6 Finnish bad habits that should be banned immediately

Us Finnish people have a good excuse. It’s not so long ago we lived in the isolation of the forest, so it’s understandable if we’re yet to master textbook social skills, or we forget the little pleasantries that sweeten urban coexistence. Yet, I think we have a few national traits we can no longer get away with if we want to survive in this increasingly international and interactive world. I believe that these six quintessentially Finnish bad habits should be instantly banned and banished back into those forests (ok, no zebra crossings in the forest, but you get my point).

1. We’re mad about rules

Show me the Finn who crosses the road on a red light, even if there were no cars within a 10-mile radius. We always wear our seatbelts, put on our helmets, don’t smoke on communal balconies, don’t eat on the bus and don’t park outside other people’s gates.

We’re so virtuous…how could that possibly be annoying? Because it makes us into closet policemen! God have mercy on the person who cycles on the pavement or puts banana peels in the mixed waste container. Their mistake will be quickly pointed out to them, probably by the very next passer-by, and accompanied by the wagging finger. Stick to the rules or the wrath of the nation shall be upon you.

2. We moan because we can

Our life is, well, too easy. Despite tireless efforts by the conservative government to demolish it, we still have a welfare state that makes sure we rarely need to worry about things that really matter. We have a roof over our head, food on the table, no one is likely to point a gun at our family, and if we get sick, we can get well without breaking the bank.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m totally loving this. The downside is that it allows us to complain about the teeniest of things, and to do it with relentless passion. We can’t drink outside after 10pm because people complain about the noise. We moan about children shouting (or crying) in restaurants, about the neighbour’s unkempt garden that makes the entire block of flats look shabby, and the high pillows we had to suffer on our hotel mini-break. Shall we just stop?

3. We don’t buy rounds

When I moved to London as a student, I was astonished at how friendly everyone was. They bought me drinks all the time, and they didn’t seem to have a hidden agenda either. It took me months to realize that I was supposed to have bought drinks back at them. That the way things work is reciprocity. Back in Finland, I find myself on the other side, buying rounds of drinks and getting just a surprised thank you. Perhaps the trouble for us Finns, traditionally careful with our money, is that some nights you end up down on your cash. But hey, some nights you’ll be up, too. Generosity makes us all happy. Let’s give it a go!


4. We don’t ask questions

We’re not big on small talk, and I think I know why that is. Once upon a time in sales training, I was told to ask open questions. What, when, where, why. They keep the conversation going, and everyone, in the end, loves to talk about themselves. But us Finns, we don’t do questions, so the conversation ends. We don’t like to pry, we say. Maybe, just maybe, we shouldn’t think of it as prying, but rather as taking an interest in the person we’re talking to. Watch out, Kaurismäki, the new question-asking, small-talking Finn might just relegate your films to history!

5. We don’t stop at zebra crossings

Rules. Yes, we’re good at them, apart from this one. Zebra crossings are for zebras, not for cars to stop, and we have no zebras in Finland anyway. So what’s the point? When us Finns get in our cars, we become powerful. We’re no longer those pitiful creatures who have to respect authorities. Screw zebra crossings, screw pedestrians! We don’t stop for them because we’re stronger than them. According to official statistics, 31 pedestrians were involved in an accident on a zebra crossing last year. While this might not sound like much, we have to keep in mind that this is a fair share of Finland’s minute population! It’s about time we changed or our cars were burned in a big forest bonfire.


6. We let our dogs poo in the snow

When climate change doesn’t mess with our winters, they are simply beautiful. The glistening white blanket of snow helps us survive the darkest December days without descending into madness, but it also helps us sneakily hide our dog poo. Snow isn’t some magical powder that makes turds disappear, so in spring,
they appear again in all their stinking glory. I think I have just demonstrated habit number 2… you clearly can’t take Finland out of the Finnish girl!


In my dreams, the new Finns are admirable global citizens who obey rules when they matter and display flexibility when they don’t. They complain when life really treats them badly, but keep in mind how much better off they really are than, say, the Syrians they now take pride in welcoming into their huge, sparsely populated country.

