Finland Culture of Business

By | July 24, 2022

Subchapters:

  • Introduction
  • Addressing
  • Business Meeting
  • Communication
  • Recommendations
  • Public Holidays

Introduction

During business negotiations with Finnish partners, it is necessary to make a good first impression, especially with perfect preparation and transparency. Despite the cultural proximity, there is a need to respect Finnish specificities. Relevant references, ideally from other Nordic countries or from Western Europe, will be very helpful in establishing business cooperation. Czech products have a long tradition and a good reputation in Finland, as do Czech exporters, who are perceived as reliable partners.

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Addressing

For the initial identification of business partners and obtaining basic information about them, standard international commercial databases (e.g. Hoovers from Dun & Bradstreet) or publicly accessible information from Finnish portals, which are overwhelmingly also available in English, can be used. You can also use the services provided by the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Helsinki, which has extensive knowledge of the territory and verified contacts. In selected cases, the embassy can provide Czech companies with broader assistance in the form of individual service, and thus speed up access to relevant business partners and “decision-makers” using contacts with important local players, as well as increase the credibility of Czech entities and the solutions offered. The embassy can also, if necessary, help Czech businessmen at any stage of the business process with a suitable solution, tailored to specific needs and circumstances. We also recommend considering getting an agent with expertise in the local market and knowledge of Finnish, which is essential for gaining access to a partner and overcoming barriers.

Business meeting

The key moment of a business meeting is the first impression, where comprehensive preparation for negotiations, punctuality, very good knowledge of English, matter-of-factness, structured speech, reliability, persistence and complete transparency play the biggest role. Considering the fact that Finland is a very non-hierarchical country, there is no emphasis on social status even in the business sphere. Finns place a high value on work-life balance, which is why they value their free time. It is therefore advisable to arrange the meeting during normal working hours between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., with the need to fully respect the partners’ non-work commitments. At lunch time, it is not customary to offer alcohol, it is customary to drink only tap water, which is normally offered in restaurants. If your Finnish counterpart invites you to the sauna, which can clearly be considered a sign of appreciation or trust, the consumption of chilled beer and sometimes hard alcohol is almost certain. Inviting a business partner to your home is not usual, especially at the beginning of establishing business relations, however, after several years of business partnership, you may receive this honor. It is necessary to keep in mind that during the summer school holidays in Finland, which last from the beginning of June to the middle of August, the whole of Finland practically “closes”, or most residents have left for their lakeside cottages and are usually unavailable. Business cards are exchanged in a completely normal way, but due to the “green” thinking of the Finns, classic business cards are abandoned and partners prefer to connect through the professional social network LinkedIn. The status of gifts is relatively neutral, you will certainly not offend a business partner with them, nor will you cause a faux-pas by giving them, but it is not considered a necessity.

A Czech businessman is often surprised during negotiations by Finnish punctuality, directness, when after an introduction and the exchange of a few introductory phrases, one goes straight to business, the informality, within which one often switches to calling by first name relatively soon, and a sense of humor. The Finnish partner expects from his counterpart respect for the same values ​​and principles that he himself professes. That is, perfect readiness, absolute punctuality, absolute reliability, full transparency of business activities, proof of the uniqueness of goods or services and high quality (price alone is not the main factor of success in Finland). Finns are used to listening carefully to their partners, while expecting the same from them. In any case, the Finnish merchant does not accept non-compliance with the agreed business conditions in any area (delivery times, quality, price changes, etc.). A typical Finn is a patriot, so you will have to convince him of the added value of your product against the local competition, in a small market with very limited absorption. Finns are generally relaxed, open-minded, egalitarian and consensual in a good sense of the word, which is also reflected in their relaxed style of dressing during business meetings, where they do not primarily show their social or financial status. Therefore, it is not necessary to come to the meeting in a suit and tie, tasteful and rather decent “casual” clothing (jacket, shirt, dress pants/skirts, informal dress) is quite sufficient. The tradition of teamwork is very old in Finland. The Finnish partner will welcome you if you are also part of a functional and balanced team, not just its boss. The age of the team members does not matter much.

