Restaurateur Xian Zhi Jia
Xian Zhi Jia, who was born in a city of eight million inhabitants, lives in Savo. He has his own restaurant in Kuopio, and does not long to be in Helsinki, where Chinese restaurants almost seem to line the streets. The pace of life in Kuopio is slower and the restaurant competition is less fierce.
Restaurateur Xian Zhi Jia, 37, is from Guangzhou, in southern China. His parents kept a shop, and it was there that Xian got a taste for working and entrepreneurship. He came to Finland in 1991, began his career as a cook in a Chinese restaurant in Järvenpää, went to work in Mikkeli, studied Finnish in Punkaharju and graduated in business administration in Pietarsaari.
Xian started his own Chinese restaurant in Iisalmi, took over another restaurant in Kuopio, but then gave up the business in Iisalmi. Today Xian concentrates his efforts fully on his Canton Hin restaurant in Kuopio. He buys food and vegetables from a local wholesaler, but the spices come from China.
“Running the restaurant takes up almost all my time. I work every day. I get to the restaurant one and a half hours before it opens and I finish late at night. Opening times tend to get longer at the weekends, when the last customers arrive just before closing time.”
“A good businessman is enthusiastic, positive and, above all, honest.”
Only Xian and his assistant work in the restaurant. His Chinese-born wife goes along to help out only when it is busy.
Xian begins his working day cooking food. He then lays the buffet table from 11 o’clock and serves à la carte dishes in the evening and at weekends. At the end of the working day he prepares food for the following day. Sometimes he has to wash up, clean, do administrative work and order goods.
“I would like more help, but it is difficult to find the staff – people who know Chinese food culture, can cook Chinese food, can serve the customers in Finnish and can supervise.”
So Xian is tied to his restaurant, but enjoys his success and the positive feedback he gets from his customers. He would like to continue studying business and broaden out into travel and tourism. He now has seven years’ experience of business.
“Setting up a business is more difficult for immigrants than for the people who were born here. Fortunately, in Finland there are all sorts of systems to aid and support you such as start-up cash and cheap loans.”
Xian has lived in Finland for 16 years and no longer really feels like he is an immigrant. He has moved around the country a lot and always been treated well.
“I am a Finnish citizen. When I visit China I miss Finland after two weeks.”
Text and photograph: Anu Likonen, Jukka Vuolle and Nanni Akkola
The Ministry of Employment and the Economy