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Paper info: Deciphering and understanding cultural codes within Finnish-Russian business relationship development


Deciphering and understanding cultural codes within Finnish-Russian business relationship development


Maria Ivanova

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 28th IMP-conference in Rome, Italy in 2012.



This paper is of descriptive character and its aim is to understand the intercultural side of
Russian-Finnish business relationships and interaction. Within business relationships studies
there is a definite need to have a cultural perspective, which will differ from the predominant
functionalist cultural model of Hofstede. This paper regards culture as a system of shared
cultural codes that are inherited and learned by an individual. Cultural codes of another
culture are subconsciously and consciously learned in the process of social interaction and
help the interacting persons to culturally adapt and improve business relationships.
Individuals within business relationships use the inherited and learned cultural codes in order
to conduct, as well as make sense of business acts.

The particular research questions are concerned with what cultural codes should we be aware
of and/or adapt to in the process of business relationships with Russian firms and how these
cultural codes can be interpreted/understood. Moreover, it is expected that investigation of
symbolic expression will help to uncover how Finnish managers adapted to cultural traits of
Russian business. It should be noted that as the empirical cases within this paper regard
Finnish side as a seller and Russian as a buyer, the specific focus is on Russian business
culture, although Finnish cultural traits are also considered to some extent.

This paper employs sensemaking as the methodological approach and hermeneutical analysis
in order to interpret respondent’s stories. The main findings represent itself a hermeneutic
interpretation of cultural codes within Russian-Finnish business relationships and interaction
through socio- and lingo-cultural context. The main contribution of this paper is applying the
culture as knowledge perspective and cultural codes concept in the study of business
relationships and interaction, which deviates from that of national culture model of Hofstede,
predominantly used in the IMP studies. Moreover provides managers with an in-depth
understanding of Russian business culture from a different angle, implying possible
contextual explanations of cultural codes.