Travel & Expat Lifestyle Magazine

Learning the Social and Business Customs in Finland



Finland, along with Iceland, is not considered Scandinavian, but Nordic. Their language, Finnish, is not Germanic like the Swedish or Norwegian. Finnish people take value in egalitarianism, and their language uses gender-neutral words. They also also known to be modest and humble. They value good manners and expect others to reflect this and not be loud and draw attention to themselves. Interrupting someone when they are talking is considered rude.

Though it’s cold in Finland, they always have saunas. Finnish family and friends often meet together in saunas. People will even go to saunas after business occasions to wind down and speak with each other less formally. Many private apartments or summer cottages have their own personal saunas.


When greeting a Finnish person, it is standard to give a firm handshake, smile and maintain eye contact. When you meet a married couple, you should greet the wife first.

If you are invited to a Finnish house, you should bring flowers, chocolates or wine. Give flowers in even numbers, and don’t give potted plants or white or yellow flowers. Gifts are opened when received. You should arrive to an invitation on time, as Finland is a punctual society. Take off your outdoor shoes before you go inside. Call up in advance to see if you should bring a dish. Offer to help prepare or clean up the food. Don’t discuss business at a home. When eating, keep your hands visible, and your wrists at the edge of the table. Eat all of your food with utensils, with the exception of bread and shrimp, which are ok to eat with your hands. Try to eat all of the food on your plate.


Finns do not require to know someone very well to do business with them. It is a formal practice, so do not expect to do a lot of small talk. Face-to-face contact is not of utmost importance; email is usually fine. They are efficient people who prefer to organize their day to make it the most productive. If someone wants to build a relationship with you, expect to be invited to a sauna or restaurant. Don’t turn down an invitation to a sauna, as it is a central part of their culture. Expect business communications to be plain, open and direct.

Finns value appointments, and these are made in advance by telephone or email. You won’t meet many people without attending formal appointments. Avoid having meetings in the months of June through August, as it is vacation season. Arrive at meetings punctually, even a bit early.

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