lauantai 10. kesäkuuta 2017

5 Differences Between French & Finnish Culture

1. Personal space

In France cheek kisses are obligatory when greeting family, friends and even the colleagues at work. The French will never tire to discuss how many kisses are expected in the country's different regions as the number varies from two to even four. The subject is often a conversation starter when people coming from farther parts of France meet up.

As in Finland we have only in the past ten years started hugging people, such thing as approaching somebody else's than our lover's face with our own can be quite a shock at first. My husband has experienced this first hand as upon arriving to Finland the very first time he tried to approach a classmate to greet with cheek kisses. The poor girl packed up in horror.

The French are also in general more at ease with other forms of physical contact. Their way of interacting is so much more intimate than in Finland. I still sometimes freeze when someone touches for example my shoulder during a conversation. In my adaptation I am now somewhere in between Finland and France in this matter. I have no problem with the cheek kisses, but other, more spontaneous, physical contacts still feel a bit too much at times. It is funny though that when I visit Finland, it feels somehow wrong not to cheek kiss upon meeting.

2. Wearing shoes inside the house

In this the Finns and the Japanese are on the same page: one does not wear shoes in the house. In France it is common to do so. People don't wear shoes necessarily all the time indoors, but they will not blink twice if you do. In the beginning my Mother-in-law thought that I was just being too polite to keep my shoes on and she encouraged me to put them back. I had to explain that I just genuinely prefer being barefoot. 

I think this will be one of the things that are so deeply drilled in my code of conduct that it will never chance. Makes keeping the house clean so much easier! Everybody has by now gotten used to remove their footwear when they cross our doorstep.

3. Coffee consumption

The Finns consume annually 9.6 kilos of coffee per capita, which makes us the number one coffee drinkers in the world. The French are far behind as they consume 3.2 kilos per capita and thus hold only the 21st place on the list. As Norway is right behind Finland, we can make some assumptions of our long, cold and dark winters having something to do with our high ranking. In Finland social interactions revolve around coffee. When we ask someone out, it's always "To have a coffee." And that one cup turns into two, three...a beer. Tea drinkers exist, but everybody assumes that you must have some medical condition that prevents you from consuming the stronger stuff. 


The Finns consume generally filtered coffee, while a cup of coffee translates to the French as an espresso. Many Finns find the French counterpart too few in quantity, but also too strong and bitter. Personally, I much prefer the taste of espresso. So, what has happened is that I have quit filtered coffee for the thicker stuff which I still drink in the same quantity as I'm used to drink my coffee in Finland. Makes me a bit jittery at times, I agree...

4. Sweet vs salty breakfast

My husband said that he felt like puking when at 8 am I presented him for breakfast with my parents a salty fish cake. It makes me giggle as I think of his horror. My reaction to the French breakfast customs is not quite as extreme even if I don't quite understand them: nutella, sugary cereals and biscuits. Just thinking about eating so much sugar first thing in the morning makes me cringe. The only sweet things in the Finnish breakfast are orange juice and yogurt!

This is one of the very basic cultural differences in our international family that will likely remain unchanged. As I make oatmeal, I prepare mine salty and hubby's sweet.

5. Complaining

In France talking about everything that you find wrong about the world is completely normal and in fact, makes a great conversation. You get to let out some pressure and feel a sense of unity as others share your frustrations. Some even go as far as saying that the French have turned complaining into a form of art.

The Finns are quite the contrary in this matter. To the point that we have a saying, "kaatua saappaat jalassa", which means that you fall down with your boots still on. Meaning that you worked hard until the bitter end, without complaining or asking for help. It is seen honorable to take on all of the life's burdens without bothering others with your own problems. Complaining is also seen as a weakness and being ungrateful for the things you have.

Personally, I symphatize with the complaining French. Whining about things together can be so much fun and it is a very cheap form of therapy!

2 kommenttia:

  1. We have the same latent conflict at home (Latvia vs. Spain) about the shoes, the argument on his side is that the floors are tiles and not wooden. And he just does not have the urge to take of the street footwear the moment he comes in. I was oblivious to this cultural difference for years, until I bumped into this link: We share most of these, and I imagine that the Finnish do too

  2. Haha yes, in France also they have in general tile floors. This does not make a difference to me, even though tiles make me feel like I'm not really indoors. It is my dream that one day we will live in a place with wooden floors like in Finland! :D

    The Finns and Russians have some similarities in the cultures, but Finland is a bit of a weirdo as we are not clearly scandinavian nor slavic in our ways. Our culture is a mix of influences from both the west and the east. In the end not really fully identifying with either side :)