International experts and the Finnish language

The Finnish language does not particularly attract international employees to Finland, but Finns’ good English language skills make it easy for foreigners to move here. Employers who don’t require fluent proficiency in the Finnish language have better chances of finding the best possible experts. But is it worth studying Finnish at all?

Language skills and attracting global talent

Finland has many advantages in attracting international experts, but the local language is not one of them. Finnish is known as a difficult language that is not widely spoken. It is, of course, easier for foreign employees to move to a country whose language they already know or where an easily learned language is spoken. For example, an employee who moved to Finland said that it wasn’t easy to choose between Finland or Canada, as Canada would have been easier because of the languages.

Fortunately, Finns speak relatively well English compared to many other non-English speaking countries. A foreign employee can move to Finland without knowing a word of Finnish or Swedish. Settling in is easy as well, if assisted by a relocation consultant. Some live in Finland for a long time without studying the local language. “It’s even too easy to live in Finland without speaking Finnish, that’s why I haven’t learned the language so well. However, it has never been a problem”, said a German, who had lived in Finland for two years.

Language skills requirements and talent shortage

However, some Finnish workplaces require fluent proficiency in the Finnish language. Of course, there are jobs where proficiency in the language is necessary, but in some cases the requirement should be reconsidered.

Finland’s talent shortage means companies need foreign experts. A company has a much better chance of finding the best possible experts when giving up unnecessary language skills requirements. “We are working to ensure that the Finnish language is not always such a strong requirement. It is worth considering whether the Finnish language is really necessary at work or whether English skills would be enough ”, said Mikko Valtonen, a specialist at the Finland Chamber of Commerce, in our interview.

Understandably, in companies that are always used to speaking Finnish, it can seem difficult to change the language to English. According to Valtonen, however, the companies’ experiences have been positive: “The threshold for the first international recruitment is high. However, many recruiters say that when the first foreign employee is hired, they have noticed that it actually works very well.”

In many international Finnish companies, English is the main working language and international recruitment is usual. On the other hand, hiring international experts can further improve companies’ language skills and internationalization.

Should international experts study Finnish?

If a foreign employee intends to live in Finland for a long time, it is worth studying at least the basics of the Finnish language. Even though English is widely spoken, proficiency in the local language helps to adapt to the society even better. According to the employees who moved to Finland, the locals appreciate even a basic knowledge of the Finnish language. Finns know the language is difficult, and they don’t expect anyone to speak perfect Finnish when they move to the country.

Learning the basics of the Finnish language helps a foreign employee to better understand the culture as well. The straightforwardness of Finns does not seem so rude when you realize that there are not so many courtesy words in the language. General equality, on the other hand, can be seen in the absence of gender pronouns and T–V distinction.

Finnish is indeed different from the more commonly studied European languagesBut does this make it more difficult? This article by This is Finland suggests that Finnish is actually a very logical language, and not so impossible to learn.

FRS also helps foreign employees to find suitable Finnish courses. Contact us for more information!


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What should an international employee know about Finnish working culture?

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