Our EM Cup Experience

There are those rare and extraordinary events that one cannot simply forget. The EM Cup is truly one of them.

If you want to broaden your horizon and get a chance to go out of your comfort zone while getting to know interesting people from the hospitality industry; then, participating in the EMCup in Maastricht sure is the best way to do so. As we have so many things to share to you, each of us will tell you about our own feelings and stories.

The boys were ready for the big day!!
Jojo working on his “competition” pose”


Before the competition, I had some ups and downs. Along the way, I struggled due to an overload of assignments and group meetings. Even though I complained here and there, I am extremely grateful that I am a part of the Below Zero Super Heroes team.

One of our first brainstorm sessions!
There we are, proudly pitching our paper in front of the jury!

Truth be told, we were all nervous wrecks the day we left for the Netherlands. Luckily, we had the chance to stay for two days in beautiful Amsterdam and Amsterdam knew its way to relax us. Regardless, the actual competition took place in Maastricht. During the first day we heard a lot of good and motivational speeches, learned about our strengths and weaknesses and we danced. That said, all judges, coaches, and students danced together throughout the event.  Surprisingly, the dancing helped calming my nerves.

Copyright: EMCup

Meanwhile, during the final EM Cup day we had to pitch our ideas in front of a business jury and work on a case. The top 16 teams then made it into the semi-finals, namely the knock-out phase. That said, two teams had to debate against each other; only the winning team entered the finals. Luckily, we were one of the best teams; however, we didn’t make it through the Debate. Believe it or not, we had so much fun. And in the end, we gained confidence along the way.


You could imagine, I, Minh, have never participated in anything like this before so I had some panic attacks a few days before the competition. I always imagined of things that may go wrong, but Amsterdam helped me. Of course there was still some pressure, but the EMCup also knew its way. We got a chance to meet so many people from different corners of Europe, sharing the same passions and goals. It felt like being with old friends. Everyone was very enthusiastic, energetic and cool, even the business jury. They are not there to scare you, but to find you and to motivate you. They are helping you by creating opportunities so just be yourself and let everything happen naturally. That’s what people want to see from you: Your true color. Therefore, I felt super relaxed on the day of the competition. No panic surprisingly.

Amsterdam was superb!

The moment when the host called out our school’s name for the debate round, I was so happy that all the hard works have been paid off. Even though we didn’t make it to the Final, I was so proud of ourselves for getting that far, and we did really well marketing our own school and our team. Everyone in EMCup knows about Lapland, about Rovaniemi and about the Superheroes we are.

One of our marketing actions! 🙂
It’s about to get ready! 😀


In my opinion, the Emcup and all the surrounding preparation for it was truly a different experience when it comes to studying. It had all of us in the team perfecting not only our academic sides but also get all suited up for business networking which was a hugely different experience than anything I had done before.

Selfie on a boat…in the morning…!!!

Looking back at the preparation time, I can now say that I have a better appreciation for the amount of coordination and effort needed to maintain any sort of competitive edge in the competition or to even fulfil the basic workload. This being said, it also had a lot to do with stretching one’s own abilities and fitting into what is required from the competition. This cup had us interacting a lot with those who are holding prime positions in the hospitality industry and this is a substantially different world from the ones that we study in. It did, however, peak my interest to understand what kind of business I could find myself in post-graduation. Outside of this, another fascinating dynamic to the team was the fact that we were made up of individuals that span different years so coordinating around this in both scheduling and particularly working efficiently together was a major factor in this event.

Preparing for the case be like… (Copyright: EMCup)
Networking is about meeting new people! And we met a lot (In this picture, we got one of the members from the FINNISHers team)


It is done. When still in the pre-competition phase, I remember saying to my work friends that we’ll make it to the top 10. Well I didn’t lie. All-in-all a very well organized and functioning event where we were made clear the first day that the competition is just one part; participation, networking (in human words talking about anything with other people who are just the same as you no matter how many hotels they own) and “getting out of your…” (wait for it) “comfort zone!” And after that we all had.. sorry, we all got to dance at the event.

