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Business Etiquettes in Latvia
 
 
 
 
 

General

Latvians are polite and courteous. They can be extremely reserved. They do not readily smile, especially at strangers, and are not comfortable making small talk. They often appear to have little difficulty accepting what would be considered awkward silences in other cultures. This behaviour can make them seem austere. Once a relationship has developed though, some of the veneer will disappear. Personal matters are seldom touched upon in business.

Latvians are not especially emotive speakers. If you are from a culture where hand gestures are robust, you may wish to moderate them to conform to local practices. At the same time, they can be extremely direct speakers and task focused. Soft voices are expected. If you have a booming voice, you may wish to moderate it when conducting business with Latvians.

Latvians can be direct communicators, although they often temper their words to protect the feelings of the other person. As a group, they are slow to pay compliments and may become suspicious of compliments offered too readily and without sufficient reason.

Since good manners dictates that you do not publicly embarrass another person, it is important not to criticize someone in a public venue. Even the hint that you are unhappy could cause irreparable harm to your personal relationship.

Latvia is a low context communication culture. They do not require a great deal of background information and may become irritated if you attempt to explain too much. When asking questions, strive to be specific and ensure that the question is germane to the subject at hand. Do not ask questions for the sake of asking them.

Meeting & Greeting

Latvians take a formal approach to business. Note however there are differences in style between older workers who maintain formality and the younger generation who willingly dispense with formality.

Shake hands with everyone at a meeting. Maintain steady eye contact while shaking hands. Shake hands at the beginning and end of meetings.

Titles are important. If someone does not have a professional or academic title, use the honorific titles "Kungs" to address a man and "Kundze" to address a woman. People are generally introduced by both their first and surname. Wait until invited before moving to a first name basis.

Business Meetings

Meetings often begin with a welcoming speech from the most senior Latvian at the meeting. If this occurs, the most senior person from your team should respond with a short speech.

Latvian businesses are extremely hierarchical. Decisions are made at the top of the company and information flows downward like a funnel. It is important to make initial introductions as far up the hierarchy as possible. Unless you are the CEO, it may be impossible to meet with the actual decision maker for your first meeting. You and your company will have to be evaluated by lower level staff and, if you are deemed a good potential business partner, you will be invited to a subsequent meeting with the next highest level.

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