Business in Nordic Europe: where do you start?

Business in Nordic Europe: where do you start? May 16, 2023Leave a comment

There are three Scandinavian countries: Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Together with Finland and Iceland, these five are known as “Nordic”. On the European business map, they are lumped together, mostly for the wrong reasons. Each has its own currency, language and history. 3 are members of the European Union, but only one uses the euro. 3 are kingdoms, and the other two decided not to be. What they do have in common are really developed economies, a cohesive Lutheranism and a high per capita income. Only 4 are rich. One is filthy rich.

Iceland has the population of Saint Louis and an area the size of Kentucky. It is known for its 130 active volcanos and a mega-default of all of the country’s banks (a joke in 2008 gave $6.50 as the answer to “what is the capital of Iceland?”). Unless you are into geothermal energy, fish or genetic databases, don’t start here.

For the opposite reason to mega-defaulting, don’t start in Norway either. The country doesn’t need you. It has the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund — not per capita, but absolutely. It doesn’t need you to help it get richer; its 5 million people have what they need.

Start in Sweden, follow on to Finland and then delve into Denmark.

Why? Sweden has the largest and most dynamic Nordic economy. It does everything right. Something the other Nordic countries find off-putting. Finland did everything right too, until it joined the Euro and Nokia goofed on the smartphone. (Nokia was sold to Microsoft for less than it paid for Skype — which the Swedes sold twice.) But the Finnish market is open, and the distribution system is Europe’s most concentrated and one of its most accessible.

Denmark, richer than Finland, is also more protectionist. (This is understandable: it keeps losing bits of its empire to neighbouring countries and independence movements, and in 1985, it lost a third of the EU’s entire territory, Greenland.) And be careful of Danes: they are excellent traders, and you are likely to wind up buying more than you wanted to sell there.

SAI likes to bait the Nordics because they have a sense of self-derision that is often lacking in Latin countries. On the other hand, their 27 million affluent consumers are bait enough for would-be exporters. Our offices in Stockholm and Helsinki can guide you to lucrative fishing in the Nordic markets as well as towards profitable local partnerships.

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