Foreign students can often be discouraged from applying to study in Tampere. This is because many believe that it can be difficult to find a part-time job to support themselves. Several months into my studies when I felt I was settled into Tampere and had time, I started searching for a part-time job. I searched for jobs related to my previous experience in kitchens and teaching English, so I applied to restaurants, hotels, and private English schools. I was also willing to gain new experience working in a position that I hadn’t before, such as bar staff or a cleaner.
Eventually last January I had my first interview. It was for a restaurant called Fafa’s that opened in February, and I got the job! In Fafa’s Finnish language and restaurant experience are not necessary and the restaurant has employed many foreigners, although it is possible to try to practice Finnish whilst taking orders. I enjoy my work because the atmosphere is interesting with a mixture of Finns and foreigners, and is usually fun and relaxed. It keeps me pretty busy but it is manageable and soon I will have been working there for 1 year.
Fafa’s was originally established by an Israeli who struggled to find work in Finland and alternatively opened restaurants serving cuisine from Israel. As of November last year, Fafa’s has 100 employees from 31 different countries, all six continents, and all kinds of backgrounds. There are currently 7 restaurants in Helsinki, and several times Fafa’s has been chosen as Helsinki’s best street food restaurant. Within the past year 4 restaurants have opened in Tampere, Lahti, Turku, and Jyväskylä. Fafa’s is looking for franchisees in other Finnish cities, so it is likely that new restaurants will open elsewhere in the near future.
I discovered that employees must have a Hygiene Passport if they in their work handle unpacked easily perishable foods. Such foods are, for example, milk, meat and fish. It is required that within three months of commencing work you must acquire a Hygiene Passport. In order to obtain a Hygiene Passport, you must pass a Hygiene Proficiency Test. Unfortunately, this cost €53 in English, as opposed to €40 (student price) had it been in Finnish. When serving alcohol, you must also have the Alcohol Passport. However, it is likely that your job prospects improve when you have these passports.
Furthermore, it is also possible for foreign students to apply for financial aid from the Finnish Social Insurance Institution (Kela) provided “you have arrived in Finland for some other reason than to study. Such a reason can for example be employment, family ties or return migration.”. Alternatively, “if you are a citizen of another EU or EEA or of Switzerland, you can get financial aid even if you have come to Finland to study. This requires that you are employed in Finland for at least 4 months with an average of at least 18 hours of work per week”.
Although the job market is not as open to foreigners as it is to Finns, it is improving due to initiatives such as the Tampere All Bright Ambassador network, which I am part of. The network aims to gather together internationally and business oriented people from the Tampere region and is open for all people regardless of their nationality or professional background. This network is useful for finding new contacts and work opportunities.
I have international student friends who have been employed as newspaper deliverers, cleaners in a department store and a hotel, and a street fundraiser, among others. Whilst it can sometimes feel difficult to find a job because many jobs require fluent Finnish, there are exceptions, like in my case. If you are perseverant and innovative I believe it is possible to find something, or even establish your own business, because opportunities for foreigners are improving.