Finnish swearwords – a list of profanities you shouldn’t know

Last week we had the day of the Finnish culture and Kalevala, and in a month or so (9th of April) there will be the day of the Finnish language. Let’s celebrate these days with some Finnish words – but some that are a bit polemic: swearwords in Finnish.

Some swearwords in Finnish
This porcupine swears a lot in Finnish: it is a character in a Finnish comic strip. This is the porcupine’s website. Source (CC: by-sa)

Swearwords in Finnish

We focus on profanities because we don’t want to focus on insults. Insults might be worth a separate post, but I am not sure if I’d do that because – goddammit – insulting people isn’t right (I haven’t decided yet: It is definitely one of the curiosities of Finland).

Sometimes when you are in a country with a different language than your own and you are not fluent in that language yet, something sudden happens that forces you to shout your country’s equivalent of “what the f*!”. And most likely the person you’re with (or yelling it at) won’t understand you, because it will have come out in your own language (as it has happened to me).

It is cool to score some sympathy points if you don’t speak Finnish or Swedish fluently. When the people you usually talk to in English hear, in a moment of surprise, you using one of these profanities, it will definitely generate a chuckle.

The three most used Finnish swearwords are the following.

The top 3 Finnish profanities

Vittu, Saatana, and Perkele are the three words that you will hear for sure when someone has to swear in Finnish.

Perkele: the most used Finnish swearwrod
Perrrrrrkele, rolling the “r”. One of the top 3 Finnish swearwords. Source (CC: by)

Vittu” can be directly translated to “pussy” or “cunt”. It is used to express frustration or to emphasize a sentence. It is heard a lot as voi vittu (with the meaning of “Oh, crap”), too. Some interesting combination with vittu is “Vittu, vituttaa niin vitusti” (Fuck this shit, I’m very angry), where you can see some Finnish declinations too.

Not all vittu is bad (wink, wink; nudge, nudge) and you can say things like “vitun iso” (“fucking great”), but it is mostly used for bad things. Another interesting thing: You can combine it with other swearwords in Finnish to form a super-swearword. For instance: vittusaatana and vittuperkele.

Saatana means literally “Satan”, since Finnish people – besides using swearwords about scatology and parts of the human body (as in most languages I know) – have the tendency to bring the devil into all this. With the same meaning as “saatana” the word helvetti (the hell) is used too and both of them can be combined in this way: saatanan helvetti. “Saatana” is, nonetheless, harsh.

Perkele is maybe my favorite of them all. It is used as an interjection to signify surprise (like “shit!”, or “fuck!”). It means more or less “the devil”. This story has a lot to do with Finnish mythology, as Perkele was one of the main gods of the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic. When Christian times arrived, in order to end paganism, they gave the Bible’s devil the name Perkele. An angel became the devil, and from there a swearword.

In any case, as you can see in this infographic, the use of the three main swearwords dwarfs the use of the rest.

Infographic about Finnish profanity and swearwords

If you want to use this infographic on your website, you can copy and paste this code.

<a href=&#34 title=&#34All about Finland in Big in Finland&#34><img src=&#34 alt=&#34Infographic about Swearwords in Finnish&#34 /></a>

Other profanities of the Finnish language

The Finns don’t survive on only three swearwords (but almost). Other less common profanities are not used very frequently by me and I must admit I know little more than the main ones (except maybe paska and heleveti, mentioned below), so I will just go ahead and borrow the ones that I liked the most from the correspondent page of Wiki about this.

These are the ones I found most interesting:

Helvetti, translated as “the hell”, and yes: it is a swearword.

“Hitto” or “hiisi”. Not a very strong word, but also related to devils (although it is not THE devil). Its use is similar to the word “damn”. You can also tell someone to “painu hiiteen” (go to hell).

Huora: “Whore”. Not a lot of explanation needed here.

Kulli: a word for “penis”, but not very strong.

Kyrpä also basically translates to penis. “Cock” would be the best translation. It is much more offensive than the swearword above.

Mulkku is also “penis”, but used more like “prick”, to describe a person.

Molo, another synonym of “penis”, which happens to also be the word for “I’m cool” in Spanish. If we say “molopää”, we say “dickhead”.

Paska is another profanity in the Finnish language.
Paska means “shit” and is a somewhat strong Finnish swearword. My favorite encounter with this word was on the packaging of a coffee brand.

