In addition to receiving a regular wage package, Pauliina Herronen, 22, benefited in other ways from her stint in Lapland
It taught her to cope with busy schedules. She explains that her ability to work under pressure came on in leaps and bounds once she started working at Ski Saariselkä Bistro Pilkku at the beginning of December.
Despite being rushed off her feet at times, Pauliina, who came to Saariselkä from Mustasaari in Vaasa, says that she thoroughly enjoyed the work and and would not change the experience for anything.
‘The best thing about the north is having space to breathe,’ she explains. This really struck her when she went back home on her days off. ‘In the north, you don’t get one fast food joint and shop after another. The people are more authentic and down-to-earth too,’ she says.
It was pure chance that brought Pauliina to Saariselkä’s Bistro Pilkku. Or you could say that the Finnish railway company VR’s train is to blame, as it came to a standstill on a wooded stretch between Helsinki and Vaasa late one evening. During the two-hour wait, Pauliina filled in and submitted job applications online.
Even though she had qualified as a machinist, she was offered work in the restaurant industry. In the past, she has also gained experience in the media field, having worked as radio broadcast assistant.
‘I expected to have the opportunity to work a lot and hit the slopes in my free time. I was right on both counts. Saariselkä offers great slopes. Not being a top skier, I was happy that they were not too challenging. Nothing beats being on top of a fell on a bright sunny day,’ says Pauliina, sighing happily.
She adds: ‘Every time I went out I had to pause to take in how beautiful and peaceful it was. It’s hard to believe that such places exist…’
Tomi Nyman, 37, who came to northern Lapland from Kuusamo, has worked in northern Finland for years
A qualified fishing and outdoor guide, Tomi first worked in Ivalo for a decade, after which he got a job as a meat cutter in Näätämö for a couple of years, and now he works as a waiter at Holiday Village Valle in Utsjoki.
It is sheer coincidence that he ended up working at Valle’s Restaurant Deatnu: his friend already worked at the restaurant and happened to have a conversation with the manager about the shortage of labour. Skilled employees being in high demand, Tomi gained a permanent position immediately.
As an enthusiastic fisherman, Tomi feels that he hit the jackpot when he found work in Utsjoki. The River Teno, teeming with fish, runs right past his workplace, and having a local fishing permit for the river is like having all your Christmases come at once. The region also boasts numerous small lakes with abundant fish stocks to explore outside the salmon season. Tomi explains that he is enjoying every minute of his time in Utsjoki.
‘Even during the tourist season, my working hours are pretty standard. Occasionally, I might work overtime but that of course fattens my pay check. I’m under less stress now. There’s no clock-watching,’ explains Tomi.
Typically, visitors to Utsjoki stay for a week, which is a good thing, according to Tomi. It gives him time to get to know the visitors, enabling him to offer better services.
‘Nature is important to me and it’s what people come here for. In addition to fishing, the region offers great opportunities for snowmobiling. And cross-country skiing is an excellent way to keep fit, and that’s of course important for everyone,’ says Tomi.
Sofia Passoja, 26, arrived on Saariselkä’s snowy slopes with high expectations in December 2017
‘I was looking forward to working hard, meeting new people and enjoying some proper winter conditions! It all came true,’ explains Sofia, who came from Fiskars to Hotel Riekonlinna to work as a waitress.
After upper secondary school, she qualified as an artisan from a carpentry programme, but in the end the restaurant industry held greater appeal for her. She has now worked as a waitress for ten years and feels ready to take the next step in her career. In Saariselkä, she mostly worked two shifts so her days were busy.
When she had free time, she headed to Saariselkä’s ski slopes. Thanks to the great leisure opportunities offered by her employer, Sofia tried out snowboarding and found herself enjoying it. And if the temperature plummeted too low for skiing, she pulled on warm overalls, put on a helmet and jumped on a snowmobile. With the right attitude, every situation is a new opportunity!
She has always felt drawn to Lapland. The seasonal work she found through the Opteam service offered an easy route to trying out life in the region.
‘I’d definitely do this again,’ says Sofia, after finishing her stint at the end of March.
‘The international environment is a nice extra and the pace of work is somehow different here. The locals are great, even though everyone works hard. And I love the scenery,’ she adds.
Sari Tuovinen, 45, has many years of experience in the travel industry under her belt
Last winter, she did a stint at Saariselkä’s Hotel Riekonlinna, even though she holds a permanent position at Spa Hotel Rauhanlahti in Kuopio. After all, variety is the spice of life. In the course of her career, she had already enjoyed the opportunity to view the spectacular scenery in places such as Luosto and Kilpisjärvi from her vantage point at the hotel reception.
Sari thoroughly enjoyed her time at Saariselkä, which, being larger and more international, is different from the other popular tourist regions in Finland.
‘The best things about the winter season were the beautiful environment, the different people I got to meet and the excellent outdoor facilities. And going out on sliding snowshoes – that’s as good as it gets! It’s a great outdoor activity that can be recommended to everyone,’ says Sari, who is pleased to have found a new hobby.
