|Talking is silver, but silence is gold!
This is a popular Finnish proverb. It clearly shows the way people in the Nordic perceive talking and silence. The Finns themselves are known to be the most reserved and quiet of all. But this applies to all Nordic people, to a greater or lesser degree. Here is how social norms are: when you are outside home, you must not speak loudly. In social encounters, there is no need for excessive talking, if at all. During a discussion or meeting at work, it is totally fine to not speak unless you have something important to say. Also, you don’t have to speak to strangers (call it chit-chat). And don’t you ever think of hitting the car horn, unless it is a matter of life or death.
Silence is sacred. Some claim it is because of the harsh climate and the geography of Scandinavia. Add in the relatively small population (compared with the area of the Nordic countries) and you get the recipe for silence. People are used to silence, because of their nature and climate. Population density is among the lowest in Europe. But is it just that? No, it is also a cultural thing. Being silent and quiet means you respect other people’s privacy. You should not disturb or intrude other people’s lives in any way. You should respect their peace. There are even the so-called “Quiet wagons” in trains. Some say it is also because of the “Law of Jante” or the Swedish concept of “lagom” that you should stay quiet. They are both about being in the middle and not stand out in any way.