The Real Truth: Expat’s Survival Guide To Finland: Part 2 – The People

Part 2: The People

Finland Relocation Services, TIRA Member, Finland

In our previous article, we discussed the Culture and the Finnish Way of Life. In this section, we talk about the Finns themselves! What they are like, what matters to them and how to fit in amongst a population of roughly 5,5 million people.

As we mentioned in the first section, Finns are men (and women!) of their word. Although they might not spoil you with colorful stories before getting to the point, you can count on their honesty. If a Finn invites you to their summer cottage, they will be expecting you, come July! Invites are only communicated when your attendance is truly hoped for. The people are very modest and will often downplay their achievements. As a matter of fact, being humble and modest are some of the most valued traits here. Finns tend to go for self-depreciating humor, that might seem rather odd at first.

However, having a good banter with a Finn is a certain sign that they like you. Having Finns as colleagues of friends means always having someone to count on.

When meeting a Finn for the first time, he or she will greet you with the first name followed by the surname. This is accompanied by a firm handshake and eye contact. If greeting a married couple, women should be greeted first. Unlike many other cultures, children are also greeted with a handshake. Hugs, kisses on the cheek and kisses on the hand are rare. Titles exist but are not generally mentioned. In colloquial Finnish, titles like Mr., Mrs. and Sir are not frequently used. Using just first names require some level of interaction and familiarity. Finns are not as strict with remembering names as some other cultures might be. Addressing someone without a name is not frowned upon. For those with bad name memory, this will be delightful news! Business cards are distributed in cases where names and titles should be remembered.

As an expat, you will be happy to know that English is very widely used across the nation and is the office language for many companies in the capital area! If you are feeling brave, learning the mother tongue (or at least a few words!) will boost the Finns’ appreciation of yourself by dozens! Here’s a list of 20 phrases to start with. We warn you – learning Finnish is hardest for English speakers, as the language has no connections to Germanic or Latin language groups.

In addition to Finnish, you will notice that all public services and street signs are also in Swedish. The second official language of Finland is spoken by about 6% of the population as a mother-tongue. A common misconception is that the two languages are alike – they aren’t! However, our Southern neighbor Estonia has a language akin to Finnish.
Although Finland is a small country in the far, far North, the Finns love putting their names on the map! The sense of national identity is particularly strong when it comes to sports and business. Finns are proud to be the country of origin for many great athletes, designers, artists and successful businesses. Strangely enough, Finns are rather insecure about whether the rest of the world is mindful of these victories.

Gender equality is a topic many Finns are passionate about. In fact, Finland continuously ranks globally in the top for degree of equality amongst the sexes. Finland was the first country to provide equal voting rights for women. It is not uncommon for the CEO, professor, doctor or priest to be a woman. Men are frequently judged based on their attitudes toward equality. Financial independence is extremely important for women in Finland. If she offers to pay for drinks, it is not rude to let her. Gender equality extends to the Finnish language. Instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’, Finns use a gender neutral ‘hän’ that can be applied for either gender.

In the third section we explore the Finnish work culture and office life, stay tuned for more!
You can learn more about the culture and Finnish people through our tailored cultural training programs for individuals, families and corporations. To get a quote, contact us.


More about Finland Relocation Services

Finland Relocation Services is a thoroughbred professional in international mobility. As the Finnish representative of TIRA (The International Relocation Association) and a full member of EuRA (European Relocation Association) we are continuously cooperating with the other members of our networks.

 It is through these strategic partnerships that large international corporations recognize FRS as the leading relocation services company in Finland and today we are proud to operate as the local representative of the world’s leading international relocation management companies.

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More about TIRA
TIRA is an aligned network of quality mobility service providers. The network provides access to leading mobility experts from around the world that provide local solutions to global challenges. Network members exchange best practices and share this value with the industry through benchmarking exercises.

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  1. […] have already discussed Culture and the Finnish Way of Life and The People of Finland. In this section we explore some of the quirks of Finnish work life and office culture – the […]

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