The Finnish culture concerning compliments and gifts is peculiar. We Finns are funny creatures!
A Finn receiving a compliment
As other people would just smile and say thank you, a Finn usually finds a way to somehow belittle her own contribution to the given praise.
By no means is this habit to insult or depreciate the compliment giver, rather just to point out that the receiver is modest. It is an old custom of standing on ceremony.
Amusingly, sometimes the comment makes the situation quite quirky. Do not fear if this happens to you, it happens all the time between Finns too. You just smoothly carry on to the next topic of discussion.
Your hair looks great! – Huh, I just washed it.
That blouse looks fantastic on you! – The threads are coming out of the seams and everything…
Your garden is beautiful! – Well yes… The soil is good here and there has been good weather.
See what I mean?
Näytä tämä julkaisu Instagramissa.
A Finn receiving a gift
Receiving gifts is another thing. When giving a present, nowadays there isn’t a clear ritual, whether to open the gift immediately or to open it later.
In fact, the older the person, the more you need to encourage them to open the gift in your presence. This is again that old habit of modesty kicking in – they don’t want to look greedy by having a hurry to open the gift.
The facial expressions are usually minimal when a Finn opens a gift. Luckily, this only applies if the Finn is over 15 years old. Personally, if I could, I would target my gift giving only to Finnish children and pets, if possible. Watching them jumping over the moon makes me so happy.
The funniest thing about gifting is that there is a very old habit of instant reciprocity and getting the recyclable parts of your gift back. This is a true story that happened to my granny last month.
My energetic granny made a flower arrangement to a pot to cheer up her granny friend. She added the final touch by making a bow of some silk ribbon. A week ago, she met that friend again for coffee.
As a return gift, the friend gave a chocolate box to my granny. This gesture was followed by giving back the pot and the silk ribbon, as the flower, in this case, was the actual present. Then, they swiftly moved to the next topic of discussion.
Have you ever given a Finn a compliment or a gift? How did it go? Let me know in the comments!
Looking for more information about Finnish culture? Check out some of my other posts: