Survival guide to doing business in Finland
Finnish people have come a long way through to make their place in the Nordic landscape. From being occupied by the Swedes and by the Russians, the country has rapidly developed a solid economy and social model, an example of prosperity for other European countries. Finland is now thriving and its global outreach can be attested from its numerous success-stories, ranging from the international development of Nokia to its worldwide recognized welfare system. It often comes as a surprise that Finland is actually a relatively recent independent state, only since 1917.
People also often do not realize how close Finland is to Russia. As for its language, Finland is closer to Eastern European countries than to its German neighbours. Finland is a “Nordic” country, but not part of the “Scandinavia”: be precise, the Northern countries have very different origins!
Happy and nature friendly
When it comes to coping with the cold weather, the minuses the country is subjected to don’t keep people from being happy and nature friendly. People are not afraid to go and swim in cold lakes, and spend a lot of time outside.
Finland often reach the top position for the ranking of the happiest countries in the world.
Quiet, yet direct
In your relations with Finnish people you might wonder about their silence during your exchanges, because a Finn will rather listen to what you say before giving his opinion. His speech pattern is different to the French one, where it is commonly accepted to debate and interrupt during presentations. Finnish are more reserved and balanced, even their body-language is tempered: Finns save their energy. Do not consider it as a mark of non-interest in what you are saying: Finnish people are direct and frank communicators because it saves time and money for both sides.
Finns commonly believe that good collaborative planning and hard work will help them improving their lives. Finns are hard workers with a well-ordered schedule. As all their Nordic neighbours, punctuality is very basic behaviour and contributes to mutual respect. It translates in business by bills being paid quickly and deadlines always being met. And don’t expect meetings to last longer than planned. Someone will probably come knocking on the door to use the meeting room after you.
Also, Finnish people rely on dates, figures, and statistics, so be well prepared. As they are aware to be exigent, Finns would expect the same rigor from you.
Open-minded and driven by innovation
The Finnish open-mindedness also allows them to move forward, and to innovate. They have in common with Sweden and Denmark to be among the most innovative countries in the world, ranking to the fifth position in the 2017 Global innovation Index. New-technology companies is the biggest export-intensive sector in Finland, and the country is also scoring high in the start-up ecosystem, thanks to forward-thinking initiatives marrying design and technologies, the two main assets in Finland. Open-mindedness also goes with respect for foreign cultures: the cultural gap with other European culture can be disarming, but Finnish try to soften the impact of their statements to foreigners.
Sisu is a Finnish word that can be equivalent to being “brave”, “tenacious” and “determined”. Sisu is the embodiment of Finnish life style, the equivalent of the Swedish lagom or the Danish hygge.
In business, sisu entails that you can consider Finnish business men and women as reliable, efficient, trustworthy and business oriented.
In Finland, be prepared to evolve in a stimulating environment, geared towards innovation, and be ready to be creative and strong about your ideas.
Don’t forget to enjoy your professional relations with Finnish and try to adopt some of their habits: experience a moment in the sauna for your business meetings, and don’t abuse drinking Vodka, remember they are pretty used to strong alcohols!
Did you know?
Finland is the only Nordic countries part of the EURO Zone. It was the first country to officially introduced the currency on January 1st 2002 because of the one-hour time zone difference.
By Pia Abildgaard