Making friends as an adult is difficult. Making Finnish friends as an adult seems even more difficult. But why?
Two of the reasons are universal:
- 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.
The third reason is Finland specific:
In general, Finns don’t feel they need a lot of friends. We don’t really network or socialize. If somebody is our acquaintance, it’s enough just to say hello. We like being on our own. Many of us are introverts.
So yes, there’s a big wall to climb when trying to make Finnish friends. But it’s not impossible, though.
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 #1: Go 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. I bet nobody has ever found a Finnish friend in the first lecture of a course.
Tip #2: Finns tend to keep same places in a classroom. Spot an interesting looking person and sit close by (not next if the class isn’t full!). Stick to finding that same person as the course continues and slowly make a connection.
Tip #3: 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 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.
Whatever the location, use the seven secrets and conversation starters of this post as your help.
Download 20 Conversation Starters and Topics with Finns!
Meeting Finnish People 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.
Seven Secrets to Making Finnish Friends
- Ask Questions. 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 Friend. A potential friend is a Finn who has time and who is comfortable with speaking English. I have to be honest and say that some Finns are so self-conscious about their ”bad” English that it will prevent your friendship.
- 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. Ask if they have a pet for example.
- If there’s no language barrier, try to find out if the Finn has enough time for a new friend.
- Take Things Slow. 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. Be at least one meter away.
- Be patient. Friendships built over time in Finland.
- 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 (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.
- 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?”)
- Avoid compliments. It makes us Finns a bit uncomfortable.
- 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. It’s a good sign if a Finn starts a conversation with you and asks a question (How was your weekend?). 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.
- The most common thing between Finns is to do sports with a new friend (a jog, walk, tennis, badminton, yoga, etc.). And we certainly do sports with old friends too!
- You may also suggest watching a match together (ice-hockey is very popular in Finland and a safe choice).
- Cup of coffee or a pint is more personal and requires a deeper friendship (I wouldn’t suggest it to a new friend. When we are friends, then it’s lovely!)
Download 20 Conversation Starters and Topics with Finns!
I’d love to know: What’s your best tip for making friends anywhere?