Spaghetti & Sauna – Discovering the Rational Finnish Culture through the Eyes of an Emotional Italian by Irene De Benedictis - Read Online
Spaghetti & Sauna – Discovering the Rational Finnish Culture through the Eyes of an Emotional Italian
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It is a long way from Rome to a small town in Western Finland. The geographical distance is considerable, but the cultural distance between South Europe and Nordic countries may be even greater. This is exactly what a young woman from Rome quickly learned after she had moved to Finland to study and work.

Spaghetti & Sauna is an entertaining description of a journey where the emotional Italian culture meets the rational Finnish culture. In order to understand the customs and behavior of ordinary Finns, the author had to dig deep into her own Italian cultural heritage as well.

In order to survive in Italy, foreigners should master the local way of socializing and self-expression, whereas in Finland silence and humility are appreciated. Both cultures are rich and lovable, but often, evaluate a particular thing from very different perspectives. This may create tension when Italians and Finns encounter at work, at studies or at parties. The author is not afraid of revealing both funny and awkward moments that helped her identify and appreciate the cultural differences between the two nations.

The book is packed with valuable information for everyone who wants to learn about Italian and Finnish cultures through practical examples from real life.

Published: Klaava Media on
ISBN: 9789527074541
List price: $9.60
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Spaghetti & Sauna

Discovering the rational Finnish culture through the eyes of an emotional Italian

Irene De Benedictis

Spaghetti & Sauna

Discovering the rational Finnish culture through the eyes of an emotional Italian

ISBN 978-952-7074-54-1 (EPUB)

Copyright Irene De Benedictis and Klaava Media / Andalys Ltd

Illustrations copyright Elia De Benedictis

March 2016

Publisher: Klaava Media / Andalys Ltd




Managing bad weather – A three-step Italian guide

Managing bad weather – a one-step Finnish guide

Onion style winter fashion

Four seasons


Italian food in Finland

Sauna Is More Than You May Think

Body Language

Body Contact and the Bubble

Silence, Talk, Socializing, and Alcohol

Let’s talk about talking!

The sound of silence

The battery rule

To socialize or not to socialize?

The elephant in the room: Alcohol



Positive feedback makes a difference

Pressure makes diamonds


The boss

Express Yourself

Expressing feelings

All you need is context


Humility Wanted

Feedback not allowed

Help and gratitude

Under pressure


Sharing is caring

Manners and Style

An Italian style guide

Taste for beauty

Shine and glitter

A Finnish style guide

How Finns and Italians regard each other

The self-critical reflex

Appearance in practice

Punctual as a Swiss clock – ahead of time as a Finn

You can leave your hat on, but please take off your shoes


The Treasured Friend

Related Books


So, here I am – an Italian woman who decided to move to Finland a few years ago. Why did I want to live, work, and study in this Nordic country? And how was my experience? I will explain that later, but for now, let me tell you how I ended up writing this book.

In Finland, I attended the international Bachelor’s program in physiotherapy at the Satakunta University of Applied Sciences. During my second year, the University of Pori organized a seminar for the students and staff members. The objective was to help personnel and students understand how to make it easier for foreigners to settle down in town. In order to gain deep insight from the perspective of a foreigner, they were looking for an international student who could share his or her personal experiences as a foreigner in Pori. So, I was asked by one of my teachers to give a short presentation about my experiences of living in Finland.

Alright, not a big deal – you may think.

Well, at that time, it was indeed a big deal for me! And no, not only because I freaked out at the idea of having to give a speech in front of an audience. I didn’t want to talk about the Finnish culture at all. This happened at a time when I had turned myself into a hot mess, crashing against a culture which had nothing in common with mine, a culture I was struggling to adapt to. When my dearest teacher asked me to give that presentation, and although I politely replied "I will think about it, all the neurons in my head were shouting in unison I will never do it!" Those, dear reader, were the famous last words, because that was exactly the moment when this project begun.

So, there I was. I had promised my teacher I would do the presentation, but I really had no clue what to say nor how to say it. I was right in the middle of my recovery phase from my own culture shock, still holding a lot of grudge against the Finnish culture. My first instinct was to tell aloud all my frustrations and share with everybody what I really thought about Finland. In the end, they wanted my opinion, right? It was my chance to express it and let it all out.

Luckily, the little (but enough) common sense that I had left calmed me down and I acknowledged the fact that maybe my opinions were one-sided, biased, and rather negative. In fact, as much as I was upset and frustrated, I was aware that I needed to change my attitude, so I knew I had to find a better approach to share my experience.

Finally, I found the right way. I decided that I wanted to be honest, but even more so, I wanted the audience to understand the reasons why some aspects of the Finnish culture were so hard for me to adapt to. I’m an Italian, and no one needs a degree in anthropology to realize that Italian and Finnish cultures are extreme opposites on the European scale. In my case, a culture shock was not only a risk but a physiological consequence.

The day of the presentation came. Needless to say, my heart felt like a group of drummers were practicing in my chest. As it turned out, to my surprise, the feedback was surprisingly positive after my speech. At some point, a man in the audience asked me: "Hey, why don’t you write a book about it?" I politely smiled to the man, thinking that it was useless to reply to such a silly question. I mean… seriously... I should write a book?

