What should an international employee know about Finnish working culture?

Different companies may have different ways of doing things, but especially in a new country it’s good to be prepared for a different working culture. This helps to avoid misunderstandings and makes you adapt to the new workplace more smoothly. What should an international employee know about the working culture in Finland?

“Finnish employees are very open, honest and trustworthy. They don’t expect me to make all the decisions for them and tell them what to do, but they want to get involved and make decisions together. They want to use their own brains, so my role as a leader is to inspire and coach them”, says Sven from Germany, who has worked as a manager in Finland.

Finnish working culture

The basic values of Finnish work culture are reliability, punctuality, low hierarchies and equality. Here are some examples of common practices:

  • Supervisors don’t monitor employees constantly, but expect that everyone will do what has been decided together.
  • Everyone is expected to meet the deadlines and arrive at meetings on time; being late is considered impolite.
  • Finnish people tend to talk very directly. In meetings, it’s usual to go straight to the point, and honest opinions are appreciated.
  • The language is often informal, and people address each other using first names, regardless of their position.
  • Everyone must be treated equally, and discrimination is strictly prohibited.

The Hofstede model is often used to compare different cultures. Although it generalizes a lot, it can explain some of the typical practices in Finland. For example, Finland has a high preference for avoiding uncertainty, which means precision and punctuality are appreciated. Finland is also considered a Feminine society. In feminine countries people value equality and solidarity, and conflicts are resolved by compromise and negotiation. The focus is on well-being and status is not shown.

Work-life balance

In addition to the cultural traditions, there are also laws and rules that secure employees’ rights. There are, for example, laws about equality, safety and annual holidays.

Compared to many other countries, the work-life balance is very good in Finland. According to a study, Helsinki offers the best work-life balance of the cities studied. Typically the maximum working time in Finland is around 40 hours per week, and people are entitled to annual holidays in addition to the national public holidays. The average commute time is also shorter than in many big cities in the world.

Also German Sven thinks the work-life balance is the best thing about Finnish work culture: “People can leave work in time and have time for their families, but still work is done well.”


Learn More:

InfoFinland: Finnish working culture

Tags: ,