What I learned about the Finnish job market after being fired
Tommaso De Benetti
2506

While I absolutely sympathize with your situation and I agree with the fact that xenophobia and “native Finnish speakers only”-policies (whatever that even means) should have no place in Finland, I disagree with your one point that employers should not generally require Finnish language as key prerequisite skill from most of the employees they seek to recruit.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable for employers to require an excellent command of Finnish even for positions with significant international or multilingual linkages, for two major reasons. Firstly, the fact that an employer wishes to increase its international linkages does not necessarily mean transitioning to an English-language workplace, but often this refers to increasing cross-country linkages between Finland and countries abroad (ie. difference between internationalization and globalization). Secondly, I doubt even the most internationally oriented Finnish companies actually want to transition to a solely international arena (does such a thing even exist?), especially if they’re still based in Finland. In addition, I’d like to point out that while Finland does function well in English in certain places and sectors, that is not the case everywhere. If you have contact with different people and sectors of society, highly likely in the Finnish job market since no place/sector is isolated and this is a small country, having Finnish is essential in the Finnish context.

Were I to go to Italy, France, Germany, more or less any non-Anglophone country, speaking the local language would naturally increase my job market opportunities significantly, for the same abovementioned reasons. I doubt I would get a job all too easily in France even though I speak relatively good French, even if the employer wants to expand abroad like crazy and my work would mostly be in English. Therefore, I find it a little odd that the situation in Finland would be expected to be any different, just because this is a small country/language area where people speak pretty good English. I actually find this kind of attitude a little patronizing…

Indeed, I don’t think this is just a Finnish phenomenon. I previously lived as a Finn in Montréal, where most people do speak English but every job post I saw required French as well. At first, I did not understand this at all, but I later realized that this was also a matter of cultural knowledge and understanding of the local context, something that is both useful in most jobs and something that realistically requires good command of French in Québec. Employers may want to internationalize and expand globally, but even in this case, understanding of the local context is also very important, and for this the local language is usually crucial.

Alas, I have to respectfully disagree that the Finnish job market should require less Finnish, mainly for the practical reasons outlined above. However, I would also point to the cultural factors I mentioned, as I really don’t see many instances where you can a) work in the Finnish society and b) be relatively isolated from the Finnish country context. Unfortunately, I don’t have any other suggestions to offer for the latter part than persistently learning the language and culture.

I mean no offence, I just wanted to point out a few things I thought were important. Thanks for your good blog post.

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