live in regrets. When I moved to Finland things were much easier for foreigners but still the majority of people came with real ambitions only to have those crashed, not necessarily due to the language barrier, even that being a major concern, but the fact is even after getting the citizenship you will never be treated equally.

    But sticking to the point this is about the system, you are right and point is Finland is a DESTINY ROBBER. I have seen people come to do a bachelors in business but job frustrations they then take a second degree in nursing just to get job security. But most end up in Old people’s homes which for sure this is not what the envisioned themselves to be doing. Another thing is Finland has a perfect social system that takes care of the whole society, free education, medical etc and most people stay because of this amazing benefits, but again, just as some people have pointed, there is lack of the a social life, excellent professional life etc. So why stay in a society doing things you don’t love to do unless you want to live an average life? So yes my personal opinion is its a place for average people not ambitious people. If you are living a great social life, excellent professional life in another country with great pay you will not consider cheaper day care in Finland for 250€ and unemployment benefits etc as that is not the level you are living in and thinking on.I was lucky to graduate and get a great job in my field of business but even my boss who is a Finn told me several times the system in Finland really encourages people to think one way, it’s a right to just go to work do ONLY your job and can not think outside the box (not in job description) unless you are getting extra pay for it. He has his business globally and he has reference points when saying this. So for those foreigners who are saying they are happy with this system they should compare the quality of life of their peer groups in other countries back home and other first world countries and maybe they will just realise they are living in a comfort zone and they are just happy to be average people. The real thing is the system creates a roof over your head while out there the sky is the limit.

    1. Hello Annie! Thank you for sharing your experiences.
      Yes, I felt like that recently, and I guess it’s really hard to battle against this system. It’s probably all about the level of benchmark. I like your last statement –“The real thing is the system creates a roof over your head while out there the sky is the limit.” Very eloquent. ^^

  63. Hi Wan Wei, and thank you for that insightful posting on ambition and migrants in Finland. Would it be possible to repost it on Migrant Tales? Best regards, Enrique

  64. Hello Wan Wei!
    I think you are partly right, because it really is difficult to get rich and successful in Finland because we prefer everyone to do okay instead of some doing very well and others really badly. I can’t tell if that’s a good thing or not.

    There is one thing you wrote that bothers me; I must say that I question your ambition a bit. If I were to interview you to a vacant job position and when asking you why you haven’t studied Finnish, you’d answer “I’m not that linguistically-inclined” I would think that you lack ambition, that you are lazy and if something is difficult for you, you’d rather just give up than challenge yourself. Language is the key to any culture, maybe you would think in a different way now, had you had ambition to integrate to this country. They say you have to give to get.

    1. Ana, let me ask you a question:

      Assume that you and your colleague have a job x respectively. Assume that you are also more ambitious and capable. You can finish job X twice as fast as her. Would you do double the work during office hours, given that you and the colleague have the same pay for the next five years?

      This is the main point of my post: nothing to do with ambitious characteristics of the individual; all to do with systems. When you asked me the question, you are thinking in terms of individual, but my point is really about the system. 🙂 that is, the welfare state system and the system of a Finn always being expected to do the “right thing”–fear of success AND fear of failure.

  65. Hello! A Finn here who hasn’t lived in the country for the last 5 years. Thank you for a great post (found this on /r/Finland), it was very interesting to read and I have to say I agree. Glad to see that there is a lot of discussion here too!

    Actually, some efforts are being made to change the so-generous welfare system, such as forming a research team for implementing a basic income scheme: http://www.basicincome.org/news/2015/10/finnish-government-research-team-design-pilots/

    It will be interesting to see if such a system ever goes live. Countries that have implemented a basic income scheme have shown success, at least. As and when this happens, we’ll see how the Finnish mindsets and values blend in with that..

  66. For me as a foreigner, life in Finland is all about any kinds of pity bullshit! Unemployment, Xenophobia, Racism, Rural culture, Depression, Alcoholism, and a very dishonest manner toward foreigners which has a route in a low-class culture and a super-communist style of life. I personally as a foreign graduate from Finland am doing my best to leave Finland in less than half a year. And of course I am totally happy with my serious decision about moving out.

      1. Hey guys, thanks for your comments. A nudge though–This post is NOT about “Finns, the nationality”…!!

        This post is about:
        1. Finnish macroeconomic + political system (check out “sote”, the recent “healthcare” issue that turned political);
        2. prevailing risk averse attitude in Finland as a direct result of living in a welfare state/sheltered environment + policy of putting Finns first in employment (which is logical);
        3. unnecessary bureaucracy when it comes to entrepreneurship in Finland.

        Also, I’m not sure if it’s wise to ask if the foreigner is grateful or not. I believe one can be grateful but still angry and disappointed. It’s probably a good idea, however, to ask why the foreigner is feeling the way xenophobic_introvert does. Can integration or communication be done better, for instance?

        Not all Finns are “xenophobic and racist” like some factions of the PS/Finns Party obviously–but having said that, we don’t know what PS will do if they get their way.

