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Nigerian Emmanuel originally came to Kokkola for school. His brother was already studying here and thanks to him, Emmanuel had prior knowledge about Finland as a country and knew what to expect on arrival. Now, he has lived in Kokkola for thirteen years.

When Emmanuel started studying in Kokkola, higher education was still free. He tells me that his family wasn’t very wealthy and he most likely wouldn’t have had a chance to study abroad othervice. His biggest wish, both then and now, is to have a normal and good life: His own home, food, clothes, and love. A simple and safe life for himself and his loved ones.

Finland is a safe country

Emmanuel’s hometown in Nigeria was Lagos, which has an estimated population of around 14 million people. Life and pace of living in Lagos is naturally very different compared to Kokkola, which is small in population. According to him there’s always quite a bit of chaos and mayhem in Lagos. Handling various everyday tasks is not simple and things aren’t very systematically set up. Emmanuel says that the locals tend to say in the midst of the chaotic environment in Lagos, that the people are still welcoming, warm and loving at heart.

He notes Finland being practically the complete opposite, where there is a very precise order and the agreed upon rules are followed to the letter. He estimates that perhaps precisely the clear order and strict following of rules contributes to a general feeling of safety and stability.

“This order, everything here is so incredibly systematic. So systematic that sometimes it even feels a little scary. Everything here goes exactly according to the rules. All of this regularity surprised me back then, and even after all of these years, it manages to keep on positively surprising me. I’ve noticed that Finns really love rules in everything.”

Emmanuel Isong

The train arrives exactly when it’s supposed to, and if it doesn’t, you’ll be notified. In Emmanuel’s opinion, this is downright unbelievable and he often thinks that maybe that’s why everything here is so organized and works so well.

“It’s peaceful and quiet in Kokkola, which is nice. Sometimes, when I go to Helsinki, I think ‘it’s so crazy here’. Well, of course it’s not the same as when I lived in Lagos. There’s a saying that ‘Lagos is next from Hell’. It’s chaos. Helsinki is nothing compared to it. Of course, now that I’m used to Kokkola, even Helsinki feels like a madhouse. It’s good to be in Kokkola.”

Various encounters

Emmanuel’s brother had informed him in advance about the different customs here compared to Nigeria. He had told, among other things, that Finnish people don’t talk to people they don’t know. Nigerian culture is the complete opposite of this, as there you talk to everyone, everywhere and ask a lot of questions, especially if the person comes from somewhere else. For this reason, at first Emmanuel even found it a little strange that people didn’t talk to each other in a lift or on the street.

In Nigeria, for example teachers and older people are spoken to very formally and failing to do so is seen as disrespectful. He was surprised to find out that in Finland teachers are familiarly called by their first name, which has been a little hard for Emmanuel to learn. Even after this many years, casual language doesn’t come to him naturally.

In Emmanuel’s experience Finns are a little distant at first and getting to know them takes time. But when that beginning stage is over and “the ice has been broken”, things speed up. In his opinion Finns are very warm people and once you get to know each other, it’s true friendship. He also says he’s learned that if a Finns says something they really mean it. Once a friend, always a friend.

Love, home, and work

After finishing his studies, Emmanuel’s wife from Nigeria moved to Kokkola as well. They started a family, which now also includes two children. He says everything is well and the basics are in order. There’s love in the family, they have their own home, and work. At the moment Emmanuel works as a welder, which guarantees the family’s livelihood. In addition to his work as a welder, he also works for a Danish company as a software engineer. He has yet to find a similar permanent job in Kokkola, despite his attempts.

Emmanuel praises Finland’s equal society

Emmanuel appreciates the basic security and care provided by Finland, medical care one of them. In Nigeria, basic healthcare was not something to take for granted.

“I’ll always remember visiting a health center in the early days. I was waiting in the lobby for my turn at the doctor’s office with a very well dressed gentleman. I was surprised when I was called to see the doctor first, while that gentleman stayed in the lobby to wait for his turn. I was also quite surprised that the same doctor treated both of us! It was downright unreal. That’s when I truly understood the equality prevailing here, this gentleman and I were equally valuable in that situation. As I left, I saw this well dressed man leaving on a bicycle and I was told he was an important municipal decision-maker. I couldn’t believe a man that important went to the reception after me, where we were treated by the same doctor, and then he left on a bicycle. In Nigeria this simply wouldn’t be possible. There, such an important man would have gone to a private medical clinic, driven by a chauffeur, and he definitely wouldn’t have had to wait for his turn.”

Emmanuel mentionshaving sometimes wondered how life can be so different here. Nigeria has many valuable natural resources such as oil, lithium, and gold. Despite this, he thinks most of the people there have next to nothing. Finland doesn’t have oil or other similar huge natural resources but there’s still everything here. Emmanuel noticed that in Finland everyone is equally valuable and everyone has the same rights.

Welcome Office – easily accessible guidance

Welcome Office Kokkola is the city of Kokkola’s information and advice service in things related to immigration and integration. You can use the service if you have questions about official matters, job searching and work life, studying, and other things that may come up while living in a new country. Welcome Office currently serves in Finnish, English, and Russian. If necessary, it’s also possible to use interpretation services. Welcome Office services are free of charge and it’s backed by the ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.

“We offer our customers guidance and advice regarding, for example, settling in Kokkola. This can include permit and support issues, applying for language courses, hobbies, job searching or whatever guidance the customer needs. Everyone who has moved to the country is welcomed to the Welcome Office, no matter their background.”

Marianne Leimio-Seppä, immigration coordinator

You can get in contact by calling, texting, or emailing. The Welcome Office is available on weekdays by phone at 050 409 5620 or by email at The service point can be found on the second floor of the Kokkola Main Library, opening hours here.