Although it has been a record-breakingly warm end of summer here in London, the chilly Autumn has finally caught up with us. I have now been here for two and a half months and though it was time to write up my greetings.
My practical training placement here is the Finnish-British Chamber of Commerce. I know, sounds real fancy, right? Well it is, but not exactly how you might think. Contrary to the image of a great hall with pillars and such (that’s the image people seem to get, anyways) there’s only three of us (our General Manager and two interns) working in our small little office on Hammersmith Road. What we do, basically, is help Finnish companies interested or currently operating in the UK, or UK companies interested in Finland and the Nordics, by connecting them to our network of Finnish, British and International companies. Networking is such an important part of business here, that surviving and thriving depends on intelligent connections. We provide this by arranging social and business events where our members can network freely or get one-to-one introductions by us with relevant people, as well as offering them a platform to promote their business.
The work itself is 9 to 5 office work plus 2-3 evening events a month. My everyday tasks include lots of emails with members, event attendees and venues; design and content production for our website, email invitations/newsletters, social media and other printed marketing material; as well as accounting-related activities. It is also not uncommon during a work day to get to visit different venues that we’re considering for events, or attending a business event that we find interesting. It really is a great internship as it really lets you try out different things, and also makes possible to forge relationships that would be really difficult to come by otherwise.
About cultural differences, I came to expect experiencing some issues with small talk. What I found interesting is that it doesn’t come up just anywhere in forced situations, like sitting on the tube or bus (commuters are just as zombie-like here as they are in Finland). It’s more evident in business relations—meetings and phone calls: where for Finns it would be natural to proceed straight to the point (except maybe with long-time acquaintances), Brits expect a few more casual words before going on to business.
Living in London has been really great. Coming from a small town, I never thought I’d enjoy living in a big city as much as I like living in London. There’s endlessly things to see and experience. Sure it’s not cheap here, but that has gotten a bit easier with the pound going down over Brexit (I feel a bit guilty finding comfort it that…), and there’s actually lots to do for free, too. Weekends are great to explore London (and beyond, like Brighton and Oxford thus far). Moving around couldn’t be easier with the tubes, trains and busses, although there has been—and always will be—some disruptions somewhere on the tube grid. I’m lodging in the spare bedroom of a very friendly British-American family in Ealing, west London, and the 45-minute commute feels like a breeze (might sound a lot to some, but in London standards it’s basically nothing). As a free time activity I’ve taken up Boxfit and swimming at a nearby gym.
Although I’m not purposefully planning on finding a career in London, I will definitely miss it when I leave, and will be tempted to look for opportunities here. My internship is over halfway done, but there’s still people to meet and connections to make, so who knows what may happen!
London — too busy for an in-focus selfie.