        Let’s be kinder to each other, shall we? I believe xenophobic_introvert just posted a rant comment.

    1. Well, let’s say it was a rant comment. but, there are so many facts in my comment that are so sensible for some foreigners. However, I confess that it was better to not express them considering the local and traditional society of Finland as it is not appreciated.

      By the way, I paid 6 years tuition fee in my home, and of course I did not come to Finland just because of free education. I honestly regret too much for the time and energy that I lost in disappointing home of Finns.

      Finland is amazing, as you should be thankful for the most primitive basics of life! No inspiration, no excitement, no progress, no motivation, no integration, no communication … all repeating the most repetitive things multiple times, and this boring cycle never stops until the great moment of moving out which is a golden start. I personally think that more than 30 years time is needed for accepting multiculturalism in Finland. My Swedish friend thinks exactly the same as me. Our life ends if we try! I do not try, I move out instead of trying.

      1. I’ve lived in Sweden, and yes people are more talkative, more open, but that’s all fake…
        It’s like the stupid american small talk culture; nothing but pretending.
        At least Finnish people are honest.

        And what about racism?
        I, myself live in Asia and get treated as a second-class citizen, but I don’t mind. It’s natural, and happens everywhere!
        And by the way, racism is raising it’s ugly head everwhere in Europe right now. Wonder why that is…

        Still, year after year Finland is one of the top countries when it comes to education, healthcare, quality of life, safety, lack of corruption, equality. Everyone has the opportunity to do great things in life. The social democratic system of the northern European countries is best there is.

        However, most Finnish people understand that there are more important things in life than competition, money, endless economic growth, social status and all the rest…they don’t want to have the modern day slavery with no minimum wage, no freedom of speech etc.

        There is also lot of innovation among the young people.
        Now we are going through difficult times, but let’s see where we are in 5 years time.

        The only thing that sucks (other than the long, cold & grey winter) is the difficulty to start your own business. The endless paperwork, the rules and regulations that come with it, taxation etc.

        I know foreigners who love Finland, but It’s not for everybody though. Many people (especially the older generation) are quite introvert, and it takes a while to make real friends.

        And yes, your message xenophobic_introvert was nothing but a rant. “Low class culture and super-communist way of life.” WHAT? What the fuck are you talking about? Explain a little bit!

  67. @Jaakko:

    1. What do you think about the Finnish political situation in the next 5-10 years? My concern is that in spite of many Finnish innovations, the political situation might still be less than ideal, leading to a worse economic and entrepreneurial environment. Just look at the recent “sote”–it is the epitome of politicians putting party’s (i.e. Keskusta) interests before country’s interest, in spite of clear independent experts advice, and two other political parties in the coalition. Will this not lead to a prolonged austerity in Finland? What are you basing your optimism on?

    2. Which part of Asia are you living in, and may I ask why you are still living there despite being treated as–in your words and I quote–a “second-class citizen”?

  68. Keskusta and Kokoomus both suck, so nothing good will be done, as long as they are in power. Actually, I don’t really trust any politicians, since it’s a dirty game based on lying and manipulation, but least we have a democratic system, instead of one party dictature.
    Right now there is huge pressure to change things around, since many firms are moving out of Finland, so the change will come.
    My optimism is based on what I see and hear; lot of talented young people out there. Good examples might be Rovio or Supercell, but there are hundreds of others as well.

    In 99% percent of the countries, you will be treated as a second-class citizen, if you’re not a native. Maybe you didn’t get it so much in Korea and Japan, because you are Asian. It’s a different thing if you are Caucasian.
    But like I said before, I don’t mind, since I think it’s natural.

    1. Hey Jaakko,

      Thanks for sharing your views. Yea I agree that if you want to stay long-term anywhere, it’s natural in the eyes of the law to be treated as second-class. I would go further to argue that it is also logical.

      But bear in mind that Asian countries never did once claim that they are “equal”. finland on the other hand claims that the nation epitomizes noble ideals of “equality”.

      Also you see, your optimism is still that “talented young people” can beat the less than ideal political system. I don’t think people can ever beat systems! If they do, they have to fight, and in finland the fight might mean 50+ years at least, if anything even changes? But what is certain that by then, your youth is gone.

      In fact I think more of talented finnish young people and graduates will just leave Finland eventually, because these politicians can’t create jobs for the economy. This is logical, because talented people need challenges and opportunities elsewhere to thrive, which increased mobility and globalisation can bring.

      And I’m not optimistic about the bureaucracy surrounding entrepreneurship in Finland being changed soon because politics here is not even based on what is good for the country, but what is good for the party, PLUS politicians don’t even bother hiding this fact! Why should Finnish politicians in power take the additional effort to make life better for talented people or entrepreneurs?

      No matter how terrible any political system is, I think for most countries the premise for continued power is job creation. But for Finland’s case kesusta has been in power for so long– just think Kekkonen too.

