Cultural Differences – Lativa

In many ways Latvians have a similar professional mentality to Germans. However, they themselves are likely to emphasize their Scandinavian roots. Ultimately, Latvian culture is very individual, despite or perhaps even because of the numerous influences of various occupying powers in the past. You will notice a strong sense of Latvian national pride. Their metropolis Riga also makes the Latvians see themselves as being the center of the Baltic States. Business partners from abroad are therefore well advised to treat their Latvian hosts respectfully and on an equal footing and to show real, comprehensive interest in the Latvian culture.

Objectivity and a focus on solutions

Latvians have a strong sense of family, which is reflected across the entire social fabric. In the business world, therefore, people expect to make friends with foreign partners before embarking on a joint project. Plenty of small talk about art and culture can be helpful in promoting the development of a good personal relationship. However, the Latvians are also rather quiet people, so it is unwise to appear too committed and pushy. Objectivity and a solution-oriented approach should prevail in business negotiations.

The Latvian communication style is quiet and thoughtful. Asking about things too often and using extremely extroverted body language will quickly be perceived as unpleasant in Latvia. Latvians prefer to speak in a straightforward manner and get to the point. Some foreigners may have to learn to cope with the Latvian way of speaking, which they may find slow.

Documents, project plans and schedules may be detailed and specific – as long as the foreign partners do not attempt to impose their exact ideas on Latvian business partners without joint agreement. It is better to work together to find flexible solutions. Always meet Latvians on equal terms and avoid saying anything that could be interpreted as a know-it-all attitude.

Despite all the plain speaking, you should still be cautious with voicing any criticism. Like their Eastern European neighbors, Latvians prefer to take diplomatic and tactical approach when things don’t go smoothly. Control your emotions and try to talk things over. Always remember that a friendly relationship is of utmost importance for the further course of the project.

Slow to come to a decision

Expats report that they always find old-fashioned, conservative behavior in their dealings with Latvians. Decision-making processes are rather slow and leisurely, people do not allow themselves to be pushed or put under pressure. In the mostly strictly hierarchically organized companies, decisions are made by top management. At the lower levels, however, teamwork is often preferred, and decisions are frequently based on consensus. In order to reach an agreement, numerous meetings are often necessary. Even then patience is required.

Katrin Koll Prakoonwit

+49 (0)711 722 468 44
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