Category Archives: Tourism, Catering and Domestic Services

Hospitality Management, Management of Service Business

Greetings from Onomichi!

こんにちは!尾道へようこそ。

I am currently doing a training exhange in Onomichi, Japan. My workplace is a guesthouse called Miharashi-tei and it is located at the hill of a mountain. The guesthouse has amazing views across Onomichi and the Seto inland sea. This is actually my second training exhange in Onomichi. The first one I did two years ago at another guesthouse, and I fell so in love with Onomichi that I wanted to come back. I am staying here for three months, until mid-August.

My work here includes helping around the guesthouse; cleaning, doing the dishes, helping with the breakfast service and also showing guests around the guesthouse and telling them about the history of the place, both in English and Japanese. It is a great way of learning more Japanese!

During my spare time I’m travelling around the country as much as I can. So far I’ve visited Hiroshima, and next I’m planning to go to Osaka. Later in July I was be travelling for a longer time to visit Kyoto and Tokyo.

Working in a japanese guesthouse isn’t that much different from working in Finland. Of course, these kind of guesthouses don’t really exist in Finland, but the daily tasks are similar to that of a finnish hotel. The guesthouse where I’m working is a very old building, almost 100 years old, so good care must be taken when working here. In the guesthouse there are no regular beds, and guests sleep on futon mattresses on the strawmat floow (tatami). The futons are aired outside daily to keep them clean and fresh.

Customer service in Japan is a bit different from Finland. The customer is very important and must be spoken to extremely politely. I can speak basic Japanese, but learning the polite way of talking is bit of a challenge. I don’t want to offend any of the guests, so I will have to keep studying.

 

 

 

Sawadee kha from Thailand

I have spent almost three months in a small island called Raya Yai (or Koh Racha Yai) in south Thailand. I work as an office trainee in a Finnish scuba diving company, Raya Divers.

Raya Divers has offices in five
locations; Phuket, Koh Lanta, Khao Lak, Krabi and here in Raya Yai. I mainly chose Raya Yai because I wanted to live on a paradise island rather than in the city. I have never visited Thailand before so I wanted to get to know the more peaceful and calm Thailand first.

80 % of Raya Yai is jungle. On the other 20 % there are a few small shops and restaurants, an ATM, a few resorts, some bungalows and a lot of (Thai) diving companies. There is about 250 people living in here. On the road you can meet cats, cows, monitor lizards and water buffalos. Snakes are very common too, but luckily I haven’t met any!

Most of Raya Divers’ clients are Finnish, so I haven’t got to use English that much in here. The much simpler and quite unique-sounding Thai English is very contagious, though. I learned a few words of Thai as well. I actually often find myself mixing the two languages when talking to the locals.

After the sun sets
Office kittens ❤️
Took a ride on the motorbike
Day off

My office tasks consist of customer service, sales, reservations for transfers and diving, keeping the places clean and general helping and organizing. A typical working day is at least nine hours long. Each day is a bit
different, as it always depends on how much customers we are having.

During my training I also got to do a PADI Open Water Diver course, which was free for trainees. I was able to go diving almost weekly, which was great! I will definitely continue diving in the future and maybe do an Advanced course as well.
I have really enjoyed my time here in Raya Yai. We had a small but great team on a small but a great island and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

From Munich With Love

I spent five months in Munich University of Applied Sciences, Germany, studying in the winter semester 2017/2018. The semester started on the beginning of September with a two-week voluntary German intensive course.

Marienplaz

Munich is Bavarias biggest city and locates in the southern Germany near the Alps so it offers a beatiful landscape for exhange studies. The highlights of my time in Munich were definitely the Oktoberfest and our ski trip to Austrian Alps.

Munich University of Applied Sciences “MUAS” offers a great variety of courses in many different departments. My courses were from tourism and general studies departments. I choose ten courses in total including the German intensive course before the actual courses. My general studies were business English courses which were quite useful and at the end of the semester I had an opportunity to do UNIcert -certificate in English.

Oktoberfest

In MUAS there is two types of courses: regular once every week classes and so called block courses which can take place for one weekend or two days or for more ETCS’s a week. This makes the course planning and scheduling quite challenging because usually the teachers don’t approve if you miss classes. But I fortunately managed to take all of the courses I needed.

Germany and Munich offers a lot of freetime activities inside the city but also in the near by areas. One of my favourite place in Munich is the English Garden where you can also surf in artificial waves! In the summertime there’s many beergartens everywhere. Before our brake in December we rented a van and drove to the Alps to ski with other exhange students!

English Garden

Compared to Finland, studying in MUAS is a bit more intensive since most of the teachers and professors are very strict with attendance. Ofcourse every course is different and it’s understandable that you cant miss a day from a two-day course. I experienced that I had enough freetime during my studies even some courses were more demanding.  Most of my courses were very dynamic and the teaching style was conversational which was nice.

Austrian Alps

Welkom in België

I am going to be studying here in Belgium for 10 months all together! 5 months behind, 5 are now ahead.

First town that I got to live in was called Kortrijk (literally nobody knows of this city, nobody) and it is a small town that has about 70 000 inhabitants. The area is quite big, but the city center itself is quite small. Some restaurants and shops can be found, but if you would want to do something, smarter to just go to visit for example Gent, Antwerpen or maybe Brugge. Best part about Belgium is the fact that it is such a small country, you can travel to any city with the train at it takes max. one and a half hours!

At home I am studying Hospitality Management, but in Kortrijk my studies mostly contained from business. Nice little change and it is connected in some ways to my own studies.

Course selection was not so big and many courses were cancelled for some reason in the beginning, which was a big disappointment for me, because all the courses I wanted to take and were connected the most to my field were the ones that got cancelled. But anyway I feel like I have learned some new things.

The study part is quite the same here as it is Finland! A lot of team works, quite many presentations and some exams. Big difference is that in Finland in one semester I might have maybe 3-4 courses but here I had about 10-11. Also something new for me was doing an oral exam, never have had those in Finland.

I think that quite sums up my semester! Now getting ready for my next semester which I will be doing in Brugge.

Viszontlátására Magyarország és szia Finnország!

Goodbye Hungary and hello Finland! My exchange is about to end and it has definitely been an experience that I wouldn’t change. I am studying in Metropolitan University for five months for Tourism and Catering services. I had a bit of fuss around my learning agreement and I had to redo it quite a few times and I ended up taking classes from Business as well in Tourism. I also studied Hungarian language and Middle European history to increase my knowledge. So many of my friends questioned my decision to study Hungarian, but to say I didn’t regret it. It was interesting and it is nice to understand at least a bit of the surrounding country.

Heroes’ Square

The teaching in general is very theoretic compared to Finnish teaching. Mostly the studying was sitting at the lectures and taking notes. I had few courses where I had to return an essay or make a presentation. One thing that was considerably different to Finnish school was the exam period. Here we had roughly three months of teaching and then two months of exams when there is no teaching and you can only focus for the exams. Or you could plan your exam period to have all of the exams in the first few weeks and then chill. However you wanted to plan it.

Being a tourist at Margaret bridge

For free time Budapest offers a wide range of different kinds of bars and clubs and you can choose whether you want to just sit down and talk with your friends, or dance and have fun. Here is also a lot of cafés from really fancy and expensive to really cosy and warm places. Maybe you don’t want to spend money, so then you can go see awesome views from Gellert Hill or just walk the riverside of the Danube.

I live with four other Erasmus-students in a shared flat and I can say it’s rarely quiet here. My Spanish, Cypriot and Italian flatmates are always planning trips, parties or just inviting people over. And if not, we are having mental breakdowns over exams and deadlines together.

Me and my flatmates

The great thing in Erasmus is, that you can always find a person who would like to go for a beer, watch a movie, have a party or even go to Vienna with you. (Or maybe just have a brunch all together.)

Greetings from Cyprus

Jassu!

I have been now over three months in Cyprus. Time flies so fast! I started my studies in October, but i came to here in Septemper to spend some holiday before studies.

Mediterranean climate provide great weather for holidays and it is nice addition when seeking for warm and non-rainy circumstances during studies.

Still in October here is approximately +25 degree so you can guess what i was doing on my weekends here 😉 Yes, i went to the beach! Because my school is in Nicosia where  also my flat is, i have explore other cities whenever i had time. Unfortunately Nicosia is in the middle of island so apparently there is no beaches.

Even Nicosia do not have beaches, here is many other things to see and do. Here is many beautiful churches, shopping street called Lidras, Turkish side and art gallerys etc.

Myschool  is Higher Hotel institute Cyprus (HHIC) so its more like high school than university. I study Travel and tourism Management. I am the only one Erasmus-student here in my school, but luckily i found a Facebook group for erasmus students in Nicosia. In here Nikosia is about 5 different universitys with hundred of exchange students all around world! I ALSO FOUND MY OWN ERASMUS FAMILY <3

I study with the last year students so i have many difficult but interesting courses. My lecture schedule is from monday to friday, so its pretty intensive and demanding combaring  timetable to my studies in TAMK. Technology here is little bit late than TAMK aswell. We have Moodle, but teachers dont use that a lot, but they give us notes.