Being a model is never too easy! 🙂

I am very proud of our diverse team that after all the planning and pondering with our schedules to make them match, found a mutual tone and made things happen. With great results. Thank you guys and miss. I would do it again, though now I don’t have time though so maybe later. Also a big thanks for our dynamic coach duo Petra ‘n’ Heidi for all the help and tips. Keep on coaching, collecting experiences and learning with the teams in years to come. At some point we can take the 0 out of the 10th place.

Made it to top 16 (eventually ended in top 10) – Copyright: EMCup.
Heidi’s hands were so shaky when she tried to to take this picture since she was happy but also nervous for us!

What we have enjoyed about the organization of the EM Cup were the two fabulous hosts. They truly had the power to lighten the mood and transform the competition into a fun experience. The EMCup also shows hospitality at its best, also thanks to amazing coffee and food offered.

The food was legit! (Copyright: EMCup)
Fancy restaurant for…
Amazing food!

Most of all, the event was a great networking experience. Besides, it builds up confidence for all of us as we had to speak on stage, in front of a business jury and create a personal pitch. In the end, we learned a lot about ourselves and we are confident that whatever the future has in store for us, we will be able to manage. Overall, taking part in the EM Cup was truly amazing. It’s so much more than just a competition; it is an once-in-a-lifetime event that we wouldn’t want to miss for the world.

A selfie with our amazing coaches!
Jojo and Minh after a long day!
Heidi got her dream vacation come true! 😀
Who wants food????

We hope that during the past few months, you guys have enjoyed being on the journey with us and we are super glad that you guys have supported us so much. Although this journey ended and we all four are now on our own different paths, we all still treasure every moment of our journey, and of course, we are always, the Below Zero Super Heroes.

So, goodbye then! 🙂

Lapland of Rovaniemi and vice versa

There are few places called Lapland on our planet. For example Swedish Lapland; Norwegian Lapland; Lapland, Indiana, a town in the US; Lapland in Nova Scotia, a community in the Canadian province, BUT the most well-known Lapland you can find in Northern Finland.


Finnish Lapland is the largest and northernmost part of Finland with more reindeers than people (about 180 000 inhabitants). Lapland is a subarctic region with nightless summers when the sun doesn’t set and winters when the yellow/orange ball doesn’t cast her light at all. Thus the depression rates. And electric bills…

Here’s a pic of reindeer. Just FYI! 🙂

The Capital of Finnish Lapland is Rovaniemi with municipality tax rate of 21%. We have the most bars and pubs in Finland with respect to population (approximately 62,000 people) and we are the largest city in whole Europe (by area! of 8.016,72 square kilometres or 1.122.789,74 football fields if someone’s still using imperial system). The city was 90% destroyed in 1944 by retreating German forces during the 2nd World War and Lapland War, when Finland signed the Moscow Armistice when we almost conquered Soviet Union.

Rovaniemi is located about 10 clicks south from the Arctic Circle at 66°30′N, 025°44′E and is the official home of Santa Claus as well as viewing of the Northern Lights. It is a flourishing and ever growing tourism center with approximately 500 000 visitors a year due to unspoiled nature and numerous winter activity possibilities as well as the  northernmost student city with Lapland University and Lapland University of Applied Sciences.


The summers here are quite cold but luckily short. Quiet too since the tourism season is concentrated to Christmas and winter time. Most of the students also leave for the summer to their home towns and cities across Finland, but if it’s a sunny day, you can find people from outdoor terraces enjoying beverages and, if someone mistakes to talk, you may hear complaints about how hot it is and how in the evening they’re gonna warm/light up the sauna.


We Lapplanders respect privacy and quiet, but you may recognize an extrovert Finn when he/she is staring at your shoes instead of his/her own when having a conversation. That was a joke. Seriously speaking, after a brief moment we are open, helpful, loving and semi-happy folk who tend to offer better than we receive. That’s Lappish hospitality.


Personally, I’m gonna leave asap (again), but who knows if someday I’ll come back (again). Be that as it may, I’m proud to be born and raised Lappish and that won’t change.


