When you visit Finland, you are bound to notice that there are a ton of different Finnish greetings! What do they all mean? And how do Finns use them?
Allow me to tackle these questions for you head-on. These are the perfect go-to greetings because they are short and super easy to say!
How do you say “Hello” in Finnish?
Say “Hei”. It’s pronounced exactly like the English word “hay”. There’s no situation where this greeting word would not work.
Other Common Finnish Greetings That Mean “Hello”
Finns usually greet each other in an informal way, so you can use these conversational greetings in 99% of all situations.
Moi and Moikka are particularly common among younger people and family members. Moro was first used only in Tampere region but now you can hear it all over Finland.
How do you say “Good morning” in Finnish?
It’s a very popular phrase and you’ll most likely hear it a lot in Finland. The short version of this greetings is just “Huomenta”.
More Formal Finnish Greetings
- Tervehdys (Greetings)
- Hyvaa huomenta (Good morning)
For example, a teacher could write a letter for the pupils’ parents with the title Syystervehdys koululta! (Autumn greetings from the school) or a speech could start with the words Tervehdys ystavat (Greetings friends).
Hyvaa paivaa and Hyvaa iltaa are very formal. A TV news reporter opens up with those phrases. If I ever met the president, I would use these expressions.
Finnish Expressions when You Are Leaving
It is interesting to know that Hyvaa paivanjatkoa and Hyvaa illanjatkoa are used a bit differently in Finnish than in many other languages.
If I translate them word to word, they would be “Good continuation of day and Good continuation of an evening” in English. That sounds quite silly when translated.
Anyway, these phrases are used particularly in service situations in Finland. After dinner, your waiter often nods and wishes you Hyvaa illanjatkoa. In a shop, the salesperson might say Hyvaa paivanjatkoa when you are leaving.
I wouldn’t use these phrases with a friend, colleague or family member because it sounds quite formal. I’d rather say: Kivaa paivaa! or Kivaa iltaa!
The Most Versatile Greeting Word in Finnish
In my opinion, the most versatile Finnish greeting word is Hei. Say it once when you arrive at any situation and say it twice when you are leaving. Unbelievably simple!
Hei and heihei suit all ages and are neutral in any formal or informal setting. You really can’t go wrong with Hei!
“Hello, How Are You” in Finnish
The quickly said sentence “Hello, how are you!” is a common greeting phrase, especially in the US. Say it in Finland and most Finns will be confused.
Thus, we Finns start thinking about our wellbeing, how we have been and what we should answer. Only the most internationally-savvy Finns will have the prompt answer “Great, how are you!”
If you love knowing this sort of cultural differences, be sure to read my post 50 Cultural Things that Help You Understand a Finn. My list is full of funny observations like this one.
Other Finnish Greeting Habits
Besides the words, there are also non-verbal things to consider. Nodding your head or shaking hands are both appropriate ways to say hello in Finland.
I always offer my hand for a shake to avoid awkward situations when I say Hei. In Finland, pretty much only friends and family hug each other. Kissing is for sweethearts.
In business life, say your preferred greeting word, name and shake hands when meeting new people. It doesn’t matter who is the initiator of this procedure, it’s always a good move.
How to Get to Know the Finn You’re Talking to More? 15 Helpful Questions
That’s why I made you a fun list of 15 dig-a-little-deeper questions that can fill up Finnish silence nicely. These are fun questions to ask in an informal situation.
I wanted to create questions that aren’t too difficult to answer and that help you get to know the Finn you’re talking to more. You’ll find the question first in English and then in spoken Finnish.
8. After buttering a bread slice, do you put ham or cheese next on top of the bread? (a Finnish version of the cereal or milk first debate) Laitatko voileivalla juuston kinkun paalle vai toistepain?