5 Conversation Starters in Finland

To the student of the Finnish language, you’ve probably already realized that you have your work cut out for you.  Finnish is very difficult to learn for native English speakers due to its isolation from Indo-European languages.  In addition to this, outside of the classroom it can be hard to find anyone to practice your speaking skills with, as Finns have a reputation for being introverted.  But if you launch a conversation quickly about Finland and the Finnish culture, they will be pleased to hear a foreigner speaking their native language and more inclined to chat with you.

1. Avoid Small Talk.  To English-speakers, small talk is a socially acceptable way to begin a conversation and get to know someone.  To Finnish people, typically those from more traditional backgrounds who are comfortable with long stretches of silence and solitude, small talk is a painful process and can make them retreat from more interaction.  Alternatively, pick a subject that genuinely interests you and jump right in.

2. Ask Where You Can Try Sauna.  Sauna is a staple of Finnish culture, enjoyable in both the summer and winter.  Essentially, it is a traditional steam room created by water thrown on heated stones, and is a great way to get your circulation running as you sweat out toxins in your system.  Sauna culminates with a bracing roll in a snowdrift, or a plunge in a nearby lake if it happens to be summer.  If you mention interest in visiting one, you’re sure to draw even the most reticent Finn out of their shell.


3. Talk About Famous Finnish Musicians.  To such a taciturn culture, music is an important means of communication, and having knowledge of renowned singers and composers can be impressive.  Ask what their opinion is on world famous opera soprano Karita Mattila, or the orchestral composer-conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen.  Fans of operatic heavy metal will also find much to talk about, as Finland is the heartland of these, most notably Nightwish and Children of Bodom.

lapland4. Mention a Trip To Lapland.  Lapland, the subarctic region to the far north of Finland, is a beloved winter getaway for people of all ages.  Anyone who loves winter sports—hiking, cross-country skiing, ice-skating, snowshoeing—or simply have a desire to see the Northern Lights, owes it to themselves to visit Lapland at some point.  Finns are very proud of that region, and will be eager to give you advice on how to get there.

5. Ask About Finnish Achievements. Finns tend to resent the fact that their neighbor, Sweden, gets more credit for inventions and innovations with the non-Scandinavian world.  For example, Nokia is a Finnish company, and Linux was invented by a Finnish man, Linus Torvalds.  While they generally have a sense of humor about this, any Finnish person will be thrilled to educate you about their nation’s accomplishments.

While Finnish people can be quiet and reserved at first, with some perseverance and intriguing conversation topics, you will find them to be very warm and open-minded people.  Hone your Finnish skills by sending us an inquiry about lessons, or look into Finnish lessons in your area with Language Trainers.