 

Overal, my experience here have been quite educational, since i have put a lot of effort to my studies. I wanted to improve my english skills and that i did. I also have get to now better this culture which is sincerely different than ours. I have tried many variety of local dishes and good wines which i love!

Gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown

“Life might be difficult for a while, but I would tough it out because living in a foreign country is one of those things that everyone should try at least once. My understanding was that it completed a person, sanding down the rough provincial edges and transforming you into a citizen of the world” – David Sedaris


One thing was sure to expect; better weather. And yes definitely it was better than in Finland!

Moving abroad and starting over in a new country is one of the most terrifying and gorgeous exhilarating adventures ever. (Even though it was already my third time doing that. Still every time it surprises me again)

When I heard about the opportunity to do an exchange abroad, I didn’t think twice. Mayor problem for me was; Which country will I apply to?!

I started my exchange period in august in my host university “Rey Juan Carlos”  which was located in Vicalvaro. University was okay, literally okay, but that’s mostly all how I can describe it.  I was studying in the university of Social Sciences and law (grado en turismo).

Luckily I got a change to mix subjects so I picked those subjects which were interesting. Mostly from tourism sector and rest of the subjects from marketing. I was slightly disappointed about the education system in Spain, even thought I knew it’s not as good as it in Finland. International students were mixed with the normal class, on the other hand it was nice to get to know with local students but on the another hand teachers changed the speaking language all the time to Spain, so it was quite hard to follow the lessons.

I lived in a neighborhood where I literally were “the only white girl in the town.” I lived in a flat with my Spanish roommate and It was great. I had a chance to increase my cross culture awareness really in an “inside” perspective.

I had a bit of a culture shock during my time in Spain, mostly it was because of the late dinner times, ( WHO EATS DINNER LATER THAN 10pm?)  If I wanted to have a dinner at 5 or 6 0’clock there was only a few places open. People weren’t able to communicate in English.  So it was necessary to start practicing my Spanish. During my time in Spain I travelled a lot and went to see all those heritage villages near by. with a student card you can travel as much as you want inside of the region, FOR FREE ! In a city like Madrid, I bet there will be always something to do to spend you spare time.

 

 

Here are some tips for you, if you’re thinking about going for Erasmus in Madrid:

  • Before your take-off, start learning Spanish! You definitely will need that!
  • Don’t rent a flat, even if it’s a bit difficult, there’s no doubt you won’t find one. It’s better to see first and then make a contract!
  • Take your winter jacket and woolen socks with you, at winter time heating systems in houses are not as good than in Finland.
  • BEWARE with your bags and phones, Sol is a heaven for the thieves at Christmas time when its crowded.
  • …. last but not least, make your intercultural competences tasks on time….

 

 

Greetings from an old Japanese inn

The ground of a narrow hillside path burns my feet through my shoes as I wipe sweat off from my forehead. In the distance I hear a ship horn, closer around me the chirping concert of thousands of cicadas. An old lady  appears from behind a corner, gives a smile and says “Konnichiwa”. I respond with the same and smile back. But the smile doesn’t last long as I am immediately forced to swipe off more sweat from my face. It’s so scorching hot and incredibly humid that even the cats that this town is famous for lay in the short shadows as an occasional sweaty tourist tries to take pictures of them.

Welcome to Onomichi, a lovely small port town of about 40,000 residents in Hiroshima prefecture, Japan. I’ve been working here as a practical trainee/helper staff in a guesthouse/café since mid-June. The place I work for is called Miharashi-tei, a building originally built in 1921 in the traditional Saen(tea culture) architectural style. It stands on a stone wall cliff about 300 steps up from the town. It operated as an inn for a short while after the second world war but had been out of use for almost 30 years before it was renovated into the guesthouse that it has been operating as since March 2016. The guesthouse is run by a non-profit organization.

My main duty here is to help in the reception and give house tours for guests – both Japanese and foreign – after they have checked in at the reception desk in the guesthouse café. I take the guests around the facilities, explain house rules and finally show them to their rooms. I also help in the café/bar and when I have morning shifts I work with the cleaning/maintenance staff.

On my days off I have explored Onomichi and done a few daytrips to nearby cities such as Hiroshima and Okayama. I went to see the yearly Peace Ceremony in Hiroshima on the date of the atomic bomb of 1945. On normal evening shift workdays I spend the morning studying Japanese in the Onomichi Municipal (air-conditioned) Library.