The new Finns aren’t so worried about counting pennies and getting as much as they give, because what matters is that we share when we have something to share. In order to get to know someone new, or to cheer up a friend, they ask a simple question about how things are, and then follow it up with some whats, whens and whys. They let children cross the road safely, and to stop anyone moaning about first world problems, they pick up their dog poo in tiny little paper bags. It’s a beautiful future.

29 replies

  1. Lol! This made me laugh because it is soooooo true. For me number one is my worse. I would love to know why we love rules so much. Unfortunately even the bad ones!

  2. Buying rounds is a pretty great thing only problem is in Finland it costs so much you can only do once + if no one does it back you r broke. Answer is cheaper liquor then we all buy rounds all the tme

  3. 1. Finns may be mad about rules, but they don’t obey them most of the time. I would change this to ” Finnish authorities are mad about rules”.
    2. Everybody moans, not just Finns.
    3. We don’t buy rounds, because it’s illegal. According to law, one person is only allowed to buy one portion of alcohol at once. So yeah, buying rounds or even buying one extra for your pal is illegal and bars probably will refuse to sell you a round anyways. Plus it’s bloody expensive to do that.
    4. In what universe? Many Finns find conversations awkward, full stop. But that’s only half of the truth. I know many people who are able to keep conversation up for hours. So basically anywhere you go in the world, there are people who can keep up a conversation and people who find it awkward.
    5. Actually this has improved a lot in recent years. Last time when car stopped at zebra crossing and let me go over was yesterday. Happens a lot in our neighbourhood actually.
    6. Dog poo is a big problem, especially in spring time when the snow melts and the poop is everywhere, but the reason for this is inadequate laws about leaving the dog poop around. But it happens also during summer, not just winter. We need proper fining and surveillance for this, but local authorities are not interested because it’s not “big issue”. Well it could be big issue if they start fining it properly. For example in England they actually do fine you hardly if you don’t collect your dog poop.

    • This made me laugh out loud.

      “Finns may be mad about rules, but they don’t obey them most of the time.”

      Two sentences later.

      “We don’t buy rounds, because it’s illegal.”

      I think that says it all don’t you, Miisu?

      But don’t worry nobody is perfect 🙂

      • But you do know, Drew, that there’s actually a difference between rules and laws, right? I mean, even though there’s a rule of removing your shoes while entering a Finnish house, no one will arrest you if you ain’t do so 🙂

        • lol! Yeah, this is true but how many people have you ever seen arrested for buying a round? I’ve bought loads in Finland and never been hauled off by the plod or ever told by anyone it’s breaking any laws. And actually until now never heard of it being illegal. And if it is illegal it’s obviously totally unenforceable and therefore another ridiculously pointless law like so many Finnish alcohol laws.

          So, I think it’s actually more a cultural thing than Finns just obeying drinking laws.

  4. what a sneaky way to smuggle in climate change and the “syrian” refugees agendas

    the fact is only 20% of the refugees are syrians. and the reason why the media wanna incite talk about syrians is only so that we would go and invade them. the rest 80% are refugees from the many USA conquered countries, like iraq etc.

    “from the 213,000 april-may-june only 44,000 were fleeing the syrian civil war”

    with the rest totally agree, we finns are quite stubborn in our ways.

    • What a blatant way to showcase your ignorance and paranoia. Only paranoid right-wing nut jobs ignore the realities of man made climate change.

      Something backed up by your bizarre rant about refugees. The fact is it’s totally irrelevant where the tiny amount of refugees Finland has so nobly agreed to take in come from. A refugee is a refugee, as was demonstrated by Sweden when it took 70 000 Finnish refugees in WW2, without means testing their neediness.

      You seem to be confusing stubbornness with stupidity. Thankfully most Finns I know don’t.

      • There is a differnce if you come with your own money seeking refugee status and better welfare than if you flee to a neighbouring country and return once the war is over

  5. “In my dreams, the new Finns are admirable global citizens who obey rules when they matter and display flexibility when they don’t”

    I’ll think I’ll just ignore rules 1-6, since they don’t matter in the slightest. Have a nice life.

