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Finland is Nordic, not Scandinavian. A largely Lutheran and Orthodox country, Finnish culture is more reserved compared to other cultures. Even the pace of speaking is unhurried. Interrupting people is impolite. They are a culture that appreciates long silences and avid listening. Business Etiquette in Finland can best be navigated by respecting their larger cultural values.
Manners and Etiquette
The Finns feel strongly about the dignity of individuals. They don’t like to be pushed around. This is the reason why they can be a bit difficult to get to know.
Finns are reserved and distant with strangers. Trust takes a long time to develop and a long time to break. The Finn treats people the way they are. He is stiff and formal when dealing with business etiquette matters.
Finnish people are tolerant of other people’s social and cultural behaviour and traditions. They allow other people to be. This is in contrast with people from other countries and cultures. Especially when competing with the Finns, people must be cautious about being seen to win-out and take over.
Respect the Finns
The Finns are a peace-loving people. They avoid conflicts as much as they can. Many have put it down as their fundamental trait.
The Finns values respect and feels that it should be returned. They greet each other with the word – terve, which means ‘hello’ in Finnish. To show respect to people in the business sector, you should greet them with this word.
There is a softer saying, terveisiin, which means good-bye in Finnish. It’s a very common saying in business circles. Finns use it as a general greeting. When you want to say hello to a Finn, use the word terve.
Respect the Finns by not calling them directly by their names without the suffixes –nen or –nen. For example, address your correspondent as Mr or Mrs, but never use their first name.
Finns shake hands firmly when they first meet. They look straight into the eyes when shaking hands. When one has accomplished some victory or reached a certain level in their professional career, the other will congratulate in the form of a handshake.
Finns are thorough when giving out business cards. They include their name, job title, an office address and contact information. There might be a separate page for the social information where they write their family information and hobbies.
Insist that the information on the business card is written in both Finnish and English. The English should be written on the line below the Finnish.
When handing out a card, give it vertically and not horizontally. Finns don’t leave their cards lying around the table or a table. Instead, they keep them in a small bag.
The Finns are punctual. They don’t carry too much baggage. For example, they don’t have a big organisation chart.
The Finns know their company’s business and their people. They are relaxed in their business dealings. They think that they have good reasons to act in a particular way. They expect others to think likewise.
The Finns are very rational, structured and orderly. Communication is warm and moderate. They too speak articulated, short sentences.
The Finns are very polite in their manners. They refrain from discussions involving sex and politics.
The Finn always listens to others. They want to get the facts straight. They don’t like filling in the gaps where the other person is planning to talk. They are usually good at what they do.
When speaking to a Finn, they usually don’t give a long, complicated explanation for some reason or the other. They give you the information you want as concisely and directly as possible.
They are excellent listeners. They can sit through the longest of silences. They have excellent conversational skills. The Finns speak calmly and at a moderate pace.
They are known for being rigorously honest. They won’t commit to something in front of you and then deny it. They are very up-front.
Manners and Etiquette
Finns are a traditional people. They have great respect for the elderly, children and public figures. As a local, you don’t make too much noise and you don’t park your car in a location that makes other people feel their space is too small.
Propose a toast for a successful long life. Only clink glasses with people you are familiar with.
The Finns are formal in their methods of dressing. They look at the quality of what they wear. They are discerning when choosing clothes.
The Finns know how quality clothes are made. When it comes to the office, they prefer to dress formally.
A good reason to wear a tie is to bring out an important project or contract. They’ll dress down if there is to be a longer meeting, where they are seated and nothing formal is happening.
In the office, Finns aren’t too casual. They wear a suit and a tie with no pinstripe, pinstripes but no tie, a shirt and a tie, or a shirt and no tie. They choose what is appropriate for the occasion.
When in Finland on Business
When meeting Finns for the first time, it’s customary to shake hands. They’ll give you a firm handshake. You should take their name in the handshake.
Do not lay your hand on their lower back, when meeting them. A Finn will never give you a hug, but they might embrace you if you’re an old friend.
Finns are comfortable using both of the side of the escalators. They prefer not to stick to the left. Try to walk on the left if you’re there for business.
Don’t overwhelm the Finns with public displays of affection. They’re not a demonstrative people.
The Finns communicate communicatively. They communicate their message in a straightforward way. They communicate little emotion.
Do not ask about their family or personal life unless you have been told to do so. Finns who want to bring their families into the conversation will have done so before beginning the conversation.
If you’re speaking to a Finn and he appears impatient, it’s because he thinks the discussion is getting nowhere. You should calm him or her down and break the ice.
Finns will moderate their start. They won’t be too aggressive as they think that would be impolite. It’s good for you to be more aggressive than he is.
