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Read the directions!

January 10, 2014

When you buy something new in Finland, the labels are often multilingual. Food packaging often appears in Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, Estonian and Russian. Medication is often only labelled in Finnish and Swedish, but if you buy a piece of sports equipment (i.e. a hockey helmet) or something electronic, then you are faced with many languages. Clothing doesn’t come with directions, but the price tags are often multinational, with many of the same clothing chains spanning over several borders. A couple come to mind: Lindex, H&M, Seppälä… as these are places I have bought clothes for the Little Miss over the past few years.

A couple weeks ago I posted a picture on my own Facebook timeline of the Mr. reading the directions for an electric toothbrush and made a joke that he actually reads them. The paper was rather large because he had unfolded the whole thing looking for Finnish directions. Some of my friends observed, “Wow, those are some directions!” I piped in that in Europe this is a pretty standard thing: buy something and expect a plethora of languages to accompany the packaging. This got me thinking… In Canada the packaging often comes in two languages: English and French.

In fact the directions and packaging of things in Europe is a great opportunity to learn new words!

Just to illustrate my findings, here is the list of languages found on a box of After Eight chocolates. Count ’em: more than 25!

Some languages like Swedish, Norwegian and Danish are often listed together because many of the words are similar in all three languages.


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