Perseverance and stubbornness (sisu) are widely viewed as being key characteristics.
Finns tend less towards consensus than their Nordic cousins, expecting individuals to take responsibility for decisions which fall within the perimeters of their responsibilities.
Industrial relations in Finland have been characterised by co-operation and calm, with all elements in the organisation working for the good of the greater whole.
Finnish companies can be quite paternalistic in their approach to the wider community, seeing the company as having a social obligation to fulfil.
Engineering and engineers are held in great esteem and managers from this discipline very often dominate companies.
Management places great emphasis on the development of orderly procedures and processes, which will enable everybody to perform their tasks efficiently.
Major decisions tend to be taken in a collegiate style by a small group of senior managers. These major decisions can be a long time in the making.
Finns are uncomfortable with a hard sell approach. It is better to be understated and somewhat self-deprecating in manner.
Meetings are very often used for the dissemination of information rather than as debating chambers.
Meetings tend to be highly structured and interruptions and diversions are frowned upon.
Punctuality is important but less so than in Sweden.
Do not feel the need to speak during a meeting merely for the sake of saying something. Finns respect those who interject in a timely, succinct and appropriate way.
Being overly enthusiastic about a proposal can backfire on you. It is necessary to look at the possible downsides before succumbing to optimism.
Teams consist of groups of individuals who like to be given tangible tasks and then allowed to perform them with relatively little interference.
Silence is golden in Finland. Do not feel the need to fill every silence that occurs in a meeting.
Body language and feedback are limited and difficult to read. Do not be too disheartened if your presentation does not meet with the rapturous applause you had anticipated.
Humour is acceptable in many business situations and Finns appreciate dry, sardonic wit.
Finns are good linguists and often speak several languages to a good level. Fear of making mistakes can make Finns reticent to show their level of fluency.
Work and private life are largely separated, with inter-company social functions being formally organised affairs. The Scandinavian hard-drinking reputation of days gone by still exists to a certain extent and business dinners can occasionally prove exhausting.
If travelling to Finland in the winter, be prepared for the worst. Take lots of layers of warm clothing as well as a hat, scarf and gloves.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
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: