Making friends as an adult is difficult. Making Finnish friends as an adult seems even more difficult. But why?
As a Finn, I’ll try my best to share information and tips about Finnish culture so that that you’ll enjoy more of your time in Finland or our company, wherever you are.
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Here’s the content of this post in a nutshell. Read on to know the little things!
Table of Contents
- 1 How to Befriend a Finn and Why It Can Be Difficult
- 2 Where to Find Your Potential Finnish Friend?
- 3 Make Finnish Friends Online
- 4 The 7-Step Formula to Making Finnish Friends
- 4.1 Ask questions from a Finn and don’t get discouraged
- 4.2 Find a potential Finnish friend
- 4.3 Remember to take things slow with a Finn
- 4.4 Don’t panic about the silence
- 4.5 Finetune your discussion when talking to a Finnish person
- 4.6 Continue Next Time
- 4.7 Deepen the relationship and seal it with a coffee
- 5 Are You Interested in Learning More Finnish?
How to Befriend a Finn and Why It Can Be Difficult
In my opinion, making friends as an adult can be hard in general because of two universal reasons:
- Most adults have already built their social circle. Many feel that they have enough friends.
- There’s only a little amount of free time, and people need to use it carefully. Free time starts diminishing when a person enters the work life. Suddenly you need to be in bed at 10 pm to wake up at 6 am to commute. Add children to the picture, and there’s pretty much zero time (and energy) for friends.
Okay, so now I’m going to go a bit Finland specific.
Please take my words with a grain of salt because these are cultural interpretations and there’s never only a one thruth in these matters.
When it comes to relationships, I feel that the biggest difference to many other countries is that, in Finland, there are rarely acquaintance level relationships. We are all in, truly friends, or then, we are almost strangers. There’s no cultural pressure to invest your time to acquaintances.
That’s why I feel that, in Finland, if somebody is your acquaintance, it’s enough just to say hello and continue your way. That’s why it’s normal in Finland to not know anything about your neighbor’s life.
In the Finnish work culture, there’s not that much time allocated for networking or socializing as in many other cultures. Finally, I would say that in general, many Finns don’t feel they need a lot of friends. Many like being on our own and are introverts.
So yes, there’s a bit of a wall to climb when trying to make Finnish friends. But it’s not impossible, though.
It also depends on luck and situation. For example, if you come to study in Finland, the situation you are all in, makes it so much easier to make friends.
All you need to do is think a bit strategically (who is your potential friend), listen to your intuition a lot (who you click with) and the rest is about slowly building your relationship.
Where to Find Your Potential Finnish Friend?
If you are in Finland, your hobby is the best place to meet potential friends.
Especially for men, a team sport is a great way to connect with locals. If you don’t do any, what about trying a new hobby? You’ll make friends, and it’s great for your health.
You can find groups for activities done by yourself too:
- Ask the local library if they have a book club.
- Pop into a local craft store to see if they know a sewing or handicrafts group
- Museums can suggest art clubs and group visits
Tip: Attend an event or hobby even if it’s a Finnish speaking group and you don’t understand anything. Your goal is to meet that one Finnish person who clicks with you, right? It only takes one person who knows English, is interested in the same topics as you and is open to the idea of having a new friend. That person could be in that Finnish-speaking group.
The second best place is work or school. You have plenty of people nearby but are unaware of their interests and life situation.
Let’s dive into the school world. Bear in mind that making a Finnish friend takes time. Here are my helpful tips for school:
Tip #1: Finns tend to keep same places in a classroom. Spot an interesting looking person and sit close by. Stick to finding that same person as the course continues and slowly make a connection.
Tip #2: If you are great on the subject, don’t hide it. See if somebody is struggling and ask if they would like to do exercises together. Suggest a public location and easy time, such as meeting in the school cafe after the class.
At work, you might feel lonely in the beginning. It’s Finnish politeness giving you time to settle in. Your colleges know that you have a lot to learn, so the Finnish logic is to give you space.
Make Finnish Friends Online
Have you tried Couchsurfing? The Finnish hosts are excited to meet international people!
Especially for Helsinki and Tampere region, you can check Meet Up events.
