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Finland Customs & Etiquettes


Finland along with Iceland is Nordic rather than Scandinavian. This is reflected in their language which is not Germanic in origin. While many social values are the same, there are subtle differences with Scandinavians.

Finland is an egalitarian society, which is reflected in their language, which employs gender-neutral words. Finns are very modest and downplay their own accomplishments as they view being humble and modest as virtues. Finns believe there is a proper way to act in any circumstance and always expect courteous behaviour.

The sauna has a special role in the domestic life of Finns. It is an experience shared with family and friends. Important business meetings may be followed by a sauna in which the conversation is continued on a more informal basis. Saunas are found everywhere in Finland. At the end of 2002, there were 1,212,000 saunas in private apartments and another 800,000 in summer cottages and public swimming pools. This translates to more than 2,000,000 saunas for a population of 5.2 million.

Meeting & Greeting

  • Greetings are formal, with a firm handshake, direct eye contact, and a smile.
  • It is common practice to repeat your first and surname while shaking hands.
  • When greeting a married couple, the wife should be greeted first.

Gift Giving Etiquette

  • If you are invited to a Finn's home, bring flowers, good quality chocolates or wine to the host.
  • Flowers should not be given in even numbers.
  • Do not give white or yellow flowers since they are used at funerals.
  • Do not give potted plants.
  • Gifts are opened when received.

Dining Etiquette

If you are invited to a Finn's home:

  • Arrive on time. Finns are punctual in both business and social situations.
  • Remove your outdoor shoes before entering the house.
  • Contact the hostess ahead of time to see if she would like you to bring a dish.
  • Offer to help the hostess with the preparation or clearing up after a meal is served.
  • If you are invited for coffee and cake, there may be as many as 7 cakes to sample.
  • Do not discuss business.
  • Thank the hosts for the hospitality before saying good-bye to the other guests.

Table Mannerism

  • Wait to be told where to sit.
  • Table manners are Continental – hold the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
  • Always keep your hands visible when eating. Keep your wrists resting on the edge of the table.
  • Do not begin eating until the hostess invites you to start.
  • Bread and shrimp are the only foods eaten by hand. Even fruit is eaten with utensils.
  • Accept second helpings.
  • When passing salt and pepper shakers, put them on the table within the person's reach. Do not give them directly.
  • Men should keep their jacket on at meals unless the host removes his.
  • Finish everything on your plate. Finns do not appreciate waste.
  • When you have finished eating, place your knife and fork across your plate with the prongs facing down and the handles facing to the right.




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