keskiviikko 20. huhtikuuta 2011

BeFriending Finland #1: Personal space

Despite the recent developments in our political field (the extreme nationalist party becoming the third biggest party in Finland) there’s still lots of people who actually like foreigners and want to welcome them to our country. But us Finns, like any other people, have our own peculiarities. Since there are so many foreigners in Finland and so many Finns in other countries, I hope this series of blog posts will be useful. And entertaining too! With no further intro I want to introduce you the first part of BeFriending Finland.

In Finland we have this thing called personal space. And we need lots of it. As you know, Finland is in the north of Europe and there’s only so much as 5 million people living here. That’s pretty few considering how big our country is. As we have been living here for quite some time we have developed ourselves a need of personal space.

When you come to Finland you will pretty soon run into the personal space issue. When waiting for bus, we stand at the opposite sides of the bus stop, if possible. In lunch cafeteria we sit at other end of the table. And if you go to any event you’ll find out that people fill the place (not logically, no, but) one in every three seats. It makes only sense in the context that we are so used to having space around, we tend to keep it that way as long as possible.

So if you go and sit next to a Finn, s/he might look at you with a “who the hell are you” -look on their face. But don’t be alarmed. In most cases they don’t mind. They just aren’t used to that. In fact, I think it would be brilliant, if all the foreigners in the world would teach us how to diminish the personal space so that it wouldn’t be so impossible to sit next to a stranger.

On the other hand, as we tend to keep strangers at least an arm's lenght away, the ones we let to get closer must be somehow special. So if you're lucky enough to be allowed to a Finn's personal space you ought to feel at least a bit proud. :)

Have you been to Finland? Did you notice the need for space? How much space do you need in your own country?

No matter what the politicians say, I say: welcome to our country! And stay tuned for more. Coming up next: shoes.

5 kommenttia:

  1. Excellent post Aliisa! You discovered the very essence of the Finnish nature, and it just occured to me that this issue may be the one that holds me back in many daily situations.

    For all the non-Finns reading this, once you get closer to a Finn, there's a good chance you'll get a friend for lifetime :)

  2. Thank you, Juuso. :) I think the way we are used to behave and act around people does indeed have a huge effect on us on daily basis. I think we have lots to learn from other cultures of how to be more open and friendly towards people we don't know. It happens one thing at a time, at it's own pace. But luckily we can learn. :)

  3. That is so true! When i went to exchange studying to Italy, it took me some time at first to make my personal space smaller and to give cheek kisses to everyone. For the first weeks i just wanted to say to everyone "stay away from me, i'm finnish!" But of course i didn't, because it would have been very rude..

  4. Laetitia, I had the same experience while studying in England. It is funny to recognize those things we take for granted, like space. But it can be very hard to adjust and therefore it would be kind for people to recognize that some cultures are a bit more reserved. We learn, but we learn slowly. :)

  5. You like space its true, but in the sauna, its no problem for six sweaty men to sit cheek to cheek (bum cheeks). After a few beers, you get close too. You like space, but love closeness or after 14 years have i read you all wrong?


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