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How to Introduce Yourself in Finnish: Break the Ice!

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How many non-Finnish people do you know who can speak Finnish? Probably not that many! That’s why, when you meet a Finn through work, at a party, or while traveling, you can really make a lasting impression when you know how to introduce yourself in Finnish!

Most Finns—especially the younger generation—can speak English pretty well (According to Wikipedia, Finland ranks as the eighth country in the world in terms of English proficiency). However, if you know how to say even just a simple phrase like “My name is” in Finnish, you can break the ice much faster when you meet someone new!

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Table of Contents

  1. Start with a Greeting!
  2. How to Share Basic Information About Yourself
  3. How to Talk About What You Do
  4. How to Share More Details About Yourself
  5. A Few Cultural Notes
  6. How FinnishPod101 Can Help You Learn More about Introducing Yourself


1. Start with a Greeting!

First Encounter

It’s always a good idea to start with a friendly greeting when you meet someone new. So let’s learn some common Finnish greetings.

1- Greeting someone in formal and informal situations

Are you going to a business lunch or meeting your partner’s parents for the first time? You can use the following Finnish greetings in any formal situation.

  • Hyvää huomenta.
    “Good morning.”
  • Hyvää päivää.
    “Good day.”
  • Hyvää iltaa.
    “Good evening.”

In informal situations, you can greet someone with a casual “Hi.” Pick one of these three basic Finnish greetings:

  • Hei.
    “Hi.”
  • Moi.
    “Hi.”
  • Terve.
    “Hi.”

2- Sinä or te?

There are two versions of the pronoun “you” that you can use when you’re addressing someone in Finnish. Sinä is the informal singular “you,” and te is the singular “you” which can be used in formal situations and when you want to be extra polite. ( Note that te is also the plural “you.” ) There are no overly strict rules about which one to choose, so just go with these general guidelines and you’ll be fine!

During more formal encounters—for example, when you meet a client—it’s a good idea to use the more formal word te when addressing the other person.

In casual situations—for example, when talking to younger people or a good friend—use the more informal word sinä. Depending on where you are in Finland, you may also hear people say or sie instead of sinä!

3- Shaking hands and making eye contact

During greetings in Finnish, it’s common to shake hands when you meet someone for the first time. A Finnish handshake is typically brief and firm. Look the other person in the eye while you shake hands with them, and smile for an even greater impact!


2. How to Share Some Basic Information About Yourself

Countries

Let’s move on to the basic questions and answers that are likely to come up during a self-introduction in Finnish.

When asking a question, there’s a casual form and a formal form depending on who you’re addressing. We’ll cover both forms!

1- What’s your name?

This is almost certainly the very first question to come up in a conversation with a new acquaintance! So how do you ask someone’s name and how do you say “My name is,” in Finnish? Let’s find out!

Casual:

  • Mikä sinun nimesi on?
    “What’s your name?”

Formal:

  • Mikä teidän nimenne on?
    “What’s your name?”

And this is how you can respond to the question:

  • Minun nimeni on Maija.
    “My name is Maija.”
  • Minä olen Sanna.
    “I am Sanna.”

In formal situations, it’s typical to say your full name:

  • Minun nimeni on Maija Virtanen.
    “My name is Maija Virtanen.”

And after you’ve learned each other’s names, you can say:

  • Hauska tavata!
    “It’s nice to meet you!”

2- Where are you from?

Talking About Yourself

Your new Finnish acquaintance will probably wonder where you’re from! Here are some ways to talk about your home country and your nationality.

Casual:

  • Mistä olet kotoisin?
    “Where are you from?”
  • Minkä maan kansalainen sinä olet?
    “What is your nationality?”

Formal:

  • Mistä olette kotoisin?
    “Where are you from?”
  • Minkä maan kansalainen olette?
    “What is your nationality?”

If you come from another country, you can answer like this:

  • Olen kotoisin Meksikosta.
    “I’m from Mexico.”
  • Olen meksikolainen.
    “I’m Mexican.”

Look at this list of world countries in Finnish to find out how to write and pronounce the name of your home country.

3- How old are you?

Birthday Cake with Question Mark Candle

Asking somebody about their age is usually fine among young people in Finland. In contrast, asking older women about their age may come across as tactless, so be cautious!

Casual:

  • Kuinka vanha sinä olet?
    “How old are you?”

Formal:

  • Kuinka vanha te olette?
    “How old are you?”

