I had to laugh when I read about a Finnish guy who had to adjust to Finnish non-greetings after returning from abroad after a long time. In an article in the Helsinki Sanomat today, he decribes how in Germany everyone greets him while here in Finland he receives only a grunt if he engages someone. The man speaks truth.
The most common adjective in the media to describe the Finns is taciturn, which according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is defined as “temperamentally disinclined to talk”. This only tells a part of the story. To a foreigner not only are they not much into conversation, but they generally have an expression that looks like they just drank a bottle of castor oil. At least this is how the men look. As far as the women are concerned — well, the Sanomat once had a general section on the country in which it noted that Finland has the most beautiful women in the world. I can heartily agree; I married one of them. (I am sure after she reads this I will gain some brownie points.) The Sanomat also said about the men, “As for men, yes — we have them, too.” I think God had to give these guys beautiful, agreaable women because they are so surly. Now I have to say that I temperamentally fit right in with them.
My description of Finnish communication styles is really nothing new to those foreigners acquainted with the country. One French fellow I know told me recently that when he returned from vacation, he immediately encountered a Finn who criticized his Finnish. Another acquaintance from the Middle East once said that he knew he was back in the country when he arrived by boat from Estonia and saw all the glum looking people.
I think the Finnish guys are actually a little proud of their lack of verbal communication. And in reality, the people are talkative in the right atmosphere, do smile and can be friendly once you get to know them. They’re just a little shy.