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Any tips on the Finnish culture?


I am training in Helsinki later on in the year and have 20 Finnish people in the group.

I would like some pointers on dealing with the Finnish culture, e.g. things I should be aware of doing / not doing in the session.

Does anyone have any relevant experience they would be willing to share with me please?
Colette Johnson

5 Responses

  1. Just do it!
    I have Finnish friends and my online community of practice includes a few Finns as well. My experience is that they’re forthright and assertive and most of them speak pretty good English. Finnish is a very phonetic language, though, so some of your delegates may pronounce English words as they are spelt. They also do not have differentiated pronouns for the genders, so may tend to use he and she incorrectly.

    That said, a large percentage of Finns speak Swedish as their first language, so they will not have the he/she problem, since Swedish has gender-specific pronouns.

    I presume you don’t need me to point out that with all non-native English speakers, you need to ask the occasional question to ensure that your idiom is understood and that you need to enunciate clearly – no dropped t’s, for example.

    They are very egalitarian, and show no deference to one gender or another. So, while English women often do not shake hands with one another on meeting, the Finns do – so make sure you do that. They also have a very every-man-for-himself approach and find the English obsession with queueing and holding doors open for one another rather quaint.

    Unlike the neighbouring Swedes, they tend to just do a thing. They can’t be doing with half a hundred meetings and deliberations before anything gets underway.

  2. I believe…
    Further to the previous comment about forthrightness I believe that the Finnish culture is also not big on “thank-you” or “well done” for little things.

    I had a very competent assistant who was Finnish and the first time I said, “Thanks for that, that is great!” he looked me squarely in the eye and and asked if I was taking the p***.
    Granted his previous (British) boss was a miserable git but he did say it was his Finnish culture rather than his recent experience that made him ask!


  3. What he said…
    I’m pretty confident that Mike means a round of drinks rather than golf, because, yes – the Finns tend to be big drinkers! Funnily enough – they are quite offended when you say so, though, so it’s probably best not to mention it. As far as they’re concerned, it’s the Russians who are big drinkers.

  4. Finnish Culture
    If you contact the Regional Language Network they will be able to help you out with Cultural awareness trainers, also if you wish they are funding business language courses at the moment too . I’m not sure where you are based but our regaional offies web address is


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