1. I don’t fear awkward silences.
I have yet to meet an American who doesn’t dread the awkward silence. A lull in any conversation is to be avoided at all costs—even if it means talking about the latest viral cat video or celebrity breakup.
The Finns I’ve met, on the other hand, embrace the awkward silence. They understand that it’s a part of the natural rhythm of human interaction. Sure, Finns know how to have conversations, but they’re not driven by a compulsion to fill time and space with needless chatter.
On a recent school day, as I dug into a lunch of fish sticks and steamed potatoes at the teachers’ table in the cafeteria, I was joined by a Finnish colleague. We exchanged hellos (since, you know, we hadn’t yet greeted each other that day), and then ate our meals in complete silence. We had been teaching all morning, and those fleeting moments of quiet were like a rest for our souls. After 10 minutes, I glanced up at the clock and, seeing that my next lesson was about to begin, broke the calm by saying goodbye. Even though we had just given each other “the silent treatment,” no harm was done. Quite the opposite, actually. I pushed in my chair feeling refreshed…
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