Your answer can take one of the following forms:

  • Olen 18 vuotta vanha.
    “I’m 18 years old.”
  • Olen 30-vuotias.
    “I’m a 30-year-old.”
  • Olen 50.
    “I’m 50.”


3. How to Talk About What You Do

Introducing Yourself

Are you a student? Do you work? Are you taking a gap year to see the world?! Learn how to talk about work, studies, and traveling with your new Finnish friends. These topics are bound to come up when you introduce yourself in Finnish and get to know people better.

1- How to talk about traveling

Are you on holiday in Finland? Lucky you! Here are some questions that may come up when you talk about visiting Finland for leisure.

Casual:

  • Oletko lomalla?
    “Are you on holiday?”
  • Oletko matkalla Suomessa?
    “Are you traveling in Finland?”

Formal:

  • Oletteko te lomalla?
    “Are you on holiday?”
  • Oletteko matkalla Suomessa?
    “Are you traveling in Finland?”

You can answer like this:

  • Kyllä, olen lomalla.
    “Yes, I am on holiday.”
  • Kyllä, olen matkalla Suomessa.
    “Yes, I am traveling in Finland.”
  • Kyllä, olen.
    “Yes, I am.”
  • Kyllä.
    “Yes.”

Here’s more useful vocabulary for travelers!

2- Talking about your studies

Did studies bring you to Finland, or are you a student back in your home country? Prepare to ask and answer questions about student life!

Woman Taking Notes in Class

Casual:

  • Oletko opiskelija?
    “Are you a student?”
  • Mitä sinä opiskelet?
    “What are you studying?”

Formal:

  • Oletteko opiskelija?
    “Are you a student?”
  • Mitä opiskelette?
    “What are you studying?”

Here are some ways to answer the above questions:

  • Olen opiskelija.
    “I am a student.”
  • Tulin Suomeen opiskelemaan.
    “I came to Finland to study.”
  • Olen vaihto-oppilas.
    “I’m an exchange student.”
  • Opiskelen kemiaa.
    “I’m studying chemistry.”

Not a budding chemist? No problem. Look up other school subjects in Finnish here.

3- Talking about your work

Talking about work is very likely to come up in conversation when you’re getting to know someone in Finland!

Casual:

  • Mikä on ammattisi?
    “What is your profession?”
  • Mitä teet työksesi?
    “What do you do for a living?”
  • Millä alalla olet töissä?
    “In which field do you work?”

Formal:

  • Mikä on ammattinne?
    “What is your profession?”
  • Mitä teette työksenne?
    “What do you do for a living?”
  • Millä alalla olette töissä?
    “Where do you work?”

And now for some answers to the above questions:

  • Olen insinööri.
    “I am an engineer.”
  • Työskentelen IT-alalla.
    “I work in IT.”

For more Finnish vocabulary and audio recordings, check out this list of 20 Common Words for Occupations.


4. Sharing More Details About Yourself

By now, you know quite a bit about your new Finnish friend! But if the conversation is flowing, there’s a lot more to talk about.

1- Talking about your family

Family Running in Park Together

Family is often very important to Finns, so it’s good to master a few key phrases about family and relationships in Finnish.

Casual:

  • Kerro minulle perheestäsi.
    “Tell me about your family.”
  • Oletko naimisissa?
    “Are you married?”
  • Onko sinulla lapsia?
    “Do you have children?”
  • Onko sinulla sisaruksia?
    “Do you have siblings?”

Formal:

  • Kertokaa minulle perheestänne.
    “Tell me about your family.”
  • Oletteko naimisissa?
    “Are you married?”
  • Onko teillä lapsia?
    “Do you have children?”
  • Onko teillä sisaruksia?
    “Do you have siblings?”

Some possible answers include:

  • Kyllä, olen naimisissa.
    “Yes, I’m married.”
  • Ei, olen sinkku.
    “No, I’m single.”
  • Ei, olen eronnut.
    “No, I’m divorced.”
  • Ei, mutta minulla on poikaystävä/tyttöystävä.
    “No, but I have a boyfriend/girlfriend.”
  • Minulla on kaksi lasta.
    “I have two kids.”
  • Minulla on veli ja sisko.
    “I have a brother and a sister.”

For more Finnish terms for family members, look at this handy vocabulary list.

2- Talking about your hobbies

You might say that you’ll learn far more about someone by discovering what they do for fun rather than work. So go ahead and ask someone what their favorite pastimes are!

Casual:

  • Mitä sinä harrastat?
    “What are your hobbies?”
  • Mitä teet vapaa-ajallasi?
    “What do you do in your free time?”

