The Republic of Finland is the most sparsely populated country in the European Union with its 5.5 million people. The capital city is Helsinki and the native language is Finnish, a Finno-Ugric language related to Estonian. The second official language is Swedish which is spoken by a 5.5 per cent minority. Most Finns are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (81%).
Finland joined the European Union in 1995, and the currency is Euro. Finland has been ranked the second most stable country in the world and it ranks high in public education, health care, rate of gross domestic product, high-technology manufacturing and the protection of civil liberties.
The school year starts in early August. There is a short autumn break in October, and a two-week holiday at Christmas. In late February there is a one-week spring break, and a four-day Easter holiday. The school year is over by the first week of June.
Table manners are European. Breakfast can be quite substantial. Lunch is usually eaten before noon, and evening meals at home are eaten around 17.00-18.00.
TIPS FOR FOREIGNERS
DON'T MIND THE GAP
A Finn is not bothered at all if there are breaks in a conversation: silence is regarded as a part of communication. Finns have a special attitude to words and speech: they will carefully consider what they say and expect others to do so too. People are held to what they say; verbal agreements and promises are considered binding. However, given the right situation, Finns can also be very talkative and they do have a good sense of humor.
EMBRACE THE TREES
A staggering 70% of Finland's land area is forests. For some visitors the amount of trees and lakes can be unnerving, but Finns are emotionally connected to the countryside and nature.
LOSE THE SHOES
When entering a Finnish home, you are expected to leave your shoes in the entrance hall. If this sounds unnatural, bring a pair of slippers along.
ENJOY THE HEAT
Almost every Finnish home has a sauna, and Finns bathe in their saunas at least once a week. Finns usually realize that it's not easy for foreigners to sit naked in a steaming hot room side by side, and they understand if you want to wear a bathing suit.
TAKE IT EASY
During the dark and cold winter season Finns don't go out much in the evenings. It is, after all, dark and cold outside, so they prefer to stay indoors. You don't see hundreds of Finns getting together and chatting at a town square or park like people do in Southern European countries. But still, they don't isolate themselves: young people often meet in each other's homes or cafés, and most youngsters have a hobby or two to keep them busy in the evenings.
Hello! – Hei! / Terve! / Moi!
Bye! – Moi! / Heippa!
Yes. – Kyllä. / Joo.
No. – Ei.
Thank you. – Kiitos.
You're welcome. – Ole hyvä.
How are you? – Mitä kuuluu?
I'm fine, thanks. – Kiitos hyvää.
Excuse me... – Anteeksi...