Finnish faux pas: 13 ways to annoy a Finn

In a land that reveres the silence and serenity of its wild, wild woods, the Finns are usually tranquil souls, however, some things are bound to ruffle their feathers. If you wish to maintain your status as a welcomed guest, here's a few key things you should abstain from:

1. Speak loudly in public places

Imagine you've strolled into a serene Finnish forest, only to disrupt the peace with your loud chatter. This is how Finns feel when you turn up the volume knob in public spaces. It's akin to painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa. It's just not done.

2. Speak loudly in public places to strangers

If raising your voice is a no-no, then doing it in a conversation with a stranger might as well be a cardinal sin. Strangers are like the hibernating bears of Finnish social life; they don't appreciate being disturbed.

3. Speak quietly in public places to strangers

Yet, even whispering to strangers might make them squirm. For Finns, it's a delicate balance; you must strive to find that Goldilocks zone of 'just right'. And when in doubt, embrace the sanctity of silence.

4. Compare them to Swedes

Finns and Swedes, they're all Nordic, right? Wrong! They’re like strawberries and lingonberries – both are berries but with distinct flavours. Comparing a Finn to a Swede could sour your conversations faster than a Finnish winter.

5. Forget there's more to Finland than Helsinki

Indeed, Helsinki may be a beautiful beacon of Finnish urbanism, but there's more to this land. To ignore the vast landscapes beyond Helsinki is like praising the icing while ignoring the cake.

6. Ask where you can see Finnish polar bears

Yes, Finland is a winter wonderland, but polar bears are off the guest list. Asking this question is the equivalent of asking a Scotsman where the kangaroos are. It's a well-meaning but misguided inquiry.

7. Wear a towel in the sauna and complain about the heat

Donning a towel in the sauna and whinging about the warmth is to disrespect a cornerstone of Finnish culture. It's like visiting Italy and complaining about the abundance of pasta.

8. Ask what it's like to live in a Scandinavian country

While Finland's breathtaking beauty share undeniably Scandinavian traits, Finland isn't a Scandinavian nation. It's Nordic. Posing this question to a Finn is like asking a Canadian about life in the United States. Sure, they share a continent, but the lived experiences are uniquely their own. Finland’s cultural tapestry is as wonderfully unique as an Aurora Borealis lit night sky, and asking about Scandinavia can obscure that dazzling display.

9. Say ice hockey is boring

In the land of the thousand lakes, ice hockey is a lifeblood sport. To label it as dull is to question the vibrancy of Finnish spirit. It's like telling an Irishman that a pint of Guinness is 'just okay'.

10. Say hello to your neighbour

The Finnish soul cherishes solitude. Saying hello to a neighbour might seem polite to you, but to a Finn, it could feel as intrusive as a mosquito buzzing in their ear.

11. Say you hate black sweets

In Finland, 99% of candy is black coloured because 99% of sweets are made of salmiakki. Not liking salmiakki is not only culturally unacceptable it also means you'll miss out on hundreds of different salmiakki flavoured products, from ice cream to condoms.

12. Rush them during coffee break

One of the most cherished rituals in Finland is the coffee break, often paired with 'pulla', a sweet cinnamon bun. Rushing a Finn during this sacred downtime is equivalent to hurrying a Parisian through their wine and cheese – a breach of respect in the highest degree.

13. Neglect to appreciate 'sisu'

'Sisu' is the uniquely Finnish spirit of grit, bravery, and resilience, a backbone of their national identity. Disregarding 'sisu' or belittling its importance is akin to visiting Japan and ignoring the Samurai code, or Bushido. It's a quick route to a Finn's ire and an affront to their deeply ingrained cultural ethos.

So there you have it, a quick guide to Finnish etiquette. Keep these points in mind, respect the tranquillity of the land and its people, and you'll find yourself navigating the vast beauty of Finland with the ease and grace of a swan gliding across a serene Finnish lake.


  • Pulla doesn’t have cinnamon. Puusti (cinnamon roll) does.

  • I have managed to commit a couple of these sins whilst in Finland, especially with my big voice.

    Rich Douglas
  • To the questioner about #8-As it states, Finland is a Nordic Country, not Scandinavian.

    Rich Douglas
  • There IS one thing better in Sweden than in Finland – the Eastern neighbour.

  • To stand in a queue is missing


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