Japanese work culture is known to be strictly hierarchical but a non-profit guesthouse is a slighty different thing. Here even the manager does dishes and fixes drinks. Everyone’s effort is equally valued and, as probably in every Japanese workplace, here also the sentence “otsukaresamadesu” is an essential part of the daily cycle. It’s a ritualistic Japanese expression which translates to something like “you must be tired” or “thank you for your good work”. People say it to each other when someone leaves the workplace.

Living and working in Japan has been my long-time dream and this training period has been a wonderful and useful glimpse into what life here is like in reality. I hope to be back as a trainee and exchange student before my permanent stay.

Slinging cocktails in London

I came to London for two reasons, I wanted to work in a cocktail bar in the city which has the best bars in the world and secondly I wanted to visit those bars and see why they are the best.

Nine to five

I started work at the end of May in Bethnal Green, area in East London. The bar is called London Cocktail Club and it has eight venues all over the city. The venue I work in is the only one above ground and it has a terrace, which means I don’t have to rot the whole summer in a cellar bar without seeing the sun. We were also the only bar without air con, which meant lot of sweating during busy days. Luckily the those times are over, because now we have a cool breeze coming from the brand new air con -machine.

LCC Bethnal Green, my workplace

This year this company was nominated in top 10 of Tales of the cocktail’s  Spirited Awards “best international high volume cocktail bar”-list.(https://talesofthecocktail.com/news/tales-cocktail-announces-top-10-nominees-2017-spirited-awards ). Which should look good on my CV.

For the customers the bar is kind kind of a party place, like the company’s motto says: “… a bartenders paradise! A bar that parties like the best of them, and mixes the worlds greatest drinks to perfection. A place where you can dance on the tables whilst singing to AC/DC, sipping on the perfect dry Martini!” And it gets crazy during the weekends, customers are literally dancing on tables and everyone is having fun, including the staff.

But as we work there, we can’t just party all the time, we also work and train ourselves to be better. Lots of prepping and cleaning to do also, I’ve had to juice lemons, limes, grapefruits, make sugar syrup, pre-batch liquors, wash glasses by hand (we don’t have a dish washer) and break down stations after closing time. So basically just normal bar work, what I’ve used to do. But I have also learned a lot new things and skills during my time here.

For example I’ve had to learn a completely new way of pouring, free pouring, which means you can’t use a jigger and you have to count the amounts in your head while you make the drinks. That took a lot of practice and I still have to practice it daily, but I’ve become quite good at it now. I also had to memorize the whole menu and specs for the cocktails, which includes about 70 different drinks. That took me couple of weeks before I passed the spec test and pour test, so I could start bartending.

We also do training with the whole company on Thursdays, the subjects vary from different spirits to opening your own bar, so they have been very interesting and educational.

Bartenders weekend

At the beginning, when I had more spare time, I spent a lot of time seeing things and going to places. Because I live kind of in the middle of the city, it’s not too far to walk anywhere, so I like to do it a lot, which is weird according to my work mates, even though the buses and tube are very easy to use as well.

I’ve visited many museums, like Tate modern and British museum, which is five minute walk away from my flat. My goal is to see everything in the British Museum before I leave, don’t know if I have time to finish that though.  Another hobby of mine has been walking around looking for street art, especially Banksy’s.

Otherwise I have been kind of a bad tourist, because I have been here for almost three months and I still haven’t gone to see the Big Ben, and it took me almost two months before I even saw Thames.

Banksy street art
Andy Warhol in Tate Modern

My touristic sight seeing has been more of  going to the bars which I’ve read a lot online and heard so much about, like Dandelyan, the top-3 bar in the world, The Gibson, bar that serves the weirdest looking cocktails what I’ve seen, and my personal favourite: Happiness Forgets, a small cellar bar with very good atmosphere and minimalistic cocktails.

Cocktails in Dandelyan
Napue cocktail in Nightjar

I’ve also spent time with my work mates, we’ve been out couple of times together, seen movies and just hanged around, we even went to a festival in Victoria Park with everyone in the company.

On the other hand, I’ve spent a lot of my spare time at home watching Netflix and doing chores like laundry and washing dishes, because nowdays I work much more than in the beginning so it’s nice to relax and do nothing during the days off.

staff night out
Mighty Hoopla -festival
I had a chance to visit Imbibe Live, a exhibition for bar professionals
Differences to Finland

I see a lot of same in the working culture over here that we have in Finland. The British people like punctuality and precision like we do in Finland.  The wages are about the same in both countries.

