Finland is much different in its business culture in comparison to that of the West. As when doing business with any new culture, it is best to learn as much as possible about their culture in general, as well as in the business world.
Finland is, officially, The Republic of Finland, located in the Fennoscandian portion of Europe, and is bordered by Sweden, Norway and Russia. There are several languages with the primary languages being Finnish and Swedish. The Finnish people are considered to be loyal, reliable, and self-sufficient, who value their privacy. They are also leaders in the peace processes. Their culture is different than that of the West in many ways. The culture of the Finnish in general, also carries over to the business world.
They meet and greet everyone with a handshake and leave with a handshake, regardless of it is a man, woman or child. They are a shy people who value their privacy and space. Unlike those in the West, it is not considered to be polite if you start up a conversation with those in Finland while in public. You absolutely do not hug, kiss or touch in any way. Maintain eye contact at all times, and leave your hands out of your pockets.
The Finnish, might be considered, as we call it in the West, “All Business.” They are punctual, and expect all who are attending a meeting to be punctual as well. It would be wise to phone in if you are going to be more than five minutes late for a meeting. Unlike other cultures, they are all business, and address the agenda without any small talk beforehand. During the meeting, there may be moments of silence. During this time, it is appropriate to wait, and not to interrupt.
There is no distinction between the male or female role in business. In the business world of Finland, women are equals.
Often, it becomes difficult in determining who makes the decisions, or whether decision making is divided among several corporate heads or managers. In Finland, the Managing Director is the only decision maker.
Businessmen and Business women in Finland are English speaking in most cases. So, there should not be a language barrier. The only issue would be that the Fins are precise. There is no need to speak loudly or quickly. Business can be discussed at anytime, with one exception.
Dress: Informal yet conservative
Business can be discussed almost anywhere including saunas, or during mealtime, except during dinner. It is common to have lunch before or after a visit to the sauna. Sauna time is done in the nude. Although it is not expected of others, wearing a towel or bathing suit is appropriate, although they may think it is rather odd to be clothed in the sauna.
Once dinner is completed, business can be discussed during coffee time. Dessert and cognac will also be served. It is not polite to leave beforehand. Any business discussion may last several hours after the meal is completed.
If you invite someone to a meal, you are expected to pay for it. Splitting checks is not acceptable. If you have a lunch with Finnish businessmen, business can be discussed at anytime.
If you are invited to the home, it is expected to bring a gift for your hostess. An odd number of flowers such as tulips, wine or chocolates. Never give white and yellow flowers or potted plants for a gift.
You are not required to take a gift or even a small token to a business meeting. However, once a deal is struck and completed, gifts are appropriate. Some gift ideas include: books, art, glass, cognac, wine, or liquor. If you purchase a gift in Finland, expect the prices to be higher than what you may be accustomed to.