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The Finnish language is a Uralic language and it has several dialects, most of them mutually intelligible, so much so that they can be even considered accents. Nowadays, the dialects are separated into two large groups: The Western dialects and the Eastern dialects.
The Western dialect has several subdialects: Southwestern dialects, Tavastian dialects also referred to as Häme, the dialects of South Ostrobothnia, Middle, and North Ostrobothnian, and the Far-Northern dialects or Peräpohjola.
The Southwestern dialect is mainly spoken in the region of Satakunta in southwestern Finland. This dialect bears some resemblances with Estonian, also a Uralic language, and like Estonian usually, every ending vowel is lost, and words are shortened. For instance, tulisi (should) is pronounced tulis.
The Tavastian dialect, spoken in the region of Tavastia, is the most similar to Standard Finnish. Nonetheless, it does bear some slight vowel changes, such as the final vowel-ending diphthongs that have an open sound. It is the case of tie (road) that is pronounced as tiä, or kuolisi (would die) that is pronounced as kualis in this dialect.
Southern Ostrobothnian has a notable feature that sets it apart from the other dialects, the long “e” sound is changed in the 3rd person singular. For example, menee (goes) is pronounced menöö. This dialect also keeps an ancient “h” in words that no longer have it in standard forms, like the word saunaan (to the sauna), saunahan in
In the Middle and North Ostrobothnian dialects, however, vowel groups are differentiated. For example, maitoa (milk) is pronounced maitua, it also happens that a consonant is added and maitoa becomes maituva.
Far-Northern is a dialect spoken in “Santa’s home”, Lapland, have also kept the ancient “h” in some words, just like the South Ostrobothnian dialect, and in some cases, those who speak this dialect also lose the “a” vowel and saunaan is pronounced as saunhan.
The Far-Northern dialect has a subdialect, Meänkieli, that is spoken in Sweden and is categorized as a language in the country. It is also taught in some Swedish schools.
There is also a subdialect of the Western dialect, Ruija, that is spoken in Norway.
The Eastern dialect has two subdialects that have regional subdialects themselves: the Savonian dialects, and the South-Eastern dialects. Both subdialects of the Eastern dialect have a phonetic characteristic that sets them apart from the Western dialects, it is a palatalization denoted with a “j”. For example, the word vesi (water) is pronounced as vesj by speakers of these dialects.5 Those who speak one of the Eastern dialects also have a tendency to drop the “d” sound between vowels. It happens for example with the word kädet (hands) that is pronounced as something like käet. Additionally, consonants are lengthened between a short and a long vowel. For instance, taloon (to the house) is pronounced talloon.
The Savonian dialects are spoken in Savonia and also in other parts of Eastern Finland. These dialects have similar features to Southern Ostrobothnian. For example, the long “e” sound is also changed in the 3rd person singular.
The South-Eastern dialect is spoken in the southeast region of Finland, and also in North Karelia and Ingria in Russia. The most distinguishing feature of this dialect is the alteration of vowels through assimilation and diphthongization. An example of this is the word ruskea (brown) that can be pronounced as ruskee, ruskie, or ruskii by speakers of the Southeastern dialect.
Hei (Hello) is the informal way to greet friends and relatives. When greeting strangers or work colleagues it is best to use Hyvää päivää (Good day) or Hyvää iltaa (Good evening), depending on the time of the day.
Finnish people usually shake hands while smiling and making eye contact. The handshake is usually firm and brief. A slight nod of the head or even a bow indicates respect. It is not common for people to hug each other or kiss when greeting, not even to slightly touch the other parties’ arm or shoulder. Children are also supposed to greet with a handshake. When greeting a couple, the wife should always be the first to be greeted.
When you talk about Finnish Norms and culture, something that cannot be left out is Sauna. Finland is the country with the most saunas per capita, and they are a big part of Finnish culture. If a visitor is asked to join for a day at the sauna they must accept as it is generally a matter of pride for the hosts. It is not uncommon for informal business meetings to occur at saunas, either. Usually, men and women will use saunas separately, and yes, they do so nakedly sometimes. They are a place for relaxation and people are expected to stay there for at least a few hours.
Finns have a direct and straightforward communication style. Conversations are usually straight to the point. Small talk is avoidable and not particularly valued. Moments of silence are not unusual, and they are not seen as uncomfortable or negative. Interrupting someone while they speak is incredibly rude to a Finnish person, and they will patiently await their turn to speak (we can all learn something from the Finns here). Raising your voice while in public is seen as unpleasant or even threatening, and it is definitely rude and uncommon, as Finnish people are not known for displaying their emotions publicly.
In Finland, honesty is treasured and it is expected as well. Finnish people are very honest, and people are held to what they say. Verbal agreements are taken as promises and forgetting about them or failing to deliver may be seen as suspicious behavior by your Finnish acquaintances.
Personal Space and Touching
Personal Space is highly regarded by Finns. They value their personal space and privacy and because of that, it is important to keep some physical distance. Hugging, kissing, or touching are not unknown but are also not common ways to address people. It may happen between friends and family members, but even then, it is quite unusual. Generally, public displays of affection are not common.
Eye Contact and Gestures
Maintaining eye contact while talking is expected by Finnish people, it is seen as respectful. While having a conversation with someone it is rude to keep one’s hands inside the pockets.
Finnish Culture Reference Guide
Finnish is the official language of Finland, alongside Swedish. Around 5.5 million people speak Finnish around the globe. Even though most Finnish speakers live in Finland, the language is also spoken in various other countries in the world, like Sweden, Norway, Eastern Karelia and Ingria (in Russia), the United States, and Australia.