Why may Ukrainians think of Finnish people as unfriendly?
I oftentimes hear from the internationals in Finland that it might be not so easy to make friends with the locals. Indeed, for quite some time after I moved to Finland, I couldn't get rid of a feeling that people around are not that much interested in becoming friends with me. Later I concluded such an impression can be created by a number of unique traits of the Finnish culture and has nothing to do with unfriendliness.
As is my tradition, I am sharing three items on the topic. Hopefully, my experience will help your adaptation go smoother.
Once I asked my friend, who came over to see me, if she liked my soup. The answer was: it's ok. That was said in a rather cold tone and with a stone face. I was really upset, having decided that my friend didn't like my soup at all. It turned out, however, that the soup was highly appreciated. Little did I know that the Finnish people seldom use such words as amazing and wonderful. In addition Ukrainians as Southerners tend to have more vivid facial expression.
— Would you like me to make you some coffee? — Thank you! I can do it myself. In Ukraine we love doing small things for each other thereby showing affection. That's why the Finnish desire to make their coffee themselves can be perceived as reluctance to become closer. In my opinion, the true reason is the difference between collectivist and individualistic cultures, on which subject quite a lot of information is available out there in Google, for example here and here.
The Finnish are often silent, reluctant to make small talk, and tend to get down to business ASAP. Once I wrote a letter to a potential employer and asked my teacher to edit it. I was really surprised to find out that quite a few phrases e.g. "thank you for considering my application", "I would like to ask you a couple of questions regarding..." were crossed out as unnecessary. These phrases don't really have any substantial meaning. In our culture they are used to express respect and interest. In Finnish culture respect is shown by succinctness - the shorter the letter the more time is spared from work for enjoying life.
Of course, the three items I have just shared with you are rather tendencies than rules of thumb, and there can be exceptions. For fairness sake my next article will be about why Ukrainians may seem unfriendly to the Finnish people. For now I am wishing for you to be surrounded by wonderful and inspiring people no matter where you are!
By Daria Zubar,
poet, singer, composer, blogger,
author of project L2B