During my travels outside Finland I’ve observed foreigners reactions and behavior against Finns. When I’ve introduced myself as a Finn, the reactions have been positive every time. From this you can conclude that certain characteristics unite us Finns. I’ve noticed that Finns have a reputation of being trustworthy above all. One Yank I met didn’t even know exactly where Finland is, but still he had heard only good from us, and most importantly knew we weren’t Swedes.
Me and few of my friends put the Finnish reputation to the test during our road trip in Jordania when we agreed that at the first military checkpoint we speak English and don’t mention our nationality. The result was a full vehicle and passport check. At the next checkpoint me as driver shouted from the car window, in arabic, “Hello, we are from Finland” and without a doubt the soldier greeted with a smile and a thumbs up and let us be on our way without any further questions. At that time I really understood how superior our reputation is around the world, even in a poor city at middle of Jordanian desert.
Of course, Finnishness is much about preconceptions which are true in far too many occasions. For you who wants’ to get familiar with Finnish culture and blend in, here’s a small to-do list just for you:
– Learn to hide you feelings. Work your poker face daily.
– Get to know Finnish traditional delicacies like mämmi and salty liquorice. After that, offer them to any foreigner and laugh at their reactions.
– Watch highlight videos from Youtube of ice hockey World Championships from 1995 and 2011. Learn who Timo Jutila is and what “6-1” means.
– Learn to hate Swedes. Hate their language, friendliness and their trendy clothes. Hate also Finnish Swedes, they are almost as bad as Swedes. Or maybe even worse with their boats and accent.
– Never ever talk to a stranger if they don’t start the conversations. Just don’t. That’s definitely not Finnish.
– Be proud of everything related to Finland. But don’t show it to anyone.
So here was a quick glance at Finnishness and what it means to be a Finn. Hope you enjoyed!
Finland is a country where considerable weight is attached to the spoken word – words are chosen carefully and for the purpose of delivering a message. Finns place great value on words, which is reflected in the tendency to say little and avoid ‘unnecessary’ small talk. As the Chinese proverb puts it, “Your speech should be better than silence, if it is not, be silent.“ The conception that Finns are a reserved and taciturn has changed and does not retain the same validity as it used to, certainly not with the younger generations. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that Finns have a special attitude to words and speech: words are taken seriously, and people are held to what they say. Finns rarely enter into conversation with strangers, unless a particularly strong impulse prompts it. As foreigners often note, Finns are curiously silent in the metro, the bus or the tram. In lifts, they suffer from the same mute embarrassment as everyone else in the world.
Finland mentioned! Let’s meet at the town square!
Honesty is highly valued in Finland. It is important to always keep your promises and adhere to agreements. For Finns, dishonesty is the worst vice imaginable. Work and diligence are held in high regard. Equality and fairness are important values for Finns. In Finnish society, everyone is equal and must be treated fairly. Women and men are equal. Punctuality is important in Finland. When you have a meeting, it is essential to arrive at the agreed time. If you have made an appointment with an official or doctor, for example, it is especially important to be there on time. Modesty is a significant value in Finland. People tend not to distinguish themselves in a group. They avoid loudness and bragging. In Finland, it is good manners to take others into account and listen to them. Finns are not very quick to strike up conversations with strangers. For this reason, Finns may initially appear quiet and cold. The Finnish style of speech is direct and straightforward. Finns tend to state things directly and honestly. In Finland, it is expected that people truly mean what they say. Finns often speak slowly with long pauses in between. Silence is not undesirable but natural, and quiet moments do not need to be filled with speech. It is uncommon in Finland to show your emotions in public. It is considered rude to raise your voice when speaking, especially in a public place.
President Sauli Niinistö riding a velociraptor
Like Asians, Finns take off their shoes after they have entered someone else’s house which can be considered as somewhat weird behavior to some people. Tipping has never fitted very comfortably into the Finnish way of life. This may have originally been due to the traditions of a religion which emphasized frugality. Today, the rather blunt reason for not tipping is that the price paid includes any unusual instances of service or politeness i.e. the view taken is that “service is included”.