Hei is the safest way
I was always recommended to use it when opening letters or writing emails and you can also use it when opening a conversation or casually greeting people as you pass by. It’s very versatile making it your best bet.
There are many other ways too, like saying “Moi!” or “Moikka!”.
Another popular one is moro, which I’ve taken a personal liking to. This greeting has its roots in Tampere but usage has spread widely across Finland. In addition, hei has it’s other less formal derivations heippa and heips. Although not time-saving, they have their own unique charm!
But you may wonder, where are the standard greetings such as good morning, etc? In the same way as English, you can say “Hyvää huomenta!” or simply “Huomenta!”. This is shared by all other time-related conversation starters, as you’ll see below:
- Day – (hyvää) päivää
- Afternoon – (hyvää) iltapäivää
- Evening – (hyvää) iltaa
- Late morning – (hyvää) aamupäivää
The last one is unconventional and specifies the time between the start of work until afternoon but huomenta is just as good. ¹
Green space interaction
An unwritten rule that someone told me is to be sure you say “Terve!” when passing by someone in the forest. I believe people are more relaxed from enjoying their time in green space and as a result, naturally more inclined to greet others. Why not keep up that trend?
Saying “Terve!” is also great practice for rolling your R’s, which is important for conversing in Finnish. That said, you might notice people dropping the R entirely and saying “Teve!” instead.
Goodbye as easy as hello
With many of these greetings, they can also be repeated to say goodbye.
Hei can become hei hei, similarly moi changes to moi moi. Moro as a salutation and a farewell is certainly used. Additionally, moikka is the same. You cannot, however use terve as goodbye, although tervehdys can be used as such. There are many other words to be learned when parting ways, including the formal näkemiin and the informal nähdään (literally “We shall see again!”). ²
Keep on greeting
Greetings are an important part of everyday life. Mastering the basics is always best moving forward in any pursuit! Especially conversation.
It’s too easy to adopt the belief that Finnish is difficult or even impossible to learn, but the right mindset can completely change that experience. Try to think of Finnish instead as just different.
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