Wearing a smile to work

Wearing a smile to work

-Every job requires a certain amount of labour, but here I actually smile whenever I come to work. It is ideal to get to work in a fell scenery on the shores of River Teno. Changing jobs was a great choice.

This is the opinion of Lilli  (47) who moved to Utsjoki from Oulu. She has worked as a cook in Restaurant Deatnu in Holiday Village Valle since January 2016, and doesn’t miss the bustling town of Oulu at all.

Earlier, she worked 16 years as a hostess in a camping center in Oulu. The difference is like night and day. To be honest, there’s nothing similar with these two jobs besides pots and pans.

Lilli moved to Utsjoki with her husband on her friend’s request. Her friend asked her to come work as a restaurant cook. Lilli’s earlier experiecnes in the north were so remarkable that she quickly quit her permanent position of that time. There’s permanent work all-year-round for her in Lapland too.

Her hobbies are similar to her husbands. Both like to fish, hunt and drive snowmobiles. They bought a house on the shores of River Teno, so their living conditions are as good as possible.

-The most memorable experience I have from Lapland is when last June I hopped on the snowmobile and went ice-fishing on the fell lake! That’s not possible every summer, so we shall see how the next year goes, Lilli wonders happily. -The climate, wilderness and serenity, it’s all for me.

There are 12 seasons in the fells

There are 12 seasons in the fells

– We have not four but 12 seasons of the year. Every month is different, thanks to the variety of customer groups. I do the same work every day, yet each day is different. Sometimes it requires a lot of flexibility, other times you get more time for yourself. Work in the fell region is marked by the ongoing season.

This is how Eeva-Marja  (41), a sales manager from Karstula, describes her work. As a young Bachelor of Hospitality Management, she wanted to find work that corresponded to her education. She stopped by Santa’s Hotel Tunturi, former Saariselän Tunturihotelli.

13 years has passed, so you could argue she stayed. She still has the same employer. Her work as a sales assistant turned into that of a customer service manager, and finally she became the sales manager. Eeva-Marja advanced her level of education into a Master’s degree while continuing to work. She lives with her family by the fells in Saariselkä. Her family includes a husband, an 11-year-old daughter and six hunting dogs.

– Saariselkä is a unique place to live. Unlike in many small-town centers, there is a vibrant and international atmosphere that is reshaped with the changing seasons. During summer, you can come across reindeer strolling down the town center among tourists. In the winter, you might meet both international tourists dressed in overalls and Finns that have their dancing shoes on, Eeva-Marja smiles.

The town is safe and peaceful also for a family with children. The Saariselkä kindergarten takes care of children day and night, which enables the parents to do shift work. There is currently a notable number of families with children, so there are plenty of playmates for kids of all ages.

Schools and hobbies for older children are located in Ivalo, but families can easily spend their weekends on the slopes of their own town. You can also go bowling or swimming, or horseback riding depending on the season.

The girl from Espoo adapted to Nuorgam

The girl from Espoo adapted to Nuorgam

It is amazing how quickly Reetta Koski, a girl from Espoo, settled in Nuorgam. She first visited Nuorgam, the northernmost part of Finland, in Summer 2014. Now she runs her own business there. She does what used to be her favourite hobby – wilderness activities.

Reetta acknowledges that she is in a priviledged position as she gets to take travellers hiking by mountain bikes, cayaks or snowkites in the vast and beautiful wilderness of Kaldoaivi. She runs an adventure company Alma Arktika with her husband in the northernmost town of EU. Alma is a Sámi word referring to authenticity.

Nuorgram is located 43 kilometers north of Utsjoki. This arctic area is one of the northernmost inhabited areas in the world. The diverse wilderness varies from wide snowy fields into lush green tundra, icy ocean and high fells.

– I absolutely enjoy my life and work here. People from south all wonder how it’s possible to handle a small child in such an environment. It’s absolutely possible, even more so than in many other places. It only takes some adapting into things. All services are not quite within reach.

