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Bertolt Brecht famously quipped that the Finns are the only people in the world who could be silent in two languages. He obviously hadn't heard their playful English. Most of Finns learn englantia for nine years in school and many at least throw in Swedish to even further tangle their tongues. But even with all this study there's a few interesting cross-cultural quirks when Finns take on English.

First up, for example. Finns use 'for example' in such odd ways that I'm beginning to wonder if it has any meaning. If you ask for a brochure in a tourist office 'for example' might be used to stall for time while someone looks under the desk for more. I was asked recently "Would you like you coffee with, for example, milk?" I was left wondering if it was an "example milk" I might be testing for them.

In Finnish repeat words for more impact, so you might say hello twice with "Hei hei" or double the gratitude with "kiitos kiitos". This means that in English, Finns will lean towards expressions like bye bye, goody goody or other repetitions. It's actually rather endearing after a while.

Finally, there's the famous ability of Finnish women to speak when they inhale. I've heard this several times and it's usually just a one syllable word like "yes" but some champions can actually do it mid-sentence. Certainly not being able to stop talking long enough to take a breath makes you wonder about Brecht's gag.

Sauna-o-meter: Stuck on five.
Worst business idea conceived during a long car drive: A Finnish fashion label for Australian men that makes flowered singlets. It would of course be called... Barrymekko.
Worst business name: MemoryTime Kebabs - when have you ever looked back nostalgiacally on a kebab?


  1. oh ho, so you're a brechtian now are ya? pull the other one.

  2. Onya, Bazza.
    Thanks for your comment.


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