Nature is close to the heart of the Finnish people. Finland has as many as 475,000 holiday homes and 35 national parks. Holiday homes are normally located close to waterways. At their holiday homes, Finns enjoy the solitude, sauna bathing and peace and quiet in the midst of nature.
Sauna is a Finnish icon. Finland has approximately two million saunas; statistically, every household has access to a sauna, even in cities. Among people enjoying a sauna bath, a special kind of communal spirit is born – just pluck up your courage and step into the heat!
Finland is also rich with regard to languages, as the country is bilingual: 92% of the population speak Finnish as their mother tongue and 5.5% Swedish. In addition to their native language, almost every Finn also gets by in English. Under Finnish law, the Sami people, the Romani people and those using sign language have the right to use their native language. In Lapland, approximately 1,700 people speak Sami as their principal language.
To be a Finn...
Finns enjoy their reputation of being individualistic grumps but, in reality, they are friendly, direct, open and international. The Finnish way of communicating is communication stripped to its bare essentials, but once a bond is formed, it will last.
The clichés of being a Finn includes the following (many of which have an element of truth):
• know how to remain silent. Therefore, do not feel embarrassed if your Finnish company is reticent. Silence does not meant that you are an uninteresting or a dull person. An introverted Finn looks at his shoes when talking to you; an extroverted Finn looks at your shoes”
• are honest and law-abiding. Laws and regulations are often observed to the letter.
• treat their fellow human beings in an equal manner. All citizens enjoy freedom of opinion, assembly, speech and religion.
• drink coffee and eat bread. The consumption of coffee per person per year totals more than 160 litres; that of bread, appropriately 50 kilos.
• do not arrive late for appointments; Finns are rather punctual. Buses and trains leave on time, and when they do not, a media outcry will follow.
• do not pay visits unannounced. All visits are agreed in advance.
• do not kiss or hug their acquaintances when meeting them. Shaking hands is the accepted means of greeting.
• do not engage in small talk. If a Finn invites you out for a beer some night, he or she really means that.
Finns are not inclined to compliment other people for nothing; if they say something positive about you, you should feel flattered.