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Doing Business in Finland

Culture influences language and language, in turn, influences culture. This happens in ways both obvious and almost imperceptible. TJC Global understands that being fluent in a language also means being fluent in the subtleties and intricacies of the culture and business etiquette associated with it. To ensure that no embarrassing misunderstandings occur in a professional context, all our translators and interpreters are experts in the business culture and etiquette associated with the languages they work with.

If you require translation or interpreting assistance of any kind in Finland or anywhere else, please contact us.

About Finland

The eighth largest country in Europe, Finland is also the most sparsely populated with approximately 16 people per km2. More than 20% of its 5.4 million population lives in and around Helsinki, its largest city and capital. As a whole, Finland consists of 19 regions called ‘maakunta’. Like its Scandinavian neighbours (do remember Finland itself is not Scandinavian, but Nordic), Sweden and Denmark, Finland has a sophisticated and comprehensive welfare system and a strong economy, with a very high GDP per capita. It also scores highly in the World Economic Forums’s global competitiveness ranking, its main exports being electronics, metal production (steel, copper and chromium) or metal products (the biggest cruise ships in the world are built in Finland) or those related to the forestry industry (paper, pulp and timber). Engineering holds a similar status in Finland to in Germany, and in recent decades Finland has become a leader in many hi-tech sectors including information technology and electronics (think Nokia and Angry Birds makers, Rovio).

Finnish people are very connected to nature and proud of their country’s natural beauty. Many have holiday homes in the countryside by the sea or lakes which, like the forests, are considered places of peace and solitude. Complementing this sense of interconnectedness with the environment, is Finland’s sense of social and environmental responsibility. Their sustainability measures include extensive recycling of cardboard and paper, as well as a system whereby one pays a deposit on bottles which is redeemed when they are returned. This system has a return rate of around 97-98%.

Finland’s companies are also very interested and active in promoting Corporate Social Responsibility and take their responsibility to society and the wider community very seriously. They implement measures which address issues such as environmental and climate change, cultural adaptation, competitiveness, ethical consumption and employment practices.


Finnish is spoken by approximately 5 million people worldwide, around 91% of the population in Finland use it as a first language along with almost 5.5% of the population in Sweden, as well as minorities in Estonia, Russia and Norway. One of the official languages of the EU, it is relatively young as an official language in its own country in terms of official usage: it was not until 1863, that Finnish achieved official language status in Finland, before this, Swedish was the language used in government, education and literature.

Finnish is, along with Estonian and some lesser spoken languages around the Baltic Sea, a member of the Finnic branch of the Uralic language language family. It is similar in construction to Estonian but by no means mutually intelligible with it. Surprisingly, Finnish is not at all related to its Scandinavian neighbouring languages such as Swedish and Norwegian. Nonetheless most people in Finland are able to speak Swedish as a second language as they are taught this in school. Swedish also has official language status in Finland. Finnish also holds minority language status in Sweden.

Other minority languages spoken in Finland are Russian, Estonian, Finnish Romani, as well as the three Sami languages, Northern Sami, Inari Sami and Skolt Sami

Finnish is written using the Latin alphabet minus the letter ‘w’ which is merely a variant spelling of ‘v’, plus three diacritics: Å, Ä, Ö. š and ž are also letters used to convey the sound of foreign loanwords, but can be written as ‘sh’ and ‘zh’ when needed.

Finnish words adopt modifiers and suffixes depending upon the case. There are 8 locative cases in Finnish plus the genitive, accusative, nominative and extra cases which affect nouns and adjectives. The subject is indicated through the use of suffixes added to the root of the verb.

Most people in Finland have a very good command of English, with more people speaking English than Swedish as their second language although they may be shy to demonstrate their ability. Nonetheless, it may be helpful to know a handful of useful Finnish phrases when you visit.

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Communication Style

Handshaking is the accepted form of greeting when meeting people for the first time and usually before and after business meetings – with men, women and children greeted in the same way. Greet people by their title and surname until invited to use first names. It is important to make eye contact when shaking hands and when talking.

In general, Finns are rather reserved when it comes to conversation with strangers, with many tourists noticing an unusual degree silence on the metro in Finland. Do not be surprised if there is minimal chit-chat before a meeting: silence is an accepted part of interaction with others in Finland. Words are important to Finns and are used sparingly. A man will always be taken at his word, with spoken agreements, often sealed by a handshake, binding. Indeed, this is a culture where “a man’s word is his bond”.

Finns like to use time well and are considered to be great time managers: efficient and organised. Meetings are less a forum for debate and more the place for information transmission and are usually well-structured. When presenting at a meeting with Finns, one should be very well prepared, as they expect to be well informed enough by a presentation for questions not to be necessary. It is implicitly understood in Finland that decisions are made by those who have the power to make them and consensus is not so much prized as in other Nordic countries. Indeed, most decisions are made by a small team of senior managers.