Arriving early in the season in mid-September, when accommodation was still easy to find, she secured a great place to stay in a terraced house. She stayed until the end of April at her job swap at Riekonlinna, which she found through the Staffpoint service.
Originally from Kittilä, Sari has settled in Maaninka in Northern Savonia with her family after two decades in Sodankylä. She knows what tourist seasons are like.
‘It’s always busy during the season but that’s how it should be. That means work and income. In Saariselkä, I enjoyed the bingo evenings at Pub Panimo on Wednesdays and Fridays, which were held to benefit the voluntary fire brigade. They offered a great way to get to know new people,’ says Sari.
When he applied for a position at Saariselkä, Marko Kokko, 36, was looking for new experiences and a change from his job as a taxi driver
He didn’t have any particular expectations but the fell region, which is at its best in the winter, swept Marko off his feet.
Originally from Oulu, Marko had wanted to make a move to Lapland for a long time, to work as an outdoor activity instructor as he had a qualification for the job. To fulfil this goal, he applied for a safari guide’s position at Joiku Kotsamo, which specialises in arranging outdoor activities, and soon realised he had made a good choice.
‘Days at a safari company are action-packed and customers are international. It’s just the kind of working environment I enjoy.
My work at Joiku was motivating and enjoyable. Applying for that job was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The winter season gave me valuable new experiences and an opportunity to develop my skills,’ explains Marko.
In addition to snowmobile safaris, his duties involved some work with reindeer safaris. Staying in a spacious one-bedroom terraced house in Kakslauttanen, Marko was more than happy with his accommodation. He had no complaints about leisure opportunities either.
‘After spending my whole work day on the fells, I usually wanted to find something else to do in my free time. At Saariselkä, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to leisure activities,’ he explains.
With its fells and natural beauty, Saariselkä, for him, is Lapland at its best and most authentic. It also has a vibrant Sami culture, for which the region is well-known.
Originally from Lagnieu near Lyon, 36-year-old Nathalie Croizier fell in love with Lapland 16 years ago
She studied in Lappeenranta but visited Lapland several times during her studies. Three years ago, she decided to make her dreams come true. She arrived in Lapland as a tourist but wanted to see what it would be like to live in the northernmost corner of Europe.
To begin with, she stayed in Rovaniemi, Inari and Ivalo for three years, mostly working as a guide. Recently, she relocated to Nuorgam, where she’s just completed her first spring season and is looking forward to the summer season.
‘It was great to be here as a tourist but it just wasn’t enough for me. I want to find out what it’s like to live here for longer,’ explains Nathalie, who performs a wide range of tasks in this idyllic riverside village with its strong Sami culture.
In France, this versatile multi-tasker, who holds a master’s degree in administrative sciences, worked in human resources at various companies for eight years but realised it wasn’t what she wanted to do in the long term.
‘Travel and hospitality is the field I want to work in. The tasks vary from one season to the next and things never get boring. I enjoy meeting different people from all parts of the world,’ explains Nathalie.
At Nuorgam Holiday Village, her duties range from customer service and guide work to tasks related to serving breakfast and cleaning. Her employer praises her as a brilliant person who is truly multi-skilled. Collaboration between Nathalie and her employer has run smoothly. In addition to her native French, she speaks fluent English and has also learned Finnish fairly well.
Accommodation in Nuorgam was easy to organise and Nathalie spends most of her time doing outdoor activities. She enjoys leisurely walks and berry-picking on the fells because of the beautiful scenery. Explaining that she has also learned to ski, which according to her is quite a feat, she says that she only wishes that Nuorgam had more than one ski trail.
For 24-year-old Margarita Malinen from Helsinki, the best thing about Lapland is its pristine natural beauty
‘The sun shines brightly and everything is sparkling white. It’s so beautiful, absolutely breathtaking,’ explains Margarita, who works as a waitress at Northern Lights Village.
Swapping the hustle and bustle of the capital region for the tranquillity of the northern winter gave her an opportunity to learn something new about herself: she was surprised how easily she settled into life in a small place like Saariselkä.
‘Even my mum thought that I wouldn’t last for longer than a couple of weeks but she was wrong,’ says Margarita, laughing. In the end, she worked at Northern Lights Village from November until mid-April. ‘I will definitely come back,’ she says.
Before her stint in Lapland, Margarita worked as a shift manager for the ABC service station chain and completed supervisory training provided by the Alepa supermarket chain. Her career at Alepa ended because of a minor occupational accident but, as the old saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining.
Her friend who worked at Saariselkä called her to say that the place was looking for a waitress. After sleeping on it, Margarita decided to pick up the phone and call the restaurant. Two hours later she had agreed to take the job and in two weeks’ time she was exploring her new surroundings.
Without having any specific expectations or preconceptions of life in the north, she just packed all the winter clothes she had in her wardrobe and made the move. Within a week, she was in love with Lapland. According to her, the main reason for wanting to return next year is the greatest team of co-workers she could wish for.
Accommodation at Saariselkä gets a thumbs up from her, as do the leisure opportunities offered by the Lappish winter. ‘Downhill skiing and snowmobiling are brilliant!’