How to Do Business in Finland
January 24, 2018
Europe is known for its modern approach to business and education. Most customs are similar to that of their western counterparts, making it easier to reach out for any kind of venture. Plus, everything they say about going to Europe for the culture is true. The historical buildings, the architecture, the posh restaurants and food; what more could you want?
With all that in mind, it can be kind of intimidating to jump into the icy European waters of trade. But, there is one country in particular that has benefits for investment and trade – Finland.
If you’ve already looked into doing business in Europe, you’ve probably heard a lot of talk about this Nordic country. With equally successful countries on all sides of Finland, this can be your one-stop-shop for taking your business international.
Introduction to Finland
Home to Santa Claus, the Angry Birds smartphone game, and some of the best saunas in the world, Finland is without a doubt a multifaceted country. What was once a humble farming society has gradually become one of the highest ranking countries in education, quality of life, and technology. Not to mention that the Finns have been dabbling in renewable energy since the 1980s and have some of the best health sciences labs in the world. It was known as one of the three least corrupt countries in the world according to Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index. In other words, you’d likely never have to worry about falling prey to a scam.
What was once a humble farming society has gradually become one of the highest ranking countries in education, quality of life, and technology
As the third largest export market for the United States, it’s a considerable business partner to have on your side. The majority of their exports to the US are electronics, machinery, boats, paper, and telecommunication equipment. Finland’s US imports include transportation, forestry, and chemicals. The country is continuously looking for US partners in the development of computer software products. Needless to say, they are very open to trading with the US, leaving few obstacles for business.
Finland is actually a transportation link between the Nordic-Baltic regions as well as Russia. To make things even easier, there are US Commercial Service teams set up in the Nordic countries like Finland to help with import/export and any trade deals between the two power houses.
Before you go running off to pack your bags for a Nordic business getaway, it’s important to know the cultural differences and regional business opportunities.
Depending on the nature of your visit to any country, different cities can serve different needs. These are the top three recommendations, but don’t be afraid to go further afield in Finland to find the deal you’re looking for.
Both the capital and largest Finnish city, Helsinki is a hub of culture, business, finance, politics, and education. It connects to major cities in other countries like Estonia’s Talinn, Russia’s Saint Petersburg, and Sweden’s Stockholm. And we weren’t kidding about Helsinki being a hub for business, there is a company called Helsinki Business Hub created to help international investors with connects in the capital. Not to mention, the city is beautiful to look at. With an assortment of cafes and restaurants to choose from, and a designer district, you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere like it.
Tampere is the second largest city in Finland and is located in the southern part of the country. It’s home to several major industries with health and biotechnology, mechanical engineering and automation, and information and communication technologies being the three primary ones. As well, because of its location between two lakes, it serves as a vital source of hydroelectric power.
Last but not least on our list, is the oldest city in Finland, Turku. Originally the nation’s capital, it’s a nerve center of Finnish culture, healthcare exports, and finance. As a matter of fact, it houses some of the world’s leading companies in the health sciences. Turku thrives off of tourism as cruises funnel in millions of eager tourists every year.
The national currency is the euro and is equal to around $1.18 USD. They no longer use one and two cent coins so totals are rounded up by the closest five cent value. If you have a credit card that doesn’t charge you for international transactions, you can easily use it in Finland. Finland’s personal banking systems are sound and have one of the most secure card payment track records.
The two most commonly spoken languages in Finland are Finnish and Swedish. However, their workforce is multilingual and immensely well educated. It shouldn’t be hard to find English speakers in any business meeting. As for things like street signs or building signs, you will need a translator of some kind. People are typically friendly and asking for help on the street is an easy workaround as a fair amount of the country is fluent in English. But if you plan on spending a lot of time wandering the streets you may want to download a translation app as a backup.
