Lessons learnt from my experience living in Finland


I was thinking of what to share with you and in the process, I thought I would just share with you my experience and the impact moving here has had on my life, both personally and business-wise. As I mentioned in a previous post, I moved to Finland in 2010. Although it does not feel that long.

When I first moved here, I had a culture shock (as Kenyans are usually extroverts), a climate shock and a food shock, among others. Despite all these, one thing I could immediately pick out was that things “actually work”. Usually when touring abroad many people only get the touristic view of the places they visit. Growing up I used to get frustrated with the deteriorating standards in our country. This was one of the motivating factors that discouraged me from attending a university back home. Looking back if I were to choose, I would make the same decisions all over again.

During my stay here, I have managed to visit home frequently. When I go my friends and family always like pointing out that my mindset has changed a lot. Observing the Finnish resilience (SISU) during the long winters and despite the natural challenges they manage to get things done has made me start believing everything is possible. I am starting to feel like I am getting ‘SISU’. This theory could be supported with the fact that I nowadays eat Lakritsi (Liquorice) which I never liked in the beginning and also I drink coffee without sugar which was not the case during my earlier time here 🙂 .

While studying, I have had the opportunity to interact with many people. My fellow students, teachers and special guests who attend lectures and networking events. Finnish people are the humblest people I have come across. I have talked to CEOs, managers, teachers who have published books and they all are very modest. This is a trait I will practise no matter which position I will have in the future. Thinking about some of the challenges we face at home, having humility would go a long way to reduce excessive spending especially by people occupying public office.

Another lesson I have come to appreciate is the value of planning. Although it sounds very basic and obvious as it is part of culture in Finland, I admire the amount of effort put into planning. From the curriculum in school to the city of Vaasa maintenance of the infrastructure, I always get amazed with the efficiency. Of course, the trains experience delays every now and then but sometimes its due to the harsh conditions especially during winter. Having many hours of self-study and team work projects at Hanken have had a big contribution in helping me practise this skill.

Personally, I think Finnish people are very innovative and have very strong competence especially in the technological field. The main challenge could be the marketing due to ‘being shy’ and ‘too modest’. However, building networks with people from other countries could provide a breakthrough into other markets. This is needed, as Finnish products are of very high quality. A good example is when my parents came to visit me in Vaasa, they bought an enormous amount of things, ranging from household items to machinery. Most were Finnish brands and to this day my mum still tells me how much she likes the products she bought.

Finally, looking into the future, my wildest dream would be having a stronger connection between Finland and Kenya. Although at a governmental level the two countries have a cordial relationship, I would love if we could have more co-operation on all levels. Personally, I feel grateful receiving all this world-class education (knowledge) and it would make me happy to help Finnish companies set up shop in Kenya. While there are many hurdles to cross before reaching there, the ideas for mutually beneficial cooperation are endless. For example, there are many opportunities of co-creation when going for tourism. When one visits they can offer their knowledge and in exchange they are hosted by locals in Kenya. This would also foster responsible tourism. Finns love coffee and Kenya produces very good coffee so both countries could also benefit.

All these ideas would not be possible had I not come to study here. Hopefully I inspired you and Glada Vappen to you all.

-Mwangi Magana