Posts Tagged ‘Helsinki’

Real Talk, Not Small Talk, in Finland


As with some other European nations, particularly in Scandinavia, the American tradition of small talk in passing is a source of scorn. While Americans offer phrases like “how are you?” as casual greetings, without allowing time or showing concern for an impending response, this type of communication simply doesn’t exist in Finnish culture.

A people much more renowned for listening than for talking (I think I may know a few women who would be interested in a guy with this quality), words are taken seriously here and people generally mean exactly what they say.

“Take a man by his words and a bull by its horns.”

This old Finnish proverb is still alive and well today. Finns will take seriously what you say, so be very careful about saying we “should” do this, or we “must” do that. In America, it is common for people to give a half-hearted indication of desire to meet sometime, without actually intending to follow up on it. In Finland, this practice will lose you many friends, for good reason. Think about the same next time you ask a Finnish friend how he or she is. If you don’t have time for a response, don’t ask.

They May be Introverted, but not Unfriendly

It should be noted that while Finns are very quiet in public, and will not likely speak to strangers, they are still hospitable and helpful. If you are visiting here and find yourself lost, confused, or somehow mixed up, do not hesitate to ask a local for help—you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the quality of response you are likely to receive.