A good knowledge of local customs works as a launching pad for international business.
Young people out of work should be offered an opportunity to live abroad for a while to gain knowledge of the local language and culture, claims Arto Lahti, Professor of Entrepreneurship from Aalto University. Lahti proposes that the unemployed could receive travel grants in exchange for getting to know a foreign country and writing a report on their stay.
”If there was a simple model that made it possible to send youngsters abroad, the internationalisation process would speed up. The model may not require any additional funding as the unemployed receive benefits anyway while living in Finland. For example Asia and South America have a lot of potential that we are not aware of,” Lahti explains.
He stresses that the only road to internationalisation is to live abroad.
”The best way to learn the customs of the business world is to live in the culture where the business takes place. And you must have real interest in the local customs and culture, otherwise business relationships will not work.”
Saying that Finnish companies have already set up successful internationalisation programmes, Lahti praises the KONE Corporation’s policy of sending new graduates on secondment to the company’s overseas units.
”You should get to know places while you are still young.”
Business only on second day
Eija-Riitta Huovinen, Communications Manager from Nokia, who has worked both in China and Singapore, does not believe cultural differences are a major factor in workplaces.
“I think cultural differences are more noticeable outside work. The best teachers of a foreign culture are the locals, who in my experience are usually happy to help.”
Huovinen explains that all Nokia employees who take a foreign posting visit the country before their stint there so that they know what to expect.
Lahti claims that there are thousands of Finnish companies with potential to expand abroad. Electronic communications having made it easy to gather information on a business partner, face-to-face meetings can these days be used to forge personal relationships.
“Finns still tend to go straight to business on the first day of negotiations even though this is when you should be gaining trust and focusing on personal matters. Only the second day is for hard business.”
MINNA NYRHINEN – STT
NIINA WOOLLEY – TH
LEHTIKUVA / MARKKU ULANDER