Finland

Finland Don’ts

  • Wonder out loud why Sweden has more world-famous products, artists, and athletes than Finland, or why the western neighbor always beats Finland in ice hockey. Too much to handle for the touchy Finns.
  • Make the mistake of asking if Finland once was a Communist country, like Estonia, Poland, or Hungary. End of conversation, right then and there.
  • Hesitate to talk to the person next to you in a bus or a train. The almost-hostile look is deceiving, and in most cases you’ll get a response, which could be the start of a real conversation. Finns follow the news, both domestic and international, and have strong opinions about the events. No such attitude as “whatever.”
  • Think you’re seeing things if you have a feeling that almost everyone is wearing small rectangle-shaped eyeglasses. They are.
  • Keep your shoes on if you are invited to someone’s home. First thing after entering a house or an apartment: shoes off. Also, don’t even think about leaving before kahvi and pulla (coffee and bun) have been served.
  • Visit without calling first. The door may not open without a prior notice, especially on weekends.
  • Make empty promises. If you say to a Finn, “Let’s do lunch,” he or she truly believes you have set up a lunch meeting and expects to hear from you.
  • Tip. People are not used to tips and don’t always know how to react.
  • Be surprised if you see Finns order and pay things with their cell phones. They are not just for talking anymore.
  • Be confused if you see people walking with poles even if there is no snow on the ground. It’s called Nordic Walking, and it’s a very popular activity among all ages.

Finland Do’s

  • Compliment Finns, even though they don’t take compliments well and don’t necessarily know how to reply.
  • Take a risk and pass McDonald’s, Subway, and Pizza Hut. The Finnish cuisine is well worth trying
  • Leave Helsinki, the capital, and discover the countryside. There are many beautiful places between Helsinki and Lapland. Not all the bus drivers speak English– so what? It’s an adventure. (A visit to Rovaniemi and the Arctic Circle to see Santa Claus, not a must.)
  • Offer to buy a drink if you’ve made a new friend in a bar. But keep in mind, Finns can hold their drinks well, and you may not be able to keep up the pace of drinking.
  • Make an effort and say, “Excuse me,” if you want to pass someone. But don’t expect a reaction. The right way to do it is to just push your way around.
  • Use a fork and a knife when eating. No food is finger food in Finland if the silverware is available.
  • Keep in mind that two things are expensive: alcohol and gas. And yet, both are consumed in high volumes.
  • Refrain from discussing architect Alvar Aalto or composer Jean Sibelius; instead,talk about contemporary talent, like singer Karita Mattila or conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen. Know a few athletes’ names, and you’ve made friends for life.
  • Learn a few words in Finnish, even though it’s hard. It’s an ego-booster for a Finn to hear a foreigner speak his language.
  • Remember that Finnish women are independent and believe in equality. And especially that young women drink equally to men.