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.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in Finland. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.
With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in Finland and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.
Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics: