There are around 5 million native speakers of Finnish, which is relatively small compared to some other languages. The history of Finnish is somewhat vague. Its roots are not the same as the Finnish people. Finns are said to originate from what is now Turkey, whereas Finnish is a Uralic language which comes from the Ural Mountains in Russia. The oldest known piece of written Finnish (found in Russia) dates from around the mid-1200s.
Finnish is one of two official languages in Finland, along with Swedish. Finnish is also an official minority language in Sweden, where both standard Finnish and Meänkieli (a Finnish dialect) are spoken. Further to this, Finnish is an official minority language in Karelian-Russia, Norway, the USA and Canada.
- There are three extra vowels in Finnish compared to English: Å, Ö and Ä.
- For over 600 years Swedish was Finland’s official language. As such, Finnish contains over 4000 loan words from the Swedish language.
- A lot of Finnish words have literal English translations: A fridge is an ‘ice cupboard’ (jääkaappi), a computer is a ‘knowledge machine’ (tietokone), and a treadmill is a ‘running carpet’ (juoksumatto).
- Finnish has one of the longest words in the world at 61 letters, lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas, which means ‘airplane jet turbine engine auxiliary mechanic non-commissioned officer student’.
- The sauna was invented in Finland and they have more saunas than cars.
- The Finns drink twice as much as the Italians, three times more than Americans, and four times more than Brits.
According to the World Bank Report, Finland is the ninth easiest country to do business with. There are numerous opportunities for British companies to take advantage of, including in electronics, smart healthcare and software.
The Finns are also big recyclers. 9 out of 10 plastic bottles are returned for recycling and almost 100% of glass bottles are recycled. As such they’re very interested in clean technology, green energy and sustainable construction.
With regards to service exports, there are opportunities in engineering and design, along with advertising, public relations (PR) and marketing.
Finns are considered modest, honest and reliable. They place great value on words and mean what they say. “Take a bull by its horns and a man by his word” is an old Finnish saying. Their frankness is upfront and uncomplicated, which is actually rather refreshing.
They tend to get straight to the point and value a critical attitude – it’s seen as honesty and should never be seen as a personal attack.
Following any meetings, you are expected to take responsibility for tasks assigned to you and documented within the minutes, which are always circulated. You should keep to any time-scales agreed upon and provide regular updates to individuals in charge and all parties involved should be informed about any problems or delays.
Business tip: It’s worth noting that Finnish business culture is relatively egalitarian. As such, you may find that even junior managers have considerable decision-making authority.
It’s also recommended that you learn some simple Finnish greetings to establish a friendly connection:
|How are you?||Mitä kuuluu?
Kuinka voitte? (formal)
|Pleased to meet you||Hauska tavata|
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