Finns tend to behave more quietly, more efficiently than many other nationalities. The internet, mobile phones, and satellite navigation are used by Finns on an everyday basis. Valuable from the business point of view, there is a high degree of integrity – you see what you get, and get what you see.
Finland is a country where considerable weight is attached to the spoken word – words are chosen carefully and for the purpose of delivering a message. Finns place great value on words, which is reflected in the tendency to say little and avoid ’unnecessary’ small talk.
Finns are very straightforward; if they don’t know the answer to something, they will say so. "Take a bull by its horns and a man by his word" is an old Finnish saying. A Finn’s ’yes’ is a ’yes’ and a ’no’ is never a ’perhaps’. Finnish frankness may seem a bit indelicate but the way of communicating is upfront and uncomplicated, which is rather refreshing.
Finns are somewhat formal but business etiquette clearly shows that with their liberal attitudes they belong to the western European family. Finns shake hands briefly and firmly and no supporting gestures such as touching the shoulder are involved. Embracing or kissing when greeting is rare and usually reserved for family members or close friends.
On business hours
- Office hours are 08.00 – 16.00.
- Lunch is eaten between 11.00 and 13.00 and lasts one hour.
- Dinner in restaurants is usually started around 19.00-20.00.
On business meetings
Business meetings are often set up by e-mail, even by SMS-messages. Be on time and wear business clothes. Meetings tend to be brief and to the point. Coffee, tea, soft drinks and biscuits are usually served. The Finns are a nation of devoted coffee drinkers, consuming 10 kg of ground coffee per person a year, often said to be the highest per capita consumption in the world.
On the sauna - a reward not a punishment
Invited to a sauna? Relax. It is customary for a business meeting to progress from formal to informal, often leading to a session in the sauna. Sauna bathing is considered to be a way to relax and the sauna is one of the few places where Finns forget about work and talk about something else. It is here – if not before – you get on first name terms with your host.
Any questions you might have about the sauna will be well received. You are well advised to comment on the sauna experience to the host. A sauna is a subject that Finns never tire of talking about. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of going into the sauna – just say so. In Finland frankness is appreciated and well understood.
On business lunches and dinners in a restaurant
Be on time. This goes for both lunch and dinner. At lunch, what might strike you is that the business talk seems to go on. Finns love to do business and during business hours there’s no time for "small talk". At dinner, dress formally if no other dress code is given. Seated at table, if you are the guest of honour, seated to the right of the host or hostess, you are expected to say a few words of thanks for the dinner at dessert time. These few unobtrusive words of appreciation are expected of you but are not compulsory.
On the menu
What are you going to be served? The comments and jokes about Finnish cuisine come from people who envy our fresh delicacies. There is a wide array of berries and mushrooms, fresh fish from our rivers, lakes and seas and caviar especially in the wintertime. Poultry, game and meat dishes are also an excellent choice.
Invited to a Finnish home?
Again – wear a suit and don’t be late. If unavoidable, a fifteen minute delay is accepted. If there is a hostess, do bring her flowers. .And as a guest of honour, seated on her right hand side, say a few words of appreciation at dessert time.
Tip for avoiding wet feet in winter
For ladies: take two sets of footwear. It is normal practice for ladies to change their comfortable outdoor footwear to more elegant shoes when inside.
Finns are very punctual and expect the same of foreigners. Traffic is usually rather dependable, so you can’t use that as an excuse for being late. In case you are late (for a very good reason), call or send an SMS apologizing and giving the time when you’ll be there.
Office hours are between 09.00-16.00 and all appointments made in between are ok.
In offices people have lunch at different times between 11.00-13.00. In some places a one-hour lunch break is the norm, but in offices it is much shorter.
There are very short introductions (just a few sentences at most) with a cup of coffee and then straight down to business. If a meeting is scheduled for one hour, it usually ends after one hour as someone says that he/she has to go to another meeting or somewhere else. There is no ritual like a handshake to formally end a meeting, but sometimes hands are shaken when foreigners are present or deals are made.
Finland’s regular working week is 37,5 hours long. Workers in Finland cannot be required to work overtime without their consent.
Employees earn the minimum of two days of annual vacation for each month after having been employed for at least 14 working days. The actual vacation period is from May to September, but also other points in time are usually possible. Perhaps the most popular time to start the summer vacation is after Midsummer holidays (about one week before the end of June).
There are several official holidays in Finland. Some of them are Christian, some not. Annual official holidays in Finland are the following: New Year’s Day (January 1), Epiphany (January 6), Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, May Day (May 1), Ascension Day (in May), Midsummer Eve & Day (at the end of June), All Saints’ Day (at the beginning of November), Independence Day (December 6), Christmas Eve (December 24), Christmas Day (December 25), Boxing Day (December 26) and all Sundays.