Holidays in Finland
Offices in Finland are open usually from 8am to 4pm, but some stay open until 5pm. The Finnish share most of their holidays with the US due to similar religious backgrounds. We’ve made up a list of days offices will likely be closed:
|January 1||New Year’s Day||Nationwide|
|Friday before Easter Sunday||Good Friday||Nationwide|
|Monday after Easter Sunday||Easter Monday||Nationwide|
|May 1||Vappu (Labor Day)||Nationwide|
|May 10||Ascension Day||Nationwide|
|June 22||Midsummer’s Eve||Nationwide (Not all Business will be Closed)|
|December 6||Independence Day||Nationwide|
|December 24||Christmas Eve||Nationwide (Not all Business will be Closed)|
|December 25||Christmas Day||Nationwide|
|December 26||Second Day of Christmas||Nationwide|
Traveling to Finland
Considering that Finland is a power house in innovation and growth you’re probably ready to take the plunge and look for business opportunities. Like any smart business owner or startup, you’ll want to plan ahead. Here are the things you need to know to travel to Finland for business.
Finland is a part of the Schengen Agreement. This allows Americans to enter Finland for a maximum of 90 days for tourist or business reasons without a visa. Your passport is essentially your key to the country and will allow you to pass freely between other countries in the Schengen Agreement. Your passport needs to be valid for at least 6 months after your trip, and you’ll most likely be asked upon entry for proof of a return ticket home.
Major Trade Shows
There are over 20 different trade shows happening in Finland, but we’ve picked out a diverse few to give you an idea of what’s on offer. If you don’t see what you’re looking for you can check out the complete catalog of every expo, fair, and exhibition you could ever want to see.
|RASKA – Construction||Lahti (Lahti Sports and Trade Fair)||Spring||Construction Industry.
|Building Trade and Home Renovation||Jyväskylä(Jyväskylä Congress Center)||Spring||Constructional Engineering and Repair Building.|
|Sisusta||Helsinki (Helsinki Fair Center)||Spring||Interior Decoration.|
|Arctic Shipping Forum||Helsinki (Helsinki Congress Paasitomi)||Spring||Conference and Exhibition for Shipping in the Arctic Region.|
|Pulpaper||Helsinki (Helsinki Fair Center)||Spring Every 4 Years||Pulp and Paper Industry.|
|Tekiniikka||Jyväskylä (Jyväskylä Congress Center)||Fall Every Two Years||Automation, Motion and Drive.|
Online supplier directories
If you’re not convinced that Finland has what you want in terms of suppliers, here’s a trade portal where you can search for supplier by industry or sector.
Now that you have a general idea of what you can gain from doing business in Finland, it’s time to understand how to communicate the Finnish way. This doesn’t mean literally speaking their language, but there are some nuances in communication you should be aware of.
On the topic of nuances, the Finnish have none. They are direct, extremely business oriented, and take everything at face value. It’s practically the American dream. When talking with a Finland native, no matter the medium, expect there to be very little small talk. Everything is at face value; but that doesn’t mean they judge by appearance. Business is conducted in an office, and relationships are fostered outside of work. But, being on time or early is a constant no matter the atmosphere.
On the topic of nuances, the Finnish have none. They are direct, extremely business oriented, and take everything at face value
Despite their formal business practices, there isn’t a taboo on humor. Cracking a joke here and there isn’t considered rude or a breach of the expected tone. The Finnish love a good laugh as much as the next person.
Finns aren’t braggers who spend their time displaying their accomplishments. In fact, they will usually downplay them but they’re not self-deprecating. People will still probably know of the accomplishments of a person but flaunting it doesn’t seem necessary to the Finnish. Try to do the same when talking about your business and its function.
A factor you won’t have to concern yourself too much with is a face-to-face meeting. Finns don’t require an interpersonal relationship before conducting business. But, that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in a long-term relationship.
If you do want to meet with your supplier, they definitely won’t turn you down. Appointments can be made with an email or phone call. Since yes means “yes” and no means “no,” according to them there shouldn’t be any ambiguity.
Since yes means “yes” and no means “no,” according to them there shouldn’t be any ambiguity.
Emails are concise, responses are quick, and they make their point all while being polite. It’s important that you return this courtesy. Be prompt with your replies, and always make sure to send off that “thank you” email when you’ve come to a conclusion. Shooting them a reminder when something is due or you have an upcoming meeting is always a good approach.
Most times you will be addressed by your first name, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that the tone will be informal. In fact, that’s kind of where it ends. As we said earlier, they don’t care much for small talk and don’t find silences awkward. They take comfort in them because it allows everyone participating to have their say without interruption.
Finns hate interruptions. While you may know where they’re going with their sentence, don’t jump in and finish it for them, or start to answer before they’re done speaking. Try and pause when your potential business partner is done speaking before you jump in. It will show you’re listening and that you took the time to consider your response.
