It’s hard to be humble when you’re a Finn
Before my international relocation to the Middle East I used to work in a multi-cultural Nuclear Power Plant project in Finland. The company I worked for back then had around 15 different nationalities and the spoken language was English. I thought I knew what a multi-cultural working environment meant, but boy was I wrong!
In July 2016 I moved to Middle East and started working on the far side of the world in a nuclear new build project. The change from Finland was a big one, to say the least. Starting from the fact that the summer time in the Middle East is not a natural environment for a Finn more used to being frozen solid: Temperature during day time could hit up to +50 degrees Celsius.
In my new company the employees came literally from all over the world. My colleagues were from New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, India, South Africa, US and Brazil, among other countries. Communication in a multi-cultural environment such as this was challenging and ever-changing. When I met a new person, I could never really know where they came from, what they thought of the world or what they believed in. Combining different working cultures was also not easy, but our company they paid a lot of attention to this fact in order to help people understand each other and work better together. Without their efforts, I am sure the project would not be as successful as it is today.
It is always said that stereotypes are hurtful as the assumptions and expectations that we may have prevent us from seeing the person inside and treating them as individuals. While I agree with this, I cannot deny that some of the stereotypes would not be accurate… A stereotypical Finn is thought to be quiet, slow and strict about our personal space. Among the talkative Americans, temperamental Romanians and hugging and kissing Arabs, I did indeed feel myself quiet, slow and uncomfortable!
However, that is most certainly not all we are. We Finns are also straightforward and honest. At work we are efficient and proactive. We do not make promises that we cannot keep and we always follow the rules, even if nobody else would. And should there ever be a time when we were to make a mistake, we would not attempt to hide it but aim to fix it.
We Finnish engineers are humbly proud of how we use and maintain our nuclear power plants. The fact that ever since the 1980s the average annual load factors of Finnish operating Nuclear Power Plants have been among the highest of the world, exceeding 90 % almost every year1,2). We have upgraded and uprated our plants so much, that even after 30-40 years they are safer, more efficient and have been granted license extensions up to 2038.
In the nuclear industry safety always comes first. Many of the Finnish qualities, honesty and the ability to understand and follow requirements, are excellent tools in creating safety in any industry. Our excellent education systems provides a team of smart young talents to the Nuclear Industry yearly, and our English skills get constant praise from the native English speakers. Our integrity, timeliness and efficiency just make Finns excellent business partners in any industry.
It is time for the message about the Finnish excellence in Nuclear Industry to reach all corners of the world. A kiss on the cheek might be a nightmare for me, but a Finnish nuclear engineer might be your dream come true.
Karoliina Korhonen’s Finnish Nightmares is a comic about Matti, “a stereotypical Finn who appreciates peace, quiet and personal space”: https://www.facebook.com/finnishnightmares/