A Finnish tourist – very suspicious but easily cheated

When travelling abroad I´m always keen on observing the actions of other travellers, especially those of my fellow countrymen. There are two typical features in the way Finnish tourists behave which often catch my attention: suspiciousness of local food and restaurants and, on the other hand, a total absence of any effort to haggle over the prices.

I and my family usually go to popular tourist destinations such as beach resorts on the Mediterranean coast. Such places are ideal for observing other tourists because these are ubiquitous. I´m frequently amazed to see how quite normal Finnish people who are used to eating almost anything at home become so timid abroad. It is not uncommon to find a Finnish family in front of a restaurant wondering whether it would be wise to venture in:  the chicken they serve might not be well cooked or they might use beef from hormone-fed cattle. Of course a Mediterranean seafood restaurant is even scarier: the fish and shellfish might not be fresh.

Mayonnaise is another classic; almost every Finn has been warned against eating it when travelling. Ice cream and ice cubes naturally belong to the forbidden substances as well. I have also heard that you shouldn´t eat vegetables or fruits in restaurants because they are washed with local water. So you never know.

Let´s move from restaurants to shopping. Here we encounter another phenomenon which I find quite interesting. At popular resorts there is usually an enormous number of small stores which all sell almost identical tourist stuff: clothes, hats, airbeds, swimming rings, sun lotion, etc. And the prices can be many times higher than in Finland, which is not the cheapest country either, as we all know. But I have rarely seen a Finnish tourist negotiate about the price. He humbly pays whatever is asked, even though he would never pay so much at home. In my opinion that is where the Finnish tourist is really getting cheated.

Travellers from many other countries are more aware of prices, and they are not so “pleasant customers” or such “easy game” for local storekeepers. For example, my wife, who is of Russian origin, hardly ever pays the price first asked. Once in the Canary Islands she had forgotten the charger for her iPhone at home, so she had to buy a new one. In a local store we found a suitable charger and the price was around 50€ (in Finland 10-20€). She said to the storekeeper: “No way, I´m not going to pay so much!” Finally, she got it for 10€…

What makes a Finnish tourist behave as he does? In my view one important factor is that in Finland prices are rarely negotiable and people are accustomed to that. That is how the Finnish society works: a customer can rely on the stores. But should they?

On the other hand, the history of Finnish tourism is rather short. The first travel agencies arranging package tours abroad were established in the 1960s, and this type of holidays did not become really popular until the seventies. We don’t have such a long tradition of travelling as, for example, the UK or continental Europe.

According to Statistics Finland, the Finns made 7.8 million leisure trips abroad in 2013 compared to just over 5 million in 2005. So we are getting used to travelling. And it is not only Finnish tourists that act strangely or suspiciously in foreign countries – it is probably a universal characteristic.

Anyway, when it comes to food and dining, maybe we could be a little more broadminded also when travelling.

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3 Responses to A Finnish tourist – very suspicious but easily cheated

  1. You made some nice points there!
    Have you thought the effect of alcohol and good mood when spending money?

    People lose a little bit of their ability to estimate prices when they are traveling because they want to buy souveniers and they have money to spend. Then it is not always about the money, people just want to spent what they’ve got. At home they can be surprised how much they actually paid for a useless tiny sword.

    Many people drink more or less alcohol in their vacations, and when having a little hangover does not make them the best negotiators. So they spend more money than they wanted but it doesn’t seem to matter, you can always pay the credit card bill afterwards!

    I’m personally just like your wife even if I’m a man – I was in London earlier this year and got a good price for a nice leather jacket. The asking price was around 400 but I got it for 180 €!

  2. pesosi says:

    I agree completely your ideas of wary Finns abroad. How would we otherwise find Finnish restaurants serving meatballs abroad. It makes me sometimes wonder, what these tourists are missing out, when not experiencing local delicacies. But having said that, I have to admit that I was once a typical Finn in this kind of situation. It was in Tunisia after seeing the local butcheries’ “meat counters”, I was happy to eat in hotel restaurant serving known German food. I wasn’t brave enough to try the cow’s head in local places. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could always be open-minded and try something new.

  3. piberic says:

    Regarding your shopping comments, which you might be right in a general level, I have faced the opposite, unpleasant situations in some of the southern European countries, in which salespersons are not so keen to negotiate the price. In Bulgaria once trying to negotiate the price of a skirt, the saleswoman was pointing the price label with her finger with very angry voice and bad English skills saying that “This is the price, look!”, I left the shop without the skirt. In Bulgaria the sales persons are in general aggressive if you ask the price and offer less for what they are asking, even in the small street shops. Sometimes they have even switched the clothe into damaged one during packing.

    In Turkey the salesmen are too often aggressive and pushing to buy and pay the price which is sometimes double or triple compared to the price in Finland. Last summer I was first time in Turkey (Alanya) and the “milking” of consumer started in the first stop on a gas station on a way to hotel, the prices of refreshments and ice cream were not visible and the angry salesman “rounded” the prices for 10€ as I didn’t have local currency yet. This gas station has agreement with Aurinkomatkat travel agency so they took full advantage of the situation. On the way back, I didn’t buy anything from that gas station.

    In the bazaars I was looking for a white handbag and the first salesman made an offer for 220€. As I didn’t agree on that price, he half forced me to walk in another shop in which I got offer 175€. I told that I’m not willing to pay that much, I get leather handbag from Finland cheaper. The salesman asked me the last price and I said 50€, so he yelled at me that I’m not welcome to his shop anymore, get out of here. It was very horrible experience, it looked like he was going to attack me. After that I didn’t lay my feet into bazaar area, instead I bought some clothes from department stores which were nice and also had sales at that time. Anyhow with these consumers experience, I don’t believe that I will travel to Turkey (or Bulgaria) for a long time.

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