Finnish culture: the people

People make the culture – so what are the Finns like? The myth of the withdrawn Finn is still alive and well inside Finland, and Finns, with their self-deprecating wit, will be the first to let foreigners in on it. An example of a Finnish joke explains it well: “An introverted Finn looks at his shoes when talking to you; an extroverted Finn looks at your shoes”. In certain ways, Finns are pretty peculiar people and we secretly enjoy conveying that image of ourselves, even if it weren’t always true.

Finland is a country where considerable weight is attached to the spoken word – words are chosen carefully and for the purpose of delivering a message. Indeed, there are very few other culture-specific considerations that visitors need to be aware of. Finns place great value on words, which is reflected in the tendency to say little and avoid “unnecessary” small talk.

We really enjoy our personal space and we only hug people we are close with. Not to mention kissing someone on the cheek, since that would probably require a few vodka shots. And about that – Finns are world-renowned for their fondness for drink. The Finnish people also have a very distinctive way of getting hammered, which often involves copious amounts of alcohol drunk very quickly.


Painting with a broad brush, Finns take pride in individualism, moving on their own early compared to most other Europeans, taking pride in working from an early age and taking care of themselves all the way from young adulthood to old age. Speaking one’s mind and being honest and dependable are culturally valued traits. And lastly, Finns are not inclined to compliment other people for nothing; so, if they say something positive about you, you should feel flattered!


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