Internationals in Seinäjoki 5/6
Mark is a very refreshing person with a big story. Therefore our interview was really dense, he has many interesting things to tell. Here are (unfortunately only) some parts of our interview.
What’s your name?
Where are you from?
How long have you been in Finland and why did you come to Seinäjoki?
“That’s a simple question with a difficult answer.” Mark said. In 2008 he moved to Finland with his Finnish wife and their two children but at that time he was still working in the UK during the week. “I commuted between Seinäjoki and London almost every weekend for three years.” After those three years, he was still working for the same company but could now work in Finland, responsible for sales in the Nordic region.
What are you doing in Seinäjoki?
In 2013, Mark was made redundant, wanted to continue living and working in Finland and so he co-founded a company called Xport. Xport has a range of services to help Finnish companies improve their export sales, including market research, partner search, attending trade shows and English-language sales training. There are people with 22 different nationalities connected to the Xport Associates group, and they speak 30 different languages altogether. “And it was actually easy to get them. I started to somehow be the unofficial ‘welcome committee’ for foreign people that move to Seinäjoki.” When someone moves to Seinäjoki, they often call Mark and say ‘I just left a meeting and it was suggested that I contact you.’ “In the past year, I have been introduced to people from China, Poland and the UK in this way,” Mark explained.
Another thing Mark does is recording podcasts and writing blog posts.Mark started to make podcasts where he talks about Finnish life and culture three years ago, so that people from different countries would learn about Finland and want to visit. He is “lifting the rock for people so that they can see what is underneath it, what Finland is really like,” as he expressed it. And so far he has been really successful with it. In one year, he had 5000 visitors from 85 different countries on his webpage.
Mark writes blogs in a few different places; on his own Explore Finland Podcast page, on the Visit Seinäjoki page with insider tips for tourists, and on the XPORTblog page writing about business subjects. I urge you very much to check out both - the podcasts and the articles. I think they are really interesting – for foreigners and Finns.
Did you have any difficulties when you came here? Do you feel well integrated?
Mark didn’t have any problems when he moved to Seinäjoki. “Finns are really warm towards people from the UK and the USA. They have learned to speak English in school and are mostly happy to speak it.” But Mark has realised that he’s feeling even more integrated now that he’s working in the Etelä-Pohjanmaa business community. “I felt really comfortable before but now I know many more local people.”
What do you miss about London?
“Proper English Pubs and some food.” He especially misses Fish and Chips, which is a typical dish in the UK. Mark goes to eat at this one “Fish ‘n’ Chip shop” every time he visits there. Another thing he doesn’t have here in Finland are the real sausages “that actually has some meat in it – not like the Makkara here”.
What would you miss about Finland if you were back in the UK?
“The changing of the seasons. Even though the summer didn’t arrive in 2017 - but sometimes it does.” Mark especially likes the long ‘white nights’ of the Finnish summer. He also wouldn’t like to miss the quiet, empty roads in Finland because in London the roads are always busy and it takes so long to go everywhere, he told me. Another thing that he would miss is the person that he can be here. “In Seinäjoki, with my work, the blog and the podcast, I somehow have a higher profile than back in the UK. There I’m just one of the 70 million inhabitants.” In Seinäjoki he’s known and he feels that he belongs here. He likes the feeling to often meet people he knows in the town.
Which 3 things would you like to export from Finland?
“There are not really any specific things that I want to export. Our company is focused on helping any company to find more customers and make more business from overseas.” Mark explained. ”We are also interested trying to “export” the Finnish experience, by developing tourism to this region. It’s not something actually leaving the country, but we want to get people come here and experience Finnish life.” That’s also the purpose and idea for his podcasts.
What is your favourite place in Seinäjoki?
Mark doesn’t have ONE specific favourite place. “I suppose it has to be somewhere out in the nature.” he said, because he grew up in the suburbs of London, the untouched nature is something he really enjoys, as well as the kuntoradat (exercise tracks) and luontopolut (nature trails) that you find in many Finnish forests.
Text and photo: Anja Kaufmann