High-Flying In Helsinki: Jide’s Abroad Life

January 10, 2020

Finland almost sounds like one of those made-up countries you grew up hearing, but for sure doesn’t exist.

For Jide, the subject of this week’s Abroad Life, it is 100% real and 100% his refuge from the terrible work culture in Nigeria and a chance to let his baby boy looks flourish. without any fear from SARS. He’s talking moving to Finland for work, the process to get there and all the ways moving was a great decision to make.

I have a number of dead jokes I need to get off my chest for this interview, so bear with me. But first things first, how do you manage driving over there with all the fish?

Wait, what fish?

You know, all the fish with their fins, chilling on Fin…land

Oh no, what have I entered?!

Haha, so fish are definitely not a menace to Finnish roads. What were the most surprising things for you as a Nigerian, moving to Finland?

Hmm, where do I want to start from? So when I moved to Finland in August 2019, it was my first time travelling outside Nigeria, ever. Can you understand what it means to one day, be dragging road with Danfo and hoping the policeman in front doesn’t stop you to weekend, to living in a place that just works? 

100% cannot relate, but please continue this sweet story.

So my second day here, I went to one of the restaurants to eat and the discipline everyone showed? I just couldn’t believe it. These people would eat on tables, pack up their used up trays of food, put the litter in the right bin. Drop the trays back to where they belong, without anyone telling them to do so. I’m talking customers oh!

Patrons of Mr Biggs could never.

If you’re taking a bus or a train, everyone knows to just queue. Like these things just go without saying. Nobody talks loudly. It’s a part of them now. If you’re at a door, it’s just normal for the person in front to open it for the next guy, no questions asked. 

Chivalry found alive. Helsinki with the Defibrillator.

And another thing, the way they take care of their own here? If you just had a baby, you’re going on months and months of paid leave to bond with the child and take care of things. If you lose your job, the state is going to take care of you. All you have to do is file for unemployment benefits, they pay you monthly, help you get back on your feet. It’s fantastic I was speaking with a Finnish person the other day and asking about robberies and he said there’s barely any, because everyone is so well taken care of, there’s no motivation to rob.

God whenst? But wait, how do handle the heat?

Heat? What heat?

You know, living in a hell that’s so sinki. Hell… sinki. Helsinki (plis don’t cut the call!)

I’ve walked into a trap.

Haha. Now I may be wrong, but it seems like you took the world map, spun in and tried to go to the furthest place away from Nigeria you could find.

Well, in the first place, I always knew I was going to travel, it was just a matter of time. For some reason, Europe was always stuck in my head so when I found a job in Finland in early 2019, it was just the universe coming together for me.

Got it. How difficult was the process, moving countries?

Hmm, I wouldn’t say difficult. But it did take a while. It took me nine months to get my visa.

Oh wow. They really incubated it for you.

Haha. So here’s the thing, because I’ve worked with Finns, I know that a common thing with them is taking their time with everything. First, because they want to be thorough, other times because they’re just not there to answer their emails. They’re on work-sanctioned breaks at home, holiday etc. So that probably led to a lot of the delay.

Hm.

At the time I was making the move, there wasn’t a lot of information online on the process, so I had to do a lot of testing out on my own. To get the visa, you have to go to the Visa Facilitation Services Global (VFS) office in Abuja, they were contracted by the Finns to review all application documents. I was hauling my wife and child around from Lagos at the time because we were all making the move, so that was fun.

From there, you’d do a number of interviews before finally getting an interview at the Finnish embassy.

Calculating all these pre-travel, travel expenses in my head and uh-oh.

That’s how we saw it oh. But right after completing the interviews, things moved very fast. My visa was granted, resident permit too. Look, all you need to get a Finnish at the end of the day is a genuine reason, and you’re good to go.

Now to just find this genuine reason to move. So, on a scale of one to Nigerian landlords asking for two years rent in advance, how expensive is life in Finland?

Oh boy, you better come correct with the cash! I always tell this joke that my monthly rent in Finland can help me buy at least one plot of land in Abeokuta.

*Abruptly stops searching for a genuine reason to move to Finland*

See ehn. Transport fares are reasonable, you can pay € 50 – 60 a month and you’re set for the bus, train, metro everything. Meanwhile, the Finnish transport system is so great, let me not get too into it, but it is fantastic.

*Opens Google Chrome again.*

That said, life and food is pretty expensive here. The taxes are very high, but what you get in return makes up for it. To expenses, even just getting groceries costs a pretty penny. It isn’t uncommon to find Finns and immigrants travelling to neighbouring countries like Sweden or Estonia to get groceries.

