Photo by Carlos "Grury" Santos

Finnish Culture: Finnish people and Finnish Sauna

Finland is a small often forgotten country between Russia and Sweden. The people are quiet, reserved and hate small talk more than anything else (if you don’t count the constant need to share the lovely culture and wonders of Finland). Despite the reserved nature of the people living in Finland, you should meet a Finnish family and get to know this northern culture. And don't forget to try Finnish food in this country full of kind individuals ready to help you!

Surviving in Finland or getting to know the people “Finns” will be easy if you’re prepared to take in the culture differing from many other countries in Europe and around the world. Get to know more about Finnish social life, festivities, sauna and meet a Finnish family through our website!

Finnish stereotype just may be the truth



The stereotype of Finn is often quiet, gloomy, and reserved person who only talks rarely but always says something important. Finland is sometimes called the country of introverts. Especially in work environment Finns are seen as honest, kind and people who are always on time. With Finns, there’s no need for small talk so you should just skip straight to the point. That may make the shy northern nation seem cold or rude even if it’s not the truth.

So, is Finnish stereotype the truth? Yes and no. Every person is different, but most Finns are, just like the stereotype predicts, quiet and still extremely kind. Finns don’t talk with strangers if it’s not necessary but at the same time if someone needs help most Finns are always ready to give their hand. When you’re in contact with the Finnish family you're going to meet or you decide to travel to Finland, remember these few things about the culture and you should be okay:

  • Never invade Finn’s personal space without permission. No hugging, kisses on cheeks or even handshakes if the Finn doesn’t make the first move. This is the most important rule of Finnish social life.
  • Never sit next to strangers in public transportation and NEVER try to start any conversation with someone you don’t know. In fact, most Finns will rather stand than sit next to another person.
  • Keep doors open for others, thank the cashiers, wait for the green light before crossing the road and just follow the general rules as well as you can. Finns are shy and reserved but they communicate with small deeds of kindness.
  • You can always ask help. Finnish people may seem scary at first or look you like you have gone mad if you try to initiate contact. However, the locals won’t turn down foreigner asking for help. If you’re in real need of help, you can turn to the Finnish police. In slow days Finnish police may even be ready to take photo with you, just ask!

“Sisu” aka Finnish national strength



Finns never give up. Sisu is Finnish word that is almost impossible to translate into English. Simply said it means the determination to do something even when the odds are against you and not giving up whatever the situation is. The term is traditionally used to describe Finns. When taking part to Finnish social life try to avoid arguing with the locals: Finns are peaceful people but won’t back down when it’s about something they love or stand behind.

Never insult Finland! The national pride of Finnish people is often very high and when combined with sisu you have combination ready to explode. Only the locals can insult their home country and joke at their own expense. However, bad weather and Finnish unlucky seasons are always subject to bander together when you want to get close with the locals.

Finnish culture is built around the four seasons



Finland is a northern country that has four clear seasons: winter, spring, summer, and autumn. In the middle of the summer, the country has a day when there is no night at all – the sun never sets. In the middle of the winter, there’s night lasting for a whole day – the sun never rises. Between these two days, Finns have changing amount of sunlight per day. Finnish social life and festivities have to be built around the year changing from mildly warm summer to long, dark, and freezing winter.

Traveling to Finland and meeting a Finnish family is possible around the year. Finns are used to spending time outside despite the bad weather conditions and there’s no such a thing like a day off because of bad weather. Just remember that for someone not used to the dark wintertime it may get super depressing only see the sun for a few hours per day. Even the locals are struggling.

Finnish sauna



When we talk about Finland, forgetting to mention Finnish sauna would be an insult towards the lovely people. Sauna is Finnish steamy hot room where people go to relax. Almost every home (even the smallest apartment buildings) have Finnish sauna in them so Finns can visit there as often as they want. The sauna culture of Finland has many customs that are hard to explain to an outsider. You can ask help from the locals when visiting Finnish sauna and they’re usually more than eager to tell you their own funny sauna stories.

Don’t ask about the Finnish food or culinary culture


Food is one of the most important parts of culture when visiting any country around the world. When you decide to meet a Finnish family, asking about the Finnish food won’t be recommended. It’s not because Finns aren’t proud of their culinary skills but rather because you will make them uncomfortable. Most Finns don’t know how to answer when asked about Finnish food. Locals in Finland eat a little bit everything and don’t have any specific meal plan for everyone to follow. There's also a lot of difference between the northern and southern Finnish food.

Just some examples of food Finnish people may eat are rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes or pasta with meat, chicken, fish, or vegetables. There are no restrictions in Finnish food culture. It’s influenced by culinary culture from every part of the world because Finns just love to mix together their own roots with new things. One of the most important things to remember about Finnish food is that the locals mostly eat at home making their own food. Going to a restaurant is only for special occasions.

Meeting a Finnish family: good to know

Congratulations! You’re ready to meet a Finnish family or to befriend Finn. Just keep in mind the things mentioned above and you should be just fine. In general, Finns are kind and understanding people who love to share their customs with anyone interested. Keep your mind open so you can take most out of the experience!

One short article can’t teach you everything you need to know about Finland and there will be surprises you wouldn’t expect. If you don’t understand something or don’t know how to act, open your mouth and be braver than the locals. There’s always someone ready to help you in the Finnish family you’re meeting.

Written by Viivi from Finland



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