Skip Navigation

Business Etiquette in Finland

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. 

Business Etiquette in Finland

Finnish Culture: A Modest Distance

The Finns are a conservative, private people who expect a high level of privacy. Their reserved character is part of their values and is considered courteous. You will find public places, particularly public transportation, quiet. They hold personal space valuable. Eye contact is respectful; touching and hugging is impolite. While they do not talk to strangers, they are hospitable and likely to help if you require it. 

Yes, it is impolite to speak to people in lines or on public transportation. Try not to take this as rude. It is part of the Finnish laconic modesty and shy humility. 

It may be unintuitive to many Americans, but getting noticed in Finland is inappropriate. Avoid being loud or calling attention to yourself. 

Business Etiquette in Finland

Finnish Social Values

Despite being very proper, the Finns are highly egalitarian and socially liberal. Women and men are considered equal. Reading and keeping abreast of world affairs is common in Finland. However, those topics are reserved for established relationships. Let the Finnish introduce these sorts of topics. Respect their private lives and avoid topics that are personal. And no matter what, be on time!

Tips for Doing Business in Finland

Business is business to the Finns—and it is formal. They Finnish are pragmatic and down-to-business. They do not see transactional business as poor behavior. They avoid small talk and do not socialize as a regular part of business. In the same vein, anything that can be done without face-to-face meetings will be. Email is sufficient. 

When presenting any business proposal, stay minimal. Bells and whistles, flashy features, and hard pitches are off-putting. The Finns expect that your proposal will cover the details. It should be clear and complete. A lot of questions from business counterparts at the end of a proposal or presentation means the presentation is incomplete. 

The Managing Director is usually in charge of making the final business decisions. 

Finnish Business Attire

Finnish business attire is stylish and conservative. Wear suits or the equivalent, well fitted or tailored. Be well-groomed. 

Do not take off your suit jacket unless the host does first—even during meals.

Business Meetings in Finland

Impromptu events are not part of Finnish business culture. If you need to meet with someone, schedule a formal appointment at least two weeks ahead. 

The Finns take holiday from June through August, so it is best to avoid business trips during this time.

Guidelines for Business Meetings in Finland: 

  • Schedule meetings ahead of time. 

  • Have a clear meeting agenda and participant biographies.
    Optionally, email bios ahead of time. 

  • Have copies of any materials for everyone. 

  • Arrive early or, at worst, on time.

  • Greet everyone with a firm handshake, eye contact, and a smile. 

  • Repeat your first and last name as you shake hands. 

Timing is to The Minute

Time management is the clockwork of business. Finnish business is punctual and efficient. They like to fit as much into a workday as possible—without frivolity. The exception to that is post-meal business discussion. Leave an hour or two in your schedule for potential conversation. 

If you are going to be even five minutes late, telephone immediately. 

Business Etiquette in Finland

Business Etiquette and Communication in Finland

Business Etiquette in Finland allows directness. People are direct communicators, even though they do not speak a great deal. What they do say carries a lot of weight. They favor honesty. Business differences are not considered personal attacks. They are nevertheless hospitably formal and polite. That is not the same as deferential in Finland.

Everything you say will be taken seriously in Finnish business culture. Your word is your bond. All verbal or informal agreements will be taken at face value. So, mind what you say and say what you mean. 

The primary languages in Finland are Finnish and Swedish. Moreover, the reserved nature of the Finns may make novice English speakers uncomfortable. Offer your business counterparts a translator. They will let you know if it is unneeded. 

Personal Names

The Finns do not use names very often and are understanding if you forget a name. Nonetheless, do not assume a first name basis until established. This will happen fairly quickly. Prior to being invited to use first names, try and use their title if known. However, using Mr., Mrs., or Miss is acceptable. 

The older or more senior person is the first to open the relationship to a first name basis. If you are equals, it is the woman who is expected to invite the familiarity in a male-female situation.

Do Not Interrupt, Even When It’s Silent

There may be long periods of silence lasting up to three minutes. Do not interrupt. All interruption is considered highly uncouth.

Visiting a Finnish Home

If invited to someone’s home, you can bring wine, chocolates, or flowers for the host. Avoid white or yellow flowers, which are funerary colors. Choose an odd number of flowers for the bouquet, avoiding 7 or 13. Do not bring a potted plant.

Mind your socks. You will be expected to remove your shoes before entering the home. 

Cake—and lots of it. If you are invited for cake or coffee, there will likely be a number of desserts to sample. Keep a good appetite. 

General rules of a home visit: 

  • Offer to bring a dish ahead of time. 

  • Bring a small gift for the host. 

  • Remove your outdoor shoes before entering the home.

  • Offer to help with pre-meal preparations and post-meal clearing and cleaning. 

  • Say thank you before leaving the table.

If you are seated next to the hostess, this is the guest of honor’s seat. You are expected to say a few words of thanks after the meal. 

Finnish Business Etiquette for Meals

Business is happily discussed at lunch. However, business is not discussed over dinner. If business comes up at all, it will be after the meal. Allow your host to prompt any business discussion. 

Allow an hour or two after business meals for potential conversation.

Regardless of gender, the person who gives the invitation pays.

Finnish Dining Etiquette 

  • Wait to be told where to sit.

  • Continental style dining (not switching fork hands) is normal. 

  • Keep hands in sight. You can rest your wrists on the edge of the table (not your elbows).

  • Passing the salt and pepper means putting the shakers within reach, not in someone’s hand.

  • Do not eat before the host. 

  • Do not eat with your hands unless it is shrimp or bread. Even fruit and fries are eaten with utensils. 

  • Always accept offers for second helpings and finish everything on your plate to avoid wastefulness.

  • To show that you are finished eating, place utensils across your plate. The tines should be faced down. The handles should be at 3 o’clock. The eating side should be at 9 o’clock. 

  • Meals are often finished with coffee, cognac, and/or dessert. It is rude to leave before this course is finished.

Business Etiquette in Finland

Finland is Famous for Saunas

There are a great many saunas in Finland, which are frequently part of socializing—and sometimes business. (1.5 million saunas for a country of 5 million people.) Do not turn down a trip to the sauna. It is part of Finnish culture. Amazingly, it is also one of the topics Finns can talk about and hear praise about endlessly.

Long term relationships are valued in Finnish business. Most of the relationship building over time occurs in restaurants or saunas. This may happen after a first business transaction. 

Unless there is a reasonable medical condition, there is no truly acceptable excuse for passing on a sauna.

There is no right way to take a sauna, even among the Finns. There will be wash rooms, hot rooms, and cold rooms. You can ask suggestions, follow along, or follow your own preferences.

Will I Have to Be Naked in a Finnish Sauna? 

Expect that everyone else will be nude, as is customary. Not to worry, there are no mixed gender saunas in Finland. 

You will not be judged for preferring a towel or bathing suit. Trips to the sauna can conclude or continue business—or come directly after lunch. If you feel more comfortable wearing a bathing suit, you may want to have one on-hand.

Planet Depos is an international court reporting agency. Learn more about how to prepare for depositions in Finland including our checklist for U.S. Depositions in Finland and travel tips for Finland.


Contact Us

Planet Depos

Planet Depos

Pin It on Pinterest