Modesty, honesty, frankness, reliability and perseverance in the face of adversity are all very much Finnish characteristics. Loudness or brashness are not received well. Certainly, the technique of the ‘hard-sell’ does not go down well in Finland, where people prefer to remain understated and modest. If you are prone to loud animated talk, it may be a good idea to tone down your behaviour slightly as Finns are usually very quiet. It is very rude to interrupt and in Finnish culture, listening skills are considered a great virtue, especially in meetings.

Finland is a very tolerant and open country with few taboos, however it is probably best to avoid politics or intrusive personal questions regarding salary, health or love life, particularly when you first meet. Finnish people have a sardonic, dry wit and appreciate the intervention of humour in business proceedings as well as in most other circumstances.

Despite their reserve, if you win the trust of a Finn, you are likely to be lifelong friends.

Business Etiquette

Remember Finns are a very open-minded and tolerant people who will not react strongly or negatively to any faux pas you may make. These are merely tips to help communication between you and your business partners run more smoothly.

A few words about the Sauna (the only Finnish word to make it into English)

An invitation to the sauna signifies a step forward in your relationship with a Finn and indeed this is the place where relationships are built: relaxed and away from the office.

The sauna is a deep-rooted part of Finnish culture with over 2 million, some think close to 3.3 million, saunas, including those in private residences, for a population of around 5.3 million people. This is the place where Finns go to relax and meditate, away from the noise and bustle of the modern world. It is also thought to be very healthy to go regularly, and very good for one’s general wellbeing – with the sauna sometimes being called the “poor man’s pharmacy”. 99% of the population will go at least once a week. Men and women usually enter separately and parents go in with their children until they reach a certain age. Bathing suits are not permitted. A small towel may be required to sit upon the hot wood benches. Sometimes business negotiations or discussions can carry on informally in the sauna, but often this is a place for silence as it is almost too hot to speak.

There are many different types of sauna, from the traditional smoke sauna to the electric and/or mobile sauna so be aware of this fact. In Finnish folklore, the sauna is home to the sauna elf, called the saunatonttu, who, it is said, will burn down the sauna if you behave badly in it.


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What forms of interpreter services can TJC Global provide?

Dutch arbitration interpeter video

Video/videoconference interpreting: (Video remote interpreting is also available) TJC provides language interpreting services to support events such as business meetings, conferences, legal/court/arbitration/litigation, and other online business interactions in the industry.

Participants can communicate via video or voice calls using computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc. These can be recorded should you wish to take minutes. Our professionally qualified interpreters can join your online virtual meeting, event, or proceeding, for example, and interpret remotely in the language pairing you require to facilitate smooth communication between all parties. They also provide relay interpreting.

Telephone interpreting Dutch arbitration

Telephone/teleconference interpreting is a practical way to bridge any language barriers. The interpreter is either located remotely (away from either party) or is with one of the parties. In both cases, they deliver interpreting services through telephone conferencing.

Telephone interpretation is helpful for clients who cannot travel to their counterparts’ countries but still wish to hold business discussions or communicate progress updates. At TJC Global, we are pleased to provide professionally qualified interpreters in almost any selected language combination.

Simultaneous & Consecutive interpreting

Simultaneous interpreting

Simultaneous interpreting (also available with Video Remote Interpretation (VRI))

is used for international conferences, critical business discussions, seminars & symposiums. In this case, two to three interpreters are usually situated in a booth, away from the audience, and take turns to interpret at high speed, changing over every 15-20 minutes to avoid fatigue and the lack of concentration, which affect the quality of interpretation.

The interpreters listen to the speaker’s message using headsets and repeat it immediately (practically “simultaneously”) in the target language to benefit relevant audience members. They also provide relay interpreting, which is helpful if the speakers give presentations in several languages.

Consecutive interpreting

Consecutive interpreting (also available with Video Remote Interpretation (VRI)) is the most common type. It is used for business discussions, negotiations, contract exchanges, commercial, legal and technical meetings, medical or court hearings, or on-site inspections or audits. The interpreter listens to the speaker, often making notes, and later delivers the meaning in the target language.

The interpreter may wait until a pause or the end, at which point they deliver a translation relatively quickly. Consecutive interpreting may also be used at conferences for panel discussions, Q&A sessions or private discussions between parties – at a stand or elsewhere.

Looking for translation or interpreting assistance?

TJC Global provides specialist interpreting and translation services in various specialist fields. Whatever your requirements, we can find the right linguist to assist you. If your industry or project type is not listed here, please contact us directly with your enquiry.

Our language specialists utilise their knowledge of subject-specific terminology to deliver precise, unambiguous translations, whatever the context – enabling you to communicate effectively with the rest of the world. We are also able to adapt to almost any type of project.

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