Have you moved to Finland because your spouse has found a job here? If your primary reason for relocating to Finland is following your spouse, you may have found it difficult to establish a life of your own here. In this blog post, we talk about the difficult role of the expat spouse and go through some options for making that slightly easier. We hope you find these tips useful.
At home with small kids: neighboorhood resources
If you have small children, you may have made the decision that it is best if you stayed home for now. Staying home with small children is hard work and it can be really lonely. It’s important to have support and possibilities to interact with other adults. There are ways of doing that.
Look into local MLL (Mannerheimin Lastensuojeluliitto, Mannerheim League for Child Welfare) groups. They often organize weekly meetings in local parks or local community centers. Here’s a link to groups that are active in the Uusimaa region.
These groups are not specifically targeted to international parents, but try going to your local group anyway. You might find friends through these groups. Finns, in general, can speak good English.
Even without the MLL groups, the local playgrounds can offer a possibility to create meaningful connections with other adults. Finns are notoriously difficult to make friends with so don’t blame yourself if the MLL groups and local playgrounds are a dead end. It’s not you, it’s us.
Do you need personalized help with your transition to Finland or with finding your career path here? Check out our coaching and consulting services from our Inspiration Catalog.
At home with small kids: social media and other resources
If this happens, Facebook groups may offer a solution. There are FB groups for international parents like the Expat Mothers in Helsinki/Finland group, Neighborhood Mothers, Expat Parents in Helsinki, or Expat Dads Finland. Compass Psychology in Helsinki organizes New Mother’s Groups in English for first-time mothers of newborns. Check out their web pages to know when new groups start. Luckan Integration also organizes family and baby cafés in the capital region.
One extremely good way of networking for women with children is the Mothers in Business, MiB. They organize really good events and it’s also a really good opportunity for volunteering.
Municipalities, adult education centers, and local churches also offer group activities to parents with small children. Sometimes these groups may be directed specifically to immigrant parents.
If you are planning on staying in Finland for any significant amount of time, learning Finnish or Swedish while at home is a good idea. Even if your initial plan is to stay for just a little while. You never know. Plans may change and you end up staying longer. You can study Finnish on your own using such apps as WordDive. You can also look for Finnish classes in our area. Check also what your local adult education center offers. In addition to language classes in Finnish and Swedish, they may organize language cafes.
Finding employment in Finland as an expat spouse
You may also want to continue your own career here in Finland or start a brand new one. Finding employment in Finland without pre-existing networks can be really tricky. Also, discrimination in the Finnish job market is a real issue. Employers may also require Finnish skills although in practice one can do the job perfectly well without Finnish.
Networking in LinkedIn is worth it. Make sure your own LinkedIn profile is in good condition and start contacting people in companies you are interested in. Shyness or reserve won’t get you far in this game.
Look for job ads for example in LinkedIn, Oikotie, TE services and use the MeetFrank app. Join Facebook groups (eg. Jobs in Finland) where people post jobs in Finland. Make sure that you are active in social media in your areas of expertise. And go to conferences and seminars where you might meet people from your own industry. You can also contact Finnish HR companies that look for talents for companies in Finland. This website by the city of Tampere has a list of Finnish HR companies you can contact and/or leave your CV with.
Dealing with job requirements
In government and municipal jobs, language skills requirements are often based on law. Recruiters don’t have the possibility to be flexible with them. In the private sector, employers may place language requirements out of habit. When you see an interesting job ad, but it has Finnish or Swedish language requirements, do some research on the company and ask around. Perhaps knowing Finnish or Swedish is not actually necessary to do the job. Apply anyway and make a good case why you’d be a perfect fit even without Finnish or Swedish skills.
Luckan Integration and other similar organizations also offer CV workshops, peer support, etc. Municipalities also have their own so-called skills centers, which offer similar support for unemployed immigrants. Such skills centers exist at least in Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo, and Tampere.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you look, you can’t find a job. Depending on your skill set, you may then look into the possibility of working remotely for a company that’s not located in Finland. There are several websites that list or advertise remote jobs. You can find a listing of such sites here and here.
If you do start working remotely, make sure that you fulfill all tax and other legal requirements. It can be difficult to find out what you need to do and what you need to pay where. In recent years, several different entities have started to offer so-called ‘light entrepreneurship’ services. You can invoice your contractors through them and they’ll take care of all the legal aspects of such transactions. For a fee, of course. If you are enjoying Finnish unemployment benefits, make sure that you check with your caseworker how membership in such a service may affect your unemployment benefits.
Entities that offer such services include, for example, Ukko.fi, OP Bank, Eezy, Odeal, and Tunnus. It might be difficult to choose between these. There are a few blog posts that compare these, but these comparisons are in Finnish. They are often also not independent of the service providers themselves. Here are links to a few of them.
- Mikä on paras laskutuspalvelu? by rahakone.fi
- Kevytyrittäjän laskutuspalvelut vertailussa – Suurinko kaunein? by Omapaja (a service provider) dated 12.2.2018
- Laskutuspalvelut – miten valita sopivin? by Bisnes.fi
Perhaps you can go through them with Google Translator.
Becoming an entrepreneur
If your turnover from such work increases, it might be a good idea to start a company in Finland rather than continue using these services. Local authorities all over the country have set up services that advise people on how to set up companies in Finland. Often the government also provides financial incentives for entrepreneurship. Contact your local enterprise agency. You can find a listing of such agencies here.
You might also be able to turn your hobby or your previous profession into a company. The local enterprise agencies can give you tips about how to conduct your market research. They also give personal guidance to their clients, advice on business plans, and offer different types of training and networking events.
Moving to a new country may present the possibility to continue or further one’s education. It may also require re- or further education if your profession is such that you can’t practice your profession here without being recertified.
Education in Finland is either free or rather inexpensive. You can find information about the Finnish education system and the degree programs in Finland from Studyinfo.fi.
A certain number of Finnish higher education institutions offer advice on how to get your previous higher education degree verified here in Finland. These services are provided by the University of Helsinki, University of Jyväskylä, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Karelia University of Applied Sciences, Oulu University of Applied Sciences, and the University of Turku. The actual content of these services varies so read these links through.
No matter what you choose to do, stay home, look for a job, study, or start a business, studying, volunteering is something that you do alongside all of them. In addition to bringing joy to yourself and those you help, volunteer work is also an excellent way to build networks in a new country.
There’s no lack of places to choose from. The website vapaaehtoistyo.fi connect volunteers with those who need help. The site is only in Finnish, but Google Translator can again help you. You don’t need to feel constrained by this site. Think about what you are interested in, where you think you could be of service, who might need the kind of help you can provide. Google and ask around. Perhaps you yourself can set up something that is needed in your area and perhaps you can convince the church or the Red Cross in your area to support you and your idea.
The role of the expat spouse can be difficult. It can be particularly so if coming to Finland has meant that you have had to leave your own flourishing career behind and are struggling with finding your way here. We hope that the information we’ve provided above can help you at least to some extent.
There are also a number of different projects in Finland that are designed to help immigrants in general and a few to help an expat spouse in particular in their new life in Finland. Here’s a list of some of the ongoing projects and other resources.
All of these projects or resources have slightly different target groups and methods. They are located around the country. Generally speaking, they all have as their goal the integration of the foreign-born population into the Finnish workforce. Very few of them target the expat spouse specifically. Some projects develop new models for integration, some put models into practice.
You can check them out yourself although many of these projects provide information only in Finnish since they are often meant for immigrants that have at least a rudimentary knowledge of Finnish. They do also usually have the names of contact persons available if you want to ask for more info in some other language.
Examples of interesting projects
Projects specifically for an expat spouse or immigrant parents:
- Hidden Gems
- Puolison polku (Partner’s path) by Familia ry.
- MAPPI project at ODL
- ItseNaiset by Nicehearts ry.
- Moninaisesti parempi – Nostetta maahanmuuttajanaisten asiantuntijauriin by the Finnish institute for health and welfare and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health
- KoTa – kotona taas
- Welcome to Pyhäjoki! by the municipality of Pyhäjoki
- Maahanmuuttaja Ohjaamo
- MESH – Verkostot ja mentorointi maahanmuuttajien työllistymisen tukena
- Insinööriksi Suomeen
- Välkommen hem! – förbättrande av sysselsättningen hos inflyttare i Åboland (this project starts Dec 1, 2019 in Parainen/Pargas)
- Sujuvasti arktiseen elämään / Smoothly into Arctic Life
- Aurala Settlementti: JOK and PETU projects
- Maahanmuuttajat korkeakoulutukseen ja työelämään
- MIOS – Mielen hyvinvointia ja osallisuutta monikulttuurisessa Suomessa
- UOMA – Uraa ja osaamista korkeasti koulutetuille maahanmuuttajille
- International Tampere Hub and Helsinki Business Hub
- KOKOMA – Korkeakoulutetut maahanmuuttajat työmarkkinoille yrittäjyysvalmiuksia vahvistamalla
- International talents in Kanta-Häme
- Matkalla työelämään
Do you think you need personalized help with your transition to Finland or with finding your career path here? Check out our coaching services from our Inspiration Catalog.
The mission of Finnwards is to help internationals thrive in their life abroad. We provide coaching, consulting, and training services that help them do just that. Check out our Services for Businesses and Organizations or our Expat Inspiration Catalog for more information! While we serve internationals and their employers all over the world, our specialty is Finland. With our help, internationals can build a uniquely Finnish life for themselves and their family. In addition to the coaching, consulting and training services, we also offer a wide selection of self-guided online courses about Finland. Contact us and let us help you or your employees succeed in their professional and private lives abroad and in Finland.
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