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5 things I learnt in Finland – Maria Maciel

Hello, I’m Maria Maciel from Portugal. I am doing long-term volunteering in Villa Elba in the Nuotta Coaching project. During the last 4 months living in Finland I had the opportunity to put into practice all the knowledge I acquired at university as a criminologist and to learn 5 things. These learnings are based on my personal experience and the first person experiences I have had on a daily basis here in Finland. I hope that this content will add value to you and that you can take some insight.

  1. In Finland, they highly value decision-making. From an early age, children are encouraged to choose and to take the “consequences” of their decision. With this, we get more committed, independent and self-confident adults. Every day we make choices and for that reason we have responsibility for our results. We do not choose what happens to us but we choose how we deal with the situation.
  2. In Finland, they devote time to the people they love. Family comes first, and then work. There is no negotiation about what is more important. The value of family is deeply rooted in the culture and for that reason, they organise their whole life according to their priorities. Again, conscious choices. When you don’t know what you want, any path will do. But when you are clear about what really matters, everything else will fit or not be a priority.
  3. In Finland, everyone takes responsibility, whether it’s the cleaning lady, the cook or the coordinator. There is a horizontal hierarchy. There are no “statutes”, no superiorities. There is respect, empathy, understanding and humanity. The freedom to BE whatever we want without pressure or judgement is unquestionable. Here we have a voice, here we can try and risk, always with responsibility and commitment.
  4. In Finland, they listen to people unhurriedly and attentively. There is room for dialogue, without judgement or shouting. Everyone knows their worth and so they value active listening. In 4 months, I have never seen anyone offended or speaking up just for listening to someone with a different opinion. In 4 months I have learnt to listen more and talk less. Everyone knows themselves and listening carefully is part of healthy relationships.
  5. In Finland, they allowed me to learn to set boundaries without being afraid of what others might think. They taught me to share my needs without fear of judgement. They gave me the opportunity to be vulnerable and honest with myself about who I am and what I want for myself. All this because there is a humanistic, empathetic and horizontal culture. It’s okay to say what you think, as long as you say it in the most empathetic way you know how.


Writer: Maria Maciel, Long-term volunteer