My Bing-a-ling New Year!

Well here’s my blog!

I actually kinda forget to put mine on before christmas, so let’s just sum up my Christmas in 3 words: OH. BLOODY. HELL. I am not a too pessimistic person, but this year just adds up to the fact that Christmas doesn’t really fit me. It never did.

So yea, I am not gonna to bore you with my Christmas experiences.

Just a bit of Christmas spirit: First Christmas in Rovaniemi
Christmas at my roommate’s home in Haapavesi. I learned about how Finnish traditional Christmas actually was! Not bad!


And now I am going to tell you about my New Year celebration.

I’ve been living in Finland for 4 years, but I only spent New Year in Rovaniemi for 2 years only. My first two years I was in Vietnam celebrating it with my friends and family. Oh, happy days. In my country, even though we more focus in Lunar New Year (which is usually in February), the Western New Year is still a big celebration. We have a huge crowd in the city town, have big artists performing in front of thousands of people, have a countdown, and fireworks of course. It was always too many people, that you could hardly find yourself a good place to stand and see the fireworks at least. What can you do? We have more than 7 million people in Hanoi. That should give you some clues. Anyway, usually before we went out, me, my family and my relatives gathered around, having hot pot, talking about everything and reminiscing about the past.

Didn’t take any pictures when I was in the countdown so just got one from Google!

In 2014, I had my first New Year in Rovaniemi. I remembered spending my New Year with my Russian friend who came all the way from Helsinki to see Lapland. She had a dog with her and it was such a pleasure since I am a dog fan. Now I don’t remember what breed the dog was, but it is definitely the big one. On the New Year’s Eve, we made some food, chilled and then we went to the Kemijoki river where they had the firework. All the tourists were there. It was crowded, but not like in Hanoi. You can still manage to squeeze yourself in and see the show. Of course, we took the dog with us and he had a blast. So did we. The firework lasted for about 30 minutes I would say, and it was quite a show they put on. You can hear every language from all over the world clear in such a small place: Chinese, English, Italian, Spanish, or Korean. Everyone wished to each other a happy new year, with such joy and happiness. Of course, my face was a bit uncomfortable, since I took my summer shoes by mistake and I couldn’t feel anything on my feet. It was almost frozen.

My resolution that year was….well, get more money!! 🙂

Firework show from Kemijoki river bank – EVERY YEAR  THEY HAVE IT! 🙂


2015 was a great year. I got a job and therefore (talking about resolution came true) , I couldn’t celebrate New Year like everyone. I remembered that I helped my boss on the New Year’s Eve until 10 pm, and then I headed straight to the Punapippuri bar where I met my friend Tuomas and his friends. We chatted about literally everything, from politics to games, from animals to rovaniemi (talking about some kind of connections over there). Anyway, Tuomas bought me some shots and some beers and the next thing I knew, was that I got a bit wasted. I kept reminding him that I had work at 10 the next day and still, he gave me the salmiakki shot, which by the way, was good when you are drunk, and bad when you have hangover! I left about at 2 in the morning, and then slept all the way to 11am, knowing I was officially late for work. Luckily, my boss was so nice the she gave me apass this time.

2015-edition resolution: Less drinking! (we all know this wouldn’t come true).

Taken on the 29th of December, right after my holiday!
The start of the evening: 2 beers, 2 ciders! Later on, that turns to: 4 shots, 2 beers, 2 ciders (don’t ask me how) 🙂


2017? What for New Year? Well, that my dear, is a very interesting question. I have no plan whatsoever for this year’s celebration. But drinking? Yes! Kalsarikännit? Oh Yes! (That’s a very beautiful word, meaning that you drink yourself to be wasted, IN YOUR UNDERWEAR).

What my resolution this year? Hmmm…I guess to travel more?

A sum-up of my best 9 moments on Instagram! 🙂 Half of it was about travelling! I guess it’s a hint for 2017?

So yea, what a great way to end my 2016. Couldn’t it BE any greater?


Christmas from both sides of the world!

