Michele: from USA to Finland

Michele Pelkonen started in FNS at autumn 2017. This is her story:

“I came to Finland after marrying a Finnish man, which seems to be a common theme, at least among American expats. We met online, about ten years ago, via an online game that we both happened to be playing in. We became friends, and he asked me to edit his Doctoral thesis in “American” English. After my divorce, we met in person when he came to the States to do some postdoc research at CalTech. He popped the question a few years later at a Meat Loaf concert in Las Vegas, and we were married in 2014, in Helsinki.

I have come to see and feel like Finland has become home to me. His parents live in Oulunsalo, so I have visited there often, as well as going to Lapland for some Christmas times. I love the cleanliness of the country, the forward-thinking businesses and social programs, and especially the public transportation, which is very rare in the United States, and only available in very limited areas. I never thought I could live without a car, but I rarely miss it now! I certainly don’t miss the upkeep and fuel prices!

I have taken a few courses in the Finnish language, but unfortunately, it is not like the language is spoken casually, in the company of friends. It is also a very difficult language for native English speakers to grasp, but I am slowly, slowly picking up more and more of it. Here at FNS, most meetings are held in a mix of Finnish and English, depending on who is present and what is being covered. Co-workers will greet and ask simple questions in Finnish, but most of the interactions are in English. I do appreciate that, but it also cuts down on the opportunities to learn the language!

I absolutely love working at FNS! Compared to the way workers are expected to work in the States, working in Finland is almost a vacation. The benefits (for example, vacation time) are far and above what I have encountered in my over thirty years of working in the States. I’ve worked for the federal government, private business, owned my own business, and worked for a university, and in none of those have I had the benefits that I have here. I love the work-life balance that has been achieved in Finland, and I hope it doesn’t change in the name of “progress”.

Here at FNS, the thing I like best about my job is how varied it is. I do so many different things in a day that I simply can’t be bored. Mainly, I provide English-language support for the Provet Cloud system, as well as help to edit translated documents in English for proper grammar and spelling. I work with wonderful people, and enjoy the collaborative atmosphere in the offices, where everyone works together for the greater success.

When I’m not at work, I love to read and I spend more time on the computer. My family lives in the States still, so that is how I keep in touch. With Skype, Google, and WhatsApp, it’s become much easier to do so. The only thing we can’t help is the time difference, which took my kids about a year to master, although I still sometimes get calls at 1am local time, when they forget. I have three daughters: 30, 25, and 22. The eldest is due with her first child (the first grandbaby!) in late January.  I am so happy that FNS is able to work with me to give me time off to go visit and help out, since with her job, she doesn’t qualify for any maternity leave, paid or unpaid. She did negotiate for four weeks of unpaid time off, but that’s simply not enough. Finland certainly understands what new parents need.

I encourage newcomers to Finland to take the language courses and do their best. In the meantime, embrace this wonderful culture, and take the time to use what you’ve learned along the way. When looking for a job, focus on industries that can use your current talents, such as your native language. Don’t give up!”