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Galimatias Blog

Cultural differences in the role of names, part 2

Kirjoittanut: Rytkönen Claire / 25.1.2024 14:35

Kuuntele blogi

Cultural differences in the role of names, part 2

Suomi kansainvälistyy. Pitäisikö meidän opetella käyttämään etunimiä enemmän? Suomessa etunimen toistuvaa käyttöä pidetään yleisesti liian tuttavallisena, jopa tungettelevana. Kansainvälisessä viestinnässä etunimen käyttö sen sijaan on kohteliasta ja suotavaa. Tutustu Galimatiaksen toiseen nimi-aiheeseen blogiin alla ja pohdi, josko voisit muuttaa asennettasi nimeäsi toistelevaan puhelinmyyjään.


The final point to look at is how often names are used in English versus Finnish culture. It could be said that English places a much higher value on the repeated use of names.

Politeness and common marketing tactic

Using your name in English is often considered a politeness and it is even a common sales/marketing tactic to try and use another person’s name as often possible in conversation. However, in Finland perhaps this can be seen as rather childish or unnecessary. Listen to English conversations and see if you can hear the difference. Another example of how the role of the name is different is that the Finnish tradition of keeping a baby’s name secret until a christening, which could be several months, is almost unthinkable for English speakers. In fact, in law the child must be named within two weeks.

It is also considered much politer in English to use a name rather than the third person “he/she” if that person is in direct hearing. There is an English proverb “She is the cat’s grandmother” meaning that we use “she” only for the unimportant. A mother would say “She is the cat’s grandmother” to a child who has used “she” to describe a woman who is present.

For example, if we are with Carol and Bob we could say to Bob:
"It´s a great film, Carol loved it" 
or turn the Carol and say
"It´s a great film, you loved it"


It could be rude to say to Bob in front of Carol:
"It´s a great film, she loved it."



‘It’ only for objects and animals - titles for humans

This importance of names can also be seen in the usage of the word “it”. In English this can only be used for objects or unknown animals. It would be extremely rude to use for a person. Far better to use their name. Whereas in Finnish a person may be described as “it” while the dog is called “he” or “she”!

Titles are also much more common in English than in Finnish. Mr, Mrs, and other titles are far more commonly used. Most lower school students would never address their teachers by their first names as in Finland. However, this habit is now growing in higher education.

General advice for polite English in business and working-life

Finnish names are very interesting within Europe and don’t be afraid to explain the correct pronunciation and background of your name. Also recognise that names perhaps play larger role in English culture and stick to these key points:

  1. Feel free to use names regularly in conversation as a sign of consideration and respect.
  2. Use any titles the person may expect before moving on to a first name basis.
  3. Try not to use “he” or “she” when describing someone in direct hearing unless in very informal conversation.

Nimen käyttö on tärkeää myös kirjallisessa viestinnässä. Galimatiaksessa toteutamme kielikoulutusta yrityksille, samoin kuin eri maihin ja aiheisiin liittyvää kulttuurivalmennusta. Ole yhteydessä ja suunnitellaan tarpeisiinne sopiva toteutus.

Jätä yhteydenottopyyntö

Aiheet: bisneskulttuuri, English, politeness, communication, kansainväliset markkinat, kunnioittava kommunikaatio, English language, English-speaking world, international business, small talk, cultural diffefences, Make a good impression, name, role of names

Rytkönen Claire

Kirjoittajana Rytkönen Claire

English language professional, Head of English at Galimatias


Galimatias on vuonna 1996 perustettu valmennusyritys, joka tarjoaa palveluja yrityksille, organisaatioille ja julkishallinnolle.

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