Northern Europe

Northern European countries studied by the Passport to Trade 2.0 project are: Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Iceland, Sweden and the UK.


Business Culture in Denmark UK Business Culture Business Culture in Finland Business Culture in Ireland Business Culture in Iceland Business Culture in Sweden

Similarities in Northern European business culture

All six countries have a good level of English language usage. In business communications the use of emotions, lively gestures or touching is usually not welcome. Facts and technical details are appreciated. Punctuality is regarded as a sign of reliability and arriving on time is expected.

The adoption of internet technologies and internet penetration amongst these countries is one of the highest in Europe. Facebook is one of the main common social networks for these countries, but it is mostly used for private purposes.

Student placements are perceived as important and are popular with organisations as well as universities.

Differences in Northern European business culture

Because of the geographic spread differences are also substantial. The main differences can be summarized by the geographic location – for example the proximity of the UK and Ireland to Iceland means that the use of English language is high also in Iceland. The Scandinavian countries such as Finland, Sweden and Denmark do have a good use of English but are also likely to speak Swedish as the main or secondary language.

The population of all these countries is quite small – under 10 million per country; however, the UK is an exception with over 63 million people. Only two of these countries have the Euro as their currency – Ireland and Finland, with others having their own national currencies.

There are differences in the formality of meetings and respect of hierarchy. For example the Swedes are quite informal and emphasise open and democratic dialogue during the negotiation phase. Whilst following established protocol is critical to building and maintaining business relationships in the UK.

In Scandinavia, the communication style is often direct, open and “to the point”. In Britain and Ireland business communications can be difficult to read since the British and the Irish do not like to offend their business partners and sources of disagreements are not always obvious to detect.

Explore the following pages, which contain more information on each of these Northern European countries:

Northern Europe