How to make a Finn think you’re a weirdo
From talking too much to not wishing someone a happy "name day," there are many ways you can offend a Finn without knowing it. Here are four of our favourites.
1. Keep your clothes on around strangers
Most cultures view nakedness as sexual and very funny. But for Finns, it's a different story. In the sauna, Finns let it all hang out with friends, family, and sometimes work-mates. It's tempting for an outsider to hang on to their Speedos upon their first sauna visit, but not flaunting your birthday suit in a Finnish sauna makes you the odd one out. So show some decorum and embrace your nakedness with dignity.
2. Don't indulge in debauchery on Vappu
Vappu is Finland's Labour Day which takes place on May 1st, just as the weather is turning picnic-friendly. Vappu is all about fun, celebration, and consuming copious amounts of the traditional Finnish mead (Sima). It's a time when the streets of Helsinki fill with laughter, dancing, vomiting and stumbling drunks. The place makes Las Vegas look like a wholesome cow town. So staying in on Vappu is not an option. OK, there are some Finns who spend Vappu at their summer cottages. But you can bet that even those guys will be fall-on-their-ass drunk by 9 pm.
3. Say that you're not a fan of the Moomins
In Finland, Moomins are kind of a big deal. Created as a children's story in 1945 by Tove Jansson, the Moomin brand is now a global behemoth worth over 500 million euros. The chubby pale hippo-like creatures are unbelievably cute and resonate with millions of people, especially the Finnish. If you ever visit Finland, be prepared to see more Moomins than you have ever seen in your life. Moomin cafes, Moomin sodas, and even Moomin medical supplies are typical in Finland. So If you want to vex a Finn for fun, refer to their much-loved creatures as "spooky hippos" or "chubby weird ghost things." But if you really don't like Moomins, don't come to Finland. There's no escaping the glare of their abnormally large eyes here.
4. Start a polite and friendly conversation with a stranger
Finland's landmass is covered by 78% forest, so it's understandable Finns learn the value of privacy and personal space at a young age. Finnish public transport even seems to be designed to give people lots of space, as carriages on underground trains tend to have fewer seats. It's just one more reason Finns don't tend to enjoy making small talk with random members of the public. Here, saying rude stuff to a Finn like "nice weather today, isn't it?" will be met with confusion and annoyance.
Of course, we here at Very Finnish Problems understand we're making sweeping generalizations about Finnish people. And if you've taken offence, please accept a sincere apology from this British copywriter. If you want to talk about it over a cup of tea sometime, please feel free to do so. We may even get talking about the weather and create a very special Anglo-Finnish bond.