Doing business in Finland is made easier by the country’s excellent social welfare system, which helps integrate expats into society, including helping them look for jobs and learn Finnish or Swedish to reduce language barriers in the workplace.
To look for employment, job portals are an expat’s best bet. Nowadays, expats are likely to find jobs in the healthcare and IT sectors, but there are also many opportunities in the service industry and entrepreneurial projects.
Finland’s efficient economy is reflected in how well and easily business is conducted. The country promotes entrepreneurship and makes starting a business easier by lowering fees and processing times when registering businesses online.
When relocating to Finland, expats should take time to understand business culture and etiquette to avoid confusion in business and social settings. Here are some key points to consider.
Finland’s workweek is 40 hours, and office hours are normally Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm, with lunch lasting one to two hours between 11am and 2pm.
Finnish and Swedish are the country’s official languages. Although learning the language is difficult, expats should make an effort to learn at least some Finnish. Free university language courses are offered whether expats are registered as students or not.
Business dress is generally conservative, formal and stylish, often in dark suits or dresses.
Gift-giving is not common in business settings. Although, when invited to a Finn’s house, flowers, chocolate or wine are suitable options.
Finland has strong female empowerment values and equality standards that are reflected in their employment practices, and most women with children continue to work.
A firm handshake with a smile and direct eye contact are the norm with greetings. Finnish colleagues usually call each other by their first names in the workplace, although for formal meetings, surnames may be more appropriate. Expats can ask their colleagues if they are unsure.
Business culture in Finland
Finns are normally direct. Communication is fairly open, with few topics being taboo. Still, conversational tones should be moderate, courteous and respectful, without interrupting anyone.
Finns take pride in their egalitarian society and culture. As such, the workplace hierarchy tends to be flat with open communication, and junior staff members are often given authority to make decisions.
Long-term relationships are valued, although small talk in formal business settings isn’t. Relationships and friendships are built in more informal settings and this includes not only restaurants but saunas too.
Punctuality is valued in Finland – working hours and meeting times should be adhered to. Expats should let their colleagues and peers know if they expect to arrive late.
Dos and don’ts of business in Finland
- Do realise that Finnish people love their coffee, and they drink it throughout the working day
- Do be humble and modest
- Do say what needs to be said in business meetings, getting straight to the point, avoiding small talk
- Do manage your time well
- Don’t interrupt when someone is speaking, as this is rude
- Don’t be late – for both business and social situations
- Don’t be surprised if you get invited to go to a sauna – Finland is full of saunas, and they make for a popular social activity
What do expats say about business culture in Finland?
"Work-life balance is more valued in Finland compared to my home country, so I needed to get used to getting things done in a limited time by trying to be as productive as possible. I would recommend checking and using public services when doing business here as they are mostly free." Learn more about doing business in Finland in our interview with Japanese expat Daiki.
"It is easy to find a balance between work and home in Finland. Employers are very flexible to workers who have a family, especially those who have small children." Mercy is a Filipino expat who's lived in Finland for many years. Read her interview with Expat Arrivals for more advice about expat life in this Nordic country.
►Read more on the Cost of Living in Finland
►Read Working in Finland for info on the job market
Photo credit: Photo of people shaking hands by Thirdman from Pexels.
Are you an expat living in Finland?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Finland. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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