The Magic Word

To an English speaking person, Finnish language can sound a little blunt at times. Finns don’t beat around the bush. They don’t pretty things up. Finns appreciate honesty and straightforwardness.

Finns are known for their dislike of small-talk. It’s totally debatable whether Finnish small talk even exists. On the other hand, there is a lot of talk about the lack of Finnish small talk! ⁠

When trying to understand a Finn there are three things to remember. First one is that silence is totally natural, second is that the lack of small talk does not equal impoliteness and the third is that Finns tends to always go straight to the point.⁠

For a Finn, silence is totally accepted and welcomed, even in group situations. When I say silence, I mean silence, no-one saying anything. For any non-Finn this kind of a situation would be awkward and uncomfortable. They would be feverishly looking for something to say to break the silence. But for a Finn who has grown up with it, it can even be enjoyable. Finns think of silence as being polite, because they are not bothering you. Finns love their own personal space.⁠ ⁠

If a Finn goes straight to the topic at hand, without even as much as a hello, they are not being ill-mannered. They understand that your schedule is valuable and they don’t want to waste your time with small talk.⁠

When something fits really well, English speaking people say it fits like a glove. Spanish people say it fits like a ring on the finger. Italians say it fits like shoes painted on with a brush. Finns say it fits like a fist in the eye! My grandfather used this saying a lot, therefore I often heard it when I was growing up.

I have a funny memory of starting school in Australia as a 11 year old, after having just migrated here from Finland, and asking my teacher for something (in a blunt Finnish manner) when my teacher asked me what is the magic word!? Finnish language does not have a word “please” at all, so I had no idea this was the word she was after. I answered her: “abracadabra!” Maybe my answer fitted like a fist in the eye! At least I made her laugh with my answer!

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Peter says:

    Bull’s eye! Like a fist in the eye! Now you are talking! How refreshing not to have to talk about nothing….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A very Finnish answer! Made me laugh!!


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