Formal:

  • Mitä te harrastatte?
    “What are your hobbies?”
  • Mitä teette vapaa-ajallanne?
    “What do you do in your free time?”

Of course, the options are endless, but here are some possible responses:

  • Pelaan jalkapalloa.
    “I play soccer.”
  • Soitan kitaraa.
    “I play the guitar.”
  • Pidän lukemisesta.
    “I like reading.”

Learn more Finnish words for various hobbies here.

3- Talking about your pets

Do you have a pet? Many Finns have pets and will enjoy talking about their own furry friends as well as yours!

Casual:

  • Onko sinulla lemmikkiä?
    “Do you have a pet?”
  • Pidätkö eläimistä?
    “Do you like animals?”

Formal:

  • Onko teillä lemmikkiä?
    “Do you have a pet?”
  • Pidättekö eläimistä?
    “Do you like animals?”

Your answer could be:

  • Kyllä, minulla on koira.
    “Yes, I have a dog.”
  • Minulla on kissa.
    “I have a cat.”
  • Ei, minulla ei ole lemmikkiä, mutta pidän eläimistä.
    “No, I don’t have a pet, but I like animals.”

What if your pet is a snake? Find more animal-related vocabulary here.

4- How to say why you are learning Finnish

Learning Finnish is certainly not as common as learning French or Spanish, so Finns will probably ask you about it!

Casual:

  • Miksi opiskelet suomea?
    “Why are you learning Finnish?
  • Kuinka kauan olet opiskellut suomea?
    “How long have you been learning Finnish?”

Formal:

  • Miksi opiskelette suomea?
    “Why are you learning Finnish?”
  • Kuinka kauan olette opiskellut suomea?
    “How long have you been learning Finnish?”

And here are some possible answers:

  • Pidän suomen kielestä.
    “I like the Finnish language.”
  • Äitini/isäni/vaimoni/mieheni on suomalainen.
    “My mother/father/wife/husband is Finnish.”
  • Halusin matkustaa/asua Suomessa.
    “I wanted to travel/live in Finland.”
  • Olen opiskellut suomea kolme vuotta.
    “I’ve been learning Finnish for three years.”


5. A Few Cultural Notes

1- A note on ‘spoken language’ and ‘book language’

Not to alarm you, but Finns often drop syllables to shorten words in casual situations! This is the difference between kirjakieli (book language) and the more casual puhekieli (spoken language).

Contrast this to what you’ve learned about asking and answering the question “What is your name?” in Finnish.

In “spoken language,” someone might say:

  • Mikä sun nimi on?
    “What’s your name?”
  • Mun nimi on Esa.
    “My name is Esa.”
  • Mä oon Antti.
    “I am Antti.”

Learn more about colloquial Finnish by checking out this Wikipedia article.

The key is to be aware of it, but not to worry about it! You can always ask someone to clarify or to repeat themselves:

  • Anteeksi, en ymmärtänyt.
    “Sorry, I didn’t understand.”
  • Voisitko sanoa sen uudestaan?
    “Could you say it again?”

2- Finns and small talk

Women Chatting in Kitchen

You may have heard that Finns are somewhat reserved and not very talkative. There’s some truth to it; Finns tend to be comfortable with silence and won’t typically rush to fill in gaps in a conversation with chitchat! However, you’ll also find that Finns are warm and good-humored people when you get to know them.

There aren’t any obvious taboo subjects that you need to avoid in Finland. It’s usually fine to talk about things like religion and politics, although you may want to get started with other topics first!

Learn more about the Finnish culture at This is Finland.


6. How FinnishPod101 Can Help You Feel Confident About Introducing Yourself in Finnish

Congratulations, you’ve now learned the basics of introducing yourself in Finnish and have a hang of the most common Finnish language greetings! We hope you feel confident in going out there and putting your new skills to use. Whether you’re meeting Finns through work or leisure, you can be sure that your efforts to speak to them in their own language will be appreciated!

If you want more help with grammar and pronunciation, FinnishPod101 is your one-stop destination for a wide range of free language resources. Why not start with 10 Lines You Need for Introducing Yourself to reinforce what you’ve learned so far?

And if you’re serious about mastering the language and becoming fluent in Finnish, our MyTeacher learning program will take your skills to the next level!

Before you go, practice what you’ve learned by writing a short introductory paragraph about yourself in Finnish. We look forward to your comments and learning more about you!

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