Relationships are complicated at the best of times but things get even trickier when you are courting someone from another country. On that note, here is my guide to win the frosty heart of a Finn.


    1) Save your words!

Have you ever seen an Aki Kaurismäki film? Fifteen-minute scenes of complete silence are often thought of as artistic by foreigners, when, in fact, they are actually realistic depictions of Finnish culture. For a small talk-loving Brit this silent treatment might be a bit much. The best thing to do is to simply join in and save words for the moments that matter, which is at the altar if everything goes well for you two.


2)    But open your mouth!

If you date a Finnish person, you are fed various disgusting foods which you, as a polite Brit, will feel compelled to try, so you might as well open wide. How about some ‘liver box’, a floury liver casserole featuring raisins?


3)    Three little words

Finns have a hard time saying ‘I love you’ and for Brits who use the word ‘love’ three times a second to describe their emotions towards various things and as a pet name, this reluctance is best described with the following anecdote: My Argentinian landlady told me a joke where an elderly Finnish lady asks her husband why he never tells her he loves her and his response is that he did so 60 years ago when they got married, and as this hasn’t changed, why should it be said yet again? The best part of this anecdote is that while the representative of a culture of fiery passions had a hearty laugh, I didn’t even realise she was joking. It made sense.


4)  We’re just friends

While I’m on this, don’t be offended if your Finnish partner doesn’t come across as the most romantic of them all. There is a chance that it has very little to do with you. As a land of little talk and few gestures, romance doesn’t come to us easy. Don’t be offended if you don’t receive a Valentine’s card either, as Finns recognise this as ‘Friends’ day’, celebrating friendship rather than romantic relationships.


5) You love me, you love my land

This isn’t as much about Finns, than dating as a foreign person. You should keep things in proportion. By all means embrace the other culture as that’s an inseparable part of your partner’s personality in terms of life experiences and values, but don’t fall for the idea of someone ‘exotic’ or just having a foreign partner. That just turns a person with feelings and thoughts into a trophy and is just a form of racism disguised as affection.


6)    We doing this or what?

Finns are a very matter-of-fact and for Brits who go out of their way to avoid even a faint possibility of social awkwardness this will be either charming or terrifying. On the plus side this removes any ambiguity during that awkward crush stage. If a Finn has their eye on you (pun not intended), trust me, you will know.


7)    Language of love

I’m not saying you need to be fluent Finnish speaker but it does make a difference if you are able to understand some words and sentences, as it shows you respect your partner’s native language. (At least you’ll know when they are badmouthing you to their mum.) It’s also a health and safety measure. If you are having a conversation with a future father-in-law and he starts using multiple rrr’s in the word ‘perkele’, this is your cue to run.


8)    Let’s play!

Remember how I told you about Alias, the game where you are supposed to describe a word without actually saying it? Well, as the other half of a relationship with foreign interests you get to play this game all day, every day, especially when your second-language significant other is tired or frustrated to begin with. Enjoy!


9)    Hope you like coffee

You laugh now but, in Finland, coffee serves the same purpose as putting the kettle on. When it’s a celebration, you have coffee. When it’s not, you have coffee. When you come home, you make ‘home coffee’ even if you just had some because coffee at home is always better. We rule the coffee-consumption statistics with our eight to nine cups a day and as most Finns will look at you strangely if you ask for tea, you might as well forget sleep if you want to melt the icy hearts of your Finn-in-laws.


10)  How’s your sauna?

Things might heat up, but not in the way you were hoping for. There are more saunas in Finland than there are Finns, and there is no getting away from one for a foreigner. Too shy? Too bad! Swimsuits and towels are rarely used and it’s more than likely that you’ll end up in sauna with your significant other’s family as sauna has served as a place of bonding and important negotiations for hundreds of years. Just close your eyes and think of England!