To start of talking about how my family and I would spend our Christmases it is important to note the far reaching displacement of our extended families. To keep it short I grew up in Tanzania, and had basically all of my family in either Finland or Zimbabwe (apart from the odd ones in Australia). So when it came to planning for Christmas it would most likely be based on what part of the world we were in.

1999 My first photo with the official Santa Claus

(Note: As we would generally not be in Finland during Christmas my family would get a photo with the Official Santa Claus in Rovaniemi during the summer and usually on my birthday so I will put 7 of them of the 18 or so photos I have.)

As we generally went to Finland during the summer I have only recently had the pleasure of spending my Christmases in this part of the world. Most likely it would be either in Dar-es-salaam or Harare and I have to say they were quite memorable times.

As Dar is where I would say was my “Home town” for a lot of my life I can start from there. Christmas time was always a relatively busy time for my family but that is what made it such a pleasant time of year! There were always school events to attend or dinners to go to or the rushing around town looking for those couple of last ingredients for Christmas dinner/ present “that I could have sworn was half the price last time I checked in the other store”. But this just added to the Christmas experience since I love all the planning and prepping that is required from Christmas. Now our Christmases were never fantastically big or extravagant but it definitely all culminated on the 24th of December as this was when the Finnish half of me began to celebrate.

2001 Looking so spiffy!

The 24th was not exactly like any other part of our Christmas holidays as my mother would generally wake us up at a time that was not strictly necessary for someone so deep into a holiday routine. The preparations for Christmas dinner would start from then as, again, the Finns have their dinner on the 24th so we would be held up in the kitchen all day. As we had many friends or family around for a lot of our Christmases they would be recruited into any and all tasked that needed to be done (my mother was to say the least persuasive with these matters).

2006 With my Draco Malfoy haircut.

One major aspect of the Christmas eve day that I somehow took an interest to was the setting of the table. I’m not entirely sure how this came to be but I remember spending a good hour or two placing glasses and plates just so and obsessing over fancy napkin folding. Looking back I may have just be doing this to avoid any of the work that took actual effort and skills but to this day I still preffer to set the Christmas table. That evening we would eat entirely too much, move entirely too little and probably cap off the night around the Christmas tree (which was always real and always had lights that were more akin to a rave than a soft glow).

2010 From when I had an affinity for checkered shorts and white v necks.

Christmas Day began with opening presents in the morning (such is the way of the Zimbs) and that was the extent of the planned activities for the most part. Our days would be spent at home picking away at the leftovers and maybe having a friend or two come over. As I remember in Dar we didn’t exactly get too many snow flurries as here in Rovaniemi I do distinctly remember that just about every Christmas day we got at least a tiny bit of rain to break trhough the south of the equator summer heat.

Another notable thing we ended up doing on Christmas day was that we would go to the beach or the island to spend the day snorkelling and eating Christmas leftover sandwiches.

2011 With a Danish friend from Tanzania.

Heading down to Harare for Christmas was also a great experience as we were obviously with even more family and so the Christmases were filled with a lot more rushing eating and, as we were with the Zimbabwean part of my family, significantly more talking. The days played out roughly the same although with more emphasis on celebrating on Christmas day.

The First time I celebrated a Christmas that I was old enough to remember in Finland was 2014 when I had just spent my first 6 months away from home as an isolated 18-year-old in a very different kind of December weather than I ever experienced before. As I was older this time Christmas meant even more prepping with driving around family and the same scavenging for foreign ingredients in supermarkets. Celebrating here was much more traditionally Finnish as we spent Christmas eve cooking and getting a Christmas tree from the forest. We still kept a few Zimbabwean things such as Christmas crackers (which might I tell you aren’t exactly in abundance in Rovaniemi).

2013 Taken while my brother was doing his Finnish army training.

New year’s eve was also a celebration but much more social than Christmas as in Dar we tended to have friends round or head to one of the hotels for dinner and to watch fireworks. In Finland it was also very social but with dangerous self-controlled pyrotechnics mixed in. In general, they both consisted of evenings of hanging around and chatting waiting for the time when we inevitably rush to get sparkling wine or to a place that we could see fireworks from since no one was paying attention to the clock.

