What comes up to your mind when you think of your favorite food? Pastas? Hamburgers? What about sushis? Simple styled cuisine originated from Japan, it has attracted millions of people’s mind and attention as it gained popularity. Although the base is fish and rice, it allows people to get creative and invent various different kinds of recipes. It has become a part of food trend world widely, and sushis are being loved by large population in Finland, regardless of age, gender and nationality. I was able to have my practical training in one of the most favoured sushi restaurant in our city; Japanese Restaurant Itsudemo Jyväskylä. Today in this blog, I would like to share my personal experiences with Itsudemo.
Picture 1. Image from Istudemo
I chose Itsudemo as my Practical Training company, since it was located in the city where I live in, with the biggest popularity of “sushi restaurant” among people in Jyväskylä. In addition, it is a big franchise established in Finland therefore not only people from Jyväskylä but also from different cities in Finland are familiar with our brand. It was initially less challenging to have practical trainings in the centre of city, alongside my study and personal life, which was a big key why I decided to have the PT here. Another big aspect was that the company itself is with international background. Establishment, operation, and service of the company involved international management and affairs as it grew the company’s popularity. I initially expected the company to be related somehow to Japan / Japanese background since the restaurant’s name has “Japanese Restaurant” in it, however I later on slowly learned that it is not. The company’s background was mainly Chinese, involving Chinese food, chefs and companies alongside providing sushis, which is Japanese. I was first astonished and felt disappointed especially because I have personal connection to Japan and Japanese food, that I was not able to even meet a single Japanese worker through work. However, as I proceed working, my opinion started to shift.
Starting to work as a waitress under restaurant industry was a whole new experience to me. I never had dealt with customer service in depth, especially dealing with food. Fortunately enough, Itsudemo operates with a buffet style service, where customers themselves take food to their own tables. Therefore, our main job was to take people in when they enter the restaurant, helping them guide to payment and sometimes explaining how our system works to ones who are not familiar with our restaurant. On top of that, we clean, fill all food to buffet tables, putting dishes away and make takeaway boxes for online orders. It sounds easy when I put our work this way, however there always comes challenges and difficulties. On busy days, we are often fully packed and people line up to eat. It is our responsibility to keep up with customer cycles, being aware of whom will leave next and quickly allowing the line to move forward. There are always two to three waitresses at the same time, therefore teamwork is very crucial. We have to communicate smoothly and efficiently, to run the restaurant smoothly and efficiently throughout opening hours. We often had customers from outside of Finland as well. For example, exchange students from Italy Spain or France were always favouring our restaurant. We usually have at least two to four groups of Russian-speaking customers. It was common to hear languages other than Finnish in the restaurant’s eating area, and we always felt happy that our restaurant is loved by mult-national customer base. I believe our restaurant serving international food was the crucial key in this.
Work hours can depend, however for me they lasted averagely 5 hours, however up to 10 hours if I chose to work double shifts a day. Restaurant closed usually at 21.00 (9pm), therefore I often had shifts after having classes at school. During weekends, I tried working as much as I could, since they were the most vacant availabilities for me. As a student, the shifts were very easy to schedule, and suited my timetables very much. I can recommend the job place to a lot of students.
Picture 2: Inside of Itsudemo
Negatives and Positives in Challenges
The biggest challenge among all was communication issues for most waitresses. All chefs who work in the kitchen and make sushis being recruited from China, they only spoke Chinese. Some were able to speak little English, and there was one chef who spoke Finnish. However, whenever we needed to communicate, it was challenging because of the language barrier. Us waitress mostly composed of Finnish and Russian (at one point) people, we did not share a common language with the chefs. The best solution was to rely on translators, which often solves issues straight away. The positive aspect originating from this issue, is that we slowly start to learn each other’s language to improve in communication. The Chinese chefs started to learn Finnish words and some was able to understand Finnish pretty fluently. Some of us started to catch small vocabs in Chinese that were often heard. On top of that, not only the language, but also the culture became more vivid. Us, from Western culture often felt confused and uncomfortable sometimes by the way the chefs talk and behave, because our values and norms are originated from different cultures / customs. I heard that the chefs had felt the same with our behaviour and vocal interactions. Although we heavily relied on technologies and body languages most of the time, it was interesting and fun to see people and myself starting to build a way to communicate better. I believe this was only available for us because we composed of international workers, coming from very different cultural and linguistic background. We sometimes celebrated Christmas and Chinese New Year’s together as a whole company, and it was always nice to have everyone in one big space, hearing three languages flying across tables.
I never thought that working as an waitress can have such a big impact on and bring different realisations to me, and improve myself as a person. When I started working I was not even enrolled in Jamk yet. However, as I familiarised myself with the International Business’s requirements, I started to feel that this work experience is worth of being considered as Practical Training and suitable for what I was seeking for through PT. Therefore, immediately after I got the study place in Jamk, I decided that I will apply for Practical Trainings with Itsudemo experiences. It was always nice to be able to eat sushis at work and meet new people. It also helped how we have such great treatment being workers, and was a big help to my student life. We were able to eat or take food away for free when we were at work, and it helped a lot with preparing meals for me.
I highly recommend working at Itsudemo, for those who are interested in working as a waitress in a buffet restaurant. Main key is to be able to communicate smoothly with people around you, regardless of with customers or chefs. Customer service is valued well, therefore if you have some past experience with it, that may help you. After completing over a year of Practical Training, I cannot even imagine how I was before the experience. I have gained so much skills such as communication skills, Finnish language skills, and observation skills. I also improved as a person to understand and adapt to different people’s values and norms, not always putting mine over others’. I am glad Jamk has Practical Training as part of school’s curriculum, I think it should be offered to everyone!
Author: Ellen Won