Customs and traditions
For nearly a thousand years, Latvia has been squeezed between Germany and Russia and lived through centuries of foreign supremacy, including from Sweden. Foreign armies have devastated the country, which has nevertheless passed and gained freedom. Therefore, the Latvians protect their culture and language and emphasize national identity and history perhaps more than any other people in the EU. At the same time, one should be aware that about 40 percent of the country’s residents are not ethnic. The largest minority are Russian speakers.
Letters may be reserved in public but are warm and inviting to friends. It is good tone not to embarrass or criticize anyone in public. Even a suggestion that one is not satisfied can damage the personal relationship. Unfair and noisy behavior is rejected. Showing respect for Latvian identity is important. Interest in Latvian nature, culture and history is appreciated as well as safeguarding home and family.
- Countryaah: Overview of the capital city of Latvia, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
Know and label
Labdi, good day, and sviki, hello, are the most common greetings in Latvian. A firm handshake with direct eye contact is normal. Regarding strangers, it is expected to be reserved. For close friends or family members, it can be cheeky, but not over the threshold but inside the room. Titles are important and show respect. When someone is introduced, it is common to enter both first and last names with the king, sir, or customer, wife. You wait until you are asked to use your first name.
The Latvians are not indulged in cold talk and do not have difficulty with the silence which in some other cultures is considered troublesome. Therefore, they may seem tight but open up once a relationship has developed. Lively discussions are now commonplace in everyday life, unlike during Soviet times. Sensitive interpretations are not expected, however. Diligent gestures should be avoided, as well as interrupting the speaker. You should be direct in your speech and answer questions in concrete terms. In a group you are not happy to give compliments, and too easily bought price raises suspicion. Personal issues are preferably avoided, even between friends.
According to Abbreviationfinder, the Latvians dress neatly and follow European fashion. Women have nice dresses and skirts and are happy to wear jewelry, especially amber. Men wear well-pressed suit with tie. For the party, it can be folk costume with woven wool skirts, white linen blouses and woolen jackets decorated differently for different regions. In private, the style of clothing is relaxed.
You should keep time, be well dressed for dinner and take off your shoes indoors. The table is formal. You stand until you are invited to sit, and you can be shown to a special place. You do not start eating before the hostess or before being told. The napkin is on the table, not on the knee. Everything that is served on the plate should preferably be eaten. It is common to sing along after the meal.
The traditional kitchen consists of the old farmer’s everyday food. Meat, pork and fish dishes are common. Potatoes, cabbage and mushrooms are widely used, and pies are common as is beet soup.
Gifts do not have to be expensive, it is more important to show that you have thought of the recipient. Flowers, fruits, chocolate boxes or a bottle of alcohol are taken with the hostess. The bouquet should have odd numbers. An even number of flowers are given in grief. Red roses should not be given away at festive occasions, they are used at funerals.
Flower arrangement is a Latvian specialty. For parties, romantic get-togethers, birthdays and not least naming days, there should be flowers. And gladly at work. In the flower market in Riga, the supply is very plentiful and the bouquets are fascinating. Almost every flower also has its hidden meaning in a culture where proximity to nature has almost enough religious dimension.
Punctuality, discipline and predictable behavior are appreciated as well as honesty and reliability. One should show efficiency and competence, the Latvian would like to be on the winning side. Private life is separated from business. If you become friends through work and then hang out privately, you do not bring your companion spirit to work.
Meetings often begin with welcome speech by the leading facilitator. It should be answered with short numbers of corresponding visitors. Speech is expected to be serious, restrained and well thought out. Letters are reserved but coolness can turn into heat as the parties get to know each other. Although they do not openly show a different opinion, letters can be difficult to convince. They can appear to be in agreement even when they are not.
Personal relationships are rarely touched on at business meetings, which are quite formal. Acting too relaxed or informal, even after an evening of drinks, can damage the professional reputation.
Business is hierarchical. Decisions are made at the top of the company and it is therefore important to get contacts as high as possible. Several meetings are usually required to make decisions, preferably over lunch or dinner, as the conversation often becomes more social. Reserved letters do not express themselves so much in large meetings with people they do not know well. Therefore, it may be wise to start at a lower level and in a smaller group.
In negotiations with entrepreneurs, one can face an attitude of mistrust of lawyers and bankers and aversion to big profits that are considered unfair.
Traditions and holidays
The Latvians are a singing people and almost everyone has participated in choir or other singing group. The Latvian song and dance festivals every five years are very strong expressions of nationalism and local patriotism. Then tens of thousands of people participate in colorful folk costume parades and sing in giant choirs. A natural mystique, almost with a fan of pre-Christian folklore, permeates these festivities. The red and white colors of the Latvian flag as well as the national song “God bless Latvia” have a central importance.
According to Countryaah, Easter and Christmas are celebrated among both Protestant and Catholic letters. Midsummer is celebrated with fires, food and drink, folk songs, folk costumes and wreaths of flowers and oak leaves.
National Day is November 18, when Latvia proclaimed independence from Russia in 1918. It commemorates the deportations to Siberia March 25 (1949) and June 14 (1941) as well as the day the Molotov-Ribbon Troop Treaty was concluded, August 23 (1939), between the Soviet Union and Germany. Then Latvia fell within the Soviet sphere of interest.