Working as a Finnish intern in a Belgian company

31/05/2018 - 13:52

Over a month ago, our new team member from Finland started her internship at Lemon! Having some work experience from Finland and now Belgium, Eliisa will share some differences between working in both countries and overall impressions of living here in Antwerp.

Lunch

Lunch in Finland starts the earliest at 11 am and lasts for about an hour. The food includes almost always warm food, for example mashed potatoes and meatballs, with a lot of salad & a slice of bread. If the company doesn’t have it’s own cantine, lunch vouchers are provided. Also coffee is preferred instead of water.

In Belgium, it’s almost always a cold lunch, which is completely unusual for me. Just the mass consumption of baguettes & other sandwiches in Belgium is insane. Not even mentioning Belgium’s undying love for mayonnaise. It’s not bad though, just in the beginning there was a slight shock.

Hierarchy

In Lemon, they avoid the use of hierarchy. For a scale-up this is nice and makes working personally for me much easier and more comfortable. However from what I’ve heard (and noticed also), hierarchies are very common in Belgium, especially in bigger companies.

Although bigger companies in Finland also use a hierarchy a lot, it’s seen much less in working environments nowadays. Businesses aim to a team based culture with more personal contact. It’s also seen for example in universities; we call our professors on a first-name basis and even have them added on Facebook.

Overall impressions of Belgium

First thing which is worth mentioning, is that everything closes in Belgium around 6 pm. For a person who comes from a country where the normal closing time is 9 pm with some grocery stores closing at 11 pm, it’s still taking some time to get used to this. Also, Sundays in Finland is a normal working day with the exception of everything closing a bit earlier.

A thing that I was warned about in Belgium, is that sometimes people are a bit reluctant to speak English. There have been actually, a lot of moments where I’ve been left out of a conversation or even ignored in customer service because I don’t speak Dutch. Unfortunate, but not all people or situations have been like that; arriving at Lemon was a bit scary but thankfully the team has funny & social people! Also very funny how there are stereotypes of different regions. Compared to Finland, which is considerably bigger. The people are pretty much the same, apart from the capital region where I’m from. We’re known to be a bit less social, believe it or not..

Apart from the language barrier and getting used to the everyday life here, it’s been great so far. The best part of Belgium is without a doubt the distances and mixed cultures. A two hour drive leads you to a gorgeous, French region of the country with so much different things to see and experience. If I had to choose, I’d say the picturesque surroundings, the wide variety of beers and the team at Lemon are my favorite things in Belgium!