Concerning communication cultures Finland belongs to the eastern so-called listening cultures, which means that Finns are good listeners: they concentrate on listening, interrupt very seldom and think what the speaker says.
Finns are very minimalistic in giving compliments. After some time, a foreigner gets a feeling that compliments are almost non-existent. On getting compliments, Finns just thank and don’t dwell on it. But then in organizational surveys Finns always complain that they get so little feedback. Compliments are viewed with suspicion if they suspect that it is too sweet or flattering and has no basis in reality.
The Finns are generally quite tolerant of newcomers to their country.
Finns are private people who tend to avoid public displays of emotion. Unlike neighbouring Russians, Finns are not very touchy, especially the men. Backslapping is rarely seen in Finland and is perceived as very patronising.
When talking to a Finn, remember not to group Finns together with citizens of other Nordic countries, particularly not Sweden. Good topics for small talk are for instance the weather, sports, family life, work and sights.
Many foreigners find the Finns’ tolerance of silence strange.
Finns never interrupt when someone is speaking and tend to distrust those who talk too much. SOURCE
First Name or Title?
Finns usually use first names, unless there are big differences in age or rank or it is a very formal setting. Titles such as "Doctor" are not used in speech very much nowadays.
Finns have been using the "sinä" form of familiar and informal address for the last 40 years (corresponds to "Du" in German or "Tu" in French). This is what you would hear in shops, on buses and on the street. But recently there is a trend to move back to a politer form ("Te" corresponds to "Sie" in German or "Vous" in French).
Unlike the Americans, Finns don’t repeat first names when meeting. SOURCE
What you should know before negotiating
The working style is individualistic, and people are used to working alone and hard. Team working is becoming more common, though, and interest in social and communication skills is growing.
Finns believe in a meritocratic system, but connections are important and they can open doors.
Business cards can be printed in English alone, but also in English and in Finnish on the reverse. Business people are expected to distribute business cards as a means of ensuring their name title are remembered. There are no special rituals related to exchanging business cards in Finland. For a visitor, receiving a business card provides a convenient opportunity to ask how a name is pronounced.
Nowadays, it is common practice to have lawyers go over all business contracts. Finnish lawyers are experienced in dealing with foreigners and fluent in English.
Finns believe in continuous learning and work very hard to upgrade their skills continuously. Usually Finns are rather pragmatic and not very conservative when it comes to new ideas as long as the ideas make sense.
Meetings are usually matter of fact where everyone who wants to speak should present their case factually. In Finnish meetings, people state facts, even unpleasant ones, rather bluntly without any softening or beating about the bush.
Brochures and promotional materials are usually printed in Finnish, but solely English language materials are also frequently used .
Presentations in Finland typically consist of Power Point recitals with facts presented in bullet points and the presenter talking. The other people in the meetings listen quietly while taking notes and interrupt only occasionally. The silence indicates they are thinking about what you have said. Questions and comments are left for the session after the presentation when there is discussion.
The typical pace of business in Finland is rather brisk with things happening in clearly visible phases. Finns at work are thorough and sincere. A saying that gives a good picture is "Everything that is worth doing, is worth doing well".
An agreement is considered final when a paper contract is signed. The country has an independent and well functioning judiciary to take care of contract disputes.
Finns are typically analytical thinkers and tend to focus more on technical facts rather than emotional appeal.
Company policy is followed rather strictly and exceptions are not made easily. When there is overwhelming evidence that the policy has to be changed, it is changed. This change is transparent and publicly visible. SOURCE
The rules for greeting strangers or introducing yourself are very similar to northern European practice, though Finns are more restrained and don’t show much emotion.
Men and women shake hands quite comfortably.
Shouting loudly, making a scene or drawing too much attention to oneself are considered rude.
Finns maintain eye contact when talking with others and this is considered important as they think that people who do not maintain eye contact are hiding something or are dishonest.
The Finnish Sauna
For the Finns, the sauna is more than just a place to wash themselves. It is a complex of many traditional customs and beliefs. Whereas still in the beginning of the 1900´s almost all saunas were traditional smoke saunas, today the electric stove has almost completely taken over. The sauna is no place for anyone in a hurry.
Because of its naturalness, the Finnish way of sauna bathing comes in many forms — no Finn could ever say to another about sauna bathing that "you are doing it wrong". No clothes or swimming suits are used in the sauna. SOURCE
more about sauna:
- Yleisradio Oy (YLE) - public, operates several channels in Finnish and Swedish LINK
- MTV3 – private LINK
- Nelonen (Channel 4) – private LINK
- Sub TV (http://www.sub.fi/)
- satellite channels
- Yleisradio Oy (YLE) - public, operates several channels in Finnish, Swedish and Sa’mi (Lappish) and external service Radio Finland LINK
- The Voice – private LINK
- Classic Radio – private LINK
- Radio Nova - national, private LINK
- NRJ – private LINK