1. Help yourself to some wine/vodka/beer from a Finn’s bottle.
Finns will be happy to offer you food, a place to sleep, and a free tour guide. We travel a lot, and we do like foreigners, but just remember: we don’t share alcohol. We’re afraid of you being greedy and us ending up sober. In the special case you’re offered a beer or a shot of vodka, please answer with immense gratitude — this is no small gesture on our part.
2. “You guys are used to the cold, right?”
Due to Finland’s geographic location, the foreigner’s usual fallacy is that we’re living in brutal and cold conditions all the time, when in fact, thanks to the warming influence of the Gulf Stream, it’s several degrees warmer here than in Siberia. Even if the winters are cold, it doesn’t mean Finland is a village of igloos, where scantily-clad Vikings go to chase reindeer wearing only bearskin trousers. We’re not backwards. We have a proper heating system, triple-glazed windows, and warm winter jackets. Also, we’ve got summer.
3. “Are there polar bears in Finland?”
Are there unicorns in the US? Open an atlas and read the news.
4. Wear your shoes in my house.
If you set a foot in a Finn’s home wearing shoes, you can be sure the only thing your silent host will be thinking is: “How dare you!” or, “You’re never coming back!” In Finland, we just don’t wear shoes indoors. Ever. It’s very simple: outside is dirty. Inside is clean, and we like things clean.
5. “Finland is part of Russia, right?”
No. Finland achieved its independence in 1917. Ever since, not being a part of Russia has built our national spirit, our identity, and a great sense of pride.
If you happen to walk into this faux pas, you can try this approach: “Oh, I’m so sorry. You’re from the bravest country that succeeded in defending itself against the brutal Soviet Union during the Second World War. Respect! The Swedish wouldn’t have been able to do the same.” It doesn’t make you look any brighter, but you’ll be less hated.
6. “Do you speak Russian?”
Hell no! The difference between the Finnish language and Russian is practically the same as between Mandarin and Swedish.
7. Act like an emotional being in public.
In order to avoid making enemies in public places in Finland, stay invisible and let others be invisible. Showing any kind of emotions is a no-no that can only be broken on Friday or Saturday nights when drunk. During all other times, and conditions, it’s unforgivable and strictly prohibited.
In addition to looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator, you should pretend there’s no one else on the street (except Friday and Saturday nights). Let other silent passers-by be. Don’t talk to strangers out of kindness or a genuine will to socialize — you’ll only manage to freak them out.
8. Say Swedish girls are hot.
What? We’re blonde too! We just use less makeup, speak like adults, and read the newspaper in the morning instead of wasting time choosing between 10 pink dresses all bought from H&M. Sadly, with this one you’ll only be pissing off Finnish girls; guys will probably agree with you.
9. Mention that Santa comes from the North Pole.
We don’t have many things we’re famous for. Since Nokia (no, it’s not Japanese) was sold to Microsoft, our short list has become even shorter. However, we still have Santa. Santa comes from Rovaniemi, and, if you go there, you can visit his home and meet his family. Yeah, Santa and his wife live right here in Finland and NOT at the North Pole, so please don’t tell that rubbish to your children.
10. Don’t try our traditional Easter dish mämmi.
Although it looks like something that belongs in the garbage and tastes rather strange, please try it. It’ll make us unbelievably happy to see someone trying what we like. Finnish traditional cuisine has been mocked by many, including the former president of Italy, but that doesn’t stop us from eating it. Say it’s delicious and you’ll add one Finn to your list of friends.