Arancha Garcia Piriz found a part-time job by simply walking in to the company. The Finnish employment culture is surprisingly informal. (Photo: Natanael Sinisalo)
Arancha Garcia Piriz found a part-time job by simply walking in to the company. The Finnish employment culture is surprisingly informal. (Photo: Natanael Sinisalo)

Jyväskylä is a small town with many students. This means fierce competition among job seekers, especially if you don’t speak the language.

In Finland, studying is still free, no matter what passport you are holding. But life indeed isn’t. Many students find the place not just amazingly cold but beastly expensive. Even among the EU-countries Finland’s price level is high, not mentioning most countries outside the borders.
Many degree students need to work to fund their everyday life. This is where things get unequal: All Finnish students are entitled for government study grants and loan, which is meant to reduce the need to work besides studying, and by that to speed up the graduation.

The lack of on-campus job culture is the reason there aren’t many available. Job-seeking students usually turn to private recruitment companies and employing companies directly. And for each job, there are plenty of takers.
”For foreign students, the choices are usually cleaning and cleaning”, says Arancha Garcia Piriz, a Spanish master student that has been working part-time for a maintenance company since November. She gets paid the minimum wage of 7,5 euros per hour for about six hours per week for cleaning offices.
”I’m happy to have something. I know that students coming from outside the EU have more difficulties in the bureaucratic process”, she says.
To get the job, she had to visit the company several times to convince the recruiter to hire her. Finnish language skills were asked but not required; the personality usually matters more.
Besides filling the job application, Piriz needed to visit the register office to get the social security number and fill in the tax information. As a student she automatically has a permit for part-time working in another EU-country.
”Many things here are made easy for students. And in Madrid, life would also be more expensive. Here students are supported with cheaper transport, meals and housing”.

Tiina Saarinen, Internship project coordinator for international students at the university recruitment service, has noticed that local employers are still not seeing the possibilities that international students can offer. Many companies still think there is more effort than benefits in hiring foreign workers and interns.
Few of the companies are still orientated for international business, and there are plenty on Finnish students that know the local employment and working culture. This is another obstacle.
”A European student just asked me, if it’s appropriate to call an employer yourself. Compared to many countries, we are less formal here. You won’t get any job without making yourself known personally”, she explains.
The university is currently opening an online service to help foreign students to find local internship possibilities. The resources for personal tutoring are very limited, and the service is supposed to help in this situation.
Saarinen studied in Jyväskylä in the early 1990s, when there were still really few international students in town.
”Things have really changed when Finland joined the EU, but the companies still need to be encouraged to hire foreign students”.
Besides her current profession, Saarinen can talk about working abroad from her own experience. She has worked in several countries, also part-time and without speaking the local language. She knows what culture shock means.
”Like for working as an au-pair in Italy, there was no paperwork at all and I was paid in cash after each month. Here you need the social security number and tax card to work even as a nanny or housekeeper. Many foreign students don’t realize this”, she says.
Saarinen knows that in a different culture, no-one can survive without putting out some trouble for self development.
”Coming to a new country, it’s important to understand the surrounding culture enough to know what’s happening. It’s always good to know at least the basics of the language and the local manners”, she reminds.

Johannes Kotkavirta

maailmalähellä.fi, portal for students looking for internship possibilities will be introduced at Career and recruitment event on 18th of February.