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Opinion

Modern Finnish small talk – genuine encounters

This week, Finnfacts trainee Tuulia Juntura offers a fresh take on Finnish small talk.

A Finn is always a Finn even if you fried him in butter, which means a Finn will stay the same, no matter what happens. But, does this Finnish metaphor apply to the people and culture of Finland from the aspect of small talk? How could Finnish small talk be described from a modern perspective and what is actually the hidden strength of our communication culture?

Traditionally, the introverted Finnish culture is often said to include a minimal amount of small talk. In fact, there is no proper word for it in the Finnish vocabulary. We Finns may not see a logical reason for asking or answering for the sake of communicating, if the answer is already known or it isn’t honest, at least when based on the classic Finnish values. Silence or the lack of asking questions is not a sign of impoliteness for Finns, as we just don’t like to bother others in vain.

In the rapidly internationalising world, cultures are changing as younger generations adopt new values and different cultural codes blend together in international business. Finns have learnt more about other cultures’ concepts of politeness over the years and perhaps could adapt to their more verbal communication culture to some extent also in the future.

Nevertheless, to be honest and direct, as a Finn usually prefers to be, Finns will most probably never be the most talkative nation or have an affectionate communication culture, since the cultural values are rooted deeply and are therefore slow to change. However, we do have something else which could be seen also as our strength in short verbal encounters, when looking at the Finnish communication culture from a different perspective.

In Finnish culture, at least a certain level of honesty and directness will be the core values also for the future generations, reflected in their preferred communication culture as well. When bringing together the strengths of these two values, could the combination contribute to a fresh approach to Finnish small talk? Instead of a couple of grumpy words in the traditional manner, could a few positive words and the way of being genuinely present be seen as a part of modern Finnish chit-chat?

The aspect of genuine encounters would combine the strengths of the honesty and directness in Finnish culture. When having small talk, you could stay there for a short while and express the positive ideas which you really think. Instead of long talks, use the time effectively if you feel so, say the positive things you really mean and be present for the other person for a small moment!

Let’s have genuine encounters – small talk in the Finnish way!

Published on 31.05.2018