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不愿寒暄的芬蘭人是如何生存的

How the Finnish survive without small talk
不愿寒暄的芬蘭人是如何生存的

I met my now best friend Hanna a few years ago during my first visit to Helsinki, on a coffee date set up out of desperation. Without any acquaintances in the city, I just wanted someone to sit next to in public, and given our tenuous work connection, she fitted the bill. Our drink quickly turned into dinner, wrapping up four hours later after doing deep dives on politics, religion, sex and life, the kind of topics that usually take friends years to address. A year later, I flew back to be a bridesmaid at her wedding, still shocked at how fast we forged a connection.

幾年前,我第一次去赫爾辛基(Helsinki)時遇到了我現在最好的朋友漢娜(Hanna),那是一次出于絕望而安排的咖啡約會。在這個城市里我沒有任何熟人,我只是想在公共場合有個人能坐在我身邊。我們工作上有點聯系,她便成了符合要求的人選。一起喝咖啡很快變成了共進晚餐,我們對政治、宗教、性和生活進行了深入探討,而這是朋友間可以討論多年的話題。我們的晚餐持續了四個小時。一年后,我飛回來,在她婚禮上當伴娘,那時我仍然對我們一見如故感到驚訝。

“Laura,” she told me matter-of-factly when I asked why we had bonded so quickly.

“勞拉,”我問她為什么我們這么快就熟識,她實事求是地告訴我,“芬蘭人不相信胡扯”。

What she neglected to tell me, however, is that Finns think if there’s no important topic to discuss, there’s no conversation at all. In fact, one of their national sayings is ‘Silence is gold, talking is silver’.

她沒有告訴我的是,芬蘭人認為如果沒有重要的話題需討論,就根本無須對話。他們的國民諺語是“沉默是金,交談是銀”。

Small talk outside social situations between close friends is virtually non-existent. Interactions with baristas? Limited to the name of the coffee you want to order. Sitting, walking or standing in a way that requires acknowledging a stranger’s presence? Never. (A meme featuring people standing outside a bus shelter rather than under it is an often-posted joke in Finland to illustrate this point.) If you’re a foreigner, congratulations – you’re probably the loudest person on their often (voluntarily) silent public transport.

親密朋友在社交場合之外的寒暄幾乎不存在。與咖啡師交流?僅限于你想點的咖啡的名字。坐著,走著,或站著時都需要承認陌生人的存在?從來沒有。在芬蘭,一個文化特色是人們站在公交候車亭外,而不是站在候車亭下,這是一個常用的笑話,用來說明這一點。如果你是外國人,恭喜你,你可能是公共交通工具上 (自愿)沉默人群中說話最大聲的那個。

With two million saunas in the country, which are enjoyed fully nude (generally gender-segregated, although that rule tends to be thrown out in the company of friends), the Finnish seem to have no problem with getting up close and personal. But when clothes are on, the bets are off.

在芬蘭,有200萬個桑拿浴室可以完全裸體享用(通常分男女,但有朋友一起時這一規定往往會被拋棄),芬蘭人似乎對親密關系沒有任何問題。但一旦穿上衣服,一切就變了。

Finnish people often forgo the conversational niceties that are hard-baked into other cultures, and typically don’t see the need to meet foreign colleagues, tourists and friends in the middle. As Tiina Latvala, a former English instructor in Sodankylä, Lapland, explained, part of her job was to introduce her young students to the concept of small talk.

芬蘭人通常不會遵守其它文化中根深蒂固的交談禮節,而且認為與外國同事、游客和朋友約會沒有必要。拉特瓦拉(Tiina Latvala)是拉普蘭(Lapland)索丹克雷(Sodankylä)的一名前英語教師,她解釋說,她的部分工作就是向年輕學生介紹寒暄的概念。

“We had a practice where you had to pretend to meet someone for the first time,” Latvala said. “You had to pretend you were meeting at the cafe or on a bus and [that] you didn’t know each other and do a bit of chit chat. We had written on the whiteboard all the safe topics so they didn’t have to struggle with coming up with something to talk about. We brainstormed. They usually found it really difficult.”

“我們有一個練習,必須假裝和某人第一次見面,”拉特瓦拉說。“必須假裝是在咖啡館或公共汽車上碰面,并且彼此不認識,然后聊上幾句。我們把所有安全的話題都寫在白板上,集思廣益,這樣就不用糾結于要討論什么了,學生們總是覺得這真的很難。”

Alina Jefremoff, an 18-year-old Finnish student in Helsinki, recalls similarly formatted exercises with an air of incredulity. Thanks to television and films (which are mostly broadcast in English) she was already acquainted with non-Finnish communication styles. Even still, she had to endure a series of connect-the-dot-style homework assignments.

