The Latest! Cultural Clues, Do’s & Taboos – A Series of Cultural Tips for Countries from A to Z: FINLAND
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 is 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.
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 a message apologizing and giving the time when you’ll be there.
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.
In Finnish meetings, people state facts, even unpleasant ones, rather bluntly without any softening or beating around the bush.
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.
July and August are the best summer months and practically everyone is on vacation in July. Nothing much gets done then.
Finland’s regular working week is 37.5 hours long. Workers in Finland cannot be required to work overtime without their consent. Finns earn four to five weeks of paid vacation each year.
In business, Finns dress conservatively, usually dark business suits in the winter and light suits in the summer for both men and women. Dress codes depend very much on the industry and workplace traditions though they have relaxed substantially over the years. Men typically wear suits or jacket and shirt, often leaving the tie out.
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.
Finns are private people who tend to avoid public displays of emotion. Unlike neighboring Russians, Finns are not very touchy, especially the men. Backslapping is rarely seen in Finland and is perceived as patronizing.
When talking to a Finn, remember not to group Finns together with citizens of other Nordic countries, particularly not Sweden.
Many foreigners find the Finns’ tolerance of silence strange. Finns avoid small talk as they feel uncomfortable with small talk.
Finns never interrupt when someone is speaking and tend to distrust those who talk too much.
Finns usually use first names, unless there are big differences in age or rank or it is a very formal setting.
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 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.
The typical pace of business in Finland is rather brisk with things happening in clearly visible phases. Finns at work are thorough and sincere. Their saying that makes it clear 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 judiciary to take care of contract disputes.
Finns are typically analytical thinkers and tend to focus more on technical facts rather than emotional appeal.
Refrain from giving unsolicited praise, since it is not necessarily welcome.
5 Key Topics or Gestures to Use in Conversation
- Positive travel experiences in Finland and other countries.
- Your business background and experience.
- Finnish history, sports, and other aspects of the culture
- All current events of a global nature
- Less is more… keep small talk minimal
5 Key Topics or Gestures to Avoid in Conversation
- Excessive small talk in general
- Personal questions about them or their family
- The poor weather if there during winter
- Politics in general, unless it is related to business
- Do not try to fill what may be to you as ‘uncomfortable silence’
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Contact EMMY AWARD WINNER, Gayle Cotton for your next meeting or conference to help your business become more successful in today’s Global Business Marketplace. Gayle is President of Circles Of Excellence for Corporate Training & Executive Coaching. She is the author of the ‘5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Business Communications’, available in book or DVD. She travels worldwide as a distinguished Professional Keynote Speaker. Gayle’s vast experience living and working abroad will entertain and inspire any audience with her fresh, unique and humorous approach to Cross-Cultural Communications! Having worked with companies of all sizes and industries, including 50 Fortune 500 companies, Gayle has successfully helped them grow their businesses internationally. Success in the global business arena can only be accomplished with awareness of the various distinctions in communication styles, business strategies and approaches to cultural etiquette in different countries.
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