Background to Business in Finland

Finland is very much a country of paradoxes. It is Nordic and yet not Scandinavian (its language is totally unrelated to Swedish, Norwegian or Danish).

Finland is heavily dependent on traditional industries such as pulp and paper but, at the same time, is at the leading edge in many hi-tech sectors. The people of the country are notoriously limited communicators but very proficient in foreign languages. Finns are very proud of their nation’s history and achievements but swift to criticise any perceived national flaws.

These paradoxes are often mirrored in the Finnish approach to business and result in the Finns appearing, in the eyes of many other nationalities, to be an enigma. It can be very difficult to get to know Finnish colleagues well; it can seem impossible to understand the drivers behind their business propositions. It is, therefore, extremely important when doing business in Finland to have a good grasp of the cultural background of the Finns. It is definitely true that in Finland a little knowledge can go a long way.

Finnish history is that of triumph over adversity. Triumph over the climate, triumph over more powerful, wealthier neighbours and more latterly triumphs in many international niche markets. This fortitude makes the Finn a very strong and able business person. Do not underestimate the Finns.

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