Finnish Communication Styles

It is important, when dealing with Finns, to understand the Finnish communication style. Finns are quiet.

On the global scale of volubility, they do not score very highly. To many nationalities, the Swedes are a silent race – in the eyes of Finns, the Swedes are big talkers!

People are expected to contribute to a meeting or conversation only when they have something of import to say. Thus it is not unknown for a Finn to sit through a lengthy meeting without making any verbal contribution. This lack of contribution should not be confused with a lack of comprehension or interest. The Finn will interject when he or she feels it appropriate.

Silence is an integral part of the overall communication pattern and Finns are more comfortable in silence than most other nationalities. In negotiation situations, cultivate your own level of comfort in silence otherwise you can find yourself giving away more than was originally intended.

Finnish body language tends to be very limited and therefore difficult to read. Over expressiveness in word or gesture is viewed with suspicion and it is better to temper one’s own body language. Do not mistake lack of visible or verbal reaction to a presentation as showing disinterest.

Finns use humour extensively in business situations (although less than the British, Irish or Australians), but the type of humour may bypass other nationalities comprehension. Humour is usually very laconic and self-deprecatory and they tell more jokes about themselves than any other nation.

The self-deprecating Finns will tell you that they are, as a nation, poor at foreign languages – don’t believe them. Many Finns speak not only English and Swedish (the other official language of the country) but one or two other languages as well. An unwillingness to lose face by making mistakes in a foreign language can create shyness at the beginning within an international environment, but patience and encouragement will bring great rewards in this area.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Finland

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Finland punches above its weight and has done for decades. For a country with a tiny population, geographically remote and with an inclement climate the fact that Finland is considered a world leader in a number of areas is a remarkable achievement and a testament to the resilience and determination of its people.

Maybe Finland’s success is down to its world famous ‘sissu’ (read the country profile to find out what that actually is) or maybe it’s just down to the fact that Finland has been able to develop an education system that is globally envied and endlessly studied. Whatever the reason, Finland is in many ways remarkable. If you are looking for a market with an affluent, sophisticated consumer base which is technologically advanced and open to new ideas, then the idea of doing business in Finland should appeal to you.

Yet Finland is in many ways an enigma. Nordic but not Scandinavian; with a seemingly endless border with Russia but definitely not Slavic. Even the Finnish language has no similarities with its near neighbours. For these reasons Finland is often referred to as a cultural ‘lone wolf’.

Doing business in Finland can bring enormous benefits but Finns are notoriously circumspect. A better knowledge of Finnish business culture can help you overcome any initial reticence you might encounter and enable you to develop deep and long-lasting relationships. Finns are interested in people who are interested in Finland – so show an interest in all things Finnish and you will reap the rewards.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Finnish business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips