It’s my dream to live in Finland, but I hear the language is really hard to perfect, so are Finns welcoming of foreigners?
After living in South Korea for six years and nearly 1 year in Finland, I will lay this out as best I can:
The answer is two-fold: a good side and a not-so-good side. Firstly, let’s take the language; it is not easy. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that it’s simple to perfect or even learn the basics. You need to study and study hard to drive home the grammar rules and vocabulary. I am studying Korean and Spanish on the side, and those two are vastly easier to learn than Finnish for a non-native English speaker.
The first hurdle you will encounter is the rolling of your R’s; words like Ymmärtää (to understand) will sound weird the first few times you say them. If you struggle (as I did), do tongue-rolling exercises daily. It will pay off!
Secondly, forget everything you think you know about grammar because the Finns will happily throw all concepts of it out the window. Finnish is a unique language, whereas, in English, we have articles like “the,” “an,” and “a,” which are entirely done away with.
Sometimes word order is completely switched “menen kauppaan poikaystävän kanssa” (i am going to the store with my boyfriend, except the “with” (kanssa) is at the end of the sentence.
Also, Finnish is a language that relies heavily on endings. Take the earlier example “Menen kauppaan poikaystävän kanssa”
Kappa (base form) – store
Kauppaa – some stores
Kauppat – all stores
Kauppoija – stores
Kappan – store’s
Kauppaan – to the store
Kaupasta – from the store
Kaupassa – in the store
The endings change depending on how you are using the noun. Even the noun itself changes due to vowel harmony.
You will have to learn how to say letters differently and understand how two additional letters operate: Ä and Ö.
However, Finnish logic and pronunciation can be overly simplistic. In Finnish, they pronounce every letter of a word exactly as it is pronounced in the alphabet. It never deviates, so it makes word pronunciation a breeze.
Now on to your question about how foreigners are treated. Some will argue that Finns are racists, but I don’t believe that. I think Finns are just by nature worriers.
They worry about hiring someone with not-so-good language skills because it’s a huge risk. Will they be able to complete their tasks? Work with their co-workers? Are the services provided to customers efficiently? Do they understand what is expected of them?
Getting a job has been very difficult because Finland is also a bit snobby. Employers want someone with a degree; it doesn’t matter if you’ve worked 10+ years with glowing references; with a hygiene pass or a degree in your field, you may be noticed more often than not, and even more so, with subpar language skills.
However, Finnish people as a whole are very welcoming. Even with horrendous language skills, strangers will be happy to help you and will sometimes revert to English for you (which can be frustrating as a language learner, but they very much mean well!)
The Finns can seem very quiet and distant, but that doesn’t mean they are rude. They don’t smile without reason, but that’s no reason not to initiate a conversation! They’ll happily chat with you on or at the bus stop!
There are even language cafes where you can go and speak with a Finn in Finnish to help you, or you can help them with English.
Make sure you cultivate your hobbies and find locals who share your passion; this also helps while job searching, as employers will be happy to see you are active socially!
Also, Finland is exceptionally safe! Okay, so you might come across an overly friendly drunk who speaks deaf and blind to you, but they’re harmless (and quite adorable).
Healthcare is great
Nature is gorgeous.
The snow is beautiful.
The food is awesome
I recommend anyone move here, honestly! So like I said before, Finland is by no means perfect and Finnish people can be mean and rude sometimes, but overall, Finland is a great country with loads of good people!