住在赫爾辛基的18歲芬蘭學生杰弗萊夫(Alina Jefremoff)帶著一種懷疑的神情回憶起類似的練習形式。由于電視和電影(主要是用英語播放的),她已經熟悉了非芬蘭的交流方式。即便如此,她也不得不忍受一系列“連線游戲”式的家庭作業。

紐約時報中英文網 http://www.uydujn.live/

“[They’re] about basic conversation,” she explained. “The answers are already there. We are taught to answer ‘I’m great, how about you?’; ‘How is your mum?’. It was very clear how to be in a conversation, as if we didn’t already know. It was very weird… as if there were right answers to the questions.”

“(作業)是關于基本對話的,”她解釋道。“答案已經在那里了。我們被教導要回答,‘我很好,你呢?’;‘你媽媽好嗎? ’如何對談已經很清楚,我們其實都知道。這很奇怪……好像這些問題有正確答案似的。”

When asked for an example of how she wishes Finnish society were more open, Jefremoff gave the example of doing something ridiculous, like dropping her books in the metro, and then laughing at herself. She says she wishes that strangers would join her in acknowledging the silliness of the situation by laughing or commenting. Initiating social contact with people you don’t know? Not something they’ve been taught.

當被要求舉例說明希望芬蘭社會如何更加開放時,杰弗萊夫舉例說可以做一些可笑的事情,比如把書丟在地鐵里,然后嘲笑自己。她說,希望陌生人能和她一起,通過嘲笑或評論來承認這種情況的愚蠢。主動與陌生人接觸?這不是他們學過的東西。

There are more hypotheses than answers for why Finnish culture has a veil of silence permanently stitched in place. Latvala believes their trademark directness has something to do with the complexity of the Finnish language and the fairly large distance between cities (Latvala’s reasoning: If you’ve travelled any distance to see someone, why waste time?).

關于芬蘭文化為什么會永久地遮上沉默的面紗,更多的是假設而不是答案。拉特瓦拉認為,芬蘭人招牌式的直率,與芬蘭語的復雜以及城市相距過遠有關。拉特瓦拉的理由是:如果見一個人要跑很遠的路,為什么要這樣浪費時間?

However, Prof Laura Kolbe, who teaches European history at the University of Helsinki, sees the topic through a comparative lens. The Finns, she says, don’t see their quietness or lack of small talk as a negative. Instead, every culture judges another on their social norms, hence the widespread stereotype of the silent Finn among more emotive nationalities.

然而,赫爾辛基大學(University of Helsinki)歐洲史教授科爾布(Laura Kolbe),以比較的角度看待這個問題。她說,芬蘭人不認為他們的安靜或不愿寒暄是消極的。但每種文化都根據自己的社會規范來評判另一種文化,因此,在更情緒化的民族的印象中,沉默的芬蘭人是刻板的。

“The idea of silence has been especially prevalent when Finns were seen from the eyes of close neighbours,” she explained. “For example, when Swedish- and German-speaking people came to Finland in the past, they saw Finns as silent citizens, wondering why the people didn’t speak any Swedish or German and rather remained silent among their guests.”

“近鄰看待芬蘭人時,這種想法尤其普遍,”她解釋說。“例如,過去講瑞典語和德語的人來芬蘭時,視芬蘭人為沉默的公民。他們不明白為什么芬蘭人不講瑞典語或德語,面對客人時也保持沉默。”

It isn’t for lack of skill, for Finland has two national languages – Finnish and Swedish – and Finns begin English lessons when they’re six or seven. But rather it’s because when faced with expressing themselves in second (or third) language, many often choose to not say anything rather than risk not being fully understood. However, when among their own, silence functions as an extension of comfortable conversation.

芬蘭人并非缺乏語言技能,芬蘭有兩種民族語言——芬蘭語和瑞典語——而且芬蘭人在六、七歲時就開始學習英語。但當必須用第二種(或第三種)語言表達時,許多人往往選擇什么也不說,以避免不能被充分理解的風險。對他們自己而言,沉默是舒適交談的延伸。

紐約時報中英文網 http://www.uydujn.live/

It’s an idea that’s backed up by Dr Anna Vatanen, a researcher at the University of Oulu, whose forthcoming study ‘Lapses in interaction and the stereotype of the Silent Finn’ demonstrates that at least among their own, Finns do communicate through comfortable silence – particularly among familiars. When it comes to outsiders judging the stereotypically straightforward Finn, she warns that some nuances do get lost in translation.

奧盧大學(University of Oulu)研究員瓦塔寧(Anna Vatanen)博士支持這一觀點。她即將完成的一項研究——“在互動方面的失誤以及沉默芬蘭人的刻板印象”,表明至少芬蘭人自己之間,尤其是在熟人之間,確實是通過舒適的沉默來交流的。當外人評價直率的芬蘭人時,她警告說,跨文化交際中,一些細微的差別確實會被忽視。

“It’s not about the structure or features of the language, but rather the ways in which people use the language to do things,” she explained via email. “For instance, the ‘how are you?’ question that is most often placed in the very beginning of an encounter. In English-speaking countries, it is mostly used just as a greeting and no serious answer is expected to it. On the contrary, the Finnish counterpart (Mitä kuuluu?) can expect a ‘real’ answer after it: quite often the person responding to the question starts to tell how his or her life really is at the moment, what’s new, how they have been doing.”

