The 25 quirkiest traits of Finnish people
If you've ever wanted to dive deep into the heart of Finnish culture, you're in for a treat. Finland, a beautiful Nordic gem, is more than just its scenic landscapes and the Northern Lights. It's a land bursting with intriguing customs and habits that might seem 'weird' to the uninitiated. In this guide, we'll explore 25 such fascinating quirks unique to Finnish lifestyle. From their passionate sauna sessions to intriguing midsummer celebrations, let's uncover what makes the Finnish culture distinctively charming and occasionally puzzling for outsiders.
1. EMBRACING SILENCE: Visiting Finland for the first time, I was immediately struck by the value they place on silence. Most cultures dread awkward silences. Yet, in Finland, quiet moments are cherished. It's as if words could dilute an experience. It speaks to a profound connection with oneself, the surrounding nature, and the company you keep.
2. THE SHOELESS INDOORS RULE: There's a sacredness to personal spaces in Finland. You leave your shoes at the door, marking a transition from the outside world to a place of comfort. Beyond cleanliness, it's a gesture of respect, symbolizing leaving your worries outside. And the Finnish wool socks? A cozy embrace for your feet.
3. INHALING MID-CONVERSATION: The Finnish way of speaking has this unique inhaling sound, especially with words like "joo". At first, it seemed like a sign of surprise. But it's just a part of their everyday speech—a rhythmic nuance that adds a touch of authenticity to their interactions.
4. THE POWER OF 'NONI': If there's one word that encapsulates the Finnish spirit, it might be 'noni'. It's more than just a word; it's an expression, a sentiment, a whole sentence compressed into two syllables. Whether it's a call to dinner or a sigh of exasperation, 'noni' is the go-to term.
5. LITERAL "HOW ARE YOU?": When a Finn asks "Miten menee?", they're not just being polite. They genuinely want to know how you are. In Finland, this question invites honesty. So, if you ask, be prepared for a genuine answer, be it joyful or somber.
6. SHOES-OFF POLICY EXTENDS EVERYWHERE: Going shoeless doesn't stop at homes. Offices, schools, big corporations – shoes find their place outside personal workspaces. And that's where those slippers or wool socks come in, turning every workspace into a cozy, personal nook.
7. END-OF-WORK DAY BY 4 PM: When the clock strikes four, Finnish offices echo with silence. It's not an extended coffee break; it's the end of their workday. It's a testament to their work efficiency and the importance they place on personal time.
8. NOTE-LEAVING CULTURE: Direct confrontation isn't the Finnish way. Instead, they communicate via notes, especially in shared spaces. It's a quiet, non-confrontational approach to address issues, though it can sometimes lead to amusing misunderstandings.
9. RIGOROUS RECYCLING: The Finnish love for nature extends to their waste habits. Every bottle, carton, or piece of paper has its place. And should you forget, a helpful neighbor might remind you with a note. It's eco-friendliness with a touch of community watchfulness.
10. SUMMER HOLIDAYS SACREDNESS: July in Finland feels like a collective vacation. The streets are quieter, offices are emptier, and life takes a slower pace. It’s like the country collectively agrees that summer is sacred, a time for rejuvenation.
11. FRUGAL BILL-SPLITTERS: Dining with Finns is an exercise in precision. Bills are split down to the last cent, ensuring everyone pays only for what they consumed. No generic splitting here; it's fairness, the Finnish way.
12. NAMELESS GYM BUDDIES: In some places, regular encounters breed familiarity. In Finland, you might go years without knowing the name of your regular gym buddy. It's not aloofness; it's just giving space and maintaining boundaries until a deeper connection is established.
13. THRIFTINESS WITH WATER: Despite being the land of a thousand lakes, Finns are exceptionally careful with their water usage. It's not uncommon to see people waiting for the sauna to heat up to shower, using that water efficiently.
14. FREQUENT COFFEE BREAKS: Coffee in Finland isn't just a beverage; it's an event. Frequent coffee breaks pepper the day, breaking the monotony and fostering a sense of community. It’s less about the caffeine and more about the ritual.
15. CASUAL NUDE SAUNAS: If there's one quintessential Finnish experience, it's the sauna. Beyond its health benefits, the sauna is a great social equalizer. Hierarchies melt away, and yes, most of the time, it's enjoyed nude, without the baggage of self-consciousness.
16. INDEPENDENT CHILDREN: Finnish children are encouraged to be independent early on. It's not uncommon to see kids navigating public transport or managing tasks on their own. It fosters responsibility and a deep-seated self-reliance.
17. MOOMIN FANATICS: The Moomins aren't just children's book characters. They're a part of the Finnish soul. From mugs to theme parks, the Moomin love runs deep, crossing age boundaries and entering the realm of nostalgia.
18. QUIET BUS JOURNEYS: A bus journey in Finland might be the quietest you ever experience. Conversations are whispered, phones are on silent, and there's a shared understanding of enjoying the tranquility.
19. ALMOST ZERO SMALL TALK: Small talk doesn't find much favor in Finland. Conversations are meaningful or none at all. There's a beauty in this directness, devoid of unnecessary fluff.
20. GARDEN GROWING PASSION: Many Finns have a summer cottage, complete with a garden. And these gardens aren't just for show. They're meticulously maintained, producing fresh berries, vegetables, and herbs. It’s a combination of self-sufficiency and a deep connection to the earth.
21. RARE PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION: While deeply affectionate, Finns are private about their emotions. Public displays of affection are rare, making those moments even more special when they do occur.
22. TRUSTING STRANGERS WITH BABIES: It's a common sight to see baby strollers outside cafes, with parents inside enjoying a coffee. This deep-rooted trust in the community and its safety is truly heartwarming.
23. PERSONAL SPACE IS PARAMOUNT: The love for personal space in Finland is legendary. Even in crowded places, there's an unspoken rule to maintain distance. It's not coldness but a deep-seated respect for individual boundaries.
24. ENTHUSIASM FOR WEIRD SPORTS: From wife-carrying championships to mobile phone throwing, the Finns have a knack for turning the ordinary into a fun, competitive sport. It's a mix of humor, athleticism, and a pinch of madness.
25. FERVENT LOVE FOR SALMIKKI: Salmikki, or salty licorice, is a polarizing candy. Loved fervently by Finns and often despised by outsiders, it's a taste that embodies the uniqueness of the Finnish palate.
So there we have it, a whirlwind tour of some of the delightful, puzzling, and endearing quirks that make the Finns so unique. Whether you're planning a visit or just indulging in some cultural exploration, I hope this guide offers a fun and insightful look into the heart of Finnish culture.