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Two Finnish people talking at workplace


A complete guide to the Finnish work culture for people who are moving to Finland to work.

Understanding the work culture in Finland makes all the difference for a smooth relocation and successful integration. Finnish workplaces’ conduct and practices may differ from what you’re used to. We’re here to help you adjust and thrive in your transition to work life in Finland. We’ll provide you with valuable insights on how to behave in and navigate the Finnish work environment.   

Communication Style in Finnish Workplaces  

In general, Finns are known for being calm, reserved, and not great talkers. If you start your job in Finland and few people come to welcome you and talk to you, take the first step and introduce yourself. Don’t be shy to start the conversation boldly, do not just wait for someone to ask a question.​ It’s perfectly fine if you’re an active talker, even if you’re surrounded by people older or more senior than you. 

You should know, however, that in Finland, it is not necessary to keep the conversation going all the time. The following saying is highly appreciated in Finnish working life: “Say what you mean, mean what you say”. This means that you should not speak just for the sake of talking. Speak when you have something relevant to share and remember Finns are really listening to you!  

At work in Finland and other social situations, the tempo of a conversation is often lower than in many other countries. People take turns speaking and listening throughout a conversation – when one speaks, the other listens, and vice versa. Interrupting is considered rude, especially on formal occasions. Small silences in a conversation are seen as normal here and not to be rushed to fill. Finns indicate with level eye contact that they are listening to you, rather than dropping small questions in between your sentences. ​ 

Finnish work ethics  

When you relocate to Finland for work, you will quickly realize that your supervisors and colleagues expect you to express your honest opinions. If you notice a mistake or have an idea, always inform your superiors. If you don’t understand something or know how to do it, say so and seek help and guidance. It is always better to acknowledge that you don’t know something and ask for help than to do the task wrong. By asking you show your motivation to learn. Making mistakes is normal – they are part of the learning process and teach you to do better next time.  

In Finland, it is OK to say “No”, even to your boss. You should just always add an explanation. It is better to say: “I don’t think I can do it” and explain why not, rather than to say: “Sure, sure, I will take care of it” even when you already know it will not happen. It is considered a sign of reliability: the employer can trust that you mean what you say. 

Finnish workplaces often have a flat hierarchy, yet authority and decision-making procedures still exist. Respect the organizational structure and use suitable channels for communication and decision-making. 

Finnish social customs and Interactions at Work  

It is polite to greet when you walk past someone, but unlike in many other countries, it is not necessary to address everybody or shake hands when you arrive and leave work. In meetings, it is common to introduce and maybe shake hands with those who do not know each other already.​ Shaking hands, also women’s, is the most common and preferred way of greeting in formal situations. On the other hand, hugs and kisses on the cheek indicate a close personal relationship. ​If you do not feel comfortable shaking hands, you can give a small bow, for example. People who work in multinational environments may be more accustomed to different greetings. 

Close physical contact is not usual in Finland, so if you’re used to it, respect Finns’ personal space and keep a small comfortable distance from the person you’re chatting to. 

In Finland, it is polite to address a person using their first name, also older people.​ Formal speaking, such as addressing a person as Madam/Sir (rouva/herra) or Madam/Sir + family name (e.g. Madam Virtanen) is rarely used. When speaking to someone, people address others directly, using the You pronoun. 

Finnish Work Culture: shaped by punctuality and reliability 

In general, Finns follow a linear and quite strict concept of time, especially at work. ​Your daily working hours are based on a contract and are usually supervised in some way.​ If the meeting is announced to begin at 10 a.m., you should be there a couple of minutes before 10. ​Being late may happen, but it is not socially acceptable. Being on time shows respect for each other. 

If you are given a deadline, it really means that the job needs to be finished by that date. You must plan your work according to that. If you notice that you will not meet the deadline or your task is not clear, inform your superiors and the team about it, explain the reason, and agree together on how to proceed. ​ 

​Although the employee is expected to be independent and self-motivated, it is also critical to follow the rules in detail. Many rules are based on laws and employers cannot dismiss them. It is especially important to follow safety rules. Sometimes all this bureaucracy and strictness may seem frustrating, but remember that even weird rules may be based on reasons not familiar to you. If you think that following some rules may not be necessary, consult your superior first. 

The same applies to agreements – written and oral. If something is on paper – meeting memos, written notifications, it is considered agreed. Also, your words will be taken literally – if you say, “I can do it” it is understood as a promise and your work is expected to be delivered before the fixed deadline. 

Building Relationships and Networking in Finland  

You will probably notice that your Finnish colleagues focus only on work tasks and do not bother with socializing. This is only partially true, as according to the Finnish perspective, socializing is often narrowed to work topics and relations. This is due to the separation of the concepts of private and public life – work, and private life are much more separated than in many other countries. Though you may form lifelong friendships at work, don’t come to Finland expecting to make friends at work, as this is not part of Finnish work culture.  

Be cautious about how much and how soon you inquire about your colleagues’ personal life, such as their families. Consider also how much, how quickly, and with whom you share your own personal life.​ When getting to know your colleagues, start with more common subjects. Your jobs, careers, and happenings at the workplace are all fantastic examples of neutral topics. In Finland, you do not ask first, “Have you had your meal / What did you have for breakfast?” but you speak about the weather. ​It is advisable to wait until your conversation companion makes the initiative to move on a more personal level.​ 

However, in working life, team working and networking skills and overall human relations skills are highly appreciated and valued. And compared to other countries, Finnish working culture is very informal and free. 

Decorative image of someone reading a book in downtown Helsinki.


Understanding the dirrerence between work and free time takes you a long way in adjusting to the Finnish workplace.

Dress Code: what to wear at workplaces in Finland  

When it comes to the dress code, Finnish workplaces do not generally have rigid restrictions and rules. Of course, specific uniforms and personal protection equipment are required in some industries, such as healthcare or construction. Otherwise, people are free to wear whatever they like and have a relaxed dress code, leaning towards casual or smart casual styles. The most crucial thing is to present yourself in a polished manner, as Finns appreciate cleanliness and orderliness. Make sure to wear well-maintained clothing, clean, ironed, and free of noticeable wear. When entering the workplace, be sure to take off your outdoor clothing. Finnish workspaces often have designated facilities for storing outside clothes.   

Dealing with Challenges and Conflicts in Finnish Work culture  

Challenges and conflicts can develop even in the most peaceful work contexts. Addressing these difficulties diplomatically and finding mutually acceptable solutions are essential in Finnish workplaces. Seek to identify common ground and strive for a solution that is acceptable to both parties. In general, direct confrontations and harsh behavior are prohibited in Finnish working culture. If problems remain, ask for the services of a mediator or the human resources department to help facilitate discussions and find solutions. 

In conclusion, it’s important to understand the work culture in Finland if you want to move there and fit in well at your new job. The Finnish way of talking to each other is based on making meaningful contributions and only talking when you have something important to say. It’s important to respect personal space, think of time in a linear way, and follow the dress code rules for cleanliness and order. In Finnish work culture, it’s important to be honest, ask for help when you need it, and deal with problems in a diplomatic way. By adapting to these cultural norms and practices, you’ll be able to confidently navigate the Finnish work environment and do well in your career in Finland.

Interested in the Finnish working life? Read our articles about working in Finland!