There are no job titles when it comes to the ladies dressing room. I assume it is the same in the males dressing rooms, but having never visited, I can´t tell. I love the truthfulness of the Finnish culture. Finland is one of the world’s leading countries in fostering gender equality and we are proud of it. My male foreign friends usually make jokes about Finnish woman and how independent they are. I think the jokes are very funny and so true! We do love to carry our own luggage to show how independent we are, and that is worth joking about!
Finland was the first country to grant women full political rights. Gender equality has generated renewal and prosperity in our society, as the contribution of both women and men has been accessible. Finland propels a worldwide commitment to gender equality, but maybe not all women in the world need to carry their luggage to show their equality. Good advice towards other cultures is that pick good habits, leave poor.
Not only the gender equality, but equality itself is very important to us Finns. We are not that thrilled of hierarchy. We like to solve the problems with a non-hierarchical way in workplaces and in general. You can say that we lack of hierarchy, but there actually are hierarchical structures in Finnish workplaces and they vary from field to field. Hierarchy is often suppressed. Hierarchy is indicated with small, often tacit gestures. The power position is based on the demands and the responsibility of a job description and also on how much the work community respects and appreciates the person’s input and expertise. A person’s position is not dependent on age or gender. In Finland we find it very important to show respect to all workers, no matter what their position is.
Back to the ladies dressing room. I meet different women on different mornings in our joint dressing room. Some of us cycle to work, some run, some walk, but we come with a hurry so we all need a shower. Nudity in Finnish culture is as truthful as our equality. Underneath our clothes we are all equal. In a dressing room we are all equal in dignity and we act towards one another in a spirit of sisterhood.
While showering and dressing up we like to talk about todays politics, religions, even money and every one of us has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. We are very interested about other opinions and ways of seeing things. We feel the atmosphere and the environment is safe. The thing that makes us very Finnish is that even though we are enjoying our equal conversations and interaction we are very time orientated. We Finns follow a strict concept of time – especially at work. We respect the thought that our daily working hours are based on a contract. If the meeting in the morning is announced to begin at 9 a.m. we will be there a couple minutes before. Being late may happen, but it is not socially acceptable. Being on time shows respect towards the others. This means that these morning talks are not that long, as well as there is no long showers in Finnish workplaces. We dress up, but some lipstick and wish each other pleasant work day and off we go.
How this differences in other cultures? Even we talk very deeply about difficult subjects, we reveal our deepest thoughts about the subjects, but we don’t know each other by name! We are just a lady who cycles with cool cycling glasses on or that lady who runs 10k back and forth from work.
In Finland we shake hands when we meet a person for the first time, but not when you enter the dressing room. We also introduce ourselves when we greet, but we probably don´t remember actively their names we meet. Names are not that important in our culture. Greetings in general in Finland differences from other countries. It is polite to greet when you pass somebody at work place, but – unlike in many other countries – it is not necessary to address everybody when you arrive and leave work. Shaking hands is the most common and preferred way of greeting in formal situations. You can hug, but it shows you really know the one you hug very well. Hugs and kisses belongs to a relationship. Kisses on a cheek is an international way of greeting people, but we never remember which cheek to start with, so we might end up kissing you straight on your lips!
We Finns have a desire to be likable so we are open to all international ways of greet and meet. We do love to copy the good habits from other cultures, so you probably will end up seeing very many different ways to greet.
You might have heard that Finland is the happiest country in the world, according to a United Nations (UN) report. Among the happiest there is another study that says Finland is the best place to work in Europe. I agree, and add that it is definitely the most easy country to shower with your not know colleagues!
Text and photos Annele Heikkilä