Dani and Tzeeny doing their chef work in Finland

Chef Work in Finland: A Dream Come True Or A New Adventure

Work in Finland – that’s what these two chefs, Tzeeny and Dani, were chasing. For Dani, it was an exciting adventure to discover a different culture and a way of life. For Tzeeny, it was a lifelong dream to live and work in a balanced place where relatives are waiting. Both of them made it to Finland in January 2023! They went through the same Silk Road Journey, but the motivation and the goal for the journey differ from each other. Let’s dive deeper into their thoughts about the arrival and the first year in Finland!

Arrival Full of Surprises

The first thing Tzeeny and Dani noticed when arriving in Finland was the coldness. And it is something to note – the coldness in Finland cannot really be imagined; one has to experience it. But still, there were more positives than negatives upon arriving in Finland.

“I had searched on Google where Levi is located. I noticed it’s up north, so I knew I had to prepare with some jackets. I took my flight to Oulu, and it was still a 6-hour drive from there to Levi. I was suffering from jet lag, and the drive was tiring, but the view was worth it! I also saw the Aurora Borealis, so I really enjoyed coming to Finland.”

– Dani

“I was very excited because arriving in Finland was really a dream come true for me! Ever since I was a kid, Finland has been the dream place for me to live and work. I have many relatives here, so I’ve always known what it’s like to live in Finland. But still, I was surprised by how cold it actually was.”

– Tzeeny

Similar But Different

For the winter season, Dani worked in a restaurant called Panorama in Levi. In May, he transferred to southern Finland, to Haukilahden Helmi in Espoo. Tzeeny, on the other hand, has been working at Haukilahden Helmi for over a year now. She started working there right after arriving in Finland. The way of working in the kitchen is pretty much the same no matter where in the world one goes. Both Dani and Tzeeny are from the Philippines, and they are used to high standards when it comes to tidiness and preciseness in the kitchen. That’s why coping with Finnish kitchens has not been an obstacle.

The differences are mostly between different kinds of restaurants. For example, comparing Panorama and Haukilahden Helmi, in Panorama Dani could spend more time thinking about the presentation of the food. In fine dining, the food needs to exceed expectations. In a bistro restaurant like Haukilahden Helmi, the presentation is important, but the dishes need to be made more quickly. That’s what makes the work a bit different. Dani and Tzeeny agree that the most important thing in coping with work in Finland has been learning the language.

“Learning the language was hard. I was working in the mornings, and in the evenings, I always used to review the training material. But it was essential, and I managed to reach the required level! In Panorama, all the orders came to the kitchen in Finnish. You had to know the language to be able to make the right dishes.”

– Dani

“It’s necessary to know at least the very basic words in Finnish. Otherwise, you don’t understand the instructions. For example, understanding the list of ingredients in Finnish is important. You cannot check it from your phone while in the kitchen.”

– Tzeeny
Dani giving a thumbs-up in the workplace kitchen

Free-Time Fun

During their first year in Finland, both of these chefs have had the time to discover Finland’s nature and enjoy different free-time activities. Tzeeny spent her summertime in the traditional Finnish summer cottage – mostly swimming in the lake and going to the sauna one after another.

 “I tried picking berries and mushrooms for the first time in my life! In the Philippines, we just buy them from the store.”

– Tzeeny

Dani also plans on picking berries this year, freezing them and then eating them during the wintertime. Usually, in his free-time, Dani calls home and sometimes visits former colleagues in Levi. Both Dani and Tzeeny have also made Finnish friends since arriving.

“I have friends here, both Filipino and Finnish. My boyfriend is Finnish, so I have gotten to know a lot of his friends. Also, my best friend, with whom I have been doing catering, is Finnish.”

– Tzeeny

Both chefs recognize the good work-life balance in Finland. In Finland, they have free days every week to do whatever they want. In the Philippines, work took almost all of their time.

Longing for Family

Dani mentions that coping with life and work in Finland has been easier for Tzeeny as she had her family members in Finland already. For Dani, homesickness sometimes hits, but talking to friends like Tzeeny helps a lot.

“I’m kind of used to it. I worked abroad for the first time at the age of 20. I have experienced homesickness and being away from my family already before. That has helped me to be more independent. But I miss the beach, and especially my family gatherings in the Philippines. Here I only have friends, not family, but I cope with it by talking and hanging out with my friends and calling my family in the Philippines.”

– Dani

Even though Tzeeny already had some relatives in Finland beforehand, she also still has family members back in the Philippines. She supports her family in the Philippines financially. Tzeeny also has a child whom she hopes to bring to Finland within the next few years.

“I’m planning to stay here with my boyfriend. The benefits in Finland, like pensions, health care, and education, are really good. That’s why I want to stay. We also feel safer here than in the Philippines.”

– Tzeeny
Tzeeny seasoning some food which is to be served

Words of Encouragement

Dani and Tzeeny are both happy about their decision to come and work in Finland. They see it as a chance they had to take. Even though for Dani, being in Finland is an adventure among many others, and for Tzeeny, it’s a dream come true with a wish to stay here permanently, they see eye to eye that life in Finland has been good. They feel lucky to have had the opportunity to work in Finland.

“I encourage everyone to apply to have this experience. The winter in Finland is worth seeing, and the Finnish food is surely different compared to other places. Exploring different things is really fun!”

– Dani

“If you see the opportunity, don’t think too much, just grab it! You might only get the opportunity once! When I applied, I was double-minded because I had no money and no job. I don’t know how I even managed to go through the process. But I was very lucky to get the place since there are so many people willing to go. So, if you have the chance, you have to take it! Give it a try! “

– Tzeeny