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Travel, Teach, Live in Europe and Middle East

Understanding Finland’s Customs and Etiquette

Located in Northern Europe and having esteemed neighbors like Sweden, Norway, and Russia, Finland has a lot to offer the casual visitor or someone looking to teach English as a foreign language. Finland is one of the most popular destinations for tourists in Europe – and with good reason. Finland is beautiful and its people are hospitable and welcoming. Finland has two official languages, Finnish and Swedish, although the largest portion of the population speaks Finnish. Around six percent speak Swedish. In business circles, English is often used.

Finnish Culture

Finland is a Nordic region, but not Scandinavian. This is seen in the language of Finland, which does not have Germanic roots. And although Nordic Finnish societies share much of the same social values as Scandinavians, there are some differences. Finland is known as an egalitarian society, and as such, there are many words in the Finnish language that are gender-neutral. Finns are extremely modest, and they often play down their accomplishments, preferring to be seen as modest and humble, which is considered a virtue in Finnish society. Finns are courteous and they expect the same from visitors. They are staunch believers in speaking in moderate tones and avoiding drawing attention to one ’s self. Finns listen intently during conversations, and they never interrupt the speaker. Finns also love to relax, which is why (with a population of around five million) Finland is home to two million saunas. Enjoying a dip in the sauna often occurs at the end of important meetings.

Finnish Customs and Etiquette

If you plan to travel to Finland, the tips that follow will help you fit in nicely with the locals:

• Greet Finns formally with a stout handshake and a smile. Always make direct eye contact.
• Commonly, Finns repeat both their first name and surname while shaking hands.
• If you are greeting a couple, always greet the wife first.
• When invited to a Finn’s home, always arrive with a gift, whether it is wine, chocolates, or flowers. But when giving flowers, always give an odd number and never give yellow flowers, white flowers, or potted plants, as these are used at Finnish funerals and are in bad taste.
• If you are presented a gift, opening it immediately is considered good manners.
• If you have been invited to dinner with a Finn, be sure to be on time. Both social and business situations call for punctuality.
• Remove your shoes at the door before entering the home.
• Offer your assistance to the host in clearing the meal.
• Continental table manners are observed at the Finnish dinner table. This means holding your fork in the left hand and knife in the right hand. Eat all foods except shrimp and bread with utensils. Always accept second servings.
• Since the sauna is such an intricate part of Finnish life, never refuse an invitation to take a dip or you will risk offending the person who invited you.
• Finnish people place a great deal of value on open speech and plain talk. They tend to take what is said at face value, so deals or arrangements agreed on verbally are treated with the seriousness of a written contract.
• Finns are excellent communicators, but they don’t “beat around the bush”. A Finn will tell you what he or she thinks, even if it isn’t what you want to hear!

Professional designer Jessica Ackerman, writes for WallDecorandHomeAccents.com, and specializes in decorating with tree of life wall art and large modern wall art.

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