      Keskusta “won” this sote thing under the premise of (fake) “austerity”, which means that in future, more of finland derived tax revenue is going to be diverted to countrysides. It troubles me because it doesn’t look like Finland is going be more “global” in terms of attitudes and outlook. And you didn’t talk about Perussuomalaiset. 🙂

  69. Perussuomalaiset are done, and so should be Keskusta. it’s 2015, not 1985.
    The problem is, that they have a lot supporters in the countryside, so populist decisions are made just to get votes…
    Kokoomus is only working for the big, multinational companies. Their agenda is to privatize everything. They don’t care about the entrepreneurs.

    However, the system consists of people, and when there is enough pressure, (hopefully) the right things will start to happen. But like I said before, I don’t really trust politicians, but we do have better options than the 3 parties, that are currently in power. I’m pretty sure, that the heavy bureaucracy will go through some big changes in the coming years.

    Anyway, you have good points, and I agree with you on most things you brought up.
    You seem to be genuinely interested in Finnish culture, and have pretty good understanding on our society.
    That’s inspiring!

    Let’s see where we are in 5-10 years time…

    All the best,


  70. @Jaakko,

    Haha, don’t forget that Finns are passive/passive agressive too. There seems to be a huge discrepancy between “what is’ in Finland, and “what should be” (the latter which of course, a lot of people are vocal about). It seems that too often, people equate the two.

    People say “yes this will change, that will change”, but being passive, is much done? But sure, let’s see where we would be in 5-10years time 🙂

    All the best too, in Asia! 🙂


  71. I’m from Finland and I lived in the U.S., for many years,
    I’ve been back Fin for few now and HAVE NOT LIKED IT AT ALL!
    I really had a great life in America and I was treated so well by the American folk!
    It has been a big mistake to come back here……reasons.
    I so wish it hadn’t happen, I rally lost a lot!
    It’s too much to list reasons for not liking it here in Fin.
    Lucky you who are living in the U.S!
    Do anything and everything to end up making the same mistake I made!

    Sincerely, Johnny

  72. She is not in the USA la she’s back in her Sinkapore.

    Hi Soh, I’m from Sinkapore too, I found your article and persona funny on many levels. First was your delusion that you’re an native English speaker. Me reckons you ought to go check what native speaker means. You had not even been out of Asia until you met some guy like a typical spg (ahhh how common) and that was your first time heading to Europe. You sound ultra lame.

    Err another thing Philippines isn’t a British colony. You’re such a retard.

    1. Hello Cheryl,

      According to the Cambridge dictionary, this is the definition of a native speaker:

      “native speaker

      a person who has spoken the language in question from earliest childhood.
      “native speakers of English”

      So >90% of our younger Singaporeans are native English speakers, evidenced from our primary education since the age of 6, in the English language medium, even if they don’t speak English at home. 🙂 Or do you claim to know better than the Cambridge dictionary?

      Actually, I’m now back in Finland because I want to contribute to both nations. A lot of things changed since this viral ranty post. You obviously didn’t read the rest of this blog LOL!

      And thank you for your compliment about me being like a SPG! 🙂 I wish I were–always thought they are super hot.

  73. Hi ww,

    I applied to Aalto University for Masters without submitting language test scores as I thought I didn’t need to take one (I’m from SG btw). Then admissions emailed me to tell me that they strictly require their accepted language test scores and gave me a deadline to submit it which is impossible for me since I’ve never taken any. Do you mind sharing with me what you’ve written to the higher folks at Aalto? I feel a dire need to write to them as much as how obstinate they seem. I don’t think I will find any other school that requires those language tests, which are meant for non native speakers at large, from students coming from English medium universities.

    1. I had the exact same problem and wrote to deanS, the communication department, they forwarded to international directors etcetc.

      All I got in return was silence, so I HAD to take the English test. Failing which my application will not be considered. BTW, I graduated from NUS with a bachelor degree with honours, and even that was ignored because NUS is not based in a EU/EEA country. LOL–that was a mega humble-pie eating experience for me.

      Don’t get me wrong, some deans/ professors are really nice at Aalto. However, this rule really seems to distress a lot of people.

      Let me know how your feedback goes! =)

      P/S. Hanken doesn’t have the English test rule, so you might want to consider applying there too? 🙂

      1. It’s so expensive to take any of those English tests LOL. And Hanken doesn’t have the programme for my major. When did you take the English test? I am told to submit my non existent test scores by 9 February. So much for hanging on to my nordic dreams :'(

        1. I think my deadline was Feb 15 and i took a last minute test on Feb 3! I didn’t take TOEFL, it was some other approved English Professional smth smth test which was like PSLE standard. All the best! I hope you make it for this year’s application!

          Eh don’t you need to pay school fees for this year’s??

  74. Yea I heard international students will have to pay tuition fees from this year. There are currently no available test dates before 9 Feb OTL. I have no choice but to convince them to scrap the language requirements for Singapore students if I desperate wanna study there?

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