My brother? That deep?

Wait, wait. Estonia isn’t far like that. It’s like two hours away by cruise ship. And it’s not like oh, people are travelling every weekend to get food. It’s more, going away for the weekend and spending it in a nearby country. So here’s a funny thing, you’ll see these Finns on the return to Finland and all they’re carrying are bags of beer and cigarettes, Africans on the same trip are lugging bags and bags, overflowing with cheaper food.

My people! So you mentioned Africans, is there a black community over there? Nigerians maybe?

Well, you can probably see a number of black people on the road and in workplaces. but they’re very few and far between. Nigerian community, not too, too much either.

But, they do have ‘Afro Nights’ in Helsinki every Sunday and it’s a big deal. Africans from all over come around, they bring their white friends and white people with an appreciation of the culture come around as well. There’s music and food so it’s great.

Oh fun! But no Nigerian community? Even in church?

Okay wait, there is a Redeemed Church somewhere that’s majorly Nigerian. So definitely if you’re looking for some community, you could check there.

Got it. What was your first impression of the Finnish people?

Introverts! Big time. Like they’ll help you if you’re lost and need directions somewhere, but once they’re done with that, everybody eyes-front! I have no idea who my neighbours are. You can’t just happen on a Finn on the road and attempt a conversation, nobody has time for that!

Ah, they should sorry oh.

Oh and besides that, even though Finland is a largely English speaking country, Finns will always attempt to first speak to you in Suomi, which is a Finnish language. So that’s interesting.

Random, what’s one thing only a native of Helsinki will know? Like how The front seat is the best seat in a danfo or Ola-Iya’s amala is unmatched (The one in Surulere, don’t get it twisted dears).

Let me think. Well, I guess only Finns would know how big the rock scene is over here. They really love rock music. That and tattoos. There’s a big tattoo culture here.

Wellll, have you gotten a tattoo for the culture yet or?

Not yet oh. But soon maybe. Now, any other thing peculiar to the Finns will be X-rated and—

Okay! Let’s keep things PG over here. Safe zone, how’s the food over there?

See, a lot of bread, a lot of potatoes. I can’t remember any traditional names right now, but plenty of those.

So I heard a rumour that education in Finland is free. Please confirm this and shame the haters.

Hmm. It’s free for their people. It’s free for other European Union countries. It Used to be free for non-EU members, but I think immigrants came and overdid it. But for someone with a resident permit, it should be free. As it is, my daughter will have an almost next to free education till she’s done learning in Finland. It’s why I can’t ever complain about the high taxes we pay, you see it working first hand.

How do you @ a president in an Abroad Life article? Asking for a country of 160 million people. So I heard another rumour, Finland is considering having a 4-day workweek. Facts or nah?

You know, I heard this at the start of the week and it’s very possible. They’re already very lax with work over here. People work remote a lot. Just notify your boss that you want to work from home to be with your child or your dog. Or maybe you’re not feeling emotionally up to leaving the house on that day, you’ll definitely get the day to work from home, questions asked. So a 4-day workweek isn’t too far-fetched.

Alright, while I grab my passport and text my Alfa, can you tell me another great thing about living in Finland?

There are so many, the tourist attractions, transport etc. But I have to come back to their work culture. It is so fascinating. They base it on two things – trust and honesty. If you’re working with them, they trust you. Nobody sits on your neck to get work done. I was very used to people dictating how and what I should work on in Nigeria, you know, breathing down your neck because that’s what the MD wants. 

I hear that.

Here, you’ll just have rest of mind, your skin will be glowing. I can access top management for discussions anytime, the other day I was discussing with a top manager in my office about getting into horse riding here, because I was big on it in Lagos. This man really told me he’ll connect me with his horse riding centre, a trainer everything. They believe when you have the freedom and happiness to pursue your hobbies, it’ll reflect better in your work. They’re not wrong.

Again, God whenst? Enough with the tensioning, what’s the bad with living in Finland?

Definitely the weather. It’s cold almost all year round. It gets dark too. Someone was saying that we have just 3 months of sunlight here. The sun rises for 3, maybe 4 hours. It’s 4:18 PM right now and it’s already dark outside.

Oh wow. Last question, how long can you live in Finland before the thoughts of Detty December and Nigerian bustle overpower you to return?

Hay, nothing like that oh. See these dreads I’m managing to grow?

You sef, think of what will happen if SARS catches me with it.

*‘Am I a Yahoo boy’ plays softly in the distance*

I can’t argue with that.

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