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Most of the business is concentrated in the agglomeration around the capital and in the larger Finnish cities such as Tampere, Turku, Vaasa and Oulu. The differences between Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa, which make up the so-called “metropolitan area”, and the regions around Tampere and Turku blur, but significant differences can be found in the predominantly Swedish-speaking areas of the Vaasa region on the west coast or in the more remote regions of the central, eastern and the northern part of the country. With half the population, Finland is more than four times larger than the Czech Republic, and regional identity is often quite strong here. Few foreigners, for example, know that Espoo, which is commonly considered a part of Helsinki, is the second largest independent city, where, among other things, the most important Finnish corporations are located and the richest residents of Finland live here.

Communication

To overcome the initial barrier and gain access to a business partner, knowledge of Finnish is a relatively essential comparative advantage, subsequent communication during the business negotiation itself can take place in English without any problems. Finland is a bilingual country, where apart from Finnish, the official language is also Swedish (used mainly on the west coast, but also in individual municipalities in southern Finland). A very good knowledge of English across the entire company is typical for Finland, and therefore even local businessmen speak English at least at a good communication level.

At the beginning of the meeting, Finns do not expect a long polite conversation that is not related to the actual subject of the meeting. On the contrary, they will appreciate if the counterpart goes straight to the point. This also applies to written communication, where Finns are often very brief and informal, which can sometimes seem measured from the Czech point of view, but it is not so – it is only a matter of matter-of-factness and saving time. Visit Aparentingblog for more information about Finland culture and traditions.

Certain rules such as simplicity, structure and moderation in form and content must be observed during presentation and negotiations. It should be taken into account that in Finland, egalitarianism is one of the basic social values. This manifests itself, among other things, in the intolerance of any attempt to ridicule any minorities (ethnic, religious, gender). Even some common forms of gallantry towards women in our country are inappropriate in the Nordic countries, including Finland. A communication taboo is an inappropriate conception of some sensitive moments of Finnish history.

In a country famous for digitization and information technology, it is possible to communicate in any way with an emphasis on modern means of communication, led by social networks, e.g. by sending a message via Messenger or Whatsapp. During the COVID 19 pandemic, communication and negotiations via video conferencing, like everywhere else, have become even more common. If you really have something to offer, don’t be shy and feel free to write directly to the CEO of the company or another specific person in the selected company, be innovative in your approach.

Recommendation

The Finnish market is not suitable for beginner exporters. Finns require references from other Nordic countries or Western Europe. At the same time, however, Czech suppliers are traditionally perceived on the local market as reliable partners with quality products and services from “central” Europe, not “eastern” Europe, as is often the case elsewhere abroad. If you offer a suitable, unique and innovative product with sufficient added value, definitely give the Finnish market a chance.

Make a perfect first impression and be punctual (it’s better to arrive at the meeting ten minutes early than one minute late), be transparent (about your export intentions, business strategy and company history), have a structured speech, be reliable, matter-of-fact, straightforward, concise and modest. Surprise your partner with knowledge of the specifics of the region it comes from. Give your Finnish partner enough space and listen carefully. If your partner switches to a more informal approach, reciprocate if possible. During the meeting, do not be afraid to lighten the atmosphere by joking, but empathically, on a level, with feeling and tact. And last but not least, don’t forget Finland’s inspiring national trait “sisu”, the adoption of which for business cooperation with Finland can only be recommended and can best be translated as tenacity,

Public Holidays

  • January 1 – New Year, uudenvuodenpäivä
  • January 6 – Epiphany, loppiainen
  • floating date – Good Friday, mäkäperjantai
  • floating date – Easter Sunday, paasiäispäivä
  • moving date – Easter Monday, 2. paasiäispäivä
  • 1 May – 1 May, vappu/suomalaisen tyon päivä
  • moving date (always Thursday) – Ascension of the Lord, helatorstai
  • moving date (always Sunday) – All Hallows’ Eve, helluntai
  • moving date (always Friday) – the eve of Midsummer night, juhannusaatto *
  • moving date (always Saturday) – Midsummer’s Eve, juhannuspäivä
  • moving date (always Saturday) – All Saints’ Day, pyhäinpäivä
  • December 6 – Independence Day
  • December 24 – Christmas Day, jouluaatto *
  • 25 December – 1st Christmas holiday, joulupäivä
  • December 26 – 2nd Christmas holiday, tapaninpäivä

* these are not official Finnish holidays, but days off – schools and offices are closed and most people have the day off

Finland Culture of Business