Sunday, November 09, 2014

Introvert Galore: Becoming More Finnish?

I think I've once written how I feel more at home in Finland compared to Indonesia in terms of my being an introvert. What's fascinating is that another expat from the USA, who's also an introvert, has felt the same way. She also feels that in her home country, society expects people to be more of an extrovert than an introvert. I think the longer I stay here, the more I feel like I become Finnish in this aspect. You see, a new expat friend of mine has noticed something funny about the Finns. She said that when she meets up with the locals that she's met many times before, sometimes when they aren't in the mood, you can literally feel a distance between the two of you. My friend's husband had even warned her beforehand about this typical shift in attitude when it came to the locals, so my friend was well prepared, even though it still baffled her a bit.

When I heard this, I started thinking of myself and how true it was. Or is it more correct to say that I'm becoming more like me because at the end of the day, I'm an introvert after all? Whichever is the case, these days there are times when I just don't feel like talking to anyone. Interacting with people can be so exhausting. No wonder I feel so at home with my hubby who can be categorized as a silent type. The longer I stay with him, the longer I stay in Finland, the more I value the sound of silence.

During the time when I was doing translations at home, once an uncle of mine suggested to my mom to try to encourage me to join a club or something like that. He just wanted me to get out of the house and mingle with people. Funny how he didn't say it directly to me, but to my mom, but anyway...I didn't feel like I needed to join any club and I was quite content with my life, but it seemed that he thought I was becoming a hermit or something? I feel that Finns understands the beauty of silence more than Indonesians so to speak, even though on the other hand it's understandable why many people say that (in general) Indonesians are warm people, whereas Finns are rather cold.

I remember trying to find as much information about getting married and getting my paperwork sorted out before moving to Finland from a Finland forum where many expats could share anything, including useful links about how to find a job and how to write an application letter. I think it was someone from USA who wrote that article on how to write an application letter, because the writer strongly suggested that applicants must NOT brag about the things that they had done, which was something that was considered normal or even expected in the writer's home country.

I feel that the Finns love it more when people tone things down. Simplicity is considered more of a virtue here compared to grandiose. Toning down is preferable compared to selling yourself (and I don't mean selling your body, but the ability to convince people to hire you by letting them know passionately about your strengths and your experiences/abilities). I even feel that over here having the necessary papers (certificates/diplomas) is more important than however much hands-on experience and knowledge that you have learnt along the way without any papers to show. I don't know if this happened way back in the old days, but this is what I feel like for today's Finland.

Speaking of selling yourself, I had a very intense job interview once in Indo. There were two interviewers and I still remember clearly two of the questions. The first question was: "Sell yourself to us. What do you have? What are your strong points? Convince us to hire you!"

And when I stated the things that I considered my strength, you know what they said? They said, "Anyone else can say all the things that you've said. What else have you got to sell to us?"

Blimey! I was really cornered and I knew right then and there that I wouldn't get the job because I got stuck and it was like seeing myself stumble on a rock and falling down in slow motion he he he...

Anyway, the second question was: "Imagine yourself 5 years from now. What do you want to do then?"

That was really tough to answer because what I had in mind wasn't exactly the kind of job that I was interviewing for and I felt that they really saw through me. The only thing that made me applied for the job was the thought that I would be challenging myself and I'd be out of my comfort zone and who knows how much I could grow there. Long story short, I didn't get the job, but I appreciated the fact that they sent me an email to thank me for coming and to let me know that they had selected someone else. One expat friend of mine once told me that Finns didn't let applicants know if they don't get a job, which she found strange (probably because it was a custom in her home country).

Have you ever experienced any kind of tough job interview? If so, what happened during the interview? 

I don't remember anymore if I've shared it here or not, but this is a really beautiful talk on The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain. I bet many of you have listened to it or at least heard her name, but I'm going to listen to it again, so I'll just share it here just in case you've missed it:


  1. I don't remember about the job interview back to when I still in Jakarta. I worked the same company for 10 years, never intend to work other place because afraid I got fired hi hi hi. Meanwhile I had to support my fam financial that day. So...better stay safe. LOL...

    1. Yeah, understand what you mean about having to support your family, Jul. :-)

  2. Another interesting post. They say us Brits are reserved and que politely! I guess we are compared to our friends in the USA, I remember visting there and thinking how friendly and forward the Americans were and for the first time thinking mostly as a nation we are reserved. And we que patiently for everything!
    Tough job interviews? Yeah the five years from now is a tough one, especially if you don't plan on being in that particular job! I was asked that once and after stuttering and staring blankly I just said, "Erm happy, continually learning and fulfilling life."
    I got the job so maybe they liked that answer!

    1. You know what? I've read an article written by a Finn who went to the USA. Whilst she was somewhere there, someone approached her and asked, "Hey, can we be friends?" She was TOTALLY taken aback, because such a thing doesn't happen in Finland he he he he he...

      And you're probably right about the Brits. I remember reading an article about cultural differences and what Brits say versus what they really mean. It's hilarious. I should try to find it again and send it to you.

      Oh, Nikki, you got that kind of question as well in a job interview? Well, good for you that you got that job, then. I think your answer is much better than mine, though. Continually learning is a good trait he he...

  3. Yours was a good answer too, it's a tricky question and hard when people put you on the spot.
    Thanks for the link you sent. It's confirmed my suspicions!

    1. Thanks, Nikki. Actually it was my very first job interview, so I was so taken aback by such tough questions he he he he...And my pleasure regarding the article. :-)