Episode 87

A Pawfect Way to Mastering Finland

The founders of ‘Pawfect Grooming’ business meet with our podcast host Eva to discuss their discovery of puppy power in Finland! The episode also features some pet peeves they met during their journey to mastering Finland.

Husband and wife team, Asha and Mika Singadia-Kuronen, moved to Finland in 2018. Mika was returning to his home country, bringing Asha with him from the UK. Asha is a British Indian who had a career in banking and finance and is now focused on developing Finland’s first ever mobile dog grooming business.

What was it like for Asha to move to Finland?

Asha’s response leaps forward quickly with her first tip for mastering Finland: ‘Start learning the basics of the Finnish language’ from the very outset.  Even before arriving, Asha had been doing some research on the language, culture, traditions, and habits of Finnish people. According to Asha, the best approach is to be patient and mindful of the behaviour and culture around us, both of our own and that of others.

Asha describes their move to Finland as a challenging experience. As an international, one of her pet peeves is that much of the communications from government agencies and other services were only available in Finnish. Of course, her Finnish partner helped with translating and effectively ‘on-boarding’ her to life in Finland. When Mika wasn’t available, Google Translate helped too.

A new pet — a new business

One of the other challenges that the couple faced was that they arrived shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic set in. Immediately, options for having a “normal” life were dashed because life was not normal anymore. The employment market was turned upside down and the only jobs Asha was signposted to were the ones that were vacant rather than the ones she was suited to.  This is a theme that our guests have discussed a lot!

As the pandemic set in, Pablo appeared in their lives, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. The couple discovered the effects of puppy power! Being a pet parent can feel like a full-time job in itself and many of the pet care services that were readily available in the UK simply did not exist in Finland. And those that did were severely restricted by the lockdown rules. Rather than finding a job (not that there was much governmental support anyway), Asha created a new career and a new business.  ‘Pawfect Grooming’ is now the lead mobile pet grooming service in Finland and has keen ambitions to develop and grow across the country and the Nordics. A service is definitely appreciated by local dog-owners!

But is it even easy to own a dog in Finland?

Mika had two dogs in the family around him when he was growing up in Finland. Now, as a first time ‘owner’ himself, he had to go through the whole process together with  Asha. It was easy to find a breeder online, and they were lucky with timing too! The local breeder gave them information on how to look after their new puppy Pablo, when to go to the vets, and how to prepare the paperwork. The breeder also ensured that Pablo’s transition to a new home and new owners went smoothly.

Mika discovered that Finland is a very dog-friendly country, with plenty of puppy playgrounds in parks and open spaces to walk the dogs. But remember to keep the dog on a leash most of the time! Also, take care of the pets’ ‘leftovers’.

What are the dog-friendly travel destinations in Finland?

Suomenlinna Island in Helsinki, Koli National Park, and Lapland (all year round, not just in winter).  For pet owners, Asha and Mika recommend specific events like the New Year’s Eve pet party held at the Clarion Hotel by the airport. There are no fireworks or loud bangs allowed so that the pets are not frightened.

How does it feel to return back to Finland?

Mika, who is originally Finnish, had to rediscover his home-country after living abroad for a while. He felt cold in the process, and it was also difficult to integrate into systems and get involved in the community. Also, the pandemic didn’t help.

Asha notes that when Mika is around Finns, he behaves in a more Finnish way. And when he is around internationals, he behaves in a more international way.

But on the positive note, Finland has a low crime rate — for example, they can leave their bikes outside overnight. In the UK, in Mika’s experience, it would be stolen by morning.

Asha enjoys the work life-balance in Finland. Also, all the things you need are nearby — like schools, supermarkets, fuel stations, and so on — as opposed to the UK, where a one-hour commute each way is not uncommon.

However, they both agree that navigating the healthcare system in the UK is easier than in Finland — but it could be a whole episode in itself. But a useful tip for all pet-owners (and those soon-to-be): get health insurance for your pet immediately as the vet’s bills are expensive!