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Five from Finland

Finnish proverbs

Looking to find inspiration for entrepreneurship? Finnish sayings are here to help.

Julia Helminen

Take a light-hearted look at entrepreneurship with some traditional Finnish sayings that the startup community may find useful in their endeavours.

All languages and cultures have their own proverbs and sayings that can, at first glance, seem inexplicable. Although sometimes they stem from times that hardly resonate with the modern mind, often the seed of wisdom they carry is applicable to today’s world.

Here are five traditional proverbs that could function as reminders to business founders as they embark on the challenging – yet often rewarding – journey of entrepreneurship.



Literal translation: Empty barrels clatter the most.

English equivalent: Empty cans rattle the most.

There’s an abundance of noise in this world, and often those who should stay quiet make up for the vast majority of the noise. Business owners should be wary of whom to listen to – be it words of advice, encouragement or resentment – and whom to leave aside, despite their decibels.



Literal translation: The small ones take off of the ground, too.

English equivalent: Out of little acorns grow mighty oaks.

Today’s big business players weren’t always that big – we’ve all got to start somewhere. Feeling small amongst the giants is natural, but knowing the stories behind them can be inspiring. Planting a tiny seed can lead to a huge oak, not in a heartbeat but with hard work and under favourable circumstances.



Literal translation: There are always people to grab the branches when there are people to carry the spruce.

English equivalent: It sometimes happens that one man has all the toil and another all the profit.

When one takes up something big and works hard for it, there will be people who try to get the credit or otherwise benefit from those efforts. For entrepreneurs, this serves as a note to self: don’t ignore intellectual property rights, patents or anything that protects you from being taken advantage of by opportunists. This isn’t to say one should be overly protective of one’s accomplishments, just that credit needs to be given where the credit is due.



Literal translation: The greedy have a shitty ending.

English equivalent: Greed gets you nowhere.

If one is too greedy, things won’t end well. Trying to maximise profit, taking unnecessarily big risks or simply going only for one’s own good isn’t a sustainable business strategy. Taking others into account, focusing on stable progress instead of quick wins and acting sustainably sounds like a much better strategy, and the end is less likely to be faeces-infested.



Literal translation: The empty costs nothing in Turku either.

English equivalent: *Yet to find one, as of writing!

Turku is a city in the southwest of Finland that not only was once the capital of Finland, but is also the gateway to the spectacular surrounding archipelago. This proverb means that if it’s something you don’t need, in other words ‘empty’, you will get it for free anywhere, including Turku. In order to create a product or service that can be monetised, it needs to have value, meaning and use. If nobody needs it, nobody buys it.


Image credits: Adobe

By: Anne Salomäki