Tampere hustle: Seven lessons from living in Finland

Dixit KC

Dixit KC

Tampere hustle: Seven lessons from living in Finland

In August of 2013, I contributed to the count of Nepali youth leaving Nepal for abroad. I left for Tampere, the third largest city in Finland, for my studies. I was reluctant at first, but my sister persuaded me to join her in experiencíng the Finnish education miracle. I gave in and decided to start my Master’s degree in Industrial Management at Tampere University of Technology (now Tampere University). Through this write-up, I try to contemplate the lessons learned during my journey.

Clean slate

The boon or curse of living abroad as a foreigner is that usually nobody knows you, and you can become what you choose to be. Nobody, except my sister, knew me in Tampere city which is sandwiched between two lakes—Lake Näsijärvi and Lake Pyhäjärvi. As much as I was alien to the Finnish eyes, most of the things including Finnish language, the weather, the food, the people, the norms and the Finns were equally alien to me. During the first years, I settled for being a student, a part-time cleaner, and a hobby cricketer without being overawed by the sudden surge of freedom. I strongly believe this clean slate provided me an opportunity to create an improved identity in a foreign land.

Missing the mess

As much as one enjoys the clean slate and in my case, the second cleanest air to breathe among 326 European cities, the void of living far away from home creeps in. I missed my parents’ love and intrusion, the platter of tasty food, my therapist friends, and sometimes the chaos and the pollution I was so used to. I terribly missed the world I left behind, and because of this, I started to admire the little things I did not pay attention to while I was in Nepal. I realized that you not just become conscious about your loved ones, but also of your country and identity as a Nepali.

Community construct

On one hand, missing your tribe at home is inevitable, while on the other, one also starts to become a part of the local community abroad. I met strangers from all parts of the world in Tampere who have now graduated into my friends. Even though I might have referred to the Finns as aliens earlier, these coconut-people (hard outside, softer inside) are rare gems. They take their time to trust you, but once they do, they trust you with their lives. I know this because among the Finns, I have found my mentors, my greatest allies, and my family.

Give up today. Try again tomorrow

When you have to reinforce your identity, early failures in a new country do not come as a surprise. Tampere is known as the Manchester of Finland for its long industrial history, and yet there is a struggle to find professional jobs. My qualifications or experiences from Nepal did not make sense to many Finnish employers. Failure in finding a professional job forced me to move back to Nepal in 2016. However, within less than a year, Tampere offered me a second chance as my Finnish professor (surprise, surprise!) vouched for me to a global Finnish company. Struggles like mine have not deterred many, who keep persisting for jobs, or take up entrepreneurship in Tampere.

Pro bono ambassador 

Living abroad also comes with a responsibility. Nepal might not be able to appoint official ambassadors in all the countries around the world, but as citizens living abroad, we take up that role whether we like it or not. I have realized that what I tell about Nepal or how I conduct and behave among the Finns and fellow internationals in Tampere helps them to form their perception about Nepal and the Nepalis. So, living abroad has also provided a unique opportunity to serve Nepal from afar.

Remittance of best practices

Nepal’s economy is heavily reliant on monies sent by Nepalis living all over the world. In addition to periodic remittance, I have been able to ‘remit’ the co-creation culture between academia and industries of Tampere, and channel it through Co-Create Nepal projects. Co-creation is at the heart of most of the processes in Tampere, the academia and the industries co-create to predict the future of businesses. The city and its inhabitants co-create to bolster its image as an attractive and welcoming city. Drawing from personal experience, I have realized that there is also an opportunity to initiate the remittance of best practices that one sees and lives while living abroad.

Time flies

Time seems to fly faster when abroad—if you are not attending a boring lesson. Life usually gets split between five work days and two off days. Weeks slip into months and months into years and in my case, a decade has slipped in a blink. Due to this, I have understood the importance of taking action over procrastinating. I have a dream to export Tampere’s entrepreneurial initiatives like Tribe Tampere, HUBS, TAMK Proakatemia and many more, and I hope it will not take another decade to do this.

Living abroad comes with a lot of baggage, and can be overwhelming at times. However, it also provides an excellent opportunity to explore and evolve as an individual, to become the bridge between communities, and to assume the role of an ambassador. I am sure that many like me have ended or will end up in a far better city than Tampere or a country than Finland, and I urge them all not to limit themselves to sending money, but more importantly, the best practices home.

The author is a B2B sales professional living in Tampere, Finland
[email protected] 

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