Part II: Finnish language vs cultural behavior

Finnish flag

I like to think that a language also translates cultural behaviours.

For instance, the formal mode is rarely used in Finnish. Whereas in French, it is used in almost all cases except for your friends and close family. (My brother in law still uses the formal mode with my parents.) I like to interpret the lack of formal mode in Finnish as an illustration of the flat hierarchical structure of the Society. In general, small talk and big rhetoric are less appreciated in Finland. Communication patterns are rather simplified and direct. In Finland, you are being polite by saving other people’s time meaning avoiding small talk.

“Hän” in Finnish means “she” and “he” at the same time. Feminine & masculine forms do not exist in Finnish. Is it a coincidence that Finland ranks in second position worldwide in terms of gender equality ? (Reference: World Economic Forum Gender Report 2012)

Finnish is a very precise language as well. No time is wasted beating around the bush. The noun’s ending defines if you are inside the place: “Saunassa” or around it going inside soon: “Saunalla” for instance. Therefore, there are 10 different grammatical cases to know: nominatiivi, genetiivi, akkusatiivi, partitiivi, inessiivi, elatiivi, illatiivi, adessiivi, ablatiivi, allatiivi. (Imagine that German language has 4 and it is already a headache)


Je me plais à penser que les langues traduisent des comportements culturels et sociaux.

Par exemple, le vouvoiement est rarement utilisé en Finnois. En Français, on s’en sert dans presque tous les cas sauf entre amis et famille proche. (Mon beau-frère vouvoie toujours mes parents.) J’aime interpréter l’absence de vouvoiement en Finnois comme une représentation de l’organisation hiérarchique horizontale de la société par example ou encore le fait que les gens prônent un discours minimal. Les Finlandais n’apprécient pas les pourparlers, les échanges de banalités et les grands discours. Le mode de communication est simplifié et direct. En Finlande, économiser du temps aux autres en evitant les longues introductions et petites conversations est une forme de politesse.

“Hän” signifie à la fois “elle” et “il”. Les formes féminine et masculine sont inexistantes en Finnois. Est ce une coincidence avec le fait que la Finlande est classée deuxième pays au monde en termes d’égalité homme – femme? (Reference: World Economic Forum Gender Report 2012)

Le Finnois est une langue très précise. Pas de temps perdu à tourner autour du pot. La fin du nom détermine si l’on se trouve à l’intérieur d’un lieu couvert: “Saunassa” ou aux alentours planifiant de s’y rendre bientôt: “Saunalla” par exemple. Par conséquent, il y a 10 cas grammaticaux différents à savoir: nominatiivi, genetiivi, akkusatiivi, partitiivi, inessiivi, elatiivi, illatiivi, adessiivi, ablatiivi, allatiivi. (Imaginez que l’Allemand en a 4 et c’est déjà la galère)


5 thoughts on “Part II: Finnish language vs cultural behavior

  1. It’s said that when you learn Finnish, you need to learn 2 different languages: the written one and the spoken one – which is quite true! When I see my boyfriend texting or talking with his friends, there are no way for me to understand. But the elderly people tend to speak more formally and slowly. So I think it’s good to practice Finnish with elderly people than with the young 🙂

    • I think that You are right. Even we Finnish have problems to understand those living In Western regions or those who live on Eastern regions. Then comes the slang used on greater Helsinki area. This slang changes during the years.

  2. The formal form, or “teitittely” in Finnish, was still quite normal before the 70’s. It was gradually dropped in the process of Americanizing our country… Through TV and media. Sort of sad, I think. Elderly people are still ok with “teitittely”, while younger generations cannot do it anymore. However, it’s still considered polite to use the formal form especially when addressing the elderly.

  3. Hello!

    I´ve read your posts about Finnish language.
    It`s wonderful that you´re interested in it. Still I noticed one little mistake. There aren´t 10 cases but 15 in Finnish language.
    Nevertheless you have done a really great job and I´m looking forward to read some new writings about your thoughts of Finnish language, culture etc.

    Wishing you all the best,

  4. Hei,

    I just found your blog and it really made my day! Good points and very interesting aspects. Some of your posts about finns and finnish culture made me smile – even lauhght a little – so true they were!

    Keep up the good blog, this finnish girl’ll definitely follow!:)

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