Finland: 10 tips for business success when working with Finns

How to make a good impression when working with the Finnish

Be prepared to make positive but not excessive comments about Finland. Finns always like to know what visitors think of their country and are actually quite insecure, so do not be critical. If you want to talk about sport, ice hockey is a national obsession, as is Formula One.

If you are invited to the sauna, accept, and don’t be embarrassed about nudity. As a woman, you will not be invited to do business in the sauna with Finnish men, or vice versa. Only families and close friends take mixed saunas together.

Do not underestimate Finns. They can be lacking in self-confidence as a nation and will put themselves down, but many are highly educated, multilingual and creative. Their self-effacing nature and natural pessimism can disguise this. Finns are also naturally taciturn and conversations will include long silences.

To make a good impression, you should be frank (except when giving negative feedback), open, direct and low-key. Use understatement. Don’t be late and don’t miss deadlines. Only promise something if you can deliver it. Involve Finns in plans and decision making wherever possible.

10 tips for success when working with Finns

  1. Finns place a high value on speaking plainly and openly.
  2. Don’t be uncomfortable with silence; Finns consider long gaps within a conversation to be a positive thing. Showing you are listening closely is important.
  3. Finns are very modest and downplay their own achievements.
  4. Although Finns are private, almost taciturn people, business conversations are regularly carried out among groups in a casual manner in the sauna.
  5. Finns are honest, dependable and highly ethical in business and prefer a win-win outcome to any situation.
  6. Finns will take what you say literally; so only say ‘Yes’ if you really mean it.
  7. Finns are creative, insightful, and often highly qualified, so do not underestimate them as negotiators.
  8. Finnish workers are independent and self-motivated and perform best when permitted to work in this manner.
  9. They do not always require face-face contact for significant decisions. They are very comfortable relying on emails.
  10. Be punctual. Arrive on time for both business and social events.

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About the Author

Sue Bryant

Sue Bryant is an award-winning writer and editor specialising in global business culture and travel.

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