Finnwards was founded on the vision of two former colleagues after a long series of lunches, phonecalls, and dinners. Over those meals and calls, Minna and Heidi talked extensively about their own life experiences and professional histories. 

They saw that they shared experience of and interest in international living. They shared the need to help others navigate the expat experience they themselves had experienced in many different parts of the world.

Out of that Finnwards was born.

Minna Franck

I have long been a student of different cultures both through my academic qualifications and my own lived experience. This international journey, which I started as a Lions Exchange Youth during a summer in high school, has taken plenty of interesting twists and turns in many different countries. 

My academic qualifications include:

  • M.A. in East Asian Studies from the University of Helsinki; and
  • PhD in Chinese archaeology from the University of California, Los Angeles.
I have either lived longer or worked shorter periods in
  • Estonia
  • the US,
  • China,
  • Germany,
  • Syria, and 
  • Iceland.

I’ve previously said that I have had three distinct stages in my professional life. I dedicated years pursuing an academic career. Then I  switched to research management. After that, I started by my third career as an Intercultural Trainer, and Expat Career and Transition Coach. Finnwards is the result of that. My career has, however, now made a loop of sorts as I am again a graduate student. This time in the Doctoral Programme in Language Studies of the University of Helsinki.

I have, for instance,

  • managed teams both large and small in Finland and in Syria,
  • worked in culturally diverse teams in these and other countries, 
  • been responsible for large budgets and international recruitment programs,
  • taught adults and university students both in Germany and in the US, 
  • been given access to archaeological materials no other Western archaeologist had studied before in China, and
  • successfully managed a large team in Syria without even having a common language with my team!

Heidi Kinnunen

When I moved to Switzerland in 2000 I realized there was a huge need for services aimed for people living outside their own country and culture. At first, I thought I would start a service called “Geneva Welcome Center” there. However, my journey continued before I had time to do that.

I have packed our house and all our belonging for international moves to

  • Germany;
  • Switzerland;
  • Vanuatu;
  • Fiji Island;
  • Namibia.

I have also lived shorter periods in

  • England (with my father who taught at the Oxford University);
  • Uruguay (as a volunteer building a kindergarten).

Every time I moved, I bought a Lonely Planet Guide and tried to find answers to my questions in Google. Neither Lonely Planet nor Google helped me in finding work nor understanding the local customs. I learned the hard way. 

Now I know:

  • how to drive a car in a sand desert;
  • why you can’t eat bananas in all rain forests;
  • how to prepare for a tropical cyclone;
  • what to do during a military coup;
  • how to talk yourself in the CERN headquarters without in ID; and
  • that Swiss landlords want to have the toilet tank cleaned.