Canadian biologist Bryce Nelson has travelled widely and lived in many countries. For the past year, his home has been in Turku, Finland, where he works at Orion. He was headhunted to work as a Protein Engineer at Orion.
Bryce Nelson’s current title is Antibody Engineering Lead. He was attracted to Finland by the interesting tasks and the good reputation of the Nordic countries. His family – wife and two children aged under 10 – also moved to Finland.
“The Nordic countries and Finland have a very good reputation abroad. I was interested in the opportunity to work at Orion, a major company with a relatively new and young biology unit. We are like a small business within a larger company, which has been interesting,” says Nelson.
English at work, Japanese at home
The working language at Orion’s biology unit in Turku is English. This is not a problem for Nelson, who speaks English and French and has also learned a few words of Finnish.
“I wish I had learned more Finnish, but we already have two languages at home. My wife is Japanese, and our home language is Japanese. Now that we are here in Finland, I try to speak English to my children, and they attend an English-language school. We are also trying to pick up at least some Finnish,” says Nelson.
A citizen of the world in Finland
Nelson is used to moving to a new country for work. He has lived in Europe before, but his first visit to Finland was for a job interview during the recruitment process. The next visit was when he moved to Finland with his family.
“Moving to a country that I had visited only once was part of the attraction. For our family, Finland was something of a mystery that we wanted to unravel,” Nelson explains.
“I think the most challenging part of the move was the dog. Getting the dog to Finland required a great deal of paperwork, health checks and signatures. In the end, no one even wanted to see all the necessary papers,” Nelson says with a laugh.
Orion has a relocation service for employees moving to Finland from abroad. The programme helps them with the practical arrangements related to moving and settling in the new country.
“That and previous experience helped. We have moved from one country to another so many times that my wife is quite used to packing, but this was the first time with children and a dog.”
Life in Turku
The family has now lived in Finland for almost a year. The children have made friends, and Finland has at times felt very familiar to the Canadian-Japanese family.
“The climate is not so different from the west coast of Canada. We do miss the mountains, but Finns also play ice hockey and eat smoked salmon,” Nelson sums up.
The family feels that Turku is just the right size for a city: not too large or small. Almost everything is accessible by foot or by bike.
“We love the outdoors, and I can cycle to work here. It’s great! Turku also has incredible old buildings, and you can access nature from almost everywhere.”
The family has not experienced any major surprises in Finland – even the dark winter did not seem as bad as many had warned.
“The children have helped us adapt, and we have met new people through our children. All of them have been super nice. In the autumn, our neighbours advised us on the local forest routes and the best places to pick mushrooms.”
What would Nelson like to say to foreigners who are considering moving to and working in Finland?
“People in Finland are nice and open. This is a beautiful country on the edge of Europe. Nature is always near, even in urban environments. This is a great country to live in, especially if you have children. We have already heard the same story many times: people have planned to live in Finland for a few months or for a year, but five years later, they are still here. It’s certainly no coincidence. Let’s see what happens to us.”