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. Expats, nowadays, are likely to find jobs in the healthcare and IT sectors, but there are also many opportunities in the service industry as well as entrepreneurial projects.
Finland’s efficient economy is reflected in how well and easily business is conducted. The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2020 ranked Finland 20th out of 190 countries, which places it above Germany and Canada. Finland also scored highly in terms of paying taxes (10th), resolving insolvency (1st) and starting a business (31st). The country promotes entrepreneurship and makes starting a business easier by lowering fees and processing times when registering businesses online. Overall, Finland performed well, though it ranked lower in some categories, such as getting credit (80th).
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 a 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 then flowers, chocolate or wine are good 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 is the norm with greetings. Finnish colleagues call each other by their first names in the workplace, although for formal meetings, surnames may be more appropriate. Expats can easily 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, workplace hierarchy tends to be flat with open communication, and junior members of staff 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 also saunas.
Punctuality is valued in Finland – working hours should be stuck to, and being late for a meeting is not the norm. 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 expats get invited to go to a sauna – Finland is full of saunas and they make a popular social activity