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How to Do Business in Finland

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The People

Loyalty, reliability, self-sufficiency and independence are highly valued. Finns are proud of their heritage and current society (they are leaders in peace conferences and international peace initiatives). They enjoy nature and proudly protect their environment, which is one of the cleanest in the world. Finns value their privacy and appreciate others respecting it.

Meeting and Greeting
  • Shake hands with everyone present–men, women and children–at a business or social meeting. Shake hands again when leaving.

Body Language
  • Keep some physical distance from Finns. Respect their shyness and desire for privacy. Do not engage a Finn in conversation on a bus or in a line, restaurant or other public places.
  • Never hug, kiss or touch a Finn.
  • Maintain eye contact when speaking to someone.
  • Never talk to anyone with your hands in your pocket.
Corporate Culture
  • Finns take punctuality for business meetings very seriously and expect that you will do likewise; call if you will be more than five minutes late.
  • The Managing Director is the decision maker.
  • Finns do not make small talk; they get right to business.
  • Doing business in Finland takes time and patience.
  • Two- to three-minute pauses of silence are common. Don’t interrupt this silence.

Dining and Entertainment

  • The sauna is a venerated Finnish tradition. Business discussions may be held in a sauna, or a business lunch may be preceded or followed by a sauna.
  • All Finns sauna naked. You do not have to sauna naked, but it is considered strange not to. You may wrap a towel around yourself or wear a bathing suit.
  • Finns insist on punctuality for social occasions.
  • Conversation may continue approximately one to two hours after dinner. Never leave until coffee/dessert/cognac is finished.
  • Checks in restaurants are never split. If you make the invitation, you pay. Business can be discussed at any time during lunch, but is not discussed during dinner, only after coffee.


  • Dress is conservative and fairly informal.


  • When invited to someone’s home, always bring a small gift for the hostess. Give: flowers (odd numbers are best; white and yellow flowers are for funerals only; tulips are a favorite), wine, chocolates. Do not give: potted plants.
  • Gifts are normally not exchanged in business meetings, but small gifts may be appropriate at the successful conclusion of negotiations. Give: books, cognac, local/national gifts, recordings, art, glass, liquor (very expensive in Finland).

Helpful Hints

  • Do not show emotions in public.
  • Never ask personal questions, such as those related to someone’s religion, job or political party.

Especially for Women

  • Women are treated as equals in business and at home.
  • A foreign businesswoman may invite a Finnish man to dinner and pay without any difficulties.

Mary Bosrock
International Education Systems
1814 Hillcrest Avenue, Suite 300
St. Paul, MN 55116
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