Friday, November 08, 2013
Week 45; do's and don'ts
This time we discussed cultural differences and thought about possible instructions of do's and don'ts for people who come to Finland.
Quite obviously, we came up with some instructions concerning going to the sauna, because this phenomenon is so intrisically Finnish. First: yes, you do have to take your clothes off when you go to the sauna, and second: yes, you do go to the sauna with other people. I can imagine this seeming very weird and distressing for many people, and to be quite honest, not even all Finns like to go to the sauna with strangers or people outside the immediate family.
Other things that came to mind were for example the fact that -unfortunately- Finns don't use words like 'sorry' or 'thank you' very much, and we don't even have an equivalent for the word 'please' in the Finnish language! The fact that we don't use these words much doesn't mean that we intend to sound rude or angry; it's just not something that we do. It's exactly the same with the unwritten rule of not talking to anyone on a bus, on a train, in a lift or in any other public place for that matter. Again; we don't intend to seem withdrawn or misanthropic, it's just our way of showing that we respect privacy, ours and others'.
Finns are sometimes said to be selfish in traffic and we are accused of not taking others into account. It might be useful to know that even if Finns stop at red lights even when there's nobody coming, we don't necessarily give way to pedestrians who attempt to cross a street.
One thing we Finns cannot stand is bragging. One should be aware that quite many things can be interpreted as bragging, such as talking about your salary, buing a new car, wearing nice clothes, building a summer cottage and talking about it (it's okay to have a summer cottage as long as you don't mention it to anyone), travelling abroad more than once in ten years, telling the neighbour how well your kids are doing, telling others how you like your new haircut, telling how good pancakes you made yesterday and so forth and so forth. Since almost anything can be perceived as bragging, it's best not to say much about yourself, and make sure you don't stand out in any way. Modesty is the best policy, that's our motto!
To sum up; you will get along with Finns as long as you don't brag, don't talk to us, take your clothes off and come to the sauna with us. Don't expect us to say please or thanks or sorry, and we'll get on just fine!
PS. I am from the province of Savonia in Finland, and it is said that we Savonians have a spesific sense of humour. We love irony, and we also apply self-irony whenever possible. Thus, when you read this text, please take into consideration that I might not be 100 % serious about my discription of us Finns...