2015 The most recent outside of the one that I will take this year.

Looking back, I’m not sure any of these experiences could be outdone in my opinion and now in Finland having a great year round connection to the Christmas season the it reminds me to place even more importance on the experiences rather than the time of year or activities. Even with such different  locals and most of the time being away from my family and friends it means I can look back and understand how lucky I am for having those times I did to celebrate such an amazing time of year.

And a bonus one of our tree in Tanzania which tended to look like it exploded. 

The real Christmas spirits

O Christmas tree! O Christmas tree! Someone come and hang me.

Personally, Christmas has been, for many years now, pretty dark and cruel time for me. Unfortunate and at the moment always so inscrutable déjà vu. Christmas in itself is not to blame, maybe living in a “Christmas Wonderland” has something that kills the sensation. Or maybe it’s just bitter ol’ me. Nevertheless, it has eaten even the slightest childish enthusiasm away.

I rather see someone else smile than twist my face to that posture. And that’s what I do for 5th season now, I work and try to make the customers Christmas as special as I can for my part and put everything else aside until the year is over. I have done laundry in 3 shifts, sorted countless socks, shoes and overalls, frozen to the state of fu*k this, collected and washed dishes, drained an ocean of beer and shook one or two cocktails, kept a smile while being yelled at and bargained from my own eating, sleeping, washing and social relationships. But I’m not the only one or alone during this busy season, not by a long shot. There are countless brothers and sisters of hospitality, some of which choose to work and some of whom have to. There is this special feeling of cohesion that doesn’t have to be said, rarely can it be seen, but sensed yes. I can’t say everybody, but most of us long for the Christmas table with our families. For me the Christmas table with the family is having a beer or two, usually three or more, after a long morning, midday, afternoon, evening and night at work with the other shabby seasonals. When we wish ‘Hyvää joulua’ (=Merry Christmas) to each other, it counts for much more; ‘Thank you for being there and let’s keep on going’.

We can sigh after the New Year. Work doesn’t end, but it has a strengthening, symbolic meaning. The Sun has the decency to lengthen the days bit by bit and everything starts to be a bit more relaxed and hopeful. New Year gives the chance to put aside, forget and start a new. I can’t wait.

The holidays are again upon us and it is time for the last push for this year.

For you quests, we are ready and waiting for you!

From families and friends I&WE ask understanding for not being able to be there with you.

And to all my colleagues, Hyvää joulua. You are the real Christmas spirits.

Yours, Matti.

Suvi’s Christmas and New Year traditions

Christmas sure is the best time of the year. For me, it means home and family. In other words, no matter where I am in the world, I spend each Christmas with my loved ones. I guess, that’s the reason why I get all giddy and excited at the end of every November. It might also explain my love for Christmas movies such as Elf. Each year and with that I mean the time after November 24th, I am all wrapped up in things related to my favorite season. In short, from November 24th all the way to December 27th, there is no room left for Mumford and Sons and Harry Potter, each and every hour is dedicated to ‘the most wonderful time of the year.’ It might sound a little obsessive but that’s just the way I’m wired.

It seems to love Christmas as much as I do!

Well, I grew up within two different cultures, the Finnish and the German one.  Thus, my family and I we either celebrate Christmas in Finland or in Germany.

Personally, I’m still surprised how my parents got me and my siblings to believe in Santa Claus or the Christ Child for so many years. For instance, every Christmas celebrated in Germany I got presents from the Christ Child, however, every other Christmas in Finland Santa Claus was coming to town.  If that doesn’t confuse a child than what!? But I guess, as long as there are gifts a child tends to believe anything their parents and grandparents tell them.

Did you know that Santa Claus only visits the Northern part of Germany, whereas in the South Christmas is all about the Christ Child? If not, now you do. 😀 The reason for that is not Santa’s dislike for the South, but my part of Germany is still very Catholic.

A friend and I at Santa Claus Village, Rovaniemi.

