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Working abroad during a pandemic: The story of a Belgian chef in Finland
Determination is key
Despite the shortage of chefs in Brussels, Ahmed was having a hard time finding a job. “I probably sent around 100 applications. I only received two or three replies and they were all negative. It is difficult to stay motivated when no one replies to you, but I didn’t want to sit idly by and do nothing,” says Ahmed.
That is when the young chef decided to try his luck abroad and got in touch with the EURES Advisers at Actiris International − the international mobility department of the Public Employment Service for the Brussels Region.
“When I received an offer from Actiris International for a seasonal job in a Finnish resort, I applied immediately. After an interview with the EURES team, my application was quickly sent to the employer.”
A week to relocate
After the first interview, things moved very quickly for Ahmed. “The next day, I had a phone interview with the employer, which went well, and the next week, I arrived in Lapland. The whole application process was done in English. I’m not bilingual, but my English must have been good enough,” says the Belgian chef.
Ahmed was hired as a station chef. “I rotated between several different positions, but I was mostly responsible for making desserts and pastries. The cuisine was international, but I also learned to make traditional Finnish dishes.”
Ahmed’s contract was from December 2019 to April 2020, but when the pandemic hit Finland in March, the resort had to close. Rather than returning to Brussels, Ahmed decided to continue his journey, empowered by his experience in Lapland.
“I moved to Helsinki, and after a few weeks, I found a job at a sushi bar. I learned how to cut fish and make sushi. It was really interesting! But then, the second COVID-19 wave hit Finland, which resulted in the closure of all restaurants. This time, I didn’t have a choice but to go back to Belgium,” recalls Ahmed.
Despite the challenges he faced during the pandemic, Ahmed does not regret going to Finland. “I was very happy in Finland, and I am thinking of returning as soon as I have the chance. I really like the mentality of Scandinavian people – they are so welcoming and open. I encourage everyone who is considering working abroad to just do it. It’s a very positive experience.”
Do you want to start your own adventure abroad? Despite the pandemic, our EURES Advisers are standing by to give advice and support jobseekers in finding opportunities around Europe. Contact the EURES helpdesk to get started today.
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Articles are intended to provide users of the EURES portal with information on current topics and trends and to stimulate discussion and debate. Their content does not necessarily reflect the view of the European Labour Authority (ELA) or the European Commission. Furthermore, EURES and ELA do not endorse third party websites mentioned above.