“這與語言的結構特點無關,而是與人們使用語言的方式有關,”她在電子郵件中解釋說。“例如,初次見面最常出現的問題,‘你好嗎?’,在英語國家主要是用作問候語,不需要嚴肅的回答。相反,芬蘭語中相應的問題(Mitä kuuluu?),則需要一個‘真實’的回答:回答者往往開始講述目前的生活,有什么新鮮事,他們過得怎么樣。”

But when Finns do opt out of casual conversation, says Karoliina Korhonen, author of Finnish Nightmares, a book and online comic series where an ‘average’ Finn deals with life’s most benign terrors, it also has something to do with respect. Why risk making someone else feel uncomfortable?

不過,《芬蘭噩夢》(Finnish Nightmares)一書的作者科爾霍南(Karoliina Korhonen)說,芬蘭人決定不加入寒暄,也和尊重有關。為什么要讓別人感到不舒服呢?這本書也在網上進行漫畫連載,講的是一個“普通的”芬蘭人如何應對生活中那些無害但讓人恐慌的事情。

“I like to think Finnish people value personal space,” she notes. “If you don’t know another person, you don’t want to bother them. They might be having their own time or they don’t want a stranger to come bother them. If you see they’re open and you both are open, you can have something. But most of the time people are polite and keep their distance.”

“我認為芬蘭人重視個人空間,”她說。“如果你不認識別人,就不想打擾他們。他們可能正在做自己的事,或者不想讓陌生人來打擾。如果你看到他們愿意交談,而你也愿意,就可以聊聊。但大多時候人們都很有禮貌,并且保持距離。”

But their desire for avoidance is a predisposition so common that it’s become hard-baked into Finnish culture. Formula One driver Kimi Räikkönen has built his iconic image around his lack of talking. Comics use the Finn’s lack of small talk as part of their routine. It’s even gone international: thanks to the unexpected spike in popularity of Korhonen’s work in China, teens there who don’t enjoy social interactions are describing themselves as ‘spiritually Finnish’.

但希望回避是他們非常普遍的態度,已經成為芬蘭文化中根深蒂固的東西。一級方程式賽車手萊科寧(Kimi Räikkönen)因不愛講話而樹立了自己的標志性形象。漫畫中,對寒暄不感興趣是芬蘭人日常生活的一部分,甚至走向了國際。科爾霍南的作品在中國出人意料地大受歡迎,不喜社交的中國青少年把自己描述成“精神上的芬蘭人”。

In some cases, though, Finnish society seems to be trending toward a marginally more open existence. However, it’s happening slowly. For Jussi Salonen, COO of Finnish chocolate company Goodio, living in Los Angeles for two years made him wish he could import a bit more of the US’ open spirit to his home country.

不過,在某些情況下,芬蘭社會似乎有些許更開放的傾向。然而,它發生得很慢。對芬蘭巧克力公司古迪奧(Goodio)的首席運營官薩洛寧(Jussi Salonen)來說,在洛杉磯生活了兩年,讓他希望自己能把美國的開放精神更多一點引入自己的祖國。

“When I was [back] in Finland, I was almost offended when I went to get a cup of coffee from a coffee shop and they didn’t say anything,” he recalled. “It was just ‘what do you want?’. How can you say that? Are you not going to ask anything before that? Oh, yeah. This is my home country. This is just the way things are. It was funny to notice how things got twisted a little bit when I was living over there… I think a little bit of communication or small talk doesn’t hurt.”

“當我(回到)芬蘭,我去咖啡店買咖啡時,他們什么都沒說,我幾乎感覺被冒犯了,”他回憶道。“說的只是‘你想喝什么?’你怎么能這么說呢?在那之前你不打算問什么嗎?哦,是的。這是我的祖國。人們溝通的方式就是這樣。有趣的是我住在那里的時候,事情發生了一些變化……我覺得有一點交流或閑聊沒什么壞處。”

It’s a hopeful idea that Finns can meet the rest of the world in the middle while respecting each other’s privacy. But for now, it leaves Finland with one of the most interesting social dichotomies. Sure, you might not speak to people on the street. But if you’re lucky, sometimes a stranger will instantly become a friend and tell you everything.

人們希望芬蘭人能折中,既滿足世界上其他人的需求,同時也能尊重彼此隱私。但就目前而言,它讓芬蘭有了最有趣的分裂。當然,你可能不會和街上的人說話。但如果你幸運的話,有時陌生人會馬上成為你的朋友,告訴你一切。

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