Vast tracts of unspoilt wilderness make Finland a top destination for trekkers and those seeking to get back to nature. The best remedy to bones chilled by the snow and ice is a nice long spell in a sauna; however, if you are going ‘native’ then during your sauna you need to go and have a roll in the snow or take a plunge in an ice hole in a nearby lake. Finland is home to a big hunting, shooting and fishing fraternity, but if this is not to your taste then coastal areas offer some excellent sailing during the season of the midnight sun.
Finland has two official languages: Finnish and Swedish, the latter being spoken by about six percent Finland’s population of five million. English is widely spoken, particularly in tourist areas and in the capital Helsinki.
Prospects for teachers are good with there being opportunities in everything from trade and technology colleges to Universities and language institutes. There is considerable enthusiasm for learning English, and many institutes teach specialty English for aspects of business or commerce, such as computing.
Helsinki, the capital, is particularly strong on art and architecture, and there is plenty to see and do. Outside of this, then it’s time for the wilderness and the prospect of teaching summer camps, etc.
Anyone wishing to teach in a state or private school must expect to have a degree, a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education and a TESOL qualification. Two year’s teaching experience is often a requisite, though language academies are often less demanding in terms of experience and qualifications. A TESOL certificate will get you a long way.
With this said there are a plethora of adult education colleges, universities, and civic and workers’ institutes, which are less stringent in their requirements. In addition to this there are a great many language institutes offering both general and specialty courses in English. Furthermore, it is the habit of Fins to send their children to linguistic nursery, or kindergarten, where English is the language in use. In Finland there is considerable enthusiasm for learning English, hence the market is broad and the students are highly-motivated.
Getting a Job
When trying to get work in advance it is useful to contact the British Council in Helsinki, which keeps a list of about twenty private institutes ([email protected]). In addition to this it may be useful to contact the Federation of Finish-British Societies in Finland (www.finnbrit.fi). Richard Lewis Communications is a big player (www.crossculture.com) and has offices in most of Finland major cities. Linguarma is a well established company and worth contacting ([email protected]).
On the spot then it is useful to try and track down English societies and English Language press. The Finish Yellow Pages is a good place to look for schools and colleges, and in addition to this placing ads for conversation tuition in bookstores, tobacconists and news agents can be useful.
Visas and Regulations
Most institutions are not prepared to go through seriously difficult process of hiring native English-speaking teachers from outside of Europe. However, in some cases it is easier to place teachers from the US than from other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand. Non-EU citizens should check with the Finish consulate in their native country to look for language exchange programs, etc. Americans may wish to contact Interexchange (www.interexchange.org), of New York, who run an exchange program. In addition to this the America-Scandinavian Association (www.amscan.org) will have details of other student exchange programs.
One of the complications is the reciprocal social security system that exists within the EU. High schools are required to register their staff for a social security card and also pay part of their contributions, they are generally not willing to take on anybody who is ineligible.
Most individuals working for institutes are self-employed, or ‘freelance’. Therefore, they are responsible for paying their own tax and social security. New arrivals are required to register with the police, organize a bank account into which their wages will be paid, and get a tax number from their local tax office.