Living in Finland

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Suomalainen tapakulttuuri

Finnish customs

This page contains information on Finnish customs. More information on Finnish work culture is available on the InfoFinland page Finnish work culture.

Finnish values

Equality and fairness are important values for Finns. In Finnish society, everyone is equal and must be treated fairly. Information on equality and non-discrimination is available on the InfoFinland page Equality and non-discrimination.

Equality

According to the Finnish legislation, women and men are equal. It is common for Finnish women to work even if they have children. Men and women are both responsible for the care of the children and the home.

Trust

It is common for Finns to trust other people and the authorities. Democracy and freedom of speech are also held in high regard in Finland. Everyone has the right to participate in the activities of society. There is freedom of speech in Finland.

Individualism

Finnish culture places more value on individualism than many other cultures. Freedom of the individual is strongly present in the Finnish legislation.

Own space

Finns also value their privacy and own space. For example, young people are encouraged to become independent and move into their own homes.

Honesty and punctuality

Honesty is appreciated in Finland. It is important to keep your promises and tell the truth. Also punctuality is important to Finns. When you have a meeting, arrive at the agreed time. If you have made an appointment with an official or doctor, for example, it is especially important to be there on time. For example, if you have made an appointment for 12 o’clock, make sure you arrive a little before 12. If you arrive at 12.10, you are late.

Modesty

Many Finns esteem modesty highly. People tend not to distinguish themselves in a group; they avoid talking in a loud voice and bragging. In Finland, it is good manners to take others into account and listen to them. Working and diligence are also held in high regard.

Nature

Nature is very important to Finns. Many Finns enjoy spending time in nature, for example by camping or picking berries. Everyman’s rights (jokamiehenoikeudet) are observed in Finland. According to them, people have free access rights in nature, and do not need the landowner’s permission for all outdoor activities. Read more about everyman’s rights on the InfoFinland page Recreation and travel in nature.

Greeting

Handshaking is a common way of greeting in formal situations. Men and women also shake hands with each other. Friends or relatives may also greet each other by hugging. However, cheek kissing is not common.

When you talk to others, look them in the eye. In Finland, looking someone in the eye communicates that you are being frank and honest towards that person.

When speaking Finnish, it is common to be on first-name terms with other people. First-name terms are also used among strangers and colleagues. Addressing others formally is reserved only for highly formal occasions. It is, however, a good idea to address elderly people more formally.

Discussion and interaction

Finns like to start a conversation by going straight to the point. The Finnish style of speech is direct and straightforward. In Finland, people are expected to truly mean what they say. People believe what you say and expect you to act accordingly.

There may be a certain amount of quiet moments in conversations with Finns. Silence is not a negative thing, it feels natural to Finns. There is no need to fill quiet moments with speech.

Loud speech can be thought of as unpleasant or threatening.

In Finland, it is considered rude to interrupt people when they are speaking. Finns normally wait for their discussion partners to finish before speaking themselves.

It is uncommon in Finland to show your emotions in public. It is considered rude to raise your voice when speaking, especially in a public place.

Finnish food culture

Finns eat fairly common European food consisting mostly of meat, fish, potatoes, rice or pasta. Vegetarian food has become increasingly popular. It is common to eat two warm meals a day, lunch and dinner. In Finland, adults, too, often drink milk.

In Finland, lunch is eaten earlier than in many other countries. At workplaces and schools, lunch is usually served between 11 and 12 am. Dinnertime is often around 5 pm.

Healthiness of food is often stressed in Finland. Rye bread and different porridges, among other things, are an important part of the Finnish food culture. The food cultures of different Finnish regions vary from each other. For example, reindeer meat is an important part of the Lappish cuisine, whereas fish is consumed a lot on the coast. On the other hand, food culture also changes. Italian pastas and Asian food cultures are visible also in Finland.

Children and young people are served meals at day care and school. School meals are free of charge for all and there is no need to bring a packed lunch to school.

Finns drink a lot of coffee. Coffee is nearly always served at celebrations, for example. People often drink coffee at workplace meetings.

Alcoholic drinks are fairly expensive in Finland and their purchase by young people has been limited with age restrictions. Only milder alcoholic drinks can be purchased at grocery stores. Strong alcoholic beverages are bought from government regulated Alko stores. Driving a car under the influence of alcohol is prohibited and can lead to a severe punishment.

Eating out in a restaurant is often more expensive in Finland than in many other countries. Alcoholic drinks are also costly at restaurants. You do not need to leave a tip unless you want to give thanks for particularly good service.

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Sauna

Sauna is an important part of the Finnish culture. Sauna is for having a wash and relaxing, which means that peace and quiet are viewed as parts of the experience. Many Finns go to sauna every week. People go to sauna with family members, friends and business partners alike. Women and men go to sauna at separate times. It is common to go to sauna without any clothes. You usually sit on a small sauna towel placed on the sauna bench.

As a guest at a Finnish home

In Finland, you should always agree upon visits to other people’s homes in advance, even with good friends. Finns value their privacy and peace.

Finns do not use shoes indoors. It is polite to take off your shoes when entering someone else’s home. When visiting a Finnish home, take off your shoes or ask if you can keep them on.

Linkki: ThisisFinland, Tietoa suomalaisista tavoistaFinland, it is customary for everyone to pay for their own meal at a restaurant. Nevertheless, you can politely indicate that you would like to pay for someone else.

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