The biggest differences what I see is the customer service, because it is more personal in here, it is the most important thing what you have to do, little bit of small talk, making guests feel comfortable etc. Here it’s been taken to an another level compared to Finland. And that is one of the thing what I came here to learn. Partly customer service is on that level here is probably because of the general culture, like the small talk, and partly because some of the restaurants and bars have a service charge added to the bill, which goes directly to the staff, and if you don’t serve guests well, they don’t want to pay it. But still there is the certain something that makes you feel comfortable when you walk in to a venue with good service.

Here the alcohol industry is very close to you when you work here, there’s lot of different events, competitions, exhibitions and lot of leg work by brand ambassadors coming to showcase their products to you. And that brings you closer to professionals and industry leaders, and gives you more possibilities to advance in your career.

Stoli Elit martini competition

But all in all bar industry is pretty much the same everywhere and there is similar working cultures around the world and at the same time two bars on the same street might have totally different ways of working and doing things compared to each other.

 

 

Szia from Budapest!

“My house in Budapest
My, my hidden treasure chest..” 

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If not earlier, at the latest George Ezra made you know this beautiful city by his great song. (Which doesn’t tell about Budapest at all, though.)

I had visited Budapest two times before my exchange so the city itself was familiar to me. From the very first trip to Budapest I fell in love with the city. How those majestic and glorious buildings meet the rugged and ruined houses and how Danube divides the city into two totally different parts. New bars and street-food restaurants are opening every week so you always have new cool places to visit. Eating and drinking out is really cheap comparing to Finland, too. It’s not difficult to fall in love with Budapest.

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I finished my studies in Budapest Business School in May. We had lectures in two different buildings, both located just few hundred meters from the famous Parliament building. I took courses that are very different to which are offered by TAMK. I studied intercultural communication and business communication, environmental management, cultural tourism, Hungarian language, Hungarian history & culture and Hungarian gastronomy.

I really enjoyed Hungarian language course. I have always been interested about languages and such an unique language like Hungarian was really fascinating to me. Finnish and Hungarian are both Finno-Ugric languages and you can find many similarities between them. Learning Hungarian was probably much more easier to Finnish-speakers than, for example, English- or German-speaking students.  I learned words and phrases that are useful in every-day life and also numbers and some vocabulary.

Comparing to studying in TAMK, teaching was much more theoretical. It sometimes felt similar to studying in high school; less interaction between teacher and students, lots of powerpoints and notes to write down and only 1,5 hour classes. As I am more practical person I usually prefer more interactive learning methods but I didn’t find it hard to manage the courses. In BBS you had more optional courses to choose and that way also more freedom to make your schedule personalized.

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During my stay in Budapest I have traveled a lot. City’s location in the middle of Europe has enabled me to travel budget-friendly to many countries. I visited Vienna and Bratislava during my winter holiday. In April I traveled to Prague to visit my friends and in May I had great trip by train to Belgrad, Serbia. In the beginning of June I returned from 10-days road trip which led me to Slovenia, northern Italy and to Austria.  I also visited my friend’s hometown Nyíregyháza in Hungary,  which was charming little city close to Ukrainian border. I think I have been such a privileged to experience all this during my exchange semester.

My favorite hobbies abroad, eating and drinking, were easy to put into practice here in Budapest. Although prices have risen in Hungary food is still very affordable in restaurants. I have eaten such a delicious food and have drank great Hungarian wines and beers with my Erasmus friends. Traditional Hungarian cuisine is very heavy and based on meat. Gulyás is one of the most famous dishes in Hungary. It is known as goulash in many other central-European countries. Here in Hungary it is more like soup when, for example, in Czech it is traditionally a meat stew. Lángos is “Hungarian pizza” and very famous among the tourists. It is round-shaped deep-fried pastry that is usually topped with tejföl (like sour-cream) and grated cheese. Not the healthiest choice but soooo yummy!

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I’ve also visited famous baths that are very popular here in Hungary. There are numerous natural warm spring waters under the city and several baths (fürdő in Hungarian) have been here in Budapest for centuries. Many locals believe that these thermal waters really keeps you healthy. Who knows, but I will definitely recommend to give a try!

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Five months in Hungary have been absolutely great! Weather has been lovely since April and life really laid-back after exam period. I could easily stay one more semester here but it also feels good to go back to Finland. I miss Finnish nature and quietness but life in lively metropolis has been pleasant too. After five months I feel that I have a second home here in Hungary and it will be great to return here one day.