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Many different experiences await Nordjobb participants

Many different experiences await Nordjobb participants

| Text: Björn Lindahl, photo: private

Young people travel across the Nordic region to work with tourists, weed spinach fields and public parks or pack prawns in Greenland — all thanks to Nordjobb. And the experiences are all unique.

Finnish girl nearly alone among puffins

Anna Caballero

Anna Leppännen has been allowed to try something completely different. She works at an inn on Mykines, the westernmost of the Faroe Islands.

“It takes 45 minutes to get here by boat. The island is ten square kilometres and there are 10 permanent residents,” she says.

It’s rather different from her home city of Tampere and its 200,000 inhabitants.

Most people come to see the puffins and the tallest mountain, Knúkurk, which is 560 metres high.

“The birds stay close to the lighthouse and most of the tourists are interested in animals and nature.”

The inn is much smaller than what it would have been back in Finland. It is more like a summer house, she says.

The first month she was the only person on the island from Nordjobb. The ferry arrives twice a day and most tourists arrive on a day trip, but there is room for four overnight guests.

“I prepare food and drinks and serve. There is lots to do. We could have more people working here. The tourists mostly come from Denmark and Norway, but also from Germany, the USA and Australia. Everyone asks what a Finnish girl like me is doing here.”

Anna speaks Finnish and has never really got to try out her school Swedish.

“The Danes don’t understand Swedish, but I am proud when I manage to talk the language with Swedish and Norwegian tourists. I don’t understand Faroese at all. I live with the family where the wife is responsible for the inn. The husband is a farmer.

“I was alone here for about a month, but one week ago Fanny arrived from Sweden, also through Nordjobb. I have never been away from home on my own for so long before. 

“The problem is not that I don’t see enough people, there are tourists coming every day. But I am a bit sad that I can’t meet other people from Nordjobb like those who are staying on the bigger islands. All the tourists ask how I manage to live here on my own for three months!

Anna Leppänen has met everyone who lives on the island, but since most of them are pensioners the party factor isn’t particularly high.

“It has been very cold. Most of them used to be sheep farmers. 

“Speaking Finnish-Swedish leads to a lot of misunderstandings, and the family I am staying with speak to me in Danish. I thought it would be easy to understand Danish when you know Swedish, but it is not!”

Nordjobb has a Facebook group where people plan different meets. Anna and Fanny hope to take part in some of them.

“But now I have been working for 31 days with no time off. My first holiday will be on Sunday.”

Icelandic girl in Danish spinach field



For Gerður Gautsdóttir Nordjobb has become something which engages the entire family. Her job is to monitor spinach plants at Jensen Seeds in Odense, Denmark. Last year she had the same job  alongside her older brother. This year she is back with her younger brother. 

“There are more than 300 spinach fields in Denmark and the country has specialised in the export of spinach seeds. Spinach comes in both male and female plants. Only the female ones are harvested, but you need the male ones for reproduction purposes. Sometimes the wrong types of plants will emerge, so-called ‘off-types’, which we must remove from the fields,” explains Gerður in a mix of Swedish and English.

Despite spending several periods in Denmark she still speaks better Swedish than Danish, because she was an exchange student in Uppsala for six months. 

“We spend a lot of time outdoors, and I get to see a lot of Denmark because we drive across the entire country to different fields.”

This year she will be working for five weeks. She thinks the pay is good, but agriculture is not something she will go for when she is back in her home city of Reykjavík.

“I studied to become a teacher and now I am taking a master in tourism. I am from Reykjavík,” she says.

“The difference between being a tourist and to work in a country is that when you’re a tourist you just walk around looking at tourist stuff. When you work you become more like the Danes themselves, you become part of the society, so to speak.”

Before Gerður left for her Nordjobb posting she was interested in Nordic culture which is where her own country’s culture springs from, but now she is even more interested. The countries have so many things in common. 

“The Danes aren’t particularly different from us, but they have better weather!

“The money is not the most important thing about Nordjobb, it is all about the experience. Trying something new and meet other young people of the same age from different countries. We are 15 people living together in an agricultural college. Most come from Sweden and Iceland. Some are from Finland and last year there was a Norwegian too.”

Have you experienced anything negative?

“No, nothing that I can think of!”

A Swede in a Greenlandic prawn factory



“This is my second time in Greenland through Nordjobb. Last summer I went to Ilulissat and worked in the fisheries industry. This time I’m in the capital Nuuk and work in a prawn factory,” says Isac Albertsson.

He had just graduated last year and sought work through Nordjobb because he wanted to go abroad and try something new. 

“I applied to go to the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland and very quickly got an offer to work in Ilulissat, and I didn’t hesitate. The experience was so positive that I chose to return this year in order to see more of Greenland.

“Last year we were four people from Sweden, Norway and Denmark in our workplace plus four more in other places, and we shared a flat which the employer rented out.

“This time we are three from Sweden and Finland hiring a house in Nuuk.”

He has been well received both times and the Greenlandic workers seem happy to receive labour from other parts of the Nordic region, according to Isac. 

