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Home arrow Testimonials arrow Foreign Students arrow Finnish customs
Finnish customs PDF Print E-mail

ImageUnderstanding Finns and Finnish becomes easier, if you feel at least a little bit adapted to Finnish society and everyday life. Finnish language and culture courses are offered by the faculty of Social Services and Health Care to all foreign students studying at Satakunta Polytechnic. There is also a website called UUNO ( to introduce Finnish language and culture for exchange students and other foreigners. UUNO is elementary-level Finnish language educational material, presenting different situations related to Finnish everyday life and culture through cartoons. Here are some key concepts in the Finnish customs and way of life. We hope they will help you understand our country and Finns!

Answering the telephone
Picking up the receiver just “hello” is considered impolite in Finland. Answer directly with your name.

Age limits
For young people in Finland, an important goal is to reach the age of 18. That is when you become of age. In Finland, you have to be 18 before you can get your driving license, buy cigarettes, beer, wine or alcoholic drinks (under 22 % of alcohol).
At the age of 20, you are able to buy spirits from the liquor store. Around the age of 20, young men have to do their military or alternative service. For young women, the military service is a voluntary option. If you want to go to the restaurant or night club to spend your evening, prepare to show your ID. Some restaurants and night clubs have an age limit of 20-25 at weekends, during the work days the age limit is usually 18.

Be on Time!
Älä myöhästy! Both at work and in social life, Finns are very punctual.

Finns consume, on average, nine cups of coffee (kahvi) each day. If you visit a Finnish home, you will probably be offered some coffee. If you happen to dislike coffee, it will not be considered impolite if you decline it.

A cottage (mökki) preferably in the middle of nowhere, by the lake and with very basic amenities is almost every Finn’s dream. At summertime, when Finns have their summer holiday, they leave the towns and travel to the cottages to relax and spend time with their families.

Daylight saving time
When daylight saving time starts or ends, it means that office hours and timetables change with it. At summer time most offices open later or close earlier (or both) than during the winter. Some bus routes may be cancelled or two routes are temporarily connected together. Daylight saving time also affects the timetables of long distance buses, trains, flights and ferries.

Finns have a great sense of humour (huumori), although many of the jokes relate to the Finnish language. Other than that, jokes often deal with alcohol, hangover or politics. One peculiarity is the habit of repeating meaningless words. There are TV comedies, in which these phrases can be heard. Try to learn some of these phrases and you will be greeted with great enthusiasm.

No smoking
Smoking is not allowed in public buildings since Finland has one of the world’s strictest regulations against smoking (you have to be 18 before you can buy a pack of cigarettes from the store). Therefore, always remember to check if there is a ”No smoking” sign (”Tupakointi kielletty”) before you light a cigarette, even in situations in which you think it is all right to smoke. Normally, people do not smoke indoors.

When you are invited to a party, it usually means that every student brings their own snacks and drinks with them. It is also usual that when the party is coming nearer a list goes around the class and everyone marks in that list what they are bringing to the party: it may be potato crisps, popcorn, cookies... and they are shared at the party.

In Finland people stand in line and wait for their turn e.g. in bank, offices, at pay desk in shops etc. and do not jump the queue.

ImageThe sauna is an essential part of Finnish way of life: the sauna was invented here and today there are about 1,9 million saunas in the country. You will certainly be invited to several sauna evenings during your stay in Finland. Originally, sauna was not only a place for washing but also a  place where children were born and the sick cared for. There is an old Finnish proverb to the effect: ”If sauna, spirits or tar don’t help, the disease is fatal”. Many flats have their own saunas, and student associations often organize sauna parties for their members. However, it is not customary for men and women to share sauna together unless they are members of the same family or otherwise close friends.
Swimming in a hole in the ice on the lakes during winter is becoming increasingly popular in Finland and there are a number of places in Satakunta region as well where you can go for a refreshing swim after bathing in a sauna.

Finns are very serious about sports (urheilu). Winning a medal in the Olympic Games is about the best thing that can happen to a Finn. The winner is treated like a national hero, invited to the Presidential Palace, featured in interviews and pictures in the newspapers and magazines. Every town and even the very smallest village has its own sports field, sports facility, swimming pool etc.

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