Episode 39

Learning Finnish, Job-Seeking, and Facing Racism: Esther's Story

This week, Jean chats with Esther from Malaysia, who came to Finland in 2009 to be with her now-husband.

She always wanted to be a mother and was ready to learn Finnish for the sake of her future children. Upon arrival, she learned about Finland's integration program and set about learning Finnish. Esther wanted to be able to do basic translations in one year, but soon discovered the difficulty of the Finnish language.

Esther began by translating simple children's songs, but it was still hard for her to read signs and understand outside the house when she arrived in Finland. Esther continued building up her vocabulary by learning 300 words in a week, and she ended up surprising herself and her husband with her quick learning ability.

She felt that TE office didn’t really help to get through the integration process, and at first she didn’t manage to get into the school in Vantaa because it was already full. But eventually, she got into another school where she worked on her Finnish skills.

Esther's Finnish language skills developed even more quickly when she finally began working in a school kitchen. At work, she was only given instructions in Finnish. She needed to quickly pick up the language in order to understand and follow instructions.

Although she did spend some time in immersion courses, Esther's Finnish language ability progressed quickest due to regular practice while buying furniture, speaking with her neighbors, and ordering pizza!

Eventually, Esther passed the language requirement (YKI test) on her citizenship test.

Esther also participated in MAVA course, a course that helps you obtain general skills to be able to get to work. You learn all the basic knowledge and can choose a specific path for your career. Through this course you can also get an internship, and that's how Esther got to an elderly people home.

In this place, she experienced bullying - they made her do stuff they didn't want to do and even shouted at her. Her hard work made her eventually get the approval of her colleagues.

After giving birth to her children and being a stay at home mother, Esther started feeling lonely and even depressed. This was eventually diagnosed by a nurse and Esther was able to get all the help she needed.

There was no racism in Esther's life during the first few years in Finland but recently she's been facing some racism. She wanted to become the chair of the housing committee, since nobody else was interested but one of the old people in her house wasn't happy about that.

What does Esther think about the “Finland is the happiest country in the world” statement? “For Finns yes”, Esther says, “but not for foreigners. If you are not an IT, you will have a harder time finding a job”.

Tune in to episode 39 to hear more details about Esther's experience obtaining employment eligibility documents and for her top language learning tips.