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Finland: 10 lessons I learned from living 10 years in the happiest country – Bambi Dang, CEO & Founder of Finest Future

Happy Independence Day Finland!

This year 2023 marks 10 years I have lived in Finland. And I thought that I would share 10 things I have learned from Finland (there’s of course more that I have learned).

These 10 lessons don’t come in any particular order of importance. They are all very crucial for my overall experience in Finland. Something you might agree with, or may not, because never two people have the same experience.

1. The world is your home, if you decide so

Moving abroad is never easy. Far from home, new culture, new language, new challenges. There were times where I thought Finland was not for me. However the decision to move to Finland was my own decision. So I am the only one to decide that I will make a meaningful life out of Finland and call it home. Nobody else can help to decide that for me.

2. Change starts with me

Finland was a strange place for me at the start. Though I find myself easy to adapt, at times I felt uncomfortable in different aspects and I wanted the environment to change fast. “Why can’t things be like back home? Why can’t people be like this like that? Why so unfair to me? etc” . Then I realize that instead of expecting the whole Finland to change for me, I will change for myself and for the better of Finland. Only then I started to make peace with myself and with life in Finland.

3. Have a close circle of friends

Finland doesn’t have so many people, so I felt lonely sometimes when I first came and not speaking the language. I decided that I would make new friends, by inserting myself into the existing circles, and connecting with other fellow new comers as well. It might have felt weird being the new comer, but actually people did appreciate new face in their old friend group, because I would bring new stories and new culture.

I invited myself to my friend’s grandma dinner because my friend didn’t think about that. And then my friend’s grandma liked me more because I did the dishes after eating, why my lazy friend didn’t 🤣 That’s how you win grandma’s heart, by eating their food and help them do the dishes, and listen to their life stories 👍

4. Opportunities have to be earned

Coming from a village family in a third world country to Finland and building everything from Zero, I always knew that I didn’t have the same starting point as other people. So me having a Bachelor degree doesn’t mean that jobs have to automatically come to my face. A diploma is just a piece of paper, what’s more important is what I can contribute. So I need to put myself out there for people to see.

I printed my CV in paper and went around the city to distribute to different places. I volunteered in different projects, for example cutting the bushes in forest or paint the walls of village house in a 300 people small village in Central Finland. Thru those activities, I started become more visible and opportunities would come naturally. Apart from the first challenging year in Finland, I have not had difficulties finding jobs. Often times I have more jobs than I could do.

5. Your network is the key to opening doors

Some job opportunities in Finland are not visible, meaning the jobs are not published, or didn’t even exist before. I got several jobs like that, just because my network introduced me, or I contacted the companies directly and offered them I could do abc xyz. When people can see you and feel your enthusiasm and potential, they might start to have thoughts about some jobs that they didn’t think of before.

6. Establish a strong knowledge foundation

University programs in English in Finland was free for international students like me (until 2017 then tuition fees were introduced). So I took the chance to study 2 programs at almost at the same time: International Business and Hospitality Management. These 2 seems so far apart from each other, however it was the best combination that has helped me build my career in Finland.

The Business mindset + Customer Oriented mindset = Good business opportunities.

7. Learn the local language

My first 4 years in Finland, I didn’t speak any Finnish. I studied in English programs and all my communication with teachers and friends were in English. I studied some Finnish courses in University, but not practicing it made it challenging to achieve higher levels. I then got jobs where I could practice my Finnish. So putting myself in the challenging situation where I needed to survive in Finnish language really helped. Also local people really appreciate when I try to speak their language, despite my broken Finnish. Job opportunities also came from there, when people could see that I did try to speak their language.

8. Nature is your soul remedy

Opposite to my home country Vietnam where there’s a lot of people, in Finland people have quite some personal space. At first I didn’t accept the fact that I cannot talk to my Finnish friends all the time. Later I realized that it’s very good for me to spend time alone, especially in nature. It helps me release stress, think properly and explore parts of me that I didn’t know before. Nature in Finland helps my mental health, and also my personal and professional growth.

9. It’s OK not to be happy all the time

The ranking “Finland as the happiest country 6 years in a row” does not put me in any pressure to be happy all the time just because. Happiness doesn’t mean that you need to be happy and joyful all the time. There are things in Finland that need to be improved, and it will never be perfect. But Finland has taught me to be content with myself, be grateful with what I have so far in life. Without gratefulness, I think even when life is 100% perfect, people will never be happy.

10. Change takes time

I have become more accepting and forgiving, compared to before coming to Finland. My personal growth taught me the resilience, and the understanding how the world works. Things don’t change overnight just because I scream the loudest. Things change when I change as the example of change. The world is full of inequality, and the work to change that will take many years, decades and generations. One step at a time and not giving up.

What about your stories of Finland?

❤️ From Bambi with love ❤️