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Last updated : Nov 2009
Helsinki Business Profile
Helsinki Business Overview - TravelPuppy.com
Helsinki’s geopolitical position and political neutrality make it the Baltic region’s commercial gateway to both Sweden and Russia. It rates as one of the world’s top 20 conference centres and has played host to events such as the first US–Soviet summit in 1990, when American President, George Bush met Mikhail Gorbachev.

Helsinki is one the fastest growing cities in Europe and , Finland has recently been rated as Europe’s most competitive country by the Swiss research institute, IMD, who praised it for its business practices, skills and its ability to be highly adaptable in adverse circumstances – adversity which has characterised much of the city’s economic history over the last ten years. When the regulated financial market was liberated towards the end of the 1980s, the economy went into overdrive. The bubble burst at the start of the 1990s and over half a million jobs were lost almost overnight. The unemployment rate became the second highest in Europe, at a staggering 20 per cent. In 1997, Helsinki still suffered an unemployment rate of 17 per cent, however, now boasts ‘just’ 8.5 per cent – a comeback attributed to the government’s spending gamble – in line with the national unemployment rate of 8.2 per cent. Cutting back on everything except education and research enabled Helsinki to become one of the world’s leading telecom equipment producers, making everything from mobile telephones to GSM networks.

The telecoms industry now vies with the country’s traditional exports of pulp and paper, each account for 40 per cent of Finnish exports. Helsinki Technical University experts predict that within 7 years, Finland’s software developers will employ as many people as the forestry industry does currently.

Finland’s main international companies include:

Stora Enso
Merita Nordbank

Nokia is perhaps the country’s biggest success story, it is now the second-largest manufacturer of mobile phones. The company has its headquarters in the Helsinki region. Business is centred on the Kamppi-Töölönlahti area, in the centre of Helsinki, while new high technology centres are breathing business life into the Ruoholahti and Pitäjänmäki areas.

Business Etiquette

Lunch is the main meal of the day and is taken usually between 1200-1400 hrs.

Helsinkiläiset are very punctual - to the minute, always alerting a colleague of an impending delay, even if it is a matter of minutes – lateness is seen as a discourtesy.

Standard office hours are 0800-1700 hrs, although flexible hours are very common.

Bertold Brecht is famed for saying that the ‘Finns are silent in 2 languages.’ They are a naturally reserved people and do not like speaking just for the sake of it. Garrulous people are viewed with slight suspicion. When meeting for the first time, a handshake is customary, as is formal dress but Helsinkiläiset are not flashy and dress is more smart-casual and women often wear trouser suits. Business cards are very important.

Meetings and business deals are often conducted by telephone or at the sauna. Although these places are traditionally regarded as retreats, meetings often take place in these relaxed, less formal environments. Helsinkiläiset are completely unabashed about going au natural into the sauna, which are sometimes mixed gender, there are usually separate saunas for men and women and some sort of wrap is on hand but Saunas are never mixed in a business connection.

If invited to someone’s house for dinner, lateness (over 10 minutes) is seen as a discourtesy. Shoes are usually removed before entering and a gift for the host, such as a bottle of wine or a bunch of flowers, is seen as courteous.