- Business Meeting
- Public Holidays
Latvia is an EU country, not too far from the Czech Republic. Business customs are therefore very similar to those in the Czech Republic, however cultural differences can be found in negotiations.
How to reach business partners?
In Latvia, it is addressed in written form as “Dear Sir/Madam” (indicating the person’s surname or position – “Dear Mr. Director”). Academic titles are used rather rarely. In the oral form, you are addressed as Mr. Novák, Mrs. Nováková, however, do not be surprised if the local partner starts to address you by your first name (with exclamation) from the beginning, or even tick you off. Adapt to him.
A business meeting is usually arranged in advance by phone or email, several days in advance. Meetings take place in the office or in a restaurant. They are arranged between 10:00 and 11:30 a.m. for a morning meeting, a business meeting at a restaurant for lunch is usually at 1:00 p.m. The afternoon meeting is usually between 14:00 and 17:00. Evening meetings are not very common. The topics for the meetings are usually given in advance, at least in outline. When meeting for the first time, partners usually exchange business cards, gift giving is not common. If the meeting is formal and takes place in the office, water, coffee or tea is usually offered, without other refreshments. In the case of less formal meetings, it is possible that smaller refreshments will be offered. Attention – not tasting anything offered at all will be an insult to the host.
Meetings usually take place all year round, the “deaf” period is around Easter (a week before and a week after), the period of May holidays (1 – 8 May – note: 4 May is a public holiday in Latvia) and do not plan any business meetings either for the last week of June, when the summer solstice holidays are celebrated (2Līgo and 2 Jānis). During the summer holidays, the regime is also more relaxed. Latvia celebrates 18.11. its main national holiday, which is a celebration of the founding of Latvia, and various cultural events and military parades are held. It is also freer during Advent and Christmas – until January 7th, when the Orthodox Christmas is celebrated.
Latvian traders are quite pragmatic, as a rule, they do not waste time with a business offer that is not very interesting for them. On the other hand, “business courtship” with a potential business partner will take longer than in the Czech Republic – a personal bond must be created. Partners from the Baltics may, however, be more closed upon first contact (applies especially to Latvians – on the other hand, members of the Russian minority may appear warmer).
They come to the meeting prepared, have knowledge of the territory (Latvians usually have more knowledge about the Czech Republic than Czechs about Latvia) and usually have prepared proposals for individual solution options. They expect interaction and the same approach from the Czech side.
Punctuality is expected, arriving on time is a matter of course. The meeting usually lasts about an hour, during the working lunch, a range of up to hours is expected.
Emotions usually play almost no role, Latvian partners may seem closed to Czechs at the first meeting. A more pronounced expression will be more noticeable when dealing with Russian-speaking partners.
There are no large regional differences within Latvia. Latvians are generally proud of their origins, even within Latvian regions (see cultural-historical regions in chapter 1.1). In business negotiations, it is therefore a “plus point” to know at least the general characteristics of the regions. In the eastern regions, Russian is more likely to be the language of negotiation.
Alcohol is almost never offered at the first meeting (alcohol is no longer excluded at the second or subsequent meetings). Latvians are very proud of Riga Balzams, a local liqueur that can also appear in a business meeting as an example of local culture. During working lunches, it is possible that the host will offer you a glass of wine or beer with your meal.
Latvian businessmen dress for meetings in the same way as in the Czech Republic. A suit or costume is expected. Latvian merchants and other partners take care in dressing and overall grooming.
In the case of larger companies and companies with Russian-speaking management, it is recommended that a higher-ranking manager from the Czech company (business director, regional director, etc.) participate in the meeting. A certain segment of the population is still very status-oriented, with higher status usually coming with age.
The main place for business meetings are offices or restaurants.
Language skills and communication strategy
Initially, communication is often done by e-mail and telephone, but the best way to gain your partner’s trust and important information is during a personal meeting. A response to the e-mail is expected within 2-3 hours, the next day at the latest. Latvians are often surprised by how slowly Czechs respond to e-mails.
Be prepared for who will be your partner. If it will be an ethnic Latvian, you will often get by with English, but it may happen that the older generation will have a problem with English, in which case it is possible to communicate in Russian. If the meeting is led by a representative of the Russian-speaking minority, the meeting will probably be held in Russian. Having an interpreter is not very common – it can be seen as a “third person”. If his presence is really necessary, it must be arranged in advance. Visit Aparentingblog for more information about Latvia culture and traditions.
The society is rather closed and conservative, it is not recommended to talk about topics related to money, religion, sexual orientation, politics, the situation around COVID-19 (only something really neutral like “today’s complicated situation”), questions about the family are not expected either. If the partner wants to talk about any of the above himself, the conversation can be supported and developed. “Ice-breaker” topics are, on the other hand, Latvian natural beauties or Latvian “national interests”: mushroom picking, fishing, gardening, a common topic for Czechs and Latvians can be the topic of ice hockey, which is as popular a sport in Latvia as in the Czech Republic.
In order to establish a long-term business partnership, personal (and repeated) meetings with company representatives are necessary. In Latvia, you do business with a person, not a company. Come to the meeting thoroughly prepared, this way you will gain trust right from the first meeting. A precise presentation (in a “Nordic” i.e. modern style) is expected. Be prepared for the fact that what is agreed upon during negotiations is counted on – beware of empty promises, they could spoil the outcome of the deal. Finding a business partner who knows the local environment is a big advantage. Persistent bureaucratic restrictions and habits must be taken into account.
- January 1 New Year
- March – April Easter
- May 1 Labor Day
- 4 May Declaration of Independence of Latvia – public holiday
- June 23-24 summer solstice holidays
- November 18 Independence Day of Latvia – the main public holiday
- 24th – 26th December Christmas
- December 31 New Year’s Eve
– note: in Latvia, holidays are listed as non-working days. If a holiday falls on a weekend, the next Monday is a non-working day. If the holiday falls on a weekday, a so-called “bridging” can be declared (to create a long weekend) and the following Saturday is the substitute working day.