8 things a Finn should, and should never say abroad

We’ve all had these moments, “what, did I say something wrong?”. It could have been something really innocent that is downright disgusting for someone else, but it also could have been something you didn´t say. A couple of pointers for your travels.

Things you should say:

1. Please. We are kind of like Klingons here. The Klingons don´t have a word for mercy, and us Finns don´t have the word “please” in that context. When you see a Finn demanding “beer” from the bartender, they’re most likely not being rude. They’re just doing it they only way they know how. We are learning, please be patient.

2. Good morning, thank you etc. in their language. Sure, you can say them in English, but take the effort to google a few key phrases in the language of the place you´re visiting. Not much of an effort, but makes the world of difference. Try it. And this goes for all the people everywhere, not just Finns.

Things you should never say:

3. Katso merta (look at the sea). Saying these two innocent words in Italy might get you a weird look from the locals. Or how would you feel, if you´d see a couple staring at the ocean, saying “dick shit”. (cazzo merda)


4. Hui! An involuntary reactionary word, used in a situation where, say a bird flies too close to your head. Perfectly usable in many countries, but bite your lip in Russia. There the word is very naughty, referring to man´s genitalia. Did someone laugh when you spilled some coffee in Russia? This should explain it.

5. Apuva/suut makiaksi/elämä on/a wink a wink…These are just a few examples of many catchphrases taken from Finnish comedy shows and commercials. When repeated enough times at a holiday resort, the locals catch on and start using them on other tourists. This is slightly charming, but oddly disturbing, especially if enough years have passed since the phrase´s expiration date. Also, don´t start chanting catchphrases anywhere ever. Please.

6. A bit of a stretch this one, but if you are a hardcore Charlton Heston-fan and visiting Greece, you might want to restrain yourself in public while enthusing about him. Heston means something like “shit on him” there. Just saying.

7. Talking about the country Nigeria in Finnish anywhere. Maybe a bit far-fetched too, but worth pointing out. The way we pronounce it, could sound like we were using a derogatory word about people of African descent.

8. This one doesn’t sound even remotely plausible, but is a true story nonetheless. A child was mimicking the siren of an emergency vehicle, “pii paa…”. A Greek person chuckled at this, and when an explanation was demanded (without using the word “please”), he explained that it sounds very similar to a word they use to describe fellatio. So…if you feel an urge to do an ambulance-impersonation in Greece, try to fight it.

Got more? Please share them with us.

24 replies

  1. For a French, “kippis” sounds like “qui pisse” = who is peeing
    For an English, “kippis” sounds like “keep piss”

  2. few Finnish words that may sound strange in Italian (better not use…)
    hamminkia / oh what the fuck ( minchia means dick)
    sukkia / suck if together wits katso wil sound like suck my dick

    • Trie. A friend told me they’d been hiking with Italian friends, when it started to rain and their feet got all muddy. Her boyfriend had said in Finnish: Katso sukkia! (Look at the socks!) Well, their Italian buddies had been somewhat amused…

  3. “Älä huuda” sounds like “Ala chuda” in Polish = Ala ( girl’s name) skinny.
    Lato = summer (in PL)
    matka = mother (in PL)
    molo = a pier ( in PL)

  4. When traveling to the Czech Republic even if it is quite a long journey it is better not to discuss it in Finnish. Two simple reasons pitkä is basically one of possible words for cunt in czech while matka means mother. Nearby sitting family can get easily offended ?

  5. Latvians are walking around the Helsinki market place and pointing fingers at some vegetables and shouting “paskat paskat” in their language it means “look” but in Finnish “shit”. So salesman starts to defend his products and shout “maukas maukas”, which means in Finnish “tasty” but in Latvian “whore”… ?

  6. Well, in Spanish there are several names and worss that may be misunderstood.
    – Marika (written as “marica”) it means “pussy” (hintti).
    -Asko (“asco”): disgusting thing (ällötys).
    -Timo: hoax (huijaus).
    -Paha (“paja”) : wank or jerk-off (runkku).
    And there are more. So pay attention.

  7. In Brazil we also have asco…
    Also finnish “perna”, in English “spleen” (baço), means leg 😀
    Porras means “cums” (porra in singular)
    We also have “merda” word.
    “Kuu” (moon) means cu, which is asshole (yes, every month is an “asshole” in finnish hahaha).
    Also “puuta” (trees) can be understood as “puta” (whore).
    “Karjala” (Carelia) reminds of “caralho” (dick).
    Saako for “saco” (sack, man’s balls).
    “Opinto” (study) for “the dick” :’D.
    And many others…
    Portuguese has so many fuck ups with finnish that it’s even difficult to list. Living here has been quite funny in general 😀 all the time something new appears.

    Not to mention “pussi” (bag) for English :’D

  8. I once heard a story of a Finnish family traveling on a bus in the US. Rest of the family was sitting in the back when the dad was still in the front. The boy of the family had something to say to his dad so he started shouting “FAIJA! FAIJA!” which made the rest of the passengers panic. They had some explaining to do that the slang word for dad in Finnish just happens to sound lime “fire” in English and they weren’t trying to prank anyone.

  9. In Canada an old Finnish maid was being yelled at on a regular basis by the lady of the house, and finally the old Finnish maid said “Ai kun akka kiljuu” .

    The lady of the house called the police and said “that old maid said she is going to kill me”. Lol!!

  10. Maukas ruoka (tasty food) means ‘whore’s hand’ in Latvian and maukas lohi (tasty salmon) means ‘dumb whores’. Also, kuusi sounds like k?sis ‘pubic hair’, but piste reminds of ‘pisties’, which is a very colloquial term for fucking. It’s real fun to study Finnish in Latvia 😀

  11. In spain you don’s want to say “saako olla teetä” as “saca la teta” means “pull out the tit.” Finnair flighs are funny for spannish!

  12. If you’re a Finn and planning to visit Romania never say that you would like Pulla with your coffee . Pula meas d*ck and it’s pronounced the same as Pulla.
    Also don’t give Romanians a weird look when they are telling you that pasca (paska in Finnish) is a traditional sweet bread made with sweet cheese and raisins for Easter.
    There. I think we are even .
    You Finns like to have Pulla with coffee, us Romanians prefer pasca for Easter.

  13. If you visit Albania , be careful not to say out loud :
    Kari : Even though its a common Finnish name , in albanian means dick
    Satama : The finnish word for sea port can be confused with a popular albanian swearing expression regarding someones mother

  14. Hui doesn’t work not only in Russia – means the same in Poland, so you way want to also remember that. And it gets worse – it doesn’t only mean a penis, but we also use it as a very offensive word to call someone – and I mean very, a lot more than “dick” or “dickhead” in English. So the most likely scenario is that the Polish person who hears you will think you’re offending them. So really, beware 😛

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