Imagine you’ve moved to a far-away country where you don’t know the culture, where the winter is long and dark, and you miss your friends and family every single day.
If this wasn’t challenging enough, you’re trying to master a language that’s one of the toughest in the world. And the reason you’re battling through all this? Simple. You’re in love.
Welcome to the world of St. George Bakery's cashier, Liam Keenan
Born in Germany to Northern Irish parents, Liam’s story is a familiar one. He fell for a Finnish girl and followed his heart to Finland, only to find settling in a bit trickier than he’d expected.
Yet, despite this he’s as enthusiastic about his new job as he is his new home.
- It’s fun working at St. George Bakery. There’s always something new happening with lots of different types of people coming and going, he says.
- It often makes me laugh when I serve locals and guests, because a lot of the time they try to guess my nationality based on my accent.
As for Finland, he likes almost everything about the country.
- I love the cold weather so I find the heavy snow really nice, and the scenery in the countryside is great too. It's so different to England.
Finland needs a helping hand
Liam’s one of a growing number of immigrants bringing their expertise and enthusiasm to Finland.
In 2017, there were 373,325 foreign people residing in Finland, or roughly 6.8% of the population. Brits are the 7th biggest community with nearly 17,000 now making their home in the far north.
In a country like Finland, with one of the EU’s most aging populations and a stagnating birth rate, new arrivals like Liam are crucial for future success.
While there’s plenty of research showing how newcomers benefit the Finnish society both culturally and economically, it takes a lot of courage and determination to start afresh.
The language struggle is real
Take the Finnish language. Considered one of the hardest for English speakers to master, it’s estimated it can take anything up to a year of dedicated study to become fluent.
Consequently, there’s been occasions where customers have been a bit confused by Liam’s conversational skills. But he’s battling on.
- So far, I've found what little I’ve learned of the Finnish language pretty complicated. But I really want to be able to hold a conversation without thinking about it. The first word I learnt was perhonen, which is butterfly. Not much good for working in a bakery. Now, I try and remember vaalea leipä which is something that’s a lot more useful, he laughs.
This dedication is great news, and not only for Liam’s girlfriend.
The more international a city the better
A multi-cultural vibe is one of the things that make a city a popular travel destination. It’s no coincidence that the Global Destination Cities Index lists London, the world’s most linguistically diverse city with an incredible 250 languages spoken, the second most visited city on Earth.
Helsinki might not be on London’s level, but these days you can find people from every continent working, studying, living and loving here.
- For me, the best things about working at St. George are all the international guests we receive. I love meeting different people from all over the world with different stories and cultural backgrounds. Plus, it’s interesting to see what bread they choose. My favourite is setsuurilimppu, Liam tells.
Pop in and say "moi" to Liam
So, if you’re a fan of setsuurilimppu or any other freshly baked bread, sweet pastries, sandwiches, or fab coffee why not pop in and say “moi” to Liam.
Not only will you get a tasty treat and a great view of the park, you’ll help him get better at Finnish, while being able to marvel at his accent too.
Everyone’s a winner!