Story of a programmer in the happiest country in the world

Lamia's backend developer Paolo came to Finland in 2019 and has since then explored the Finnish lifestyle and work life. Now our favourite Italian Lamiateer shares his thoughts on the differences between the two countries and also how he ended up here in the north.

Paolo Combi, "Pavel", works as a backend developer at Lamia.

Who are you?

My name is Paolo Combi but everybody calls me Pavel. I'm a backend developer at Lamia and this blog post is to share with you what it's like to move from Italy to Finland.

Before coming here I was living in Lecco, working for a small consultancy company on different projects like IoT instruments and data analysis. In Italy, I had the opportunity to graduate and work in Milan. A lively city that has no half measures - you either love it or hate it. And, in hindsight, I'm not ashamed to say I hated her.

How did you get into computers?

I approached computers by doing what all younger brothers do, which is copying the older brother. I still remember my brother Luca trying to change the cassettes inside an Amstrad to play some arcade game. Since then, the world of computers has always fascinated me and I became a nerd already when it was not yet cool to be one.

In high school and university, I followed a course of study that was focused on computer science and I must say that I have never regretted the choice, computer science for me is like an art form, a way of solving concrete problems and which also involves a certain degree of creativity and gives satisfaction when you see the results.

What were the reasons that led you to Helsinki and to Lamia?

I decided to move to Helsinki for personal reasons to start, I was following my heart. I came to work at Lamia I would say driven by instinct, as often happens in life. I was doing several interviews for positions in Helsinki but for fear of the language barrier based on some companies' careers communications, I never applied to many positions.

One position, however, caught my eye. Something about Lamia and the position just felt right even though I discovered the job ad in Finnish. So armed with some irony and Google Translator I contacted Jarmo who was in charge of recruitment at Lamia.

I can honestly say that the whole recruitment process was perfect and easy, but at the same time I was terrified of what this change would mean for me. Imagine an Italian living their whole life on a sunny lake, speaking Italian, and having friends and family within 15 minutes from home and suddenly a rainy and cold country, having to speak English all the time and your family 3000 km from you. But especially Jarmo understood and supported me all the way, calling me, helping me with practicalities and suggesting stuff to do in Helsinki.

Was it difficult to settle in?

Arriving in a new city is always difficult, if you are a person who is not used to the Nordic mentality. You find yourself overwhelmed. The new language and the ethnic melting-pot can be unsettling and you may need a few days to re-absorb the initial adrenaline.

Almost everyone asks if the language could be a problem, because although the Finns know English very well, their mother tongue remains Finnish (and Swedish) and for a foreigner, it can be disarming, especially in the early days.

However, contrary to popular belief, I feel the Finns go out of their way to make you comfortable. Most of the time at the Lamia office everyone speaks English and there is always someone available to help with your problems whether it's work-related or getting to know how things like renting a van for moving day work in Finland.

Would you ever recommend someone to work at Lamia?

Absolutely yes, here you feel protected and encouraged, that's the mentality at Lamia. So, I do feel lucky that I ended up right here.

In my career, I have had many experiences and I've seen both positive and very negative realities and working environments. That's why I'm very aware of having to carefully choose a position and a company that are right for me.

What are the pros and cons of working in Finland compared to Italy?

I think the main positive side of Finland is that here there are many career possibilities without paying too much attention to age but more to your skills. But actually the key difference between the two systems is the approach to your skills.

In Finland people and companies tend to look for trained people who know how to "do" and do it well, a deep understanding and focus on a certain area is valued. In Italy, more weight is given to a global skillset where one person knows a little about a lot of things. I think here Italians prefer to save at the expense of the quality of the final product – in my experience it's not all "Serie A". Of course, there are also companies in Finland with similar mindset, it's not black and white between any countries and cultures.

Another fundamentally different aspect is the rhythm. Finnish life is overall more relaxed because things are predictable. In the morning you don't have to struggle with traffic to go to work and you could set your clock according to the subway schedules - except when a snow storm hits Helsinki. For example, I usually only travel by bike but when I rarely use public transport, happen to miss the bus and end up being late, it in only because the driver leaves a bit early (which would never happen in Italy) or because I'm late myself.

Another completely different aspect of Finland is the people, I feel. They are efficient, reliable, and conscientious at work and everyone takes their work commitment very seriously, something that cannot always be said about working in Italy.

Would you return to Italy?

Right now I would be a liar to say that I would like to return. The quality of life and what I am building here is far better than any other Italian reality I have had the opportunity to face.

Obviously, as the saying goes "never say never" but for now Finland and Lamia are my new home.