Cultural outsiders’ evaluations of (im)politeness in Finland and in France

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Abstract

Intercultural interaction may be complicated by differing verbal and nonverbal displays of (im)politeness. Yet cultural outsiders’ evaluations of (im)politeness have not been widely examined. To fill this gap, this study investigated perceptions of Finnish politeness among French people living in Finland and perceptions of French politeness among Finns currently or previously living in France. Focus groups were used in order to study culturally shared (im)politeness norms and their variations. Based on a dialogical discourse analysis of five focus group discussions, it is argued that personal space emerges as a salient factor for politeness in Finland, while verbal and nonverbal rapport is more important in France. These overarching themes - personal space and rapport - led to discussions about greetings, silence and holding doors open. Greeting and opening doors appeared more categorical in France, while silence was better tolerated in Finland. In addition to dominant norms, regional and individual variations were reported. Overall, (im)politeness norms appeared to be vaguer in Finland than in France. Building upon this study, future research should examine if changes emerge in Finnish (im)politeness norms related to rapport or if space remains more valued.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Politeness Research
Volume16
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)249–280
Number of pages32
ISSN1612-5681
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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