You might even think that there is no concept of small talk in Finland. In fact, I think you might be right.
Many Finnish people believe that Hello and How are you? are enough for small talk and then we can carry on with the real topics. If there are no actual topics, then we might as well be silent. It’s surprisingly difficult to add extra words to everyday situations when they aren’t built into your culture.
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The Basic Rules of the Finnish Small Talk
First of all, for a Finn, being silent is being polite, as you are not disturbing the other person.
Secondly, Finnish small talk gives an easy opportunity to escape any social situation. 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.
Escaping Social Situations with Finnish Small Talk
Other nationalities might see our normal behavior as escaping social situation aka social avoiding. Indeed, this built-in lack of talk is accepted in all forms of encounters.
I know, it must be difficult to understand how we bear such long pauses and (awkward) silence. I can say that when you are born to it, it feels cozy and completely normal.
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 acquaintance.
Social avoiding hits another level especially when we Finns are abroad and spot another Finn. In many occasions, we are silent and sometimes even pretend we are not Finns to avoid the social situation that might otherwise occur.
Typical Situations for a Finn Abroad
- You are a Finn working abroad, and another Finn comes to your workplace. You know that you don’t do any collaboration, so you disguise yourself as a mute random worker in the situation. The only risk is that some non-Finn colleague will give you away.
- 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.
- 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 in Work Life
In Finnish work culture, 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.
I can’t remember how many times I have talked to a non-Finn at work and not said: “How are You?”. So many times! In my mind, I’m not being rude. I’m being straight and efficient because my colleague is working and, for sure, busy.
Have you had a discussion with a Finn? How was it? Comment below and let me know!
Looking for more information about Finnish culture? Check out some of my other posts:
- 30 Cultural Facts on Finland that Help You Understand Finns
- Learn the Secret of Making Finnish Friends
- How To Understand Finnish Culture on Compliments and Gifts
- Finnish Greetings: How to Use Them and the One Word You’ll Need