    • LOL! Crazy anarchist Finn! How you going to break habit number 1? By obeying all the rules? Dunno about a nice life, but you sure gonna have a confused one 🙂

  6. I get that this is humor, and sometimes we achieve humorous results by exaggeration, but this kind of stereotyping is a cheap and boring way of joke. Blatant stereotyping never helped anyone. We live in a very different kinds of Finland clearly.

  7. I agree with so much of this, im a Scotsman who has been made an adopted Finn by my friends and their friends and their friends, cause I pretty much do everything as a Finn would, my spoken Finnish is even with a regional dialect however I doo know many Fins who do buy rounds, I must just have very good Finnish friends.

    • Mostly the Finns used to be closet drinkers and the bottle had to be empty no matter how many were in the party. Social drinking among Finns is something new.

  8. Finns don’t drink and eat in buses? Are you sure? Do you even use public transportation? Never heard of that awful beer can opening sound from the backseats? Should I send you the pictures?

  9. Are you sure this list is about Finns and not about Germans? Because here in Germany, you will get tutted at or even yelled at for crossing a red light or using the wrong waste bin; and yet you’ll like will get run over by a car at a zebra crossing, because no lights = not a binding rule (in the mind of car drivers); making a noise louder than a fly after 10pm will prompt people to call the police; complaining is our national hobby, we’re unhappy if we can’t moan about something and will make something up if we have to; and I believe the Anglosaxon have coined to phrase “paying the German way” for our notorious quest to split the bill at the restaurant or bar. If we had snow (which, compared to Finland, we don’t), I’m sure our dog owners would use it to conveniently hide their dog’s poo under it, too.

    The only difference is number 4. We are far too curious and direct as to not ask questions. But apart from that, I think we may have some things in common.

  10. Buying rounds doesn’t work in Finland because some want 15 drinks on a bar night, whereas some have 2 or 3. When you go out in a group, half the people spend their night queing at the bar, drinking as much as possible and you don’t even get to talk to them.

  11. When your neighbor sees you use the elevator. He prefers to climb stairs even if lives in sixth floor .
    When they stand in a queue, there are usually at least two meters between them as if they hate each other.
    when you try for six consecutive months to contact the owners of apartments to rent an apartment and did not succeed because your tone and manner indicate that you are a foreigner and it’s could be done only by recommendation.
    Let us be realistic. Who said that people here are fond of the rules and laws, every day I see a lot of local citizens crossing the street while the traffic light is red. Throwing cans and bottles on the street
    When things went bad between me and my xwife due to her infidelity and she left the house , after that she came to take the rest of her stuff she came with a policeman of Swedish origin who told me that i wants to hold you in the toilet because your wife and her friend who were also of Swedish origin do not want to see you. even in a country like Iraq ruled by gangs and militias there is no policeman with such powers.
    When I was robbed and I lost power of attorney that could cause the ruin and loss of my whole life drudgery . The investigator told me that you must be patient and the case may take up to two years to be considered and no summons was issued against the defendant.
    When I once tried to contact the court to get a lawyer, the spokesman told me that we would not accept your case and I can not state the reasons
    When one asylum seeker live in spacious flat . two or three rooms & balcony because he always invite his social worker to taste his delicious native kind of food or take him to the restaurant while a family of 3 person live in studio with no privacy for parents
    When you are late for one minute they start to look at their watch or the clock on the wall maybe for no reason but just for annoying or insulting you and after that they try to be polite or nice I always resort to ignore them awkwardly .
    When you are lost and try to ask somebody to guides you to certain place and and you surprised that they look at you as a creature from the mars
    I was After strenuous efforts have succeeded teaching and convinced some of local people that buyig round is a nice Social custom and tradition all over the planet
    It’s very seldom that I have met a foreigner or any immigrant or refuge who didn’t expressed his deep regret for coming here one of them told me once (I should have been killed in my country to live like this life )
    This habits really need to be changed

    • Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Werner. I think we can safely assume that Anna at least speaks for a single Finn, herself, as much as you speak for a single dutchman, you. 🙂 Even in this day and age it’s still not possible to articulate the collective thoughts of 6 million people, and frankly, we doubt it ever will be. However, it is possible to express an opinion and that’s exactly what this article is.

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