FIVE FROM FINLAND: Finnish proverbs
This week, our Five for Friday takes a slightly more light-hearted approach than usual. We’re taking a look at traditional Finnish sayings that startup entrepreneurs may find useful in their endeavours.
All languages and cultures have their own proverbs and sayings that can, at first glance, seem inexplicable. Although sometimes they stem from times that hardly resonate with the modern mind, often the seed of wisdom they carry is applicable to today’s world.
We at Good News from Finland collected a set of five traditional proverbs that could function as reminders to business founders as they embark on the challenging – yet often rewarding – journey of entrepreneurship. Here you go!
Tyhjät tynnyrit kolisevat eniten.
Literal translation: Empty barrels clatter the most.
English equivalent: Empty cans rattle the most.
There’s an abundance of noise in this world, and often those who should stay quiet make up for the vast majority of the noise. Business owners should be wary of whom to listen to – be it words of advice, encouragement or resentment – and whom to leave aside, despite their decibels.
Maasta se pienikin ponnistaa.
Literal translation: The small ones take off of the ground, too.
English equivalent: Out of little acorns grow mighty oaks.
Today’s big business players weren’t always that big – we’ve all got to start somewhere. Feeling small amongst the giants is natural, but knowing the stories behind them can be inspiring. Planting a tiny seed can lead to a huge oak, not in a heartbeat, but with hard work and under favourable circumstances.
Aina on oksan ottajia, kun on kuusen kantajia.
Literal translation: There are always people to grab the branches when there are people to carry the spruce.
English equivalent: It sometimes happens that one man has all the toil, and another all the profit.
When one takes up something big and works hard for it, there will be people who try to get the credit or otherwise benefit from those efforts. For entrepreneurs, this serves as a note to self: don’t ignore intellectual property rights, patents or anything that protects you from being taken advantage of by opportunists. This isn’t to say one should be overly protective of one’s accomplishments, just that credit needs to be given where the credit is due.
Ahneella on paskainen loppu.
Literal translation: The greedy has a shitty ending.
English equivalent: Greed gets you nowhere.
If one is too greedy, things won’t end well. Trying to maximise profit, taking unnecessarily big risks or simply only going for one’s own good isn’t a sustainable business strategy. Taking others into account, focusing on stable progress instead of quick wins and acting sustainably sounds like a much better strategy, and the end is less likely to be faeces-infested.
Ei tyhjä maksa Turussakaan.
Literal translation: The empty costs nothing in Turku either.
English equivalent: *Help us find one!
Turku is a city in the southwest of Finland, and it’s often a target of crude jokes (for no reason, if you ask us). This proverb means that if it’s something you don’t need, in other words ‘empty’, you will get it for free anywhere, including a place like Turku. In order to create a product or service that can be monetised, it needs to have value, meaning and use. If nobody needs it, nobody buys it.
Originally published in February 2018
Looking for more good news? Subscribe to our newsletter