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The unwritten rules

One of fascinating things about other cultures is the exploration of different habits. This can be either fun or terrifying depending on how you experience it. More often than not it’s both. Today I like to compare the Dutch and Finnish ways. Although we have much in common there is some things that are simply different.

Kahvia ja Pulla

One of things I had to get used to in Finland was that in Finland you can’t drink coffee just like that. Something good (Pulla) always has to be accompany it. When offered a variety of goodies you are kind of expected to sample everything. That can lead to strange combinations. At parties a salmon cake with sweet strawberry cookies are no exception. Personally I would not think of offering both at the same time. In the Netherlands one does not offer salty things with coffee at all. Instead we ask another question to the guest.

Kahvia vai teeta?

Cookies

Cookies

Coffee or tea? You are expected to choose either one. You can also refuse, but that’s not a good option if you do that out of modesty. Your host will not ask again and you will not get your coffee. (this really happened at Utrecht university to a Peruvian girl. In her culture you are rude when you answer yes immediately. After several times being left without coffee she decided she could be rude among these barbarians herself). Also when you are offered coffee or tea you are not expected to ask for something (like beer or snapsi). Finns usually take the coffee, as do the Dutch. In fact both countries are competing for the honor of being world’s biggest coffee consumer. The Dutch being on top with just a slight margin. After coffee and tea are served your host will around with a bowl of cookies. These are usually of better quality you find in Finnish shops. You are expected to take only one (except when you are a kid). When ready, the bowl is put on the table. You can take another after a while with your second coffee if you feel like it.

Rude or straight forward?

The diplomatic scale

The diplomatic scale

So many unwritten rules for drinking coffee or tea. And that while the Dutch usually pride themselves in being straight forward. The Finns usually don’t have a problem with that although the orientation is a bit different. Finns don’t pretend. If they feel lousy, they are not putting on their best smile. We Dutch value that. But when discussion erupts we behave differently. Finns usually are shying away in order to avoid conflict. Dutch people revel in it. In Finland you don’t let yourself being provoked when you are provoked, but the Dutch take that to another level. In the Netherlands you don’t take it as insult when you are insulted. From the Dutch you get immediate feedback when your speech stinks, your choice of clothes is lousy or the hair color you took is really for those under age. Finns are often scared off, when this happens to them. It is one thing to speak your mind in Finland, it’s another to say something negative to someone else. It is to the Dutch living here awkward when their straight forwardness is not met a similar response. They expect feedback in whatever form like they would get from another Dutchie. Then it does not come. The Finn is not provoked (or at least very hard trying not to). Lack of feedback. That’s something we in the Netherlands are not used to. In Finland you might take it as a hint you have gone too far. Stepped on the wrong toe. But reading that sign takes some practice. You can do a lot of damage before you notice the consequences. By that time you are excluded from the group. People have made arrangements without you knowing. You are out! That’s not beneficial. Neither to the Finns as to the Dutchie in question. It’s for reasons like this that migrants have clubs which brings people like themselves together. It is not meant to separate them from society. It is meant to make integration smoother.