Finland Business Etiquette

Tervetuloa Suomi! (‘‘Welcome to Finland!” in Finnish)

Finland is the “land of a thousand lakes” – seriously, there are 187,888 lakes in Finland. Think that’s an impressive number? Take a look at the number of saunas in Finland – 2.2 million. That’s more than enough for each family to have their own!

Finland is a breathtaking Nordic country with snowy winters and sunny summers; but, unlike other Nordic countries, Finland is not Scandinavian. Their language, unlike the language of many other Nordic countries, is not Germanic in nature. Finnish is its own beast.

Like its language, Finland is unique in many ways, including its business rituals. Before you take a business trip to Finland, let’s first learn about the dos and don’ts of Finnish business etiquette.

The Lowdown

  • The capital of Finland is Helsinki, which is also the country’s largest city.
  • The official languages of Finland are Finnish and Swedish, and about 93% of the population identifies ethnically as Finnish.
  • Most Finnish citizens are Evangelical Lutheran.
  • Finland is a unitary parliamentary constitutional republic.

Dressing Sharp

  • Business clothing should be conservative, yet elegant.
  • Men should wear dark suits with a tie and jacket.
  • Women should wear dark suits (pantsuits, dresses, or skirts).

Make or Break Meetings 

                    

                    

  • Punctuality is extremely important in Finland – you should arrive to meetings either early or on time.
  • Always keep your appointments!
  • Greet the Finnish party with a strong handshake and eye contact to assert confidence.
  • Business cards should be exchanged at the first meeting.
  • Avoid small talk, especially humorous small talk.
  • If a Finn invites you to use the sauna, you should accept – bonding often takes place here.

Dining Decorum 

  • Business is not discussed during meals.
  • Keep hands visible at all times and do not rest your elbows on the table during the meal.
  • Do not sit down or begin eating until the host indicates to do so.
  • Like many European nations, table manners are Continental.
  • When you have finished your meal, put your utensils face down across your plate. Make sure that all food on your plate has been finished.
  • If you are invited to a Finn’s home for a meal, it is polite to offer to help the host clean up.

Giving and Getting Gifts 

  • Gifts are typically given if you visit a Finn’s home. Acceptable gifts include: chocolate, flowers, or wine.
  • If you are giving flowers, be sure to give a bouquet in an odd number and avoid white and yellow blooms.
  • Gifts are typically opened upon receipt.

Down to Business 

  • As with any other meetings, there will be little small talk during negotiations. Finns are very straightforward in the business setting.
  • Business negotiations are formal, and there is no need to be overly “friendly” with the Finnish party in order to set up a successful business partnership. That being said, the Finns do like to establish long-term partnerships.
  • If a verbal agreement is made, it will be respected.
  • Contracts are strictly enforced.

Now that you’re well prepared for your next jet-setting business trip to Finland, don’t forget to stay tuned for our next Business Etiquette blurb! Hyvästi! (“Goodbye!” in Finnish)