maanantai 5. syyskuuta 2011

BFF #6: Friendly silence

This is a series called BeFriending Finland and it is about the oddities of Finnish culture and people. I hope you find it not only amusing but useful too. Here are links to parts #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5! Enjoy!

Today's topic came from a lovely German girl I met last Saturday. We had a good five minute conversation about Finnish sausages, which in German point of view taste more like bread. But besides talking about sausages she also shared some of her insights about our culture.

Apparently in Germany, the more close you get the more you talk. And if, God forbid, one didn't have anything to say to a close friend not to mention a spouse... well that's just a bad thing. Silence means one has run out of things to discuss about.

Kuva: daimalu

So when she came here, she tried to fill all the silent moments with just something. And she was surprised how much Finns can just be quiet with each other. It took her quite a while to realize that we see the silence-situation quite the other way round.

The closer you get, the easier it is to stay quiet with a friend. If one can be silent around a person, it means s/he feels comfortable around him/her. The silence no longer bothers and makes people feel awkward. Rather it becomes friendly, accepting, relaxed.

So if you can sit silent with a Finn, it is almost considered a compliment. It says: hey, you're nice, I feel relaxed around you. So relaxed that I do not feel like we need to talk constantly to be comfortable.

But do You consider silence friendly or awkward?

And stay tuned for more, coming up next: culture shock!

3 kommenttia:

  1. Interesting post!

    It's true that Finns have this very special meaning for silence, although perhaps all this globalization and cultural interaction has smoothened some of it out. It has even gone so far that now I frequently meet Finns who are not comfortable with silence. Holy cow.

    But, to add, I've found some subcultures inside Finnish culture. Just my personal observations though, I wonder if other people have noticed the same...

    Well, first, there's a difference between Northern and Southern approaches to silence. Although both populations have people who are eager to talk and skilled in language, I feel that the South has more of European taste into it.. I think that in the North, pauses are nearly always filled with meaningful small talk, like genuine interest in the subject that is discussed, or there is silence. And silence doesn't mean there's nothing to say, the meaning of it is more like "I'm thinking what you just said, let my subconsciousness think like.. half a minute.. And I might have something meaningful to comment on this." In South, surely there is small talk that has genuine content there, but silences are more often filled with small talk that has no content at all. Sure, there's a chance that I just don't get it or I'm just way too slow and deep thinking. And in all it's a blurred line here, if something has content or not, or if this phenomena is even true. It might be just my ongoing and never-ending culture shock here, being culturally more of a Northern person myself.

    Second, there's a difference between the young and the old. I feel that older people are, in general, more Finnish in the context of silence. Young have perhaps adopted some discussion habits from foreign cultures, perhaps via media, perhaps via other cultural interaction. Whatever the reason, I've met more young people than old who have trouble coping with silence.

    And third, there's a difference between cities (Finnish standards!) and smaller towns. In more rural areas you'll find people who appreciate silence, and are perhaps more used to it. Kids grown in cities have more of blabber around and less places for silence, so perhaps it's also affecting how these people react to silences in a conversation.

  2. Found this accidentally, on the same topic written a few days ago:

  3. Outi, what a coincidence! :D And what a great article! Totally recommend to read it.

    Voti, thanks for all that pondering. :) Great thoughts and I think you're quite right with your observations. It is true that our dealing with silence varies with areas, cities and age. But I think in any case our silce is still more friendly in general, even with urban, young people in Helsinki compared to that of other cultures. At least that's the image I get from the article Outi linked above.

    In any case I'd like to hear what you think of this!


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