Social Visits

Lecturers and researchers in particular may be invited into a number of Finnish homes and several advance pointers are worth knowing.

Finns are often characterized as being shy and reticent. True or not, Fulbrighters who take the initiative in making contacts and being the first to invite people over will have a much fuller life while in Finland.

Home

When visiting Finnish homes for the first time, it is customary to take small gifts to the hosts and their younger children. Usual gifts are flowers and chocolates, but you may wish to bring small American cookbooks or local memorabilia that do not take up much luggage space, yet convey a personal flavor of general Americana or the particular culture of your home region.

The home is to a great extent the focus of social life in Finland - to a greater extent at least than in countries where it is more common to meet over a meal in a restaurant. There are cultural, and also economic, reasons for this. A growing interest in cooking and wines has led to an increase in entertaining in the home. A foreign visitor need have no qualms about being invited into someone's home; s/he can expect a fairly relaxed and informal atmosphere, and bringing a bunch of flowers or a bottle of wine for the hosts will be appreciated.

It is customary to remove one’s shoes when entering a Finnish home. The reasons for this become obvious once the Fall rainy season begins, and winter confirms it. Because of this, you might want to take along a pair of indoor shoes to change into after removing your outside shoes. It all depends on the situation, so ask your host.

Children's Birthday Parties

If you have children, they may be invited to birthday parties. Balloons, local-imprint napkins, photo calendars, funny ballpoint pens, cartoon character pocket toys, and the like can easily be mailed in advance and may prove to be a highlight of parties to which your child is invited. Picture story books are popular for younger children.

Summer Cottages

A greater cultural challenge for the visitor is accepting an invitation to one of the innumerable summer dwellings that dot the seashores and lakeshores of Finland. One in four Finns owns a summer cabin, and for many, it is regarded as a second home. Sociologists like to explain that the summer dwelling is a tie that Finns maintain to their rural past; and it is true that many Finns transform into surprisingly competent fishermen, gardeners, farmers, carpenters or foresters when they withdraw to their summer homes.

A guest is not expected to take part in this role-play, at least not actively. On the other hand, he is expected to submit without complaint to the sometimes primitive conditions at the summer residence, since not all of them have electricity, running water, a flushing toilet or other urban amenities. Many families consider that even a TV set is incompatible with genuine summer cabin life.

A guest is expected to dress casually but practically when going to a summer cabin. The hosts will have rubber boots, raincoats and windcheaters that are worn as the weather dictates or when going fishing, picking mushrooms or walking in the forest. An experienced guest understands that under these conditions the hosts, particularly the hostess, have to go to a lot of trouble to give the guest an enjoyable stay. Help with routine chores is greatly appreciated: peeling the potatoes or the onions is a job the guest can safely offer to undertake.

The best reward for the hosts is that guests enjoy themselves, rain or shine. As for correctness, it would be polite for a guest to raise the question of departure at breakfast time on the third day, and only agree to stay longer if the hosts protest with particular conviction.