How the stories were made

One of the key aims of HIWE is to find new ways in which the voices of highly skilled internationals’ can be heard better in Finnish society and decision-making.

In order to promote this goal, we have wanted to highlight internationals’ own stories about their lives in Finland, at the same time making sure that our research data covers a wide variety of experiences and voices.

Interviewing a diverse group of internationals

We conducted a total of 61 interviews in autumn 2022 and spring 2023. The interviewees were recruited from four professional fields:

  1. Health and pharmacy
  2. ICT and engineering
  3. International business and retail
  4. Tourism and hospitality

They formed a diverse group of international talent, including:

  • Internationals who are currently living and working in Finland
  • Internationals who have lived and worked in Finland but have left
  • People born in Finland who have lived and worked abroad, but have come back to Finland

Geographically, the interviewees came from (or were born in): Africa (5), Asia (14), Europe (33), North and Central America (5) and South America (5).

Of them, 32 were women and 30 men (gender assumed).

Interviewees were recruited for the study through LinkedIn, researchers’ own networks and utilising the snowballing method.

Life course interviews give a deeper insight into the talents’ lives

When looking into existing research literature, we have noticed that while work-based immigration has been studied a lot, in Finland and elsewhere, often the results remain at an abstract level.

Research reports routinely cite interviewees on chosen themes but tend to ignore their individual life stories that help to understand their choices and experiences. It is also important to notice how the stories are told. To avoid these caveats, we conducted the interviews using the life course interview method.

We asked the interviewees about:

  • their lives before coming to Finland
  • what attracted them to move to Finland
  • what kind of experiences they have of Finnish working life, society, and culture
  • what kind of dreams and plans they have for the future

Turning experiences into evocative stories

We analysed each interview by paying attention to its core narrative, that is, to those life phases, experiences, and decisions which seemed most important to the interviewee.

We also analysed each interview in terms of its main story line, looking into the various actors and roles of the actors that were portrayed in the story, utilising here concepts from A.J. Greimas’ semantic theory.

We then compared the different narratives and story lines and looked for their common and distinguishing features. In the end, we constructed five “composite stories”, each reflecting the combined experiences of many talents.

The stories are written in first-person singular point of view to enable the readers to momentarily visit the lives of talents and reflect on what they have experienced and felt while living and working in Finland. Yet, the stories are not just one person’s experience: they are based on experiences shared by many, or in some cases even all, interviewed talents.

Process description of how interviews were analysed and turned into stories.
HIWE research data: process of analysis

Stories open doors for enhancing mutual understanding

At best, stories written in the “I” form help to overcome differences between people and groups and promote mutual understanding and empathy. On the other hand, it is important to remember that the stories published here do not come directly from the interviewees but result from the researchers’ interpretation and narrative reconstruction of the interview data. Therefore, they can also be read with a critical eye, asking whether our methodological choices are apt ones.

Check out all the five stories here. The stories make intriguingly visible how versatile internationals’ experiences of Finland are.