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Most Finns belong formally to the Evangelical-Lutheran Church (about 83%), while 1.1% belong to the Finnish Orthodox Church; but people in general are fairly secular in their views.

Despite this, the Church and its ministers are held in high esteem, and personal religious views are respected.

There is very little chance of a visitor committing fundamental social gaffes or breaches of etiquette that would fatally damage relations between himself and his hosts.

Such breaches are viewed by Finns with equanimity if committed by their own countrymen and with understanding or amusement if committed by foreigners.

Finns would be happy if visitors knew something about the achievements of Finnish rally drivers and Formula 1 stars, or if they knew that footballers Jari Litmanen and Sami Hyypiä are Finns.

Culturally oriented Finns will take it for granted that like-minded visitors are familiar not only with Sibelius but with contemporary composers Kaija Saariaho and Magnus Lindberg, and orchestral conductors Esa-Pekka Salonen, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Sakari Oramo and Osmo Vänskä.

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Women are usually independent financially and may offer to pay their share of a restaurant bill, for instance.

This is rooted in the country’s history – particularly its honourable wartime achievements and significant sporting merits – and is today nurtured by pride in Finland’s high-tech expertise.

Being realists, Finns do not expect foreigners to know a lot about their country and its prominent people, past or present, so they will be pleased if a visitor is familair with at least some of the milestones of Finnish history or the sports careers of Paavo Nurmi and Lasse Viren.

Codes of behaviour are fairly relaxed, and reputations – good or bad – are built up over time as the result of personal actions rather than conforming to norms or standards.

It is difficult in Finland to make or break a reputation with a single social blunder.

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