“Sadly we have not yet had any meet-ups.”

Do you feel isolated?

“I have lived in Nuuk and Ilulissat which are Greenland’s largest and third largest cities with 15,000 and 4,000 inhabitants respectively. That is considerably more than the number of people living in my home town in Sweden.

But the cities are isolated and hard to reach, which means you can only go to other cities by plane or boat since there are no roads.”

“Most Greenlanders can speak Danish but we mostly speak English and body language since Danish is not always the easiest language to understand!”

Greenland is different in many ways to Sweden. Everyday life is far calmer up here and life is more relaxed, thinks Isac.

“I have only been here in the summer, but even then the weather is very unpredictable with low temperatures, strong winds and snow and rain. This June you still got snow storms on your way to work, and there is still snow on the ground.”

What do you do at the prawn factory where you work now?

“Here at Polar Jaat in Nuuk I pack, weigh and freeze the prawns. In Ilulissat I worked with packing, cleaning, cutting and freezing fish. Work was more exhausting last year with quite a lot of heavy lifting. But this year it is considerably lighter as I am mostly working in the storeroom, packing and weighing parcels. 

What has surprised you the most?

“That’s nature, which is particularly amazing in Ilulissat. It is an incredibly beautiful city and I recommend everyone who are considering a trip to Greenland to go there.

“Anything negative? Prices are high in Greenland. It is expensive to travel here but food, the Internet and accommodation is also expensive.

Norwegian park keeper in Reykjavik

Emilie main

Emilie Sommervold spent two months working in Reykjavik in the summer of 2014. She got a job as a municipal park keeper and worked in a group with two other Nordjobb people — Oda Bjellum, who can be seen in the picture on the right, and Simon Finnäs.

“I heard about Nordjobb by coincidence. I had been travelling a bit abroad and came home needing a summer job, so I went online searching for ‘Job in Europe’ and ‘Job in the Nordic region’.

“It might sound a bit silly for a Norwegian to work in Iceland, which has just emerged from a crisis, but I didn’t go there primarily to make money. I wanted it to be an experience. It was fantastic! It is quite different to work in a country than to simply go there to live or being a tourist.”

There were many Nordic events during the two months.

“We had Nordic nights at the Norden Association, where we all brought one food dish and shared many activities like walking in the mountains together.”

She was less used to being a park worker.

“I have worked for a company hiring out snowmobiles. I live in Trondheim now, but earlier I lived in Svalbard. So Icelandic nature feels a bit like ‘home’.”

Emilie had not been engaged in Nordic cooperation before she travelled with Nordjobb. 

“It opens your eyes to the Nordic experience,” she says.

She didn’t learn much Icelandic.

“You learned a few phrases, but with the others from Nordjobb, who included several Finnish-speaking Finns, and with the Icelanders themselves we ended up speaking mostly English.

“The Icelanders know some Danish, but that would be like saying I know how to speak French just because I was taught it in school.

“But the languages are so similar that if I really went for it I would probably learn Icelandic quite quickly. When we were just Danes, Norwegians and Swedes together we spoke a kind of Scandinavian.”

Would you have managed to get a job in Iceland by yourself?

“I guess I could have, but it would have been difficult. You get so much help through Nordjobb. All you need to do is say yes or no! I have tried to get a job earlier when travelling, in New Zealand, but that was completely different.”

She did not make a lot of money from the job in Iceland.

“You pay the journey yourself and when you have some time off you don’t want to just sit at home. You want to go out and experience things.”

What surprised you the most about the people of Iceland?

“They are good at what they do. They are very creative and there is a much broader cultural life than in Trondheim. They are very urban in away, even if they are living on an island.”

Working through Nordjobb in her home country

Suvi A PehkonenSuvi Pehkonen works through Nordjobb at a hotel in Mariehamn in Åland. She is a Finnish speaker but normally studies Nordic languages at the University of Helsinki.

“I used to study Italian, but found out that it wasn’t for me. I have always liked Swedish, so I applied to go to Sweden and Åland.”

She is a receptionist and the only one in the hotel working through Nordjobb, but there is one other Nordjobb person in the restaurant. Suvi books the guest and welcomes them.

“I’m really enjoying this and think it is interesting to meet so many people. I grew up in a pretty small place south in Finland called Forssa, but one year ago I moved to Espoo and travel from there to the University of Helsinki.”

Forssa is a purely Finnish language town and municipality, while Mariehamn and Åland are purely Swedish language. 

“We are quite similar, I guess. What surprised me about Åland is that people are so friendly.”

So far she has only met two other Nordjobb workers in the six weeks she has been on the island. But there is a Facebook group with 41 people who are all working on the Island right now. Suvi has visited some of the sights like Kastelholms castle and the Maritime Museum, and she has been out with a work mate. 

“I’m renting a flat and there are two bedrooms. In a few days another Finnish girl who is also with Nordjobb will be moving in.

“I would really like to work with Nordic issues in the future!”

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