Doing Business in Finland

Business Etiquette finlandThe world has grown smaller and as a result more people are required to work internationally and across cultures. Among the challenges posed for today's international business person, is how to do business abroad effectively, i.e. how to understand and capitalize upon cultural knowledge.

This short guide to doing business in Finland offers an introduction to some of the key areas one may wish to consider prior to visiting Finland. It looks at areas such as business culture, etiquette, protocol and attitudes. It is not intended to summarise all 'doing business tips' nor meant to stereotype the Finns. Rather, it can act as a safety net for people unfamiliar with Finnish culture and society.

Meeting & Greeting

A firm handshake is standard for both genders in Finland. When being introduced to a group, shake hands with women first.

You should address people by their title followed by surname. If you are unaware of a title then Mr, Miss or Mrs is fine. Wait for the other party to initiate the move to first names.

Cross Cultural Nuances

The Finns are egalitarians and as such do not appreciate shows of ostentation. For example, over dressing would be seen as a sign of arrogance. This also extends to behaviour in that most Finns do not like loud talking in public or 'over energetic' behaviour.

The folding of the arms is viewed as arrogant. If you see someone tossing their head at you they are saying "come here." Physical contact such as back slapping or putting hands on shoulders is not generally done. Avoid talking with your hands in your pockets as this is considered too casual and bordering on rude. Men should remove hats when entering a building or talking to someone.

Business Meetings

Business meetings should be arranged and confirmed in advance, usually in writing. The working day changes according to the season; in winter offices will open from 08:00 - 16:15 where as in summer it will be 08:00 - 15:15. Finns' holiday months are July, August and September.

Bring business cards to any meeting and hand them out to everyone present. Finns like to get straight down to business; as such there will be little small talk before a meeting. Always come to a meeting well prepared as your hosts will want to see an organised, logical and fluent presentation.

Things to look out for include giving off any sense of superiority. In such an egalitarian society shows of this sort are frowned upon. Finns often have long periods of silence; don't be put off as it is normal. Always look people in the eye when talking. Avoid showing emotions (frustration, anger, etc) and never allows yourself to become too informal.

Doing Business in Finland

The above examples point to a few areas one must take into consideration when doing business in Finland. The Finns are a tolerant and open-minded society, so the chances are that any cross cultural gaffe will not have terrible consequences. Such tips are meant as a safety-net for those doing business in Finland to help avoid misunderstandings and promote better communication.

Business Culture Guides

We offer free guides to doing business in many countries. Please visit Business Culture Guides for a full list.

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