DON'T BE OFFENDED BY THESE THINGS SAID BY A FINN (You're bound to experience these in Finland)

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What things resonated with you from this section? What are the main similarities or differences for this within your culture?

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Transcription of the video

In this lesson, I’ll try to explain what things a Finn might say to you and you shouldn’t take them personally. First of all, don’t be offended if a Finn doesn't ask your name. It’s funny that Finns may keep meeting and greeting acquaintances for months before asking their name, if even then. This is common at work and in leisure, e.g., at the gym.

Furthermore, when two Finnish singles meet at a bar, it’s not uncommon to have a long discussion before the other signals that they should get introduced. Note, that in Finnish, this is done as effortlessly as: “Niin, mä oon…” which translates word-to-word:  “Ahem, I’m…” 

Also, when you are with a Finn or with a group of Finns, and run into their colleague or friend, they might not introduce you. In fact, most likely, they don’t introduce you. This is perfectly normal behavior in Finland and happens all the time between Finns too. 

If you’re attending a party, don’t be alarmed if you’re in a room filled with new people and nobody comes to talk to you. This is, again, normal in Finland. 

On the other hand, if you’re in a party with a soda can in your hand, and someone asks you in bewilderment, “You’re not drinking? Why?” This is also normal and nothing personal. Finland is not such a heavy drinking country as it used to be, and it’s definitely okay not to drink, but sometimes you do get asked why you’re not drinking.    

So, despite many Finns being reserved, we are also very direct. Directness and honesty are tied together in the Finnish culture. Rather than lie, the Finns would tell the truth instead, no matter how hard it is. In Finland, you will never lose your face for making a mistake but you will lose it if you lie. 

Okay so this next thing totally annoys all Finns when it happens but I want to mention it here because it’s annoying, sometimes offending, but not personal... 

Telling your personal opinion or giving constructive feedback face to face is difficult for many Finns. Culturally, we are not taught how to say things we focus on that we get it said. That’s why we are often blunt with our words and sometimes we express ourselves in writing, which often makes the situation worse because it makes the situation feel so much bigger. For example, it’s quite typical in Finland to leave a note to your neighbor instead of having a conversation with them about something that’s bothering you.

On the other hand, it is important to know that even the most polite Finnish phrases are not that courteous when translated straight into English. Hence, there are plenty of situations in which Finns think they are being polite, but it doesn’t sound like it to a native English-speaker.  

To give you a couple of examples, firstly, there is no direct equivalent for the word “please” in Finnish. This explains why Finns don’t always remember to use it. Secondly, the weight of the conditional mood is stronger in Finnish than in English. For instance, the words “would” and “could” as such are very polite in Finnish. 

Lastly, a simple “yes” and “no” are both well-mannered answers in Finnish. This makes all Finns easy to read when it comes to spoken communication. Finns mean what they say and say what they mean. That’s a thing of national pride.

Lesson challenge

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this lesson. What things resonated with you from this section? What are the main similarities or differences for this within your culture?

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