Bus etiquette

There’s a lot of space in Finland, we are after all the third most sparsely populated country in Europe after Iceland and Norway. So the concept of personal space can go to extremes at times.

Sometimes proximity to strangers is unavoidable, for example in public transport. Thankfully there’s an unspoken etiquette about how you should behave in such situations.

Buses are places of silence and solitude for Finns

Finns prefer as little contact as possible so on entering the bus, avoid eye contact with everyone, including the driver. In Helsinki if you greet the driver people will immediately know you’re from the countryside or a foreigner. I do it for the spite of it and you can tell even the drivers are puzzled by it.

Finding a seat is a critical part of your journey. You firstly need to locate a free row, preferably as far as possible from everyone else. If you’re going to a bus you know will be full later on, try to choose a seat at the back where people would only come as a last resort.

You only ever sit next to someone if there are no more free rows. If you sit next to someone when there’s a free row of seats somewhere in the bus you’re deemed a creep.

If the unfortunate case happens that the bus is full and you need to sit next to someone, the trick is to try and appear invisible. Squeeze into as little space as possible, don’t make a sound and get off as soon as possible.


3 thoughts on “Bus etiquette

  1. It’s been a while since I was in Finland, Mia, but this sounds about right. Apart from the time when a bus driver took me and two other Brits home to meet his family … he must have been from Karelia!

  2. I read a joke somewhere in a Finnish book. How do you know your having an intimate conversation with a Finn? He looks at your shoes instead of his own.
    A few years back I was sharing an article with my cousin about the uniqueness of the Finns when everything started to make sense. We weren’t crazy, as 3rd generation Finnish- Americans we still had plenty of Finnish blood in our veins.

  3. Hehe this is so true. Exchange students who visited Finland always say to me “what is up with the bus, why is everyone quiet?”. It is very quiet and if someone talks its a bit weird. And im from outside Helsinki and when i leave the bus I always say kiitos as in “thank you”.

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