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Latvia Customs & Etiquettes
 
 
 
 
 

General

Latvia is a hierarchical society. People are respected because of their age and position. Older people are viewed as wise and are granted respect. Latvians expect the most senior person, by age or position to make decisions that are in the best interest of the group.

The family is still the centre of the social structure. Even in urban areas it is common for generations of extended family to live together in the same apartment. Most families have only one or two children. The family provides both emotional and financial support to its members. It is common for parents to provide financial assistance to adult children. In return, children are expected to take care of their elderly parents. It is uncommon to move from the area where you are born. Even if a child goes to a city to work, they tend to go home for holidays.

Although friendly and informal with close friends and family, Latvians are reserved and formal when dealing with outsiders. They are private people and do not flaunt their possessions or readily display emotions. They believe that self-control is a behaviour to be emulated. They do not ask personal questions and may not respond should you intrude on their privacy.

Personal life is kept separate from business. If a friendship develops at work and is carried into the personal arena, this camaraderie is not brought into the office. Personal matters are not discussed with friends.

One should be cautious when mentioning Latvia in the context of the USSR to ethnic Latvians. Latvia became a USSR province after World War II, and praise of the Soviet (or Russian) regimes is unlikely to be understood or appreciated by Latvians, especially young ones.

It is very common to give up your seat for an elderly passenger on the public transport in Latvia. It is also considered polite to let women board a train or bus first.

There are many waste containers and trash cans on the sidewalks and near most stores. Littering is considered a very bad manner and may be fined.

Meeting & Greeting

A quick, firm handshake with direct eye contact is the traditional greeting. Latvians have rather controlled facial expressions and are not quick to smile. Their initial reserve warms up after they get to know you.

When greeting a close friend or family member, some Latvians offer a light kiss on the cheek, although many do not, so it is not a universal measure of the intimacy of the relationship.

Titles are very important and denote respect. When introducing someone, it is common to state their first and surname with the honorific title "kungs" for a man and "kundze" for a woman appended. Wait until invited to use their first name.

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