What are the hardest adjustments to make when visiting Finland?
Most Finns are a bit reserved when they meet someone the first time. This doesn't mean they are rude. It's just our nature.
Small talk doesn't really belong to our culture. Nor does staring people in the eyes. Remember to keep the 1 meter distance to people, do not hug them, or at least try not to kiss them, otherwise Finns get anxious and feel threatened - we are very particular about our personal space.
When talking to Finns, remember that "silence is golden". A Finn really wants to eg answer your questions, but they want their answers to be well thought-out.
Go to the sauna if you are asked to. You'll become an addict to it. ;-)
I've been here for 5 years straight now and I've become deeply interested in how others adapt to life in Finland, so I set out to find answers to this question. It's not always been easy but I've come to love to Finland.
Here are honest reflections from 5 other people who've moved to Finland about the adjustments they've had to make and the ease with which they've settled (I met and interviewed all this year as part of a centenary project called Finland My Home).
Joffrey (35) from France:
"A third of my life has been spent in Finland"
"It's very frustrating to live in a country and not be able to say a word or take a decision because you can't vote except for in local elections. And when I hear some politicians say stuff like "Yeah, people should work more, to earn less, because it is the way to save the country", or if I think about how I would like this place to be in the future I can't really say a word. I don't have the feeling that I can really say straight "This is what I would like to do.""
Kamal (29) from Lebanon:
"I moved straight, all the way from Dubai to Riihimäki"
"It's not easy to find Finnish male friends. I had a lot of classmates who were Finnish. In the class you chitchat and everything with a Finnish guy and you feel he is a good person so you propose to have a beer. But the moment you step out of class, step out of university he is a stranger, total stranger to you, you know. But that's life and I respect Finns in all kinds of ways."
Bianca (32) from Austria:
"I was in love with Sweden at first"
"I'm a person who likes the cold and the dark. So I like the nature here and the country because the quality of life is so good. This is really important to me. Before Finland I had never been so much a sauna person but nowadays we have a sauna in our flat and in the beginning we were there everyday. I just enjoy it, it's so relaxing and it's so good for your health as well. When there's a lake around you I love going in to refresh, it's so good. And if there's a hole in the ice I'm there.""
Matthew (20s) from England:
"Sometimes it feels like people think I'm Britain's Brexit spokesman."
"I found that many times I would be talking to someone, for example, at work or in a shop. I would try to use the level of Finnish I knew and it would only take me to hesitate or pause, or even just be speaking Finnish with a slightly British accent, and that was enough for them to switch to English. I understand why they thought that is polite from their side. But what people maybe were not able to see in that moment was that I was trying to speak Finnish because I wanted to practice, not because I thought I had to."
Shania (41) from Korea:
"I wanted to learn from local people by experiencing their life"
"The first question is always "where do you come from?" I'd only introduce myself as a Korean; I am from Korea. Then people would ask "North or South?"... are you kidding me? So I started to say that I'm from South Korea. And then they'd ask why I came to Finland. And the third question is a much more sad one: "When are you going to return to your home country?""