There are many Facebook groups to join. One is even titled Meet new friends in Helsinki. Just ask for a meet and see if somebody is interested! You have nothing to lose.
The 7-Step Formula to Making Finnish Friends
Here’s my step-by-step process to making Finnish friends anywhere.
Ask questions from a Finn and don’t get discouraged
Finns don’t small talk. If you talk and hope that a Finn would continue the topic naturally… Well, that happens once in a blue moon.
Ask preferably open-ended questions. They require answers of more than just one word. Usually, open-ended questions start with What, How, Why.
If you get a Yes or No as a reply, don’t get discouraged. In Finnish, it’s normal and polite.
Find a potential Finnish friend
A potential friend is a Finn who has time and who is comfortable with speaking English. Or, do you want to learn Finnish? Fantastic! Enroll in my free Finnish class and I’ll help you.
All in all, I have to be honest and say that some Finns are quite self-conscious about their ”bad” English that may prevent your friendship.
When having a discussion, start with super easy topics so that you can estimate how comfortable the Finn is with speaking English. You want to find a Finn who is relaxed when answering. Say something about the weather, for example. I know it’s a cliche but still.
If there’s no language barrier, try to find out if the Finn has enough time for a new friend.
Remember to take things slow with a Finn
This is no dating advice only. This step aplies to any relationship with a Finn. Be patient. Friendships built over time in Finland.
It’s a bit tricky to give clear guidelines but let’s say that if you see someone daily, you could greet every other time and ask something every other time. Avoid touching and stay at least half a meter away if you see that a Finn is always taking a step back in your presence.
It’s nothing personal, it’s just that we leave
a bit a lot of space between people in the Finnish culture.
A good rule of thumb here is that if it feels like it’s not going anywhere, most likely a Finn is thinking that you are becoming friends.
Don’t panic about the silence
In Finnish, there aren’t so much acknowledgment cues (such as: Oh really?! – Hmm… – Wow, that’s amazing!). Pauses in discussion and between topics are longer than in other languages.
If you are feeling awkward, a Finn is feeling natural.
Finetune your discussion when talking to a Finnish person
Don’t ask personal stuff too early. You have to be sure that you are friends before asking.
Instead, you can ask the same thing as a cultural thing, and a Finn is happy to answer. Sometimes he even tells his situation as a by-product.
For example, don’t ask “Do you have a family?”. Instead, ask “What’s a typical family in Finland like?”
When you say “Hey, how are you!” as a phrase, wait for the reply. We Finns take it as a real question, and you may get a surprisingly long (and entertaining) answer.
Continue Next Time
Try to remember something about them next time you meet.
For example, you found out in your photography meet that Linda is going to Thailand next month. Next time, ask her if she has started packing yet.
If you are trying to make friends in many places at the same time, take notes so that you don’t get confused.
Deepen the relationship and seal it with a coffee
It’s a good sign if a Finn starts a conversation with you and asks a question, for example, “How was your weekend?”.
Pat yourself on the back! You know that you have knocked down the first wall of privacy. At some point, you can ask for a more personal meet and see what’s the reaction.
Most Finns love to do some kind of sports. One idea is to find out what your potential friend likes and ask if you could go together. Popular things to do are, for example, a jog, a walk or a class of tennis, badminton or yoga.
Psst… Do you play ice hockey? Getting Finnish friends will be a walk in the park. 😉
Saying that you want to familiarize yourself with a Finnish cultural activity like walking in the forest or watching an ice-hockey match, may result in a personal meet.
Funnily enough, asking a Finn for a cup of coffee or a pint is more ‘personal’ in Finland than in many other countries. A Finn may feel more comfortable around you if you guys have a “real” activity to do.
And, if a Finn asks you for a cup of coffee, you’re definitely friends.
Are You Interested in Learning More Finnish?
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I’d love to know: What’s your best tip for making friends anywhere? Let me know in the comments!
Looking for more information about Finnish culture? Check out some of my other posts:
Warm wishes from Finland,
After Finnish Culture Compass, you’ll…
...feel connected with the Finnish culture (even if you aren’t in Finland)
...be confident with the Finnish communication style (even when it’s filled with silence)
...be prepared to meet and get to know Finns