Before coming to Finland, I talked with several people, how my exchange in Finland could be and what kind of people and environment I should be expecting. One common point, which everybody always mentioned, was, that Finnish people are quiet. They do not like to speak, and they are shy. I thought that it will be a challenge for me because I am talkative and open minded. I start talking to a lot of people in every situation in my life. With this prejudgment I took my plane and was curious to meet these silent people in Finland.
When I arrived at my home in Jyväskylä, I saw a Finnish man and I greeted him friendly “Good evening”, but he did not answer. It was the first day of my experience, so I did not think longer about it and moved into my apartment.
In the following weeks I met a lot of different people from all around the world. I recognized often that I am living in Finland, but I did not have a lot of contact with Finnish people. I met them at the bus station, in the supermarket or in a restaurant, but I did not have a conversation with them. Even if I greeted them, they did not greet back. My prejudgment started to come true.
Another fact, which is important to mention at this point is, that due to the current Covid-19 situation you should keep distance to foreign people. You should avoid contact, not speak and you are wearing a mask all the time.
One day we went to a common sauna turn in our student village. They are available every day in different buildings and belong to the Finnish everyday habit. We met two Finnish girls and started talking to them. We had a really good conversation about their and our studies, about Finnish traditions and they gave us some advice on what to do in Jyväskylä. I thought that we had such a good conversation, as all of us are students and are living in the student village. We were having some common points to start a conversation and are approximately in the same age as well as in the same phase of our lives. These facts make it easier to start a conversation.
Another day in winter we went to a public sauna, which is located in the city center of Jyväskylä. We were sitting in the sauna and behaved as we would do it in Switzerland. We were quiet, keeping distance and relaxing. As soon as some Finnish people arrived, they were talking together a lot and really loudly. I was surprised by this fact. They started talking to us, as usual first in Finnish. We told them, that we are not able to talk Finnish and asked if they speak English. We changed the language and had a good small talk together. They gave us some advice on what to do and to see and they were really interested in our culture and our home country.
In Switzerland the sauna is a silent place to relax and it is even impolite to speak together. However, we speak on the street, in the bus or in an elevator and we speak to strangers too. For sure not as openly as for example in southern countries, but more than Finnish people.
In Finland sauna is the place to be. It is the space to meet, to talk, to drink a beer and to eat an orange. Finnish people speak a lot with their close friends or family, but not to strangers on the street.
I never thought about it before, but I think, that every culture has its place to talk together and to meet people.
From now on I will be aware of this fact and want to get in touch with other cultures to know where they meet to talk.