Cold winters, cold springs and cold summers. This pretty much summarises the weather in Finland. However, the hearts of the Finnish are anything but cold. Throughout my 6 month internship here in Finland, I felt the genuine warmth from my colleagues, customers and even strangers that sat and chatted with me while I was having a meal.
Jyvaskyla is vastly different from Singapore. It is a small city with over a hundred thousand people, the only affordable mode of public transport is the bus and there are no skyscrapers at all. My first impression of the city was that it is a boring city. The city centre is really small compared to Singapore’s town area and the amount of shops scarce. However, after being here for 6 months, I know I will definitely miss this city. The stone roads in the city centre, the never-ending tree line, and the different flowers that make my bus trips to work a lot brighter. All these are just a glimpse of Jyvaskyla’s natural beauty.
It has been a joy for me to work at Sokos Hotel Jyvashovi. The staff members are just like family members. Over the 6 months, I have witnessed members of different departments chatting and joking around happily. It is a place where I felt welcome right from the start and I am very happy to have chosen to work in Jyvashovi.
I worked in 3 different areas of the hotel. They are the housekeeping department, the breakfast shift in the kitchen and lastly, the hotel’s own café called Coffee House.
While in the housekeeping department, I learnt how to make beds, restock the supplies in the room, the mini-bar and the toilet, and replenish supplies for the housekeeping cart. It was really confusing at the beginning as the toiletries looked really similar; I did not know which side of the bed sheet was facing up and I could not differentiate the various different types of alcohol because the labels were all in Finnish. After asking a lot of questions and obtaining the necessary translations, I managed to make up a whole room on my own. The methods the housekeepers use when cleaning the room is different from what I have learnt in Singapore. For instance, instead of one housekeeper being assigned a few rooms, in Jyvashovi, a group of housekeepers are assigned the whole floor. Also, different housekeepers have different jobs, e.g. one might be cleaning all the toilets, another could be removing the dirty sheets and the last one would be replenishing supplies and making the beds. There is also a houseman, whose main job is to replenish supplies for the housekeeping carts and making sure that the storage areas in each floor has enough emergency supplies. Overall, I learnt a lot, not only regarding housekeeping, but also about Finnish culture.
In the kitchen, my job was to help out anyone who neededs help. Although I was in the breakfast shift, I could be helping the breakfast chef until the lunch chef arrived and asked for help. I was like the utility man in the kitchen. I learnt how to cut potatoes, bell peppers and onions in many different ways in order to meet the requirements of the different dishes that the ingredients would be used for. For example, I diced onions meant for frying, sliced them when they were used in salads and cut them in huge slices if they were to be cooked with other vegetables to make a side dish for main courses. One time, I cut onions for so long; my eyes were watery when I was done with them. After that time, the head chef would always laugh a little whenever he saw me cutting onions. I had a lot of fun being the utility man in the kitchen because I got to prepare salads and main courses meant for sale, such as lasagne, sausages fried with butter, samfaina (a vegetable side dish) etc. I enjoyed making desserts the most, because I would always get to taste the sweet mixture before putting them into the serving bowls. The chefs in the kitchen are really friendly to me. They never get sick of my questions like, “What is the English name for this?”, “What is this?” and “How do I do this?” etc. If they could not answer my question, they would find someone else who could. The work was tiring at times, but I can sincerely say I enjoyed everyday spent in the kitchen.
My last work location is the hotel’s café, Coffee House. Coffee House is actually a chain of cafes across Finland, something like Starbucks in the US. However in Jyvashovi, Coffee House does not just serve coffee. It serves beer and alcohol all day, and lunch prepared in the kitchen on weekdays. Having worked in Starbucks for about a 1 month, I noticed a huge difference between the two coffee places during my first week there. The methods of making the same coffee drink, the quality standard and the work environment are all very different. My job scope at Coffee House is really wide. I was a cashier, storeman, bartender and cleaner during my stint at Coffee House. Throughout my time in Coffee House, I have evolved from being a trainee to being a trainer for part-time staff and another intern. Working with such people provideds me with a different kind of learning experience. From them, I learnt how to speak simple Finnish and Russian and I learnt a lot more about the trends among young people in Finland. My senior colleagues are wonderful people as well. They help me out whenever I encounter customers who do not speak any English and when I do not understand the Finnish words in the recipes and labels. Working with them mades me look forward to going to Coffee House even on my off days.
Overall, my internship in Finland has given me new insights. The experience cannot be learnt from books or obtained and be experienced in Singapore. Living and working in Jyvashovi on my own, I learnt to take care of myself and there were no parents around for me to rely on. Living here for 6 months has taught me to appreciate everything I have back in Singapore. I had encountered difficulties while working in Jyvashovi, but I would not hesitate to come back if given another chance to work here again.