The Finnish way of social avoiding

The talking habits of Finns may seem odd. What we think as normal behaviour, other nationalities might see as social avoiding. This built-in lack of talk can happen, and is accepted, in all forms of encounters.

On the other hand, it is politeness (not disturbing the other person), on the other hand, it gives us an easy opportunity to escape a social situation. I try to describe the degree of social avoiding by demonstrating the likelihood of talking with the picture below.

The likelihood of Finns' talking

As you can see, there is a relaxing element of social avoiding even among friendships, especially if the relationship is not that close. It is okay to be completely focused on your mobile when walking pass an acquaintance. Social avoiding hits another level especially when we are abroad and spot another Finn. In many occasions we are silent and sometimes even pretend we are not Finns to avoid the social situation.

Common situations for this behaviour:

  • You are a Finn working abroad and another Finn comes to your workplace. You know that you don’t have common things, so you are just mute if some colleague doesn’t give you away.
  • You are a Finn on holiday in a secluded environment (like in a paradise island) and miraculously another Finn passes you by. You continue your way silently.
  • You are in an environment that is full of Finns (e.g. a holiday in Spain) and you know it. Yet you don’t greet nor speak to any of them during the whole stay.

To me, all of this, feels cosy and completely normal.

Dear international readers, I would love to know, do you ever do social avoiding?

(Featured image by talented Tove Jansson: Moomins-character Stinky)


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