5 Finnish Words You Need to Know

December 24, 2014
5 Finnish Words You Need to Know


It is easy to not speak any Finnish in Finland. The blunt truth is that if you plan to visit Finland, you don’t need to know any Finnish to get by. Most Finns speak excellent English and are not at all offended that you can’t speak Finnish. After all, they are well aware that their language is small and, when compared to other European languages, and a bit strange.

However, in general, I believe it is important to learn at least a few phrases of the local language wherever you go—not only does it demonstrate respect and curiosity, but it will probably lead to some fun conversations with locals who enjoy teaching you silly words. I have found this to be especially true in Finland. Finns tend to be incredibly impressed if you know three words of Finnish, and are pretty enthusiastic about teaching you some of the funnier expressions that their language has to offer.

Here are some Finnish words that will give you a head start in enthralling Finns enough to teach you more!

5 Finnish Words You Need to Know

1. Kiitos

This is basic: it means thank you. Finns don’t really say please, but they say thank you a lot. For example, when ordering coffee (a very useful thing to know), you can say, “Kahvi, kiitos” or, “coffee, thank you.” You can also use “kiitti,” or “thanks.” It is nice to be polite, after all!

2. Moi, Moikka, Hei, Heippa, Terve

Here comes the confusion! All five of these words can mean either hi or bye. Choose and use your favorite. If you want to complicate it even more for yourself, you can throw in näkemiin (bye) or nähdään (see you).

3. Joo

This is pronounced like “yo” and is a casual way of saying “yeah.” You shouldn’t necessarily throw it into your otherwise English conversations, but I don’t want you to get the impression that Finns are going around saying “yo, yo” to be cool or something!


5 Finnish Words You Need to Know

4. Anteeksi

Another polite one: this means “excuse me.” When traveling, I think it is nice to not automatically assert your foreignness in casual, everyday situations, like when riding on public transportation. Instead of asking someone in English to move so you can disembark at your stop, say, “Anteeksi.” Bump into someone? Anteeksi! It’s nice to apologize to someone in their own language, after all, when they’ve been startled by you already! If you want to be a bit more casual, anteeks will work.

5. Pussi

Here the silliness really begins. Pussi is a pretty common word—it means “bag,” all of the connotations in English aside. So please don’t be shocked when you hear people say this, or when you see megapussi printed on bags of chips. And if you see karkkipussi, head that way—karkki means candy. It’s true, they have one word for “candy bag,” and it’s not uncommon! But yes, people do find it hilarious that this word has a very different meaning in English when pronounced. After seven years, this joke hasn’t gotten stale among my friends.

So if you’re planning a trip to Finland, go forth and make some Finns laugh! Not only will they enjoy teaching you even more Finnish phrases, but they’ll be pleased, even flattered, at your curiosity about their language and your attempts to speak it.

5 Finnish Words You Need to Know


5 Finnish Words You Need to Know

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Have you traveled to Finland? Did we miss a few Finnish words? Email us at editor@pinkpangea.comto share your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.  Top photo by Unsplash.

About Leah Missik

Leah is a wanderer, an insatiable ponderer, and of a curious sort. When she is not working in the sustainable development field or traveling, you’ll likely find her with her nose in a book, dancing around at a concert, or writing her blog, Went Looking.

3 thoughts on “5 Finnish Words You Need to Know

  1. September 17, 2019

    I’ve learned so much from this! Thank you for sharing. If you have any other Finnish Language guides, or even if you know of any other blogs along those lines, I would love to know about them 🙂

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