Embracing the Finnish Culture: Exploring Its Intricacies and the Challenges for Foreign Individuals

Published: June 28, 2023
Author: Heidi Uskaure
”Hey there, I'm Heidi! I launched this blog back in January of 2023 and I'm having a blast writing in a laidback style. Although, my ultimate goal is to become a pro writer one day. Thanks for joining me on this journey!”

Finnish culture has captivated people’s imaginations worldwide with its rich traditions and unique way of life. From its stunning landscapes and Nordic design to its sauna culture and distinct culinary delights, Finland offers a treasure trove of experiences. However, for foreign individuals, assimilating into Finnish culture can present certain challenges. In this article, we delve into the intricacies of Finnish culture and shed light on the difficulties foreigners face seeking to become a part of it. #FinnishCulture #Integration #EmbraceDiversity


Finnish Cultural Characteristics:

  • Reserved and Introverted Nature: One of the defining traits of Finnish culture is its reserved and introverted nature. Finns value personal space and privacy, often preferring solitude and tranquillity over excessive social interactions. This cultural characteristic can make it challenging for foreigners to establish close relationships and integrate into Finnish social circles.
  • Importance of Silence and Nature: Finland’s awe-inspiring natural landscapes significantly shape the country’s culture. Silence is cherished and respected, with nature as a refuge for many Finns. The embrace of outdoor activities, such as hiking, camping, and berry picking, is deeply ingrained in Finnish culture. For foreigners unfamiliar with these customs, adapting to the importance placed on nature can present a barrier to integration.
  • Sauna Culture: The sauna holds a revered place in Finnish culture, serving as a social equalizer and an essential part of daily life. The sauna experience can be intimidating and unfamiliar for foreigners, involving nudity and communal bathing. Understanding and participating in this traditional ritual can significantly challenge those unaccustomed to Finnish customs.

Finnish Language Barrier: The Finnish language, belonging to the Finno-Ugric family, is notoriously difficult to learn for non-native speakers. Mastering Finnish can be daunting with its complex grammar, extensive vocabulary, and distinct phonetic structure. The language barrier can create difficulties in various aspects of life, including finding employment, establishing social connections, and navigating everyday situations. While many Finns speak English proficiently, particularly in urban areas, learning Finnish remains crucial for meaningful integration.

Social Circles and Networking: Finns tend to form tightly-knit social circles, relying on existing connections and established relationships. This can pose challenges for foreigners seeking to build a social network. Breaking into established groups may require patience and persistence. Engaging in activities, joining local clubs, and participating in community events can help bridge the gap and create opportunities for meaningful connections.

Cultural Sensitivities and Communication Style: Understanding Finnish cultural sensitivities and communication styles is paramount to successfully integrating into Finnish society. Finns often value directness, honesty, and straightforwardness in their interactions. Small talk may be minimal, and personal boundaries are respected. Foreigners may find it challenging to interpret and adapt to these communication nuances, leading to potential misunderstandings and difficulties in building relationships.

Overcoming Challenges and Embracing Finnish Culture:

  • Language Learning and Cultural Immersion: Taking the time and effort to learn the Finnish language demonstrates a genuine commitment to understanding the culture. Language courses, exchange programs, and immersive experiences can help foreigners overcome the language barrier and foster meaningful connections with Finns.
  • Cultural Awareness and Respect: Cultural sensitivity is crucial when navigating Finnish social norms. Knowing Finnish customs, traditions, and etiquette can help foreigners avoid unintentional cultural missteps. Respect for personal space, the environment, and Finnish cultural practices can contribute to a smoother integration process.
  • Active Participation in Community: Activities Engaging in community activities, such as volunteering, participating in local festivals, or joining hobby groups, provides opportunities to interact with Finns and forge connections based on shared interests. Actively seeking out and participating in these activities can help break down barriers and facilitate integration.


The conclusion from my perspective

As you set foot in this land of “sisu” and saunas, remember that embracing the intricacies might feel like trying to crack the code of a Finnish riddle. The Finnish culture offers a unique and enriching experience for foreigners willing to embrace its intricacies. While it may be initially challenging to assimilate into Finnish society, understanding the mysterious and reserved nature, language barrier, social dynamics, and communication styles can help mitigate the difficulties.

To truly embrace the Finnish experience, dive headfirst into our culture. Immerse yourself in sauna sessions, where nakedness is as natural as breathing and where bonding over birch branches is a thing. Engage in winter sports, where gliding on frozen lakes is a national pastime, and it’s perfectly acceptable to fall flat on your face (it happens to the best of us). Join local festivities, indulge in mouthwatering cuisines like reindeer stew or squeaky cheese, and dance like nobody’s watching at Midsummer celebrations.

Remember, dear foreigner, the road to integrating into Finnish society may be paved with peculiarities, but fear not! With an open mind, a willingness to adapt, and a touch of humour, you’ll unlock the hidden treasures of Finnish culture.

Are you a non-native resident residing outside your country of origin?  I intend to author narratives depicting individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds on my blog.

If you are inclined towards such content and want to be featured here, I cordially invite you to initiate contact with me without hesitation.
You can email me info[at]heidiuskaure.com

Be kind & don’t go changing,
x Heidi
A Finn that celebrates diversity 💛





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