Perse is “ass” in Finnish. A less strong word than many others in this post, but deserving of a spot in the list. You can say “Tämä on perseestä”, which would mean “This is shit!” (literally “this comes out of the ass!”).

Runkata is like “wanking”. “Runkkari” and “runkku”, that derive from it, would mean “wanker”.

Listen to these swearwords in Finnish

There are a couple of Youtube vids that bring the words to life in a very interesting way, but I have chosen the following one because the person doing it really went the extra mile. He also does something that lots of Finns do: concatenate many short profanities into a long one.

If you are curios about the video that I didn’t include, here it is: 21 minutes of swearwords in Finnish with English explanations.

How many of the profanities of the list did you know? What’s your favorite swearword, in Finnish or any other language?

No shoes at home in Finland

Not only Japanese people remove their shoes when they walk into a home: Finnish people do so too.

To everyone who isn’t used to remove their shoes at the entrances of the houses – like me – this is quite shocking.

I went to Finland at the end of a summer, and it was then when I learned about this tradition. I must admit that in summer it doesn’t seem to make that much of a difference, but in winter you truly understand why Finns do what they do.

And not doing it is truly a faux-pas in Finland.

Shoes in a corridor
My shoes in the corridor. Now I am used to do this.

The polite way: leave your shoes at the entrance of a home

Winter is the longest season of the year in Finland, especially in the north of the country.

Everything is covered in snow outside and the snow lasts for months at a time. When you walk around, since you can’t stay indoors for months, snow gets stuck to the soles of your boots. That snow, when you arrive at someone’s home – which will be heated appropriately – will start its melting process. And if if you don’t remove your shoes, soon the whole house will have little puddles everywhere, something extremely annoying for the people who did remove their shoes.

That’s why in Finland, unlike in Japan (as far as I know), there is a very practical reason behind removing the shoes at the entrance – in winter anyways. So when you go to Finland, show your politeness by removing your shoes at the entrance of the houses. The interesting thing, of course, is when many people arrive at a house simultaneously and there are a thousand pairs of shoes by the door. But that’s a small price to pay for respecting the house owner.

Remove your shoes
Pretty please? Source (CC: by)

What about in public places, workplaces and schools?

If you are wondering, kids in Finnish schools also remove their shoes at the entrance before going to class. (By the way, it seems that the Finnish Baby Box is on sale now).

In universities and some public buildings there is a place at the entrance to leave your belongings, where you can leave your outdoor shoes if you want and use some others that you can take with you (this, of course, is more common for university buildings than for public ones).

In the case of office buildings, you can bring some sandal-like shoes for walking around indoors, if you want. Some people do that if their work doesn’t require a very formal attire.

No shoes at the office
Shoes outside an office, for a meeting. Or so it says the caption of the photo. Source (CC: by-sa)

How to effectively remove as much snow as possible from the shoes

Finnish people are prepared for winter like no one I’ve seen before. If you want to know which clothes to wear for a trip to Finland in winter, here is our list of recommendations.

At the entrance of each building you can see a gigantic brush designed to remove the snow from your shoes. You can then be confident that you’ll be behaving as politely as possible when entering any building.

Some pictures of this Finnish invention:

Using the Brush for the snow

The Finnish snow brush

Using the brush

Have you ever forgot to remove your shoes while entering someone’s home? What’s the biggest faux-pas in Finland in your opinion?

11 inventions you didn’t know were Finnish

You already know that the Sauna is Finnish, that Angry Birds are too and that the Linux operative system comes from Finland as well. Because of that, we will focus this blogpost on Finnish inventions and innovations that are not as widely known but are definitely interesting. Let’s go.

1. The Molotov Cocktail

Molotov Cocktail
This one comes with a recipe. Should I include it in our section of Finnish recipes? Source (CC: by-sa)

Known in Finnish as Polttopullo or as Molotovin koktaili – and, in some circles, as “the poor man’s grenade” -, this bottle full of flammable liquid, hand crafted in the spur of the moment, has been one of the Finnish contributions to warfare.

It was developed during the Winter War against the Russians, one of the pre-WWII conflicts in Europe. The Finns resisted the agressions of a much greater force with Sisu and intelligence, such as developing weapons like the Molotov Cocktail.