Developing tourism business in the Nuorgam area was challenching at first. Earlier, people had only travelled to Nuorgram to fish salmon. It took a lot of time to make adventure enthusiasts aware of the adventure activities in Nuorgam, but now the industry is booming.

Living in Nuorgam is not much different than living anywhere else. The pace of life is just farily slower. Everything is calm and leisurely. The tendency to rush everywhere is gone, Reetta sighs in a relief.

The arctic wilderness offers plenty of surprises even for Reetta. Last fall she was listening how many people were sad about the start of the polar night season. Nonetheless, she was preparing to arrange a polar night skiing trip for two women from New York. In the ever-shortening day, the group hopped on the skis on Reetta’s command. The newly fallen snow, the blazing Northern Lights and all the sounds of the nature surrounded them, and even the guide was awestruck. The skiing trip in the polar night darkness became one of the greatest trips of the season, and is surely well remembered in New York as well.

Lapland has always been a part of me

Lapland has always been a part of me

– I have always felt that I need to live in Lapland! I’ve spent a lot of time there since I was little. Every time I returned it felt like home, says Vappu (26) from Helsinki.

After graduating as Bachelor of Health Care (Prosthetics and Orthotics), this young woman took a serious turn towards Saariselkä in autumn 2015. She trained to become a wilderness guide and now works as an all-year-round safari guide at Lapland Safaris.

The reason behind becoming a wilderness guide was simple. She loves the open air and wanted a job where she could be outside. Now she truly does work outdoors. 90 percent of her work takes place outside, regardless of the weather. Vappu has not regretted her decision. She has gained versatile and lovely experiences.

– It’s true that seasonal work is tough, but I enjoy meeting different kinds of people and cultures. I hope to develop my career as an employee, but I don’t crave to get indoors, Vappu chuckles happily.

Adapting to the life in Saariselkä seemed easy for Vappu. Her employer arranged her a nice flat and the colleagues turned out to be a group of amicable and like-minded people.

For Vappu, the best thing in Lapland is the wilderness. It is the setting for all of her hobbies, too. She enjoys hiking, canoeing in rivers and lakes, and even fishing from time to time.

In the past two years, something very important has also happened in Vappu’s life. She won’t say it out loud at first, but finally confesses:

– I found a wonderful partner from here. A real northern man!

There’s no pretending in Lapland

There’s no pretending in Lapland

– The best thing about Lapland is the way of life. It is totally different than in Southern Finland, Mid-Europe or even in Rovaniemi. The Lappish way of life is soothing. There’s no need to pretend or to be a very important person.

These sentences embody the thoughts that eventually lead Lissu to move into Lapland back in the day. Now she is 80 years old, but still works as a wilderness guide all year round. She only takes a break from work in May and late in the autumn.

– This is my scenery, the place of my life. I couldn’t consider any other place. There’s no way I would leave here, says Lissu – a former resident of Espoo.

Once, when her family lived in Hausjärvi, they sat down at a round table to talk about moving. There were two options; the outer archipelago of Tammisaari (Ekenäs) and Lapland. Lissu  had already been trained as wilderness guide in 1977 by Suomen Matkailuliitto. Thus, she chose Lapland and Kaamanen. She first arrived there as an entrepreneur.

At Kaamanen, she also acquired herself a house. For years she worked at Kiellatupa, a place of her own, and then as wilderness guide and teacher for new students, when suddenly it was time to retire.

Staying still, however, did not seem tempting to her. Despite her age, Lissu still has her hands full of work. In fact, she encourages other retired people to consider part-time jobs in Lapland. It may give new meaning for one’s life. Lissu herself is now working as a guide to the North Cape  for a company called Kukkolan Bussit, the Swiss Kontiki agency and the German Travel Traders.

