I have lived in Finland all my life. From an early age, I traveled with my family and with my friends. So I have seen many different countries and cultures. The most significant difference that I have noticed compared to other cultures is our style of waiting for the other person to start the conversation.
Finns love to have a conversation, but we will never start talking to new people before the other person starts. Finnish people like it when someone shows interest in hearing about our opinions or point of view. But we don’t want to be seen as a disturbance to other people. So we will not start the conversation even if we want to. We would love to talk about our lives and hear from others, but you have to ask first.
I know this sounds silly but most Finnish people are like that. If we compare our small talk culture to any other culture the difference is huge. We are very kind and respectful towards others but a bit too shy to start the conversation. After the conversation starts, we lower our guard. Showing interest by asking questions and genuinely listening is the best thing the other person can do when having a conversation with Finn.
We just want to be heard. We don’t want to “waste others’ time” because we are afraid that they may not be interested to hear our thoughts. This is a bit difficult if everybody thinks like this. That’s why we don’t have a culture of small talk. On the other hand, if you are friends with Finn you will be having good conversations and you don’t have to start all the time. Finnish people are like this when it comes to strangers. If you are friends with Finns you don’t see this anymore.