Please, have a seat!
This week, Maija Karhusaari sheds light on Finnish business etiquette.
Doing business in Finland is very straightforward. Whenever travelling to other cultures for business meetings, like most international executives, I spend some time familiarising myself with local business etiquette and customs. These include details like what to pack for attire, how to greet people and what sensitive topics to avoid at dinner tables. The little dos and don’ts that can sometimes drive you crazy when you should be concentrating on the actual business content. At the same time, these little things add a wonderful flavour to international business.
But how does it feel to come to Finland for a meeting? Where do our business customs – or rather the lack of them – surprise our guests?
The single most important cultural trait that set us apart from most of the international business community is the lack of hierarchy. Organisations are very flat, and there are no hidden rules regarding who gets to talk with whom. CEOs can discuss topics with field engineers, and sales reps will easily give feedback to top management. Even our president takes his famous dog Lennu out for walks and socialises with other dog walkers.
How does this translate to business settings? A couple of things come to mind. One is the casual approach we Finns take to greeting people. It is not super important in which order and how we greet others. A quick handshake and stating your name will do, and your business negotiations are not ruined if you introduce yourself first to the specialist and then to the boss.
The other one is the relaxed seating at meetings. It is difficult to tell who the boss is from where he or she is seated. Nor can you draw any conclusions about different organisational positions from where people sit. Some like to sit next to the screen, some like to face the window, some choose the chair next to the door. There is absolutely no game of ‘who’s who’ when it comes to seating arrangements. This also allows you to choose your seating freely.
So welcome, please have a seat, let’s talk some business!
Good News from Finland is published by Finnfacts, which is part of Finpro.