2. The IRC Chat Protocol

IRC chat protocol
A good conversation, 90s style. Source (CC: by).

Who said Finns aren’t talkative? Everyone, really. Finns included.

But even if that might be true, they still were the inventors of the first protocol for chatting on the internet: the IRC. When I was very very young, the IRC and the Messenger were everything. Meanwhile, times have changed and this protocol has lost popularity over the years. Nonetheless, the seed of the idea to communicate and chat on the Internet with short messages was Finnish. They even had a proto-Facebook called IRC Galleria (SPA).

3. The dish draining closet

Dish draining closet
Draining the dishes in a little closet. Practical. Award winning.

The “Finnish Invention Foundation” named this closet “one of the most important Finnish inventions of the millennium”. For real. A Finnish inventor called Maiju Gebhard invented this closet during the later years of the WWII to improve the drying process of dishes. It was developed within the “Finnish Association for Work Efficiency”. For real. I am not making this up.

Although we recognize here that it is very practical and – since it was an award-winning invention – important, we must admit that it hasn’t been adapted worldwide yet – unlike two Spanish inventions: the lolly pop and the mop.

4. The electric solar sail

Solar sail cruising the space
Sail away. Source (CC: by)

This new kind of solar sail hasn’t been used in a real-world mission yet, but apparently it will allow artifacts to travel much faster than usual while cruising space. To put it in perspective, this new kind of solar sail will allow space probes to reach the end of the solar system in the same time that it took old ones to reach Saturn without using an extra power source. Will Finns be responsible to for a new era of space travel? Only time will tell.

5. The first Internet Browser with a user interface

Different internet browsers
All these browsers are illegitimate children of the Finnish browser. Source (CC: by)

The first Internet browser that had a user interface (UX) – in other words, that it wasn’t all lines of text – was Finnish and its name was Erwise.

It was the final project of three students from the University of Technology of Helsinki, and it was launched in 1994. They abandoned the project once they graduated and, even though the creator of the World Wide Web encouraged them to go on developing, they presumed that without funding they couldn’t keep doing that. Nobody could pick up the project either, since all the documentation was in Finnish. Nonetheless, it was the inspiration for everything that came after it.

6. The pulk or pulka

Two pulks (or pulkas)
A couple of pulkas, taking a rest. Source (CC: by)

A sled that replaces a backpack when you travel through snow: that is the idea behind this Finnish invention. And believe me, that was a problem worth solving. People use the pulks (in Finnish: pulkka) to go hiking, when going for an excursion or for a polar expedition. It was invented to carry any kind of equipment during trips in winter easily, pulled by humans or animals.

It is also very popular with athletes in winter: you put something heavy in your pulk and do your regular training in the snow while pulling it.

7. The circular lock

A circular lock from the Finnish brand Abloy
What would a lock embedded in a brick wall open? I chose this picture to show the circular key-hole. Source (CC: by-sa)

One of the most difficult locks to pick is another Finnish invention. It was invented by Emil Henriksson a century ago and is commercialized by the Finnish company Abloy (that is why it is known in some places as the “Abloy lock”).

What makes these locks special is that they don’t have springs. Therefore they are good for any kind of athmospheric conditions (oh, Finnish inventors, always thinking of the harsh winters) and thus can be used outdoors and to protect places that are outdoors.

8.-The Bubble Chair

A bubble chair
A couple of chairs of Finnish design. Source (CC: by)

You’ll probably remember the chairs on the Episode II of Star Wars. There were extraterrestrials – technically everyone it these movies is extraterrestrial, of course – with long necks. The chairs they were sitting in were not just science fiction, but the works of Finnish designer Eero Arnio in the 1960s. The name “bubble” comes from the feeling that one has while sitting on one: being suspended from the ceiling and seeing through a sphere. They are commercialized by the Adelta company, in case you want one.

9. The satchel charge

Explosives used during the Winter War

All these toys were used during Finland’s Winter War. The satchel charges are the first ones from the left.

Another type of explosive that the Finns invented throughout the Winter War, besides the previously mentioned Molotov cocktails, were the satchel charges. The root of this invention was the need to blow up heavy static targets, such as bunkers, bridges or trains.

