Starting a New Life in Finland

Published 25.8.2020 | Interview & text: Shaidul Kazi, TAMK

Ashif Khondoker was born in a small village called Padmapara, located in Gabtoli, Bogra in northern Bangladesh. Bogra is famous for yogurt production in Bangladesh. It is unimaginable to go to Bogra and not buy or taste Bogra’s yogurt. As a son of a schoolteacher, Ashif is soft-spoken and peaceful by nature. Mathematics was always his favourite subject, which led him to study information technology (IT) at university. After completion of a bachelor’s degree, Ashif joined Bangladesh-Japan IT’s (BJIT) Bangladesh office in Dhaka in 2003. Later in January 2005, he moved to Tokyo to work for Nokia. While working at Nokia, he heard a lot about Finland and especially Tampere.

Afrida, Ashif & Neora
Photo by Ayesha Siddiqua Jenifar on 26.06.2020

In April 2008, Ashif was invited by Nokia Research Center in Tampere to a job interview and workshop. During his first visit, Ashif fell in love with Tampere at first sight. He further elaborates that talking to Finnish people was very nice. It felt like Finns were reliable, peaceful, helpful and had a positive mindset. These all helped him to make a quick decision to accept Nokia Research Center’s job offer and move to Tampere in September 2008. He started a new life from scratch in a country which is in many ways different from Bangladesh and Japan but worth taking seriously.

On 17 November 2014, Ashif got married to Afrida Binta Ataur. It was an arranged marriage, which is very common in the Bangladeshi society. In an ordinary arranged marriage scenario in Bangladesh, a person or matrimonial company plays the connecting role between the upcoming bride and groom’s families. That was what happened in Afrida’s and Ashif’s case as well. The couple now lives in a terraced house in Lukonmäki, Tampere along with their three-year-old daughter Audria-Neora Khondker. According to the couple, Tampere is an ideal place to live, bring up children and make advancement for the future.

According to Ashif, there is a strong balance between work and family life in Finland. Working life is flexible, organised and has a long-term positive vision. There is an ample opportunities for higher education and further development while at work. Ashif did his MBA in 2016 at Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK), Valkeakoski. It would have been very complex in any other country. Due to his engineering job, Ashif had never needed to learn the Finnish language but nowadays he feels that it is very important to learn Finnish for social integration. “Learn the language from the very beginning”, he repeats.

Ashif’s loving wife and mother of their daughter is open minded, social and quick to learn. She has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Bangladesh. Soon after coming to Tampere, she began a nine-month language course in August 2015 at Onnenkieli through the TE office. Afrida speaks good Finnish and interacts easily with Finns. “That is what you need while living in Finland”, Afrida says. During the language course Afrida became pregnant. She completed her language course in July 2016 and Neora was born in April 2017.  

During the maternity leave, Afrida’s and Neora’s regular favourite visiting place was Ratina Shopping Center’s playroom. After the maternity holiday, Afrida got a job in August 2018 as a salesperson at the clothes shop Zara in Ratina Shopping Center. “So many things like getting married, moving to Tampere, learning a new language, having a baby and starting a new job happened so quickly”, Afrida says.        

Practical training at Sokos during the language course, interaction skills with Finnish people, passion for fashion, Finnish language skills and knowledge about the Finnish work culture helped her most in job hunting. Afrida advises young people with an international background looking for a job in Finland to be open minded, stay focused, be positive and learn the language as it is linked to interaction skills and knowledge about the Finnish culture. Afrida further recommends job seekers to find their strengths and try to find a job based on them. Her motto is to be happy, maintain healthy relationships and give good future to children.    

The couple likes Tampere the most because of its cool nature and low level of noise. Ashif emphasises that “when you are in Tampere, you are one of the locals.” Motivation to work, collaboration skills, persistence, commitment and reliability are very important to get a job in Finland as Ashif says. “Once you begin a job, be cooperative, agile, helpful to others and remember continuous learning”, he reminds. His mottoes are a peaceful and challenging life, happiness, good social life and the child’s growth and advancement.  

Tampere is our dream city to live, work and flourish, the couple said.

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