I Think I Might Be Part Finn

The Wall Street Journal’s A-HED story today was titled, “Small Talk Is Tough for Finns. So They’re Taking Lessons. ‘I Love Your Shirt.’”

As soon as I saw the headline, my first thought was that the Finns sounds like my kind of people.

The story notes that in Norway’s cafes, restaurants, buses, trains, and saunas, locals tend to avoid casual conversation. But with the economy continuing to globalize, Finns are brushing up on small talk. Some schools are teaching it and private tutors tout courses.

I was never aware that Finns were known for their reserved attitude, but I do find it appealing since my behavior seems to be similar to that of the Finns.

One Finn, a teacher, finds slightly absurd a suggestion he would greet a colleague more than once in the same day. I have the same thought when I see someone for a second or third time. If I’ve already said hello once, why is there a need to do so again?

When I do encounter someone for the second r third time over the course of the day, I feel pressure to come up with something clever each time. Of course, I never do. I am the master of  L’esprit de l’escalierwhich is a French phrase meaning “thinking of the perfect reply too late”.

Fortunately, the WSJ allowed comments for this article, so as you might imagine, there were some good ones:

  • how can you tell if a Finn is an extrovert — he looks at your shoes when he talks to you.
  • I wish my mother-in-law was from Finland…
  • Did you hear about the Finnish man who loved his wife so much he almost told her?
  • Two Finns are sitting at a table in a bar drinking vodka. Over the course of an hour, they polish off half the bottle. Then one Finn says to the other “Nice weather we’re having, eh?”. The other Finn scowls and says “Did we come here to talk, or to drink?”.

There’s even a cartoon web site dedicated to Finnish Nightmares (the photo at the top is from this web site).

Finnish Nightmares is described as stick figures who are “full of uncomfortable social situations.”

That seems to describe me when I find myself in such situations. When I do, I simply try to leave without saying goodbye to anyone.

That’s why I wonder if I’m part Finn, and if I am, maybe I’ll signup for one of the high school courses that teach how to have small talk.

I’m guessing the first night as such a school you could hear a pin drop.

In the meantime, to all my readers, “I Love Your ShiRT…”