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Silent Finns

By Marja Saviaro

Cigna International Health Insurance

Summary: Finns are known for being quiet, timid and withdrawn, but younger generations are breaking this stereotype.

Living in Finland - Silent Finns

As you begin to discover the characteristics of other cultures, in this case Finland, remember that cultures vary internally. There are usually many cultural differences within the country and nationality. People in the northern part of Finland differ a lot from the ones living in the south.

The Finns are often interested in knowing what other nationalities think about them. This curiosity has brought up a lot of research, where the images, opinions and stereotypes of other nations about the Finns have been explored. When asked from the Danish, Italian the Estonian, the Americans and the Chinese, a typical Finn is friendly, timid, withdrawn and silent. The conception that Finns are a reserved and silent people does not retain the same validity anymore, certainly not with the younger generations. But it is true, that a Finn does not grow nervous if there are breaks in the conversation; silence is regarded as a part of communication.

Finns don't consider it to be so important to enhance the feeling of togetherness with the person they're talking with: Finns don't use many words or gestures. This lack of symbols for contact and togetherness is often interpreted as impoliteness or awkwardness in the conversation. The inability of Finns to use softening words and polite phrases can also be interpretated as frankness. Small talk, a skill at which Finns are notoriously lacking, is not especially valued in the Finnish culture. The social silence, as it is also called, is sometimes a big problem for the intercultural communication, for it can lead to many misunderstandings.

About the Author

AS Return TicketMarja Saviaro has an M.A. in Adult Education. She is a Director and Consultant in Return Ticket Company, a company established in 1997; which offers training and advice on the personnel aspects of internationalisation. General objectives are to increase corporate readiness to meet the challenges faced by personnel management in relocating and adjusting employees and their families to new cultural surroundings and later back home.

Saviaro lived and worked in Zambia for seven years, first as an accompanying spouse and later working in the Finnish Embassy. After returning back home she worked in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, Training Section, for seven years.

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First Published: Jun 07, 2008

Cigna Expat Health InsuranceExpatriate Health Insurance

Get a quote for expat health insurance in Finland from our partner, Cigna Global Health.
Get a Quote

5-Tips-For-Living-in-Finland5 Tips For Living in Finland

Expats in Finland live in a country that borders Sweden, Norway and Russia and offers a successful western economy. Here are some tips to get expats acquainted with life in Finland.

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