10. The Savonius wind turbine

Savonius wind turbine
A wind turbine of Finnish design. Source (CC: by)

These wind turbines are used to convert the wind energy to electricity, and were invented by the Finnish engineer Sigurd Savonius (thus, its name) in 1922. They are the old version of the electric windmills of today.

What make these wind turbines interesting is that they are very simple and require almost no maintenance. They are used when efficiency isn’t important, but cost is. You’ll rarely see them producing electricity, but for sure you have seen them on top of vans, as a cooling device.

11. The heart rate monitor

A heart rate monitor
Heart rate monitor and the strip to hold it to the chest. All ready to go out and do sports. Source (CC: by-sa)

Athletes throughout the world that want to become really good – or that were already – monitor their heart rate during sports. That would be impossible without a Finnish person who invented the heart rate monitor. How many world records can be indirectly traced to the Finns who invented this device?

It is maybe the first piece of wearable tech – if we don’t count a normal watch as one. It is another of those primal ideas that have been improved over time, as we have devices today that are able to measure almost everything.


This list comes out of the category on the Wikipedia that deals with Finnish inventions. You can follow that link to learn some more, but these 11 are the ones we liked the most (and that we didn’t talk about yet).

What’s your favorite Finnish invention from the list? What is the best invention from Finland in your opinion, and the one that you like the most and use often?

The average Finnish man and woman

We have talked a bit about Finns, like what they appreciate most in life, their most popular names, and even how they look. Today, we introduce you to your average Mr. Finnish Man and Mrs. Finnish Woman.

Average Finns walking in the capital.
Some average Finns walking in the capital of Finland, Helsinki. Source (CC: by-sa).

How do we know the average Finnish man and woman?

Some time ago there was a study about the average of different parameters in Finland’s top newspaper, the Helsingin Sanomat. If you want to read it, the article can be found here.

It is a nice interpretation of the data shown in the Statistical Yearbook of Finland, which otherwise might just seem a “boring” collection of things. Nicely played, Helsingin Sanomat.

The data is a bit old – this article was first featured on our Spanish version of Big in Finland, but it still holds relevance as things don’t change that quickly.

Mr. Finnish Man and Mrs. Finnish Woman

How is a day in the life for them?

The average Finn is 40 years old, and thus is in the middle of his/her lifespan. He/She lives in a residential neighborhood in a house that he/she owns, and that has 3-4 rooms and about 78,4 square feet. He/She is still paying off the mortgage on the house and still owes 22.400€ to the bank. About a quarter of the income that he/she makes is used to cover his/her own personal needs.

Besides the mortgage on the house, the average Finn is also paying off another loan for 9.400€, that they took on to buy some consumer goods. This second credit could theoretically be paid off immediately, since the average Finn has around 11.000€ in savings in the bank. Of course the keyword here is “average”, since the wealth is not equally divided and around 44.580 credit cards are canceled each year because of debts.

Finnish man
Maybe an average Finn. Source (CC: by-sa)

How is an average day of a Finn?

An average Finn goes to work in the morning. If he is a man, he’ll be working in construction, reparations or manufacturing. If she is a woman, she’ll be working in the service sector or in the commercial or health industries. He will be working in the private sector while she will probably be working for the local authorities. The average Finnish man earns approximately 2.300€ per month and the average Finnish woman earns 2.000€ per month.

Maybe today is one of the two days per week when the average Finn does some sport (this includes going for a walk, riding the bike or doing some cross country skiing). This isn’t enough, though, to keep an average Finn thin and in top shape. He (she not so much) is prone to obesity. His good appetite and his penchant for the liquid element with some percentage of alcohol has something to do with this. Per year, a Finnish man eats an average of 72 kilos of meat, drinks 78 liters of low-alcohol drinks, eats 61 kilos of potatoes and 47 kilos of fruit.

A Finnish woman
A Finnish woman walking the streets of Helsinki. Source (CC: by)

What else happens during an average Finnish day?

There’s the daily lottery draft, which could help someone get out of the average income. But besides that, 161 children are born and 132 people close their eyes forever. 77 couples proclaim “yes, I do”, and for 36 other couples it’s the end of the line for their relationship. 45 new buildings will be constructed, and the average car will add 49 kilometers to their odometer.

Just another Finnish day.

How is your average day in Finland? Do you recognize yourself in some of these statistics, even if you are not a Finn?

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