1. “Sorry I don’t speak English…”
It doesn’t matter that our reply was in near-perfect English — Finns are so obsessed with “getting it right” that our confidence does not allow us to be anything but 100% correct. It’s either exact or unacceptable, period. It comes from years of grammar schooling by Finnish teachers who buried us in books rather than teach us how to speak aloud or express ourselves. Plus, thoughts imply emotions, which can be scary for us in public.
2. We prefer texting.
Texting was basically invented in Finland by the ‘reluctant father of SMS,’ Matti Makkonen, who not-so-ironically isn’t keen on interviews. Fingers tapping hurriedly over mobile keyboards allows us to avoid the dreaded spoken conversation, like the shy Finnish bloke who fancies you and simply cannot muster up the courage to actually spit it out and ask you out on a date. Besides, it saves time and there’s no embarrassing uhming and ahing when the conversation becomes boring.
3. Facebook beats “real” social interaction.
You’re desperately trying to attract the attention of the drop-dead gorgeous person sitting opposite you on the metro, but she/he is so busy on Facebook that you don’t stand a chance. It’s not even worth trying to start a conversation with them, unless you’re willing to send a Friend Request first. And it’s not innate; the baby in the pram stares at you unabashedly because mum’s too busy looking at a screen. We don’t need to “catch up” with people, because we’ve already gotten the scoop in our News Feed.
4. We’ve already got enough friends.
I actually overheard someone saying this the other day: “I’ve already got so many friends, I can’t cope with anymore.” But it’s really the truth. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how scintillating your conversation might be — you’re getting the cold shoulder because our acquaintance quota has been reached.
5. You’re all up in our personal space.
Come within earshot, and you’re well within my comfort zone. Come any closer and it’s an instant conversation buzzkill.
6. We don’t do well in crowds.
With a population just over five million (and more uninhabited land than we know what to do with), there are about 14 Finns per square kilometre, as opposed to, say, Spain where 91 Spaniards occupy every square kilometre. Throngs of foreigners in the summer compel us to run and hide in the forest where our summer cottages guarantee peace and quiet.
7. You’re speaking too loudly.
Finns like to enjoy a night out at the pub like everyone else, but God forbid you decide to up your decibels during a story or laugh hysterically in public because everyone will think you’re either drunk or mad. Speaking to someone you don’t know could be construed as the latter, since other people can actually hear you. There’s a silver lining though: drunk locals are more than happy to converse with you in whatever language they think they’re speaking.
8. You’re speaking at all.
My Spanish friend was on a bus the other day, and asked me (via text message, of course), “Have I gone deaf? Nobody’s talking. Is this normal?” Since we don’t really talk to each other, you’re just going to have to break the ice.