Clash of Cultures

So far I've seen Slovaks and Finns to be very similar in culture and behaviour. But on Friday I had a cold reality call when it turned out that the salaries were nowhere to be seen. And what in Finland would end up in big headlines is taken with complete ignorance here.

Ever since our teams were outsourced there have been problems from switching between work systems to salaries. Last month the salaries were late for one day and we were ensured that it would never happen again. Of course we believed it. Now it turns out that we shouldn't have: salaries were late for days.

In Finland you go to work, remember it's the pay day, check your account and if it turns out that the salary hasn't even been transferred yet, you would turn on your heels and return home... Who would work without being paid? Apparently Slovaks would. 

I was so furious I couldn't concentrate on anything, it was just so against all my principles to keep working when other people in the company didn't do their job, which would've been paying our salaries. Nobody seemed to be even the least bit disturbed by the absence of the salary but I sent a fire-flavoured message to the finance department and our boss. And then I had to go for a long "coffee break". I just couldn't keep working, I did not move all the way here to do voluntary work. I could've done that in Finland.

Talking with my colleagues I figured that Slovaks do not protest pretty much for anything. They take what is given and do not ask for what is not given. Complete opposite to Finns: we take what we are given and ask for a tenfold more. And oh dear, we love protesting! 

This reminded me a lot of Russians. They are used to living in need of many things and are glad to take what is given without asking for more. It has aaalways been like that for them and it has been quite the same for Slovaks for most of their existence. It takes time for them to understand all the freedoms of today that they didn't have couple dozen years ago, or all the rights that they have as employees. Whereas we Finns are very aware of our rights. They are being taught at school and we've always been much more privileged than, for example, Slovaks. 

You can decide among yourselves whether it is better to just keep quiet and not stand against the system or to rampage around shouting about your rights and refusing to do anything until they are fulfilled. My conscience wouldn't allow me to work without payment and I think it was right. Most of my colleagues probably disagree. And that is their right.


  1. Kirjoittaja on poistanut tämän kommentin.

  2. The situation is the same in Hungary as well. We don't have trade-unions anymore, there's nowhere to go if something like this happens to you. If you protest, you find yourself on the street and what is even more sad, there'll be more people jumping to your place and doing your job under even worse circumstances. People in these countries - at least in Hungary for sure - have no savings, no existential security at all. If you lose your job, it's very difficult to find another. If you can't pay your loans, can't buy food for your children, there's nobody there to help...
    You are absolutely right but I know how your colleagues feel. I've been walking in their shoes for too long...

  3. That is very true and I've become aware of it only now after moving here. Your comment also applies to the Northern countries, if you lose your job it is very hard to find another. But that brings me to the point: in Slovakia, just like in Finland, from a legal stand of point, you can't lose your job just because you refuse to work until you have been paid. Of course work contracts differ, which is why you should always go through it carefully before signing, but in an EU country firing someone has to have a very serious reason. You would have to commit a crime almost to give the employer a good enough reason to kick you out.
    I do recognize that not all companies here care about what's legal and what's not, and taking a company to court is something that very few people can afford. But especially when working for a big, multinational, global company you have a lot of options where you can get help in situations that are against your contract.
    The only way to change these issues that you mentioned is for people to start aknowledging them and making noice about them. Obviously me raging around doesn't make much difference, but if even one entire team threatens to not work until the salary has been paid it has an impact. An immediate impact which won't be fixed by firing the whole team and replacing them. No company can afford such a thing these days. And one thing that I've been taught since I was very young, and what I've found to be completely true: if you have language skills there are always jobs in Europe for you. (that of course means being able and willing to move into another country). :)


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