Arja Suominen discusses the meaning of trust in Finland

A nation built on trust

​The expression “let’s shake on it” goes to the heart of what it means to be Finnish. We are a nation built on trust. Our word is our bond, and oral agreements may well be binding in a legal sense. We say what we mean, committing ourselves to the settled undertaking and making sure that it progresses systematically.

2/2019 TEXT AND IMAGE: ARJA SUOMINEN

​We are not particularly keen on small talk or networking. Indeed our practices largely reflect the popular Finnish Nightmares cartoon series that describes episodes in the introverted life of Matti from Finland. These cartoons have really taken off in both Japan and China, with the emerging notion of jingfen, or “spiritual Finnishness”.

There is even something charming about Matti from Finland, and despite the many clear differences between Finns and Far Easterners, our trading relationships have been highly successful. While remaining receptive to innovation is part of this, I strongly believe that it also reflects important cultural commonalities. Business relationships in the Far East stress the importance of knowing and trusting your counterpart before making any deal together.

I worked for many years at Nokia and Finnair, two companies that have been trailblazers in the Far East. Finnair has been operating flights to both Japan and China for over three decades, thereby establishing an air bridge between two very different worlds. The company has gained a strong reputation as one of the world’s safest airlines and as an operator that is willing to make bold strategic decisions. Nokia, in turn, has been and remains strongly committed to creating a world where people can communicate without regard to time or location.

Those bold decisions have now given us excellent flight connections that have helped Finnish industry to secure a foothold in the world, while giving our Far Eastern business partners opportunities to expand their operations into Finland. I recall numerous discussions of the requirements for such international expansion, and decisions on location always come down to excellent flight connections, good local infrastructure, capable people and a safe working environment for staff. These are the factors underlying such investment decisions.

We have a great deal to offer in this international competition besides a firm handshake, with Finland listed as one of the world’s most capable, safe and even happiest countries, so let’s settle down over coffee or tea and consider what we could achieve together.

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