For Lissu, work and hobbies have always gone hand-in-hand. The extraordinary setting of the Lappish wilderness provides perfect opportunities for that. This has not gone unnoticed by her children, as five out of the six of them live and work in the Lappish scenery.

North sets the mind at ease

North sets the mind at ease

Greg, originally from California, had worked his whole life in a large city surrounded by a myriad of people and chaotic traffic. It wasn’t until he came to Ivalo that he first got to know the northern wilderness. It left an everlasting impression on him.

– My experiences, life and work in Ivalo all make some of the best time in my life so far. The northern wilderness gave me an indescribable calmness of the mind and peace within, he says. He had hiked and camped in Skandinavia and Alaska before, but it wasn’t until in the Finnish Lapland that he felt a strong connection between himself and the nature.

Greg’s visit to the Finnish Lapland wasn’t long; it lasted from November 2016 until April 2017. He worked as a host in the Aurora Village in Ivalo. His responsibilities included the daily routines from the kitchen services to transportations, guiding tours and updating social media. Now he says he wants to return to Lapland as many times as possible, hopefully as soon as the upcoming season.

Although it started out as seasonal work, for Greg, it was also an opportunity to share his passion for Lapland with tourists who travel long distances to get there. He was able to identify with the cheery tourists as they admire the blazing Northern Lights or feed reindeer in a nearby reindeer farm.

The best thing that Greg hopes for in his life is to live in Lapland all year round. -The conditions for living and social life were perfect. The Aurora Village is the best working place I have ever had, and the local people are very nice. -What more can you hope for, asks Greg.

His favourite hobbies included photographing the Northern Lights, skiing and going on snowmobile safaris. It wasn’t enough for him to visit the safaris with tourists. Oftentimes he returned on the frozen Ivalojoki River to enjoy driving in the open air once again.

Maria fell in love with Lapland

Maria fell in love with Lapland

Maria (38), a woman from Santiago, Chile, fell utterly in love with Lapland. At first, she came to Saariselkä to do a six-month training period at the end of her studies in the catering business, but after 11 years, she is still in town.

During her studies, she also worked as a restaurant manager in Santiago. She has a Chilean degree in tourism and hotel management. It corresponds to a tourism management degree in Finland.

She continued to work in the same field in restaurants and in a safari company in Ivalo and Saariselkä. The living conditions are more than satisfactory. For her, the best aspects here are the nature and the peaceful and secure atmosphere.

– I feel safe and free, which is hard to do these days with everything that goes on in the world. I feel lucky to live in such a place where I can walk to work, see wildlife and nature, and enjoy the silence, singing birds and the wind on my face. All of this instead of traffic and noise, Maria rejoices.

Maria considers herself lucky to work in the north. She loves her job. Every day is a mystery. You never know what the day brings and what kind of people you meet. The working environment is international and inevitably introduces you to different cultures and people.

A small town surrounded by wilderness is an ideal contrast to the hustle and bustle of a large city. She has so many positive experiences to share that it’s hard to put them to words. Maria sees Lapland as her destiny. Everything is a hundred percent different than it was before.

There are differences between the Finnish and Chilean working cultures as well. Maria does a lot of work and her days are long especially during winter. She knows when her work begins, but not necessarily when it ends. The busy season requires flexibility from everyone. Maria has learnt to regard that as a normal necessity. One should work when there’s plenty to be done.

Vast nature inspires creativity

Vast nature inspires creativity

Eeva Flinkman has worked in a mountain millieu in two separate periods. Life lead her to Kakslauttanen in 2014 as an office secretary. Now she works permanently as a marketing assistant for Inari-Saariselkä Matkailu Oy.

She had gained prior experiense on the tourism industry by working in sales for an Irish Golf Resort and an airline in Copenhagen, and for a congress office in Helsinki. She is originally from the Helsinki metropolitan area.

