Maria Rode’s 30 years in the Foreign Ministry

Wednesday 15 December marks the 30 year anniversary of Secretary Maria Rode working for the Finnish Foreign Ministry in Kuala Lumpur. When starting at the embassy, she was only 25 years old and had just gotten married.

Since then, she has gradually become the pillar of the embassy that ensures the continuity of the work even when the embassy’s Finnish staff changes. Indeed, during her career she has witnessed so many staff changes that she cannot even count them all. Even so, she still remembers all the names and faces of the people she has worked with during the years. Instead, when looking back, she uses the different ambassadors to measure the time. In total, she has been working for seven different Finnish ambassadors and two chargés d’affaires.

Both the embassy and the ambassadors for whom Maria has been working for have all benefitted from Maria’s extensive institutional memory, local knowledge and contact network that she has gathered during the decades. Indeed, when dealing with the staff at the embassy, former Finnish colleagues of hers always remember to send their regards to Maria. In fact, she is surely the best known persona at the embassy.

In addition, she is like a walking reference book or encyclopedia; whether it be about contact information, estimating the attendance of a certain event or even practical tips for travelling, the embassy staff has learnt to rely on her help. So much so, in fact, that many already fret the day when Maria will retire. Then, they can no longer solve issues the way they so often do nowadays: “Let´s ask Maria, she should know/ remember.”

In the year 1980, when Maria begun her work at the embassy, it was only eight years since Finland and Malaysia had established their diplomatic ties in 1972. It still took another eight years before the embassy got its first ambassador. Since then, the embassy has moved several times but Maria hopes that it will not do so any time soon because she is very fond of the current location in Wisma Chinese Chamber on Jalan Ampang.

Not only the embassy but also the world itself has changed during the 30 years. For one, Finland has become more widely known in Malaysia and has ceased to be known only as the tiny country near Russia, or the Soviet Union at the time.

Today, Finland is probably best known for Nokia which also reflects the changes in technology. Maria remembers how people still used telegraphs or Telex at the embassy when she started, as computers and mobile phones were yet to be introduced to offices. In her opinion, the introduction of the new technology has made work significantly easier. However, she is not quite ready to give up all “old” technology” either. From time to time, she still resorts to her old typewriter when filling in forms.

Of all that has happened during her career, Maria brings up the time when she got a first class medal of the Order of the White Rose of Finland with golden cross to commemorate her 25 year career at the embassy which she holds in high esteem. Nonetheless, rather than getting a new, higher medal, she is hoping for a trip to Finland during wintertime.

She has visited Finland previously but never in winter. Therefore, before retirement, Maria’s biggest wish is to get to see Finland, the country she has been serving for so long, covered in fresh white snow.


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