Months passed by, and in the meantime, I was requested to give the presentation three more times at different occasions. As I delivered the presentation and continued receiving encouraging feedback, the voice of the man asking me to write a book echoed in my head ever more insistently. In the end, I had so many things that I wanted to share that I finally decided to give it a try. As I started writing, chapters simply flowed from my heart. I even discovered that I really loved writing.

As much as I have tried to keep my opinions objective and unbiased, they all come from my own very personal experience, so they indeed are subjective and biased. As much as I dig deep into both cultures, I will explain them from a normal person's view only.

I have selected specific topics that I personally found to be the most emblematic, and I explain them from the point of view of both cultures – being equally unfair to both.

I will tell you what happens when you move to a country that is (in just about everything) a total opposite of your own culture. It will be all garnished with succulent embarrassing situations I found myself in, before I managed to understand and adapt to the culture.

I will express my own opinions, but I will always try to back them up with real life examples that are drawn from my own experience and from the experiences of people I know.

And because I’ve learned that sometimes it’s better to give an extra explanation, rather than assume that others will automatically understand you, here is a little disclaimer for you:

1. I am from Rome. When I talk about the Italian culture, I refer to the culture of central and southern Italy (the regions where the culture reflects the Italian Stereotype, so to speak). Those parts of Italy do greatly differ from northern Italy, so keep this in mind if you only have experiences from northern Italy. Our country is rather small, but the cultural differences between north and south are really noteworthy.

2. I’m not an anthropologist or an ethnographer, so please do not expect excursus on any specific professional fields.

3. Even though I use a humorous and (at times) irreverent tone, I have not intended to be offensive toward any culture, by any means – so please, don’t take it personally. Try to smile along, and don’t take me too seriously… because I don’t.

Alright, we are ready to start. I wish you a pleasant journey!


Really? You live in Fiiinlaaaand? How do you manage with the COOOLD? Is it true that it’s always DAAARK during winter? And how do you cope with the SNOOOW? How is your everyday life? How many layers of clothes do you wear?

In other words: how can an Italian live in Finland and still be alive?

Sometimes I wish I could have said to my Italian friends that I moved to Spain (which, by the way, is the country that Finns are the most obsessed with – right before Australia). At least, I should have been smart and recorded the answers to the questions that were always the same. I also should have protected my ears from loud Italians who raised their voices in horror whenever they learned that I lived in Finland.

Managing bad weather – A three-step Italian guide

Before I tell you how my reaction to the Finnish weather was, you must learn how an Italian should react to lousy weather: it is all about drama.

Even though we Italians love to improvise in many situations, bad weather is such a serious disruption to daily life that it needs to be taken seriously. If you want your performance to be recognized as a high-quality Italian drama, a rigid protocol must be followed.

The Italian guide to managing bad weather in three steps has never been written down, but it has been taught from generation to generation through oral tradition, and by leading by example.

STEP 1 – Take it personally

Let’s say that you are in your bed and you have just woken up. You hear that it’s raining outside. This makes you feel that it could be a good chance to practice the famous high-quality Italian reaction on bad weather.

You have to immediately get up as if the nuclear bomb alarm went off (just to give you an idea on the level of crisis awareness you need to express). You must breathe anxiously.

At this point, you need to reach as fast as you can to the closest window and check if it’s really raining – still maintaining the same anxious breathing.

Now, you have to be careful, as this is the delicate part. When you find out that it’s indeed raining, you must lift your arms towards the sky, close your eyes in a sign of despair, and shout: "Why? Why, God, you are doing THIS to MEEE?"

In order for the next steps to be performed in the proper way, you naturally believe that there is nothing normal in the process of rain. In fact, rain is a spell that is purposely directed to you. If the sun isn't shining, or it’s raining, or in the worst case scenario, it’s very cold and it’s also raining, the universe is conspiring against your happiness today, and as hard as this may be, you have to face this fact.

One thing is for sure, Gene Kelly would have never been able to perform Singing in the Rain in Italy. He was happy and cheerful although the weather was lousy in that scene of the movie. I’m pretty sure that in Italy, the police would have arrested him for public outrage.

STEP 2 – Establish social bonds

In step 2, you will create new bonds with people or reinforce bonds you already have – depending on what you are going to do that day.

As much as we hate bad weather, in reality we (unconsciously) take it in a positive way, because it’s a perfect chance to enhance our social relationships and express our emotions. Since the weather is bad wherever you go that day, you have plenty of opportunities to express the negative feelings you have. Of course, they need to be shared with others who can understand your pain.

For example, while you are waiting for your bus (and since it’s an Italian bus, you have to wait for a long time) you could use that time to establish new friendships or take your chances and flirt. If you are a woman, you could avoid taking your umbrella with you, pretending to be a lady who needs to be saved by a strong man who has an umbrella.

I personally know of a couple that got married after getting to know each other in a situation like that. The man, Nico, is half Italian-half Greek (practically the most Mediterranean creature that ever existed). He went a step further in his rainy day scenario. He told me that the day he met his wife, he purposely went out into the rain to "give an umbrella