Finland is an amazing country with a wonderful culture. But Finns are also pretty weird.
If you come from another country, you might be shocked by some things that are normal here in Finland. Don’t ask me why everything is this way… it just is!
Here are 10 things that might be weird to you but normal in Finland.
10 Weird Things in Finland
1. Getting naked
Sauna culture is almost holy for Finns. And the best way to enjoy the sauna is naked. Finnish people are generally very comfortable and open to being naked and don’t get shy about it.
For example, everyone in the changing room will be naked when you go to a public swimming pool. Even if the facility cleaner is a different gender, they’ll just come in and do their thing—nakedness is no problem.
2. Gambling in public
Finland is one of the only countries where gambling is OK in public places such as supermarkets or gas stations. There are state-operated gambling machines in many public areas. The cool thing about this is that the money actually supports many significant initiatives such as science, arts and culture, sports, war veterans, and youth.
The good thing about it is that the money goes to a good cause. The negative thing is that many people (about 3% of the population) have a gambling problem, even addiction. To help combat the gambling issues, they’ve made it harder for people under 18 to gamble by developing an app that verifies your age.
3. Never using cash
Depending on where you come from, you might be surprised that no one really uses cash in Finland. Most people use debit or credit cards—some places don’t even accept cash. In addition, the use of cash is declining all the time. That said, it’s always a good idea to have some cash on hand in case the card system goes down.
Especially when Finnish banks started to support Apple & Google Play, I even stopped carrying my wallet with me, because I can quickly pay using my phone.
4. Crazy Finnish sports
There are some exciting sports here in Finland. None of them are common everyday sports, but we still love to watch and cheer on those crazy Finns who want to participate! Here are a few examples:
- Wife-carrying world championship: Carry a woman through an obstacle course
- Boot-throwing world championships: Throw a boot as far as you can
- Lake floorball
- Football world championships in mud
- Air guitar world championships
- Naked 10km run
5. Can’t buy alcohol after 9:00 p.m.
There are several restrictions on alcohol in Finland. For example, you can’t buy alcohol products between 9:00 p.m.-9:00 a.m. in the grocery stores. The self-scan checkouts won’t let you buy it, and the alcohol is usually locked up and inaccessible.
State-run alcohol stores (Alko) are only open until 9:00 p.m. on weekdays and close at 6:00 p.m. on weekends. So, if you’re going to a party—plan ahead!
6. Tax information is public
Here’s something crazy—you can call the tax office and find out how much your friends and family make! Tax information is public, so everyone has access to this information.
The tax office will annually send a list of high earners to the media, who publish articles about it to the public. It’s even got its own name—tax porn. Everyone loves knowing how much everyone else makes.
There are benefits to this system, though. It promotes transparency and decreases corruption. And, if you’re applying for a job, you can know what the fair market salary is for it.
7. Swedish is everywhere
Back in the day, Finland used to belong to the Swedes. Still, to this day, Swedish is the second official language of Finland, and you can see it all over Helsinki (i.e., street names). All street signs have both Finnish and Swedish names.
8. Finns don’t need formal addressing
Finnish working culture is casual and laid back, so there’s no need to use surnames or proper titles. It’s a flat hierarchy, so everyone is equal and on the same level. Whether it’s a colleague, boss, professor, or client—you can call anyone by their first name. Finns don’t believe in a strict hierarchy.
9. “Thanks for not driving over me!”
Finnish drivers will always stop and wait for you if you want to cross the street at the crosswalk. Then, the pedestrian will often give a little wave—”thanks for not driving over me!”
This is a sign of the respectful Finnish culture, especially the driving culture. In Finland, there isn’t really any crazy driving or road rage. Everyone follows the traffic rules, and it’s a safe place to drive.
10. Abloy lock system
This is the dominant system in Finland, so all front entrance doors have the Abloy lock. You need to learn how to use it, so you don’t lock yourself out. You can lock the door without your key, so always check your pockets before leaving the house.
What do you think? Are these weird Finnish things the same in your culture or different? Finland is a wonderful country to live in and explore, but we definitely have some quirky aspects you need to get used to. It’s one of the things I love so much about living here.
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