Truth be told, I love both my Finnish and my German Christmas traditions. In Finland, as long as there are still children present, an actual Santa Claus comes by the house. In other words, parents or grandparents can place an order for Santa Claus or Joulupukki, if they want him to appear on Christmas Eve. Yes, there is such a thing as ordering Santa Claus to come visit for about half an hour in Finnish Lapland! 😀 In Germany, on the other hand, my family and I go to church and for some ominous reasons one family member always seems to be sick at around the same time. After church, a bunch of presents can then be found under the Christmas tree.

Meanwhile, the actual German Christmas Day meal is kind of a disappointment. In short, on December 24th we tend to eat sausages and potato salad. The good and fancy food is served the day after Christmas Eve. Then we eat Christmas goose or ham. ❤


Another item of my never-ending bucket list: Christmas in NYC check!

Nonetheless, Christmas markets are the best part of the German Christmas season. There’s actually one in every city and town which means there are hundreds of different markets across Germany, some small and some quite big in size. Each market, however, has its own theme which is mostly inspired by its city’s history. I’m from the Stuttgart area and one of my favorite Christmas markets is in Esslingen am Neckar. There are medieval half-timbered houses in its historic city center. Thus, each year this city hosts a medieval Christmas Market. One part of my German family lives in Ludwisburg which also belongs to the Stuttgart region. Ludwisgburg, as an example, is a Baroque city and the city of palaces. Hence, their Christmas Market is inspired by the baroque style. No matter what Christmas market you visit in Germany, it usually is all about the mulled wine anyway. 😀 Truth be told, Christmas Markets are beautiful and definitely worth a visit!


A picture with Santa Claus was too expensive, we had to make do with a Christmas tree.

For me Christmas is family time, whereas New Year is about my friends. I guess the older I got, the more disappointing each New Year celebration became. As a child, I was all about staying up late and seeing fireworks. Nowadays, I struggle with making it to 12. I guess the less you expect from New Year the better it actually is. In the past, my friends and I always tried to make big plans and they usually failed. This year, we just want to spend time together and have a great meal. So from now on, my New Year’s Eve is about food, friends and lots of sparkling wine! 😀


Thank you guys for your support. Keep on doing that, it means the world to us Below Zero Super Heroes! I wish you all a Merry Christmas! ❤

EM CUP 2017 :D

During the last couple of weeks, we (Below Zero Super Heroes) have constantly been posting things about ourselves and our studies on various different social media channels such as Facebook or Instagram. As much as we love the world to get to know us, we have been doing that because we entered 2017’s EM Cup which is held in February in Maastricht, the Netherlands.

Lapland UAS’ EM Cup Team: Below Zero Super Heroes! GO PINK! 😀

Essentially, the EM Cup is a competition amongst the best European Hotel Management Schools. In other words, each participating school sends a team of about 4 students into the competition. The EM Cup in itself is made up of various pre-assignments and on-site tasks that each group has to fulfill. This year’s theme is Catch me if you can. Stay in Love <3. In short, it’s about nowadays’ hospitality industry and their need to attract and retain future workers.

Best part about the pre-assignments is getting to know some of Rovaniemi’s finest! Meet Hissu! ❤

As we are representing Lapland UAS in Maastricht, we are currently working on our pre-assignments such as Rumor around the Brand, the academic paper, HOTS simulation and our introduction video.

Our first coaching session for EM CUP

Rumor around the Brand means that we have to be active on various social media channels and that’s where all of you guys come in. By liking, sharing and interacting with us on our channels, you help us immensely. For that we are extremely grateful! ❤  In the HOTS simulation we get to act and make decisions as human resource managers of a 4 star hotel. How exciting is that! 😀

Overall, it’s a great honor for us Below Zero Super Heroes to be able to take part in 2017’s EM Cup. It will give us the chance to step out of our comfort zone and to test our abilities and strengths against other fabulous contestants from across Europe whilst getting to know the Netherlands. Best of all, we will hopefully be able to create long-lasting networks within the European Hospitality Industry and get to know many interesting people. 😀 😀

Below Zero Super Heroes at Santa Park! This is for you EM CUP!


Keep on following and supporting us and join us on our journey to Maastricht! 😀