Skip to Content

Funny Finnish Small Talk Habits You Will Run Into in Finland

Small talk in Finland – does it exist? How can you make small talk with Finns? Hands down, those are the most asked cultural questions in my inbox.

Indeed, Finnish small talk will, most likely, be very different from your culture.

Before I begin, I’d like to say that as this is a cultural thing, there isn’t “one truth only” by any means.

Everyone will have their own encounters and experiences in Finland based on the length and type of their stay and the area(s) they visit.

Psst… Follow me on Instagram and get more Finland into your daily life immediately!


Näytä tämä julkaisu Instagramissa.


Henkilön Varpu ?? (@her_finland) jakama julkaisu

There are several positively tingling aspects to this topic so I have tried to combine all of the most common issues neatly in this post.

If there’s anything you’d like to ask, comment below so others will find our conversation too!

What is Small Talk in Finland?


So, guys, many of you have written to me that Finnish small talk leaves you speechless (pun intended). You might even think that there is no concept of small talk in Finland. In a way, I think you may be right.

That’s because, in Finnish culture, greeting words and saying your name are already considered small talk.

Then, we can carry on with the real topics. If it happens that there are no actual topics, well then, we might as well be silent. It’s very natural for a Finn to be silent in a group.

However, I think, that the most cultural giggles (or panic) come from the Finnish ability to be silent as a group. And, yes, I mean that nobody is speaking. Anything. For a reallllyyyy long time. 

Add a non-Finn into the mix and most likely he will feel very awkward. That is if he is not a hidden Finn. If he is, he is most likely enjoying his personal silence like all the others.

I know, it must be difficult to understand how we bear such long, queasy pauses. I can say that when you are born to it, it feels cozy and completely normal. It’s surprisingly difficult to add extra words to everyday situations when they aren’t built into your culture.

The Basic Rules of Finnish Small Talk

For a Finn, being silent is being polite, as you are not disturbing the other person. I try to describe the rules of Finnish small talk by demonstrating the likelihood of a Finn talking in different situations with the picture below.

Finnish small talk infographics

Escaping Social Situations with Finnish Small Talk

Some might see the Finnish small talk behavior as escaping social situations aka social avoiding. Indeed, this built-in lack of talk is accepted in all forms of encounters.

As you can see from the picture above, there is a relaxing element of social avoiding even among friendships, especially if the relationship is not that close. It is okay to be focused entirely on your mobile when walking past acquaintances in Finland.

The silence extends to phone calls, messages and social media too. For example, if a Finn reads your message, there’s no cultural pressure in Finland to answer it immediately.

Not-Surprising Situations for a Finn Abroad

Social avoiding hits another level especially when Finns are abroad and spot another Finn.

I was unsure whether or not to write about this but I will, because cultural things are the essence of my blog and, also, because I think this Finnish feature is hilarious and true. Full disclosure: I have certainly done it myself too, haha.

Long story short: there are many occasions, in which we Finns are silent and sometimes even pretend we are not Finns to avoid the social situation that might otherwise occur. Here are three examples.

#1 You are a Finn working abroad, and another Finn comes to your workplace. If you know that you won’t do any collaboration, you may disguise yourself as a mute random employee. The only risk is that some non-Finn colleague will give you away.

#2 You are a Finn on holiday in a secluded environment (like in a paradise island), and miraculously you hear other Finns talking. You continue your way silently.

#3 You are in an environment that is full of Finns, for example, enjoying a holiday in Torremolinos in Spain. You don’t greet nor speak to any of them during the whole stay.

finnish small talk at work in Finland

Finnish Small Talk in Work Life

At work in Finland, you can just start telling your business immediately to the other person. To be more precise, you should start telling your business immediately and not waste time wandering around the subject.

On the other hand, please don’t take it personally if a Finn starts a conversation with you and doesn’t even say “How are you?”.

She is not being rude. She knows that you are super busy and that’ why she is very straight-forward. Also, she is not being a good, efficient worker, if she wastes her time with chitchatting.

