Program - Sightseeing - Helsinki - Finland
Take a man by his words and a bull by its horns

Guide through customs and manners of the Finnish conversing

Finland is a country where considerable weight is attached to the spoken word – words are chosen carefully and for the purpose of delivering a message. Indeed, there are very few other culture-specific considerations that visitors need to be aware of. Finns place great value on words, which is reflected in the tendency to say little and avoid ‘unnecessary’ small talk. As the Chinese proverb puts it, “Your speech should be better than silence, if it is not, be silent.”

The conception that Finns are a reserved and taciturn lot is an ancient one and does not retain the same validity as it used to, certainly not with the younger generations. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that Finns have a special attitude to words and speech: words are taken seriously, and people are held to what they say. “Take a man by his words and a bull by its horns,” says a Finnish proverb. A Finn will carefully consider what he (or she) says and expect others to do so too. He (or she) considers verbal agreements and promises to bind, not only upon himself but upon the other party too, and he (or she) considers that the value of words remains essentially the same, regardless of when and where they are uttered. Finns rarely enter into conversation with strangers, unless a particularly strong impulse prompts it. Finns are better at listening than at talking, and interrupting another speaker is considered impolite.

Visitors should remember that invitations or wishes expressed in a light conversational manner are often taken at face value, and forgetting them can cause concern. So, learn about the customs about the country you visit and enjoy relaxed in all its beauty.