With Finnish People
A Finn is interested in the smaller details. They have an interesting, strong self-image. The Finn does not really want to work for someone else. They like to be masters of their own business.
On the road while driving, the Finns will flash their lights for you to back up or move forward. There are not a lot of accidents in Finland. The quality of the roads in this country is good.
The Finns take pride in the products that they purchase. A Finn wants to know the product they are buying and they want the product to exceed their expectations.
When a Finn pays for something, they give the money into your hands. If money isn’t part of the transaction, they leave the money in their wallet.
A Finn will not offer you a gift any time soon. They are very methodical in this. They know what a good gift is. They can come off as cheap or as people who are too tight.
Give a nice bottle of wine when doing business with a Finn for the first time. If you don’t give money, at least make a donation of some sort. Give the gift when the deal is sealed and if possible, after the deal is settled.
Finns love to have a good meal and they take full advantage of it. They’ll make sure you eat plenty and eat slowly. They’ll offer you a treat when you walk in the house. The Finns take pride in the way they present their food.
Do not use a knife or your fork to eat ice cream. It’s okay to use your spoon to eat it. Do not burst out laughing when someone says or does something funny. Instead, choose one suitable moment in the conversation to laugh.
The Finns sometimes drink from glass bottles with their meals. It’s okay to do so.
The Finns take conversation seriously in social settings. They like to talk about their travel experiences. They can be a very interesting people to talk to. They are very knowledgeable in their jobs and in their regions.
Try to ask questions during the conversation. Do not talk too much about material possessions or only talk about yourself. Listen to the Finn and participate in the conversation.
The Finns are traditional. Do not mention sex, abortion, or politics during the conversation. You’ll need to be especially cautious if you are a woman.
The Finns do not blurt out bad news. Do not initiate a discussion on a negative situation. As always, only talk about a negative situation after the Finn mentions it.
The Finnish people socialize a lot. Finns drink a lot of coffee. Finns love to drink a cup of coffee with their friends or colleagues. They love to hold “porches”. You can expect to meet Finns for coffee or for a quick lunch, but do not expect them to invite you to dinner. The Finns need to know who you are before socializing. They need to know you.
They get to know people by asking lots of questions. Most of the questions are about their jobs.
Finns always end up talking about the place they’re from. They always tell you about the people they know. They like to share information about the areas they know.
At Your Place
Inside your office, the Finns will not throw their coats on the chairs. They will hang their coats in a closet. The Finns will look around their office if they want to get a glance of how you set up your office.
Be observant about how much space you take up. The Finns try to match the amount of space they take up. They will make sure there is a little extra space between them and anyone they are physically sitting next. If it is a board meeting and there are a lot of people in the room, make sure there is a wide enough space for everyone.
If you have just been introduced to someone, don’t use their first name yet. Use the last name only. Do not call someone by his last name unless he gives you permission.
In Your Place
If you host another Finn in your home, you can expect them to bring a good gift. Try to bring an extra gift if you are a host. It will be the best way of showing your appreciation.
The Finns respect the woman. Be heard if you have something to say.
Understand that Finns are very private people. They don’t like it when you ask them personal questions. When they want to talk about personal things, they’ll do so.
When you go on a trip with Finns, they might ask you to carry their suitcase. If you do so, you may ask them to carry yours.
Try to end the day on a high note.
At the Airport
The Finns will always have the proper documents when taking off, landing, and getting in the plane. They respect the rules at the airport.
If you get a Finn as your pilot, however, you may have problems. Try to not be scared when the Finn rests after they are done with their “break”.
Gadgets and Technology
If you give a Finn a new tool, they’ll start to use it immediately. They’ll start thinking about a way they can alter it or make it better. They will search for solutions that will improve the usefulness of the tool. “It is not so much about the tool as it is about the idea, the method behind the tool.”
The Finns will think you’re too materialistic or greedy if you give them a gadget or a piece of technology.
While on vacation, the Finns are happy even if they stay in their room. If you have to talk business with a Finn, you might not see them. They’ll do most of the talking over Skype. Finns know how to relax on their time off.
The Finns are proud people. They have pride in owning their homes. A Finn will tell you openly if they don’t think a repairman has done a good job for your home. They’ll tell you even if you’re standing right there. They’ll take pride in your home immediately after giving it some work.
They do not expect you to be perfect.
The Finns are intelligent and practical. They love talk. They’ll spend time with you before pursuing any kind of business. They appreciate a good, dense discussion. They take pride in their appearance. If you want to have a good time with a Finn, look good.
You might do some traveling with the Finns. If so, don’t be surprised if you have to carry your own suitcase.