Eeva is extremely happy of her life in the northern landscape. She has much appreciation for it. Work can be very hectic at times, but it’s easy to recover from it when you don’t have to sit in traffic and queue for ages in a supermarket. During free time, it’s really easy to head off to the  skiing tracks or hiking trails.

-The vast nature inspires creativity. Here you have time and space to listen to yourself and others. You can focus on the essentials when there’s no chaos and hustle from the environment, and no external stimuli for the senses, she says happily.

Living arrangements were easily set by the municipal services. Moreover, you can find all the necessary services from Ivalo. Eeva regards her work as versatile. She is in contact with different kinds of coworkers and partners.

She finds it rewarding to market a product that she strongly believes in. Her earliest memories from Saariselkä are from the Christmas holidays and skiing trips of her teenage years in the 80s with her parents. The Lappish charm carries through generations. That is certainly true in her life as well.

Sipping beer through mosquito net

Sipping beer through mosquito net

Heikki Jantunen (58) arrived in Karigasniemi as a tourism entrepreneur a few years ago. So far, the most memorable experience from Lapland took place when he was building a warehouse in the Piesjoki valley.

– The air was nice and warm. Then there were a few mosqitoes. Soon there were hordes of them. It was a relief to notice that it’s possible to drink beer through a mosqito net, Heikki chuckles and ensures that the story is true.

Heikki Jantunen is a former business management consultant from Helsinki. Together with his wife Anna Erkinheimo, he left the financially successful but hectic life and took a new turn in his life. The couple founded a tourism business in the Paistunturi Wilderness Area, in the Utsjoki municipality.

Their company is situated in the Piesjoki valley. It is 10 kilometres from the nearest road. During summer the terrain is crossed by quad bike and during winter by snowmobile. Experiences on the new life are versatile, interesting and rewarding. Heikki and Anna enjoy their work more and more each day.

– The work is truly rewarding, especially when we get to see how different our guests’ minds and spirits are when they arrive as opposed to when they leave here. It keeps us on the right direction, which is the reason we came here in the first place. Here we have the purest nature there is in Finland. Vast and pristine wilderness. I couldn’t wish for more, Heikki sums up.

Within a few years, the couple has established a nice and steady social life. Heikki Jantunen has met locals in Karingasniemi, and mentions that he has a few good friends too. It is truly fascinating to live on the shores of Inarijoki River. They found a house for rent with the help of a fellow reindeer herder. The couple plans to build their own house in Karigasniemi. They also aim to start studying the Sámi language.


A real-life ‘Indiana Jones’

A real-life ‘Indiana Jones’

Katerina (27) is a wilderness person. She grew up in Mustvee, Estonia – a forested small town on the shore of Lake Peipus. In her adult life, she has always chosen scenic places as her travel destinations, for instance when working in Iceland and England.

3.5 years ago, she had to choose between seasonal work in Lapland’s Kakslauttanen, or in Italy. She chose Lapland.

-All my life, I’ve kind of felt like Indiana Jones. New working places far far away are always an adventure. When I came here, I was absolutely certain I would find my place in Lapland – and that actually happened. It didn’t take long for me to get a permanent position in Hotel Kultahovi in Inari. I’ve worked there for 1.5 years, Katerina says.

Apparently, Katerina  family has always been drawn to the north, as her Estonian father and Latvian mother met in Murmansk. Both of them once decided to come north, coincidentally at the same time.

Katerina really likes her job, although every high season causes a big rush and brings in numerous people. You have to be quick and flexible in order to manage. The busy season means long shifts, but that also entails a higher salary.

-It’s a lot of fun to work when you’re a part of a great team. Workdays just fly by, Katerina rejoices.

Right after moving in Lapland, she first struggled to find new friends, because many local people don’t speak English. Thus, she soon started to study Finnish. Now it is easier to make contacts.

For such a real-life Indiana Jones, what would be the best thing in Lapland?

-Why, sautéed reindeer and fur boots of course! And chaga mushrooms that grow on every other tree, she proceeds with laughter.