Business Etiquette Do’s and Don’ts
Knowing the basics of the style of business culture and communication already gives you a leg up. However, there are seemingly minor things that will make Finns admire and respect you for even more. Here are some things for you to keep in mind when doing business in Finland:
- Land that handshake. When shaking hands have a firm grasp, make eye contact, and smile as you introduce yourself by your full name. No one likes a limp fish hand, no matter their nationality.
- Never say anything you don’t mean. Finns don’t understand double meanings and see no point in them. On the other hand, they will hold you to your word. If you tell them you can deliver on something and can’t, it will lessen your reputation in their eyes. Keep it simple.
- Don’t embellish. In the theme of being direct, the Finnish will be turned off by colorful depictions of mundane or ordinary things. Tell the truth, give an honest description, and you’re golden.
- Be punctual. No matter what the situation, this is a must. They are an organized and intelligent culture that manages their time accordingly. So don’t waste it. Meetings start and end at set times and never go over.
- Give them that technical talk. Much of American society concentrates on the sales pitch, a slightly hands-on, aggressive approach, and marketing buzzwords. The Finnish people tend to like the technical explanations more. Finland is one of the smartest countries in the world, never be afraid of throwing some complicated concepts their way.
Since you’ve managed to steer yourself through the communications and etiquette of Finnish culture, you’re now ready to negotiate the final deal.
Prepare yourself for a very slow meeting. Finns are likely to go through any agreement piece by piece to make sure every part is relevant to the discussion. Tighten up your request before discussing a deal, it could save you time. The gradual pace of a meeting doesn’t mean it’s not going to end at the allotted time. But if you think there’s more to discuss than you have time for, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for more time.
Stick to Logic
If you feel like you’re losing a business deal, don’t fret. It can happen. The best way to make a comeback in a Finnish negotiation is to focus on the logistics of the deal. Prove your needs or requirements make the most sense and are the most efficient for everyone involved. Lay out the advantages of your product or service right down to the bare bones if you have to. But stick to the technical aspects of the deal as they will they will see through any attempt at colorful buzzwords.
Finns don’t tend to ask questions, especially after a presentation. We as Americans tend to leave a segment at the end for the audience to get answers or clarification on anything they’ve just seen. Don’t be surprised if you do this and get nothing but crickets. The Finnish people view you as the expert, so it’s impolite for them to question you. They expect you to have given them all the information they need.
The Finnish people are very much a reserved and formal culture, and if you get invited to a meeting in a sauna, the social aspect is very much the same
That’s right. Another thing the Finns are famous for: their love of saunas. Don’t get confused. The Finnish people are very much a reserved and formal culture, and if you get invited to a meeting in a sauna, the social aspect is very much the same. It’s their way of saying they want a continued relationship. They’ll use this time to relax and have a hard earned break. Enjoy it. This means you’ve gotten the deal.
Regulations and Permits
The European Commission works diligently to get rid of unnecessary technical barriers in the way of trade flow=
Fun stuff aside, there are some technical things to be aware of if you’re looking to partake in any import or export with Finland. The European Commission works diligently to get rid of unnecessary technical barriers in the way of trade flow. That being said, there are still restrictions on products containing alcohol, pharmaceuticals, narcotics and drugs, etc. We suggest you look into their restrictions on farm products since the implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Luckily, they have a notification system set up that is kept up to date on any changes or additions.
Finland is in the Single Euro Payments Area. SEPA works to make cross border payments easier in Europe through banks. This means that when payment is sent to a European country involved in SEPA, the transfer will only cost as much as it would to do a local transfer in that country. Sometimes that can mean there are no fees. So, this could be good news for the average business trying to do international trade using letters of credit, wire transfers, and so on. But, that still means dealing with banks in the US, which require trips back and forth to your main branch, headaches over hidden fees, and a higher than average exchange rate for most small businesses.
When you use Veem, not only are there no fees to send money abroad, you can also track the payment the entire way through, and you’re getting a better exchange rate than your bank. The best part is, once you complete our initial sign up, you can do all that without leaving the office. And yes, you can send and receive payments from more countries than Finland. Operating in 60 countries, Veem guarantees efficient, and engaged customer service.