A friend on FB sent me this article titled 5 Bad American Habits I Kicked in Finland. Go on, read it, you know you want to. I had to laugh at the 5 “bad habits” this guy had as I don’t see (most of) them as bad habits, but rather cultural differences.

1. Non awkward silences. Yes, Finns are amazing at having natural silences in conversations and it isn’t awkward. I have gotten pretty good at silences and not feeling weird. One example that comes to my mind is from a visit to my family a couple of trips ago. Mr Siili and I were out for a drive with my dad. My dad, Mr knows the local flora and fauna of the area, was telling us about different things as we were driving by them. Mr Siili and I were happily listening, replying when needed and mainly just enjoying seeing the scenery. However, I could feel my dad’s uncomfortableness with some of the silences that the two of us let happen and so he would talk even more. I remember smiling in my mind at the situation, but not being able to do much about it, because really, I had nothing to say. (Unless they are drunk.)
And that’s why many people think Finns are so aloof and standoffish. They don’t always talk to fill space or to hear their own voice just because.

2. How often do you find yourself saying something like “Let’s meet up again soon” or “Stop on by, if you’re ever in town” and you don’t really mean it? While it does happen here in Finland, it is more rare. Most times if a Finn says something, they truly mean it. It may take a Finnish person longer to open up to a new person (unless they are drunk), but once they do, you’ve made a long time friend.

3. Not leaving food on the plate. Hrmm, I think this one was quite situational at the school the author taught at. Sure, Finns are recycle conscious and don’t like to waste food, but who does like to waste things? Finnish school food is pretty good, so if you teach a kid to only take what they can eat, then you shouldn’t have much problem with bio waste.

4. Coffee to go. Ok, this one is definitely a cultural thing. When I moved to Finland over 15 years ago, there wasn’t many places that sold coffee in a paper cup to go. If you wanted coffee, you bought a cup at a cafe and drank it there. And I definitely got my fair share of looks with my travel mugs. However, nowadays, I do see travel mugs more often on the bus. Albeit still not as much as in the US. And paper to-go cups are much more frequent. It’s definitely not that “Europeans don’t take coffee to go”.

5. Nakedness. In the land of a million saunas (plus another couple million) getting naked, in front of family or strangers, is no big deal. First and foremost, sauna does not equal sex. Yes, sex can happen in (or rather in my opinion, in the showering area just outside of) sauna, but it generally doesn’t. Sauna is about cleansing, relaxing, doing business deals and silence (see #1). Families go to sauna together. There is no specific age limit when boys and girls stop going to sauna with their parents and siblings. However, I think as they get older, it splits into boys and girls. I’ve never gone to sauna with my FIL or SIL’s husband/boyfriend. In Mr Siili’s parent’s house it has always been couples, however boys and girls wouldn’t be strange either. In public saunas, such as at the swimming hall, the sauna has always been in the shower/changing area of the female/male side, so no mixing of genders. Unless you’ve got a little child with you. I have gone to sauna with a big group of mixed company a few times. If there happens to be only one sauna, most often, women go first, then men. And sometimes then mixed sauna. Or the time when there was many people under 18 in the group, we all had swimsuits. But in none of those situations was it weird, awkward or strange for people to be naked together. (Ok, maybe one time it was a bit strange…)

p.s. The photo at the top of the article with the big statue bum in your face, that’s from my town in Finland. 😀 Not Helsinki.


2 thoughts on “Habits

  1. I loved this, and found it fascinating – given that I don’t come from either of these two cultures.

    We wouldn’t be comfortable with the #5, though I think we would be fine with the silences. Coffee-to-go is more common here now, as long as it is good coffee (ie espresso). I don’t know anyone who makes their own coffee and takes it with them. I was also taught not to leave food on the plate (“think of the starving millions in Africa/Asia”). When I say #2, I mean it at the time I say it, so I don’t think kiwis do that. We’d feel it was insincere, I think. I was about to say I think I’d be comfortable in Finland, until I remembered the naked thing.

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