Business cultures and communication in Finland, Norway, Russia and Sweden

These bulleted lists about business cultures and communicating in different countries are done by second-year students of the degree programme of International Business at Rovaniemi University of Applied Sciences. This was a part of project studies course for Mari-Anne Karila, Heidi Soini and Gunita Veinberga.

Business culture in Finland

  • Finns don’t usually do much small talk when negotiating, but they go straight to the point.
  • As Finns are very punctual, they appreciate other people being the same as well. It is considered as a sign of respect and efficiency.
  • Business negotiations in Finland are often held in offices, business meetings or negotiations in restaurants are very rare.
  • Although seniority is very much respected, there are also younger people of both sexes in leading positions of different companies.
  • Finnish business culture is very equal and even the directors at more lower positions than senior managers often have the right to make independent decisions in the company.
  • Finnish body language is usually slight, and one speaks only when he/she has something important to say and doesn’t try to fill empty voids with small talk. Finns are not embarrassed or feel themselves uncomfortable in long silences, which may feel strange for people coming outside of Finland. However, when negotiating, silence usually means that Finns are carefully thinking what the other party has just said. When talking, it is considered rude to stop someone when he/she is saying something.
  • When a Finn says something, he/she really means it and rarely changes his/her mind about decisions already made earlier.
  • Finns appreciate being modest and courteous.
  • Safe topics of discussion are things like for example weather, travelling, hobbies etc. Topics that should be avoided are personal things like religion, salary, taxes etc.
  • Although the Finnish business style is formal (e.g. small talk is not needed in the beginning of negotiations), Finns do usually behave informally, which may mean for example using first names (if used at all) etc.
  • Finnish business dress etiquette is formal and stylish.


Business culture in Norway

  • Norwegian business culture is very egalitarian and informal.
  • Although Norwegians often use first names, it is still better to wait until one’s Norwegian counterpart suggest switching to them. Norwegians also often introduce themselves only with their surnames.
  • Norwegians often have casual lunch meetings at office, where also business negotiations are usually always held. During the lunches it is OK to discuss about business matters. However, it should be remembered that Norwegians tend to keep their business and private lives separated.
  • Also in Norwegian culture, punctuality is very much appreciated. It is often good to arrive for example for appointments at least 5 minutes earlier.
  • Once written agreement is made, it is considered final.
  • Norwegians typically speak very directly. They are often blunt and honest about their ideas and feelings.
  • Also Norwegian body language is very slight.
  • Although Norwegians are rather taciturn and reticent, small talk is not something strange for them. However, interrupting someone in the middle of a sentence is considered rude. It should also be remembered that at negotiations only very little small talk is considered necessary by Norwegians.
  • When having a conversation Norwegians tend to stand at an arm-length distance from another speaker.
  • In Norwegian business culture one can achieve promotion in his/her career on the basis of his/her work performance. This makes it possible that also young people can be in leading positions of companies.
  • Norwegians appreciate being modest, and are often irritated by someone boasting about his/her success or financial achievements.
  • Good small talk subjects are for example travelling, sports and hobbies. Criticizing for example Norwegian things, organizations etc. should be avoided.
  • Business dress etiquette is often formal but casual.


Business culture in Russia

  • In Russia the final business negotiations are always held in the office.
  • In Russian business culture respecting seniority is essential.
  • In business meetings one should not do very much small talk, but rather go straight to the point. Still, it should be remembered that in Russian business culture personal and informal relationships are very important, so one should take part in discussing about for example
  • The Russian company structure is very hieratical, and the people at the leading positions of companies make the final decisions.
  • Even though the Russian party of negotiation may come to the meetings a few minutes late, to the other party it is the best to arrive in time.
  • In business meetings it should always be waited that the person in highest position of the other party opens the discussion.
  • It is good to prepare oneself for long business negotiations as in Russia they may be lengthy.
  • Social contacts are very essential in doing business in Russia, the social space between people is not very big and showing emotions is considered as acceptable.
  • A contract is considered binding only after it has been signed on paper. It is also wise to show the contract to a specialist of Russian law before signing it.
  • Praising someone in public is considered as suspicious.
  • Small talk subjects that are often discussed before starting a negotiation may include personal matters, like family etc. Also Russian art, music, dance and literature are very good subjects.
  • Also Russian business dress etiquette is formal and stylish.

Business culture in Sweden

  • In Sweden going straight to the point in business negotiations without much of a small talk is very common, since wasting time is trying to be avoided.
  • Swedes appreciate very much especially honesty and integrity.
  • Seniority is appreciated, but for example employees’ promotions are decided on the basis of employee’s work performance, this makes it possible that also young people of both sexes are often in leading positions.
  • Being punctual is regarded as a sign of respect and efficiency also in Swedish business culture.
  • In Swedish business culture decisions are always made with great consideration, although executives are also willing to take risks.
  • In business negotiations staying calm, not displaying one’s emotions and not getting into heated debates are appreciated.
  • Swedish companies usually have only few management levels and they are very team-oriented.
  • In Swedish business culture one presents his /her criticism  to someone very diplomatic and non-personal way, since conflicts are trying to be avoided. This means that also compromising is valued.
  • Swedish business culture is very equal and the management style is decentralised.
  • Because of striving to consensus, business decisions are made very slowly and may require several meetings.
  • Also Swedes often use first names especially at work.
  • Swedish business dress etiquette is also formal and stylish.


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