Get to know the finns

Join my free cultural class and avoid the culture shock when you are in Finland. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Compliments in Finland

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 person who gave the compliment, rather just shows that the receiver is modest.

Amusingly, sometimes the comment makes the situation totally weird. Do not fear if this happens to you, it happens all the time between Finns too. Just smoothly carry on to the next topic of discussion.

Your hair looks great! – Huh, I just washed it.

…What do you say to that?! Nothing. You can just move on with the conversation. 

That blouse looks fantastic on you! – The threads are coming out of the seams and everything…

Okay… And here is one more!

Your garden is beautiful! – Well yes… The soil is good here and there has been good weather.

See what I mean?

perfect gift for a finn

Learn to Read the “No” in Between the Lines

Many Finns struggle with saying no. So they will say something more subtle or stay silent. Here’s an example for you. 

If a Finn responds to an invitation with “I’m not sure I can make it.”  By the way, that translates to “En oo varma pääsenkö”, in Finnish.

In reality, that person can be saying “I probably won’t come.“

Is there anything you would like to ask about Finnish small talk? What are your experiences with Finnish small talk? Let me know in the comments!

Looking for more information about Finnish culture? Check out some of my other posts:


Helsinki crew neck shirt

Finland-themed sweaters and accessories made-to-order. 🧡 Worldwide shipping.

About Varpu
I’m the founder of Her Finland. I love cultural tidbits, aha moments, Finnish folklore, and cinnamon buns. My newest interest is learning bird songs. Read more about me..

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Monday 3rd of April 2023

Boy I wish I live in Finland lol ! I was born in southern Europe where acquaintances like to chat to no end and than I moved to the USA where even strangers enjoy "small talk" ! It drives me NUTS ! Is it hard to get Finish citizenship ? ; ) I was laughing so much when I read "how are you doing" part - exactly what I told to my husband - why are they asking when they actually don't want to know how one is doing and expect to hear "oh, I am doing great" no matter what *eye-roll. I would take silence over boring chit-chat and small-talk any day !!! I must have been Finn in my previous life ; ), ha ha. Enjoy your beautiful silence and meaningful conversations - oh how I envy you ...


Thursday 13th of April 2023

Aww Sandy, thank you so much for your comment! It's very different here indeed!


Friday 24th of March 2023

Finns don't engage in "small talk?"

If one Finn says to another Finn "We'll talk later", what does that mean? Does it mean later in the day, tomorrow, next week, when? The receiver of that message waits to hear back, but the sender never follows up. Is it a deliberate blow off? Or did the sender never have any intention "talking later?"

We American Finns have a word for that...rude.

There are other American words for it: "Flake" or "Bullshitter".

Small talk? Is it good for interpersonal relations or does it just fray relations?


Thursday 30th of March 2023

That's a great question. Let me reply with a story. My family needed to make a new dock at the cabin. But it was a project between two generations, a son and his father. The dock project started as the son made a suggestion "Should we build a new dock? The old one is almost rotten." The father was silent, thinking. A year later, he replied, "Let's do it'. And so they did. True story!


Thursday 23rd of March 2023

This column is reassuring to me. Although Canadian, as a child I grew up in a Finnish immigrant community. I know these cultural ways. As a Canadian I have experienced, s a young adult, feedback from others about my " ways", silence, taking a very long time to respond to a question, this type of thing. Thank you.


Thursday 30th of March 2023

Thank you so much for your comment, Lori! I really appreciate it!


Wednesday 31st of March 2021

I am a Brazilian living abroad I go out of my way to avoid other Brazilians. And Brazilians are not exactly know for social avoidance. I must be a closeted Finn ;-)


Thursday 1st of April 2021

Hei Kiko, so lovely to virtually meet you here! Thank you for commenting and yes! Have you taken this funny test yet:

Nicholas Omolo

Monday 4th of January 2021

I think we introverts can have a great time in Finland


Tuesday 12th of January 2021

Being an introvert myself, I can agree, Nicholas. :D

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

17500+ students! Free Finnish class ➤