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General facts

Population: 5.46 million

Capital: Helsinki

Official Language: Finnish, Swedish

Currency: Euro (EUR)

Religion: Lutheranism, Eastern Orthodoxy

Key industries

Electronics

One of the most well-known companies in the electronics industry, Nokia, is based in Finland. There has also been a large amount of money invested into research and development within the electronics industry and this coupled with the liberation of global markets has led to the continued growth of the industry.  Around 80% of electronics produced in Finland are exported abroad and in 2016, the manufacture of electronics, computers and optical products combined produced 16 billion euros.

Chemical

Finland has a large chemical industry which produces a range of products from chemicals to cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, plastic and rubber. The industry employs approximately 33,000 people and the total revenue in 2016 was €19.7 billion. It is essential in supporting some of Finland’s other key sectors such as the agricultural industry and accounts for approximately 20% of exported goods.

Motor

Finland produces a lot of vehicles which can be used for its forestry and agricultural industries such as tractors and forest machines. A large amount of ships are also manufactured in Finland such as passenger ships and specialised vessels. In 2015, the shipbuilding industry employed approximately 22,000 people.

Forestry

Finland is the most heavily forested country in the EU and wood is a source of bioenergy, which acts as an alternative to fossil fuels. It is also a recyclable and low-carbon material and forests are currently growing more quickly than they are being chopped down which makes it a sustainable industry. This sector accounts for 20% of Finland’s export revenue and is responsible for 15% of all jobs in Finland.

Approach to business (things to keep in mind)

  • Finnish people tend to be quite reserved and private. Keep in mind that people will not generally make small talk. Also, touching or hugging people is impolite.
  • Finland is famous for saunas and you may be asked to join your business associate in one when your first business deal has been made.  Unless you have a valid medical reason, you should never turn down the offer of a trip to the sauna as it is an important part of Finnish culture.
  • You should avoid arranging meetings between mid-June and mid-August due to the holidays. Finnish people generally have four weeks’ off work during this period and businesses may be closed.
  • Finnish business is largely egalitarian as Finland was voted the third most gender-equal country in the world in 2017. (The Global Gender Gap, 2017).
  • You may be invited to a business dinner where the host of the dinner will pay. If you are hosting the dinner, keep in mind that tipping is not necessary in Finland as service charges will be included in your bill. If you are a guest, you should wait to be told where to sit once everyone has arrived.
  • Email is an acceptable way to arrange business meetings and follow up on arrangements. The minutes of a meeting will generally be emailed round to everyone once it has finished.

Dos and Don'ts in a business meeting

Do…

  • …greet everyone with a firm handshake and repeat your name. You will likely need to use title and surname until told otherwise.
  • …schedule a meeting at least two weeks in advance and arrive on time as punctuality is extremely important in Finland.
  • …be modest about your achievements but not self-depreciating. Modesty is a valued personality trait in Finland, and this should be reflected during meetings.
  • …bring business cards to a meeting although there is no specific ritual that you need to follow when distributing them. It is probably not necessary to have them translated either as sometimes English is spoken at the first language in Finnish companies.

Don’t…

  • …ever say anything that you don’t mean and always stick to your word. Everything that you say will be taken at face value.
  • …be surprised if you deliver a presentation and very few questions are asked at the end. The culture of ‘opening for questions’ is less common in Finland as it is believed that you should have provided all necessary information in your presentation.
  • … compare Finland to its neighbouring country, Sweden. Finland has its own unique cultural identity and Finnish people will not welcome you making comparisons.
  • …interrupt people as this is extremely rude. You should give people time to speak or to think about what you have said. Do not be surprised if there are a lot of silences during a meeting as this is not considered to be awkward in Finland.

Key company facts

Nokia

Nokia started as a paper manufacturing company and is now a successful manufacturer of phones and cameras.  It is named after the Nokianvirta river which flows through part of Finland.

  • Turnover in 2018: $26.647B
  • Number of employees: 103,000

Kemira

This is a chemical production company based in Helsinki.

  • Turnover in 2018 : EUR 2.6 billion
  • Number of employees : 4,915

Neste

Neste has been voted third most sustainable company in the world in 2019 and is becoming a global leader in renewable products. It is the world’s largest producer of renewable diesel which is refined from waste.

  • Turnover in 2018: EUR 14.9 billion
  • Number of employees: 5,000

Kone

A Finnish company specialising in the maintenance and production of lifts, escalators and automatic doors. They operate in more than 60 countries around the world and serve more than 450,000 customers.

  • Turnover in 2018: EUR 9.1 billion
  • Number of employees: 57,000

Conversation topics

  • Finnish culture and landscape. Finnish people are often very proud of the Lapland region which is found in the north of Finland therefore you could discuss this if you are trying to get to know your business partner outside of work.
  • Hobbies and interests such as sport (ice hockey is a popular sport in Finland). Saunas are also a popular topic of conversation. Do not ask any questions relating to religion or salaries as they are too personal.