4.21.2008

Oh Finland!

Finnish Customs

Social standards vary from one country to another. Here are some specifically Finnish features:

* Punctuality is extremely important.
* Small talk is often avoided. Get to the point.
* Employers value initiative. You won't necessarily be shown how to do everything.
* Open chauvinism isn't acceptable. Women expect to be treated equally, and will for example offer to pay for their share of a date. Do, however, be courteous and hold doors open etc. But then again you might hold a door open for a man, too.
* Foreigners are treated with tolerance, and rules are relaxed anyway. You're not going to ruin your reputation by breaking a social norm here or there - it's built up over time.
* People in important positions will often be humble to the point of not even mentioning their title when introducing themselves, and you can usually address your superiors by first name. This doesn't mean they don't expect the appropriate level of respect, though.
* It is not customary to use a person's name unless you're trying to attract his attention or are referring to him. When greeting someone, a simple "Hi" is enough.
* Embracing is rare, nor should you usually perform other gestures, such as touching someone's shoulder while shaking hands. The handshake itself is short and firm.
* Children are usually placed in day care at a young age, allowing both parents a normal job. If one party stays at home, it can also be the father.
* Tipping is not necessary. Good service is expected by default, and waiters/taxi drivers should have a decent base salary. If the service is exceptional, you may want to tip anyway, but no one will be offended if you don't. Rounding the bill up by a small amount to avoid change is not interpreted as an insultingly small tip, but rather as a friendly gesture.
* You should ask permission before lighting a cigarette in the company of others, even in areas where smoking is obviously permitted.
* You're expected to leave your shoes at the door when entering private residences.
* You'll probably be invited to go to a sauna at some point. Don't be nervous about the nudity - no one cares.
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