Expat’s Insights – John Kelly

This month we will start to publish our series of interviews, where expats sharing their experiences of moving to Finland. The first interviewee is John Kelly, a professional game design manager from Ireland.

John Kelly sits down across from me, the jovial Irishman smiling as usual. John works at Rovio as a game design manager and moved to Finland fairly recently ”Three months and 13 days” he says, counting them off in his head. During this time, he has seen and experienced much.

Finns have a reputation for being introverted, but John’s experiences have been positive ”Finns are shy, but once you get them talking and get to know them they’re actually quite warm and friendly people. I’ve gotten to meet quite a few Finns at this point, they tend to be quite proactive and friendly in meeting new people and going out for drinks or on dates and stuff like that and I find that it’s been quite pleasant”

When the conversation turns to his everyday experiences, his response is very energetic ”I can get by on day to day business with absolutely no problems, no issues at all. Which is great! Language is an important factor and I think it’s one of Finland’s biggest assets internationally, that good high standard of multiple languages. It’s easy to get by here”.

The communication culture however is something that John had a hard time getting used to ”The Finns are much more risqué and less politically correct than I was expecting” he says “The Finnish culture of communication is much more direct than some others, but it’s all going down with a lot of laughs and smiles and everyone engaging in it.” he laughs.

The capitol is to the liking of the experienced expat “Getting to know Helsinki has been quite a lot of fun as well. There’s definitely some interesting stuff in the city. There’s a surprisingly good music scene that I wasn’t expecting, and actually stuff beyond heavy metal, which, you know, who’d have thought! That’s been quite good.”

He has also managed to experience the countryside, falling in love with it “I have experienced the Finnish summer near Turku and the islands up the coast there, that was quite lovely. Nice country side, nice driving roads, good food, good beer, some decent fishing. That was very very pleasant, really quite liked that. I didn’t catch anything, but I had a good time.”

The move to Finland has not been without any challenges however. In the beginning things went well. The relocation support from his company was invaluable “With my relocation consultant’s assistance, the process I went through was straight forward, easy, super simple, got it all done and dusted in two days. Dealing with the bureaucracy myself after that was painful. I imagine the registrations, the immigration, it would have been a nightmare to do on my own. While everyone is willing to deal with me in English, all the paperwork is in Finnish and Google translate frequently gets it wrong.”

John laughs when I ask him to elaborate a little “I kind of expected this legendary Scandinavian efficiency when it comes to stuff, and I’m beginning to realize, since I’ve been to Sweden and I’ve been to Norway, it’s a very cleverly constructed myth!”

Overall however, John’s very happy “Every expat has gripes about how the system doesn’t work like every other system they’ve ever interacted with or why this one thing is stupid and dumb. It’s just part and parcel of being an expat.

John’s an experienced expat whose previous experiences have been good, but relocating to Finland blew him away “FRS is the best relocations agency I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve worked with them in four different countries now. I’ve generally had a pretty good experience, but this was by far the best. Everything was already organized, everything was taken care of, all the paperwork was correct, there was no running around, there was nothing to double check, it just got done. And that really at the end of the day is what I’m looking for. Everything got taken care of and I was free to get along with getting started with work and getting started with Finland.”

Finally, he ranks Finland very high on his list of favorite places ”If I were looking to settle down or to start a family or putting down roots or looking for more stability with my life, I can see it being way up there on the list of places where I would want to live. I’d put it in the top four easy-peasy, and I wouldn’t want to rank that top four.”

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