Interview, Ambassador Desirée Kopmels, by the Finnish Chamber of Commerce

Liaison Manager of the Finland Chamber of Commerce Anne Hatanpää has interviewed H.E. Ms Desirée Kopmels, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands about Netherlands and business between Netherlands and Finland.

Trade between Finland and the Netherlands has developed positively during the last years. How do you see the development of our trade relations in the coming years?

The Netherlands and Finland share excellent trade relations, and the year 2020 has shown that there is potential for even more collaboration. Both countries emphasise green and digital economic recovery from the covid-19 crisis. This will offer cooperation opportunities, in advancing digitalisation and transitioning towards a climate neutral circular economy.

The Netherlands and Finland are both export-oriented countries. Finnish and Dutch businesses can work together on solutions that can be scaled up globally. We see that, in order to be successful in global markets, we need to work together.

In which sectors can Finland & the Netherlands work together according to your opinion?

The digital transition is one of the current key trends, now accelerated because of the covid-19 crisis. We expect the demand for digital solutions to further increase, among others in the healthcare, cyber security and smart cities sectors.

Another key trend is circular economy. In the coming years, Finland and the Netherlands will continue working together on circular solutions in sectors such as construction, green energy, plastics and textiles.

These two themes -digitalisation and circular economy- are also our key priorities for our Embassy.

Which kinds of start-ups communities you have in the Netherlands – if a Finnish start-up company would like to start doing business in the Netherlands, is there any support for foreign start-ups?

The Netherlands is known for its vibrant startup scene and its strong emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation. Strategic location, competitive fiscal climate, multilingual workforce, an overall international business climate, a great digital infrastructure - to name a few advantages.

But also cultural reasons such as the creative and innovative environment and good quality of life make the Netherlands a popular start-up hub.

The Netherlands offers a wide range of incubators, accelerators and other innovation hubs that provide growth opportunities for innovative concepts. For instance, the Netherlands Point of Entry helps startups to set up business in the Netherlands.

Life during and after Covid-19 – which kind of support Dutch and foreign companies can receive in the Netherlands? How do companies see the future?

The Netherlands government is working hard to keep the economy running smoothly and to support businesses that have been hit by the covid-19 economic crisis. The government offers guidelines for businesses at, and for entrepreneurs at FAQ for entrepreneurs, and via the Chamber of Commerce advisory phone +31 88 585 2222.

The covid-19 crisis has hit some sectors very hard, such as the services sector. At the same time, demand in some sectors has rapidly increased, particularly in the health technology sector and companies with digital solutions.

I always find it is inspiring how businesses co-create & innovate. The current challenging times have forced businesses –and all of us– to become even more creative.

Please, tell about your personal aims during your time as an Ambassador in Finland.

Once covid19 has past, I hope to visit as many businesses, institutions and places as possible throughout Finland, in order to make the most out of my time in this exceptional country. Finland is known for its nature, welcoming people and culture & design. As I arrived just before covid19 hit us all, I have not had the change yet to enjoy Finland to the fullest. It will in particular be interesting to see how the cities and the country, society and business as a whole, cope with this new era of digital & green recovery.

The holiday season is coming – how would you describe the Dutch way of enjoying the holiday season?

For most children in The Netherlands, the most important day during December is 5th December, when Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) brings them presents!

The Dutch tradition says that St. Nicholas lives in Spain. He travels by steam boat and every year he chooses a different harbour to arrive in The Netherlands, so as many children as possible get a chance to see him. On the day that Sinterklaas arrives in The Netherlands (3 week before December 5), children leave a shoe out by the fireplace or sometimes a windowsill and sing Sinterklaas songs. They hope that Sinterklaas will come during the night with some presents. They also believe that if they leave some hay and carrots in their shoes for Sinterklaas's horse, they will be left some sweets or small presents. They're told that, during the night, Sinterklaas rides on the roofs on his horse and that a Piet will then climb down the chimney (or through a window) and put the presents and/or candy in their shoes.

The evening of December 5th is called St. Nicholas’ Eve 'Sinterklaasavond' or 'Pakjesavond' (present evening). The children will receive their presents during the evening. There might be a knock at the door and you might find a sack full of presents!

Christmas Day itself is a much quieter day in The Netherlands, with perhaps a church service and a family meal. On Christmas Eve, Dutch children believe that Santa Claus, (who is also called 'Christmas man' / 'Kerstman' to avoid confusion with Sinterklaas!) comes from Lapland in Finland to deliver more presents!

Christmas Day is known as 'Eerste Kerstdag' (first Christmas day) and the day after Christmas is called 'Tweede Kerstdag' (second Christmas day). On the second day people tend to visit their families and big shops are also often open on this day. The traditional way to eat with the family is called 'gourmetten', which is a little stove that is put on the table and where everyone prepares their own meal while seated.

In Dutch Happy/Merry Christmas can be said as 'Prettige Kerst' (Happy Christmas), 'Zalig Kerstfeest' or 'Zalig Kerstmis' (both mean Merry Christmas) or 'Vrolijk Kerstfeest' (Cheerful Christmas).

On behalf of the Embassy team in Helsinki, I wish you a Happy Christmas and all the best for the new year!

Desirée Kopmels
Netherlands Ambassador to Finland

H.E. Ms Desirée Kopmels, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands answered question sent by FinnCham in December 2020.
Questions by Ms Anne Hatanpää, Liaison Manager, Finland Chamber of Commerce.