Fennovoima’s Senior Contract Manager Jörg Nicklis has worked in several countries: Germany, the USA, France and now Finland (for the second time). We talked to him about cultural differences and his impressions of Finland.
Jörg, why did you choose Finland?
After working in many different projects, at some point I started looking for another opportunity in a long-term nuclear new built project. I was interested in Finland because I had worked here earlier many years in the nuclear business and knew how good this country is for work-life-balance especially for families. This brought me to Fennovoima where I can bring the benefit from many years of experience working in a nuclear new-build project. This is how I came back to Finland when Fennovoima decided that they want to have me on board.
When you came to work in Finland 13 years ago, how did it feel?
It was actually very nice. I had traveled here for business before I moved for 5 years to Rauma Area and my impressions were always very positive. I liked the countryside and the sea and had the feeling that the whole environment was very relaxed outside the business world. In Finland you have fewer stressful situations in daily life compared to other countries like Germany or France. It’s quieter, less crowded and the beautiful nature is always present.
Do you still feel the same now?
Yes, indeed. I knew that Finland is the right place for me and my family to stay for a long time and work in a pleasant work environment. Also, it’s a clean, modern and secure country with nice social benefits for families. If you work and have kids, here in Finland you can get a daycare place within two weeks. Also, there are different clubs, where you can spend time with children and even leave a child for some time. There are libraries with inside playgrounds, lots of groups and classes even for babies. That’s different from Germany, where most classes are fully booked. We even had a joke that in Germany you need to apply for groups like baby swimming before you are even pregnant. Or you won’t get a place.
Many people think that Finnish is a difficult language. Do you have any language issues?
Yes, Finnish is a difficult language. But I haven’t experienced language issues. Actually, from the beginning it was surprising that everyone speaks English well. It’s not an issue to communicate at all and though Finnish people might often appear shy, they are always helpful and polite. And here at Fennovoima we have an international spirit and everyone is very open to speak English or teach you a few words in Finnish. I’m taking some Finnish lessons and can understand a lot of words. In the restaurant, supermarket or mall I can understand most of what’s written.
Talking about working culture, what differences have you noticed in the Finnish working culture compared to others you’ve known?
It depends a lot if you have people used to office work or on the project side itself, it’s already a big difference. Finnish people who used to work on big projects are more open and talkative and have a ‘let’s get it done’ spirit. They have to solve issues and focus on the goal to finish the project. In other spheres, the people are quieter. Face-to-face communication is not that common. People prefer texting or emailing each other even if they are sitting close. It may be a bit strange for foreigners that sometimes Finnish people are too introverted and don’t watch what’s going on around them. In this case I also learned that greeting each other in the office is not as usual as in other work cultures, but it is not related to rudeness.
Also, in my opinion, open office doesn’t work in Finland because people try not to disturb each other by talking loudly and most people even use headphones not to be distracted. Some people even avoid communication in the open office space not to distract their colleagues. This is different in Germany or the US, where people talk in the open offices and join conversations of others. Personally, I prefer small offices for 2-4 persons to be able to have quick meetings without booking ‘barely’ available meeting rooms.
Would you say that Finnish working culture is more “equality” oriented?
Yes. It’s very positive that the culture is equal. Men and women are very equal, sometimes it might appear even too equal for other cultures. I appreciate it and it’s very good especially for working life.
I feel that in Finland still a certain hierarchy-thinking is in people’s minds. Usually people are equal, but still people like to have their boss decide and avoid to provide their expectations for a decision to be made.
In general, equality means also fairness and I feel that Finnish people are very good in this.
Can you tell me a bit about your team? What do you do in contract management?
Our team is quite small, only 5 people, but all are very proactive. We have one German, one Estonian and three Finns. Our role is to give advice in all project related matters in relation to interaction between Owner and Supplier. We manage changes, variations, correspondence and guide issues and disagreements. Our ultimate goal is to keep the project progressing as well as possible. We are working closely with legal support if some major disputes, risks or necessary amendments come up. There may be all kinds of variations to the contract like changes to scope, changes in law or changes in technology over the years, e.g. LED lights instead of old light bulbs banned from the markets. Maybe within 10 years another technology will come, and then we need to change it again. It’s good for me to have an engineering background to evaluate the technical and project issues more easily.
What advice would you give to foreigners who are considering to move to Finland to join Fennovoima?
First, consider if you like the country. It is primarily nature and quiet life, especially outside the Metropolitan Area. Second, check out financial topics carefully. Finland is an expensive country, so it’s good to calculate very well your future expenses before you negotiate your salary. Third, I’d recommend to think about your vacation habits. By Finnish law it may be about a year of work before you can get your first holiday. So, it’s better to talk about your options if you want to have any holiday during your first year.