City kids, country kids, and Finnish staring

Something that has disconcerted my kids since we moved here is the amount of staring at each other Finnish children do. If you are a kid and you go to a playground or park or pass another kid on the street, chances are you will have a bit of a stare-off. Magdalena complained about it a few weeks ago and I mentioned it to a friend of mine. She said, "oh, they will stare until they're done staring and then they will play with you."

And she's right! (For the most part.) My kids have learned that Finnish kids are gonna stare, and you just have to let them - or stare right back. I got to talking about this phenomenon with a co-worker recently and she posited that Finns eschew small talk but still need social space to size each other up, and that means staring. In some cultures, you might greet strangers by touch (hugging), or with chit-chat, and all the while be observing and judging their fitness as a potential acquaintance. But in Finland, when the touch and the small talk disappear, that process of observation and judging becomes a lot more, well, obvious. Because it looks like staring. Because that's all it is, when stripped of other social niceties that distract and obfuscate.

Something interesting I've noticed, though, is that generally speaking, city kids seem to stare more than country kids. Whenever we go out to Piikkiö (a nearby small town that is out in the countryside) for orienteering, there's not quite as much staring on the kid level. One time I was walking around with the kids there, lost, and some children ran up to us and said hello and asked what we were doing! That does not happen very often in Finland.

So Finnish kids (and maybe adults) stare a lot, but you get used to it, or tolerate it, or maybe stare right back. And when the staring is done, you play!

June 16th, outsourced

A different food landscape

A different food landscape