Latvia Work Culture
Latvia Work Culture
To succeed in business in Latvia, it is vital to have a strong understanding of the country’s business culture. Latvian business culture is modernizing and reflects ongoing changes in Western society, placing importance on both the work of management and employees. However, hierarchical business structures are still practiced in some establishments.
As a global PEO (Professional Employment Organization) it is our goal to be familiar and updated with the business culture in the country we work with and in. By sharing our knowledge about the Latvian work culture, we want to support your global expansion plans. Therefore, we will address all the aspects of the work culture in Latvia to start your expansion well-informed.
Work Culture in Latvia
Preparedness, punctuality, politeness, and commitment are very important to the development of business relationships in Latvia. Latvian businessmen place great significance on their relationships, and the local business community is treated like a ‘clan’ – being quite close-knit but reserved to outsiders. Thus, it is important to both you and your local business partners to treat business dealings with respect and great care.
There has been an increasing awareness around the world in the importance of work-life balance and flexible working times, but Latvia still places significant importance on business etiquette for the smooth operation of businesses. Here are some tips and tricks to use during your first few months:
- Punctuality: Punctuality is important in Latvia. Local businessmen are usually punctual and will appreciate the same courtesy of their business partners or associates. If you are arriving late, it is best to inform your associates.
- Languages: Most Latvians are multi-lingual. There are two main languages, Latvian and Russian (due to the occupation). Most people over the age of 15 are likely to also speak Russian, besides English and Latvian, as it is still taught in schools. In business, Russian is the language of choice for middle-aged professionals, whilst English is preferred if potential partners are younger or from western companies.
- Business Relationships: Latvians are very suspicious of people they do not know. It is best to be initiate a relationship with a business partner through an introduction by a mutual third party. Once an introduction has been established, it is important to keep in frequent contact, as well as make visits to Latvia to keep the relationship going. For important issues, face-to-face discussions, visits, and calls are needed to build trust and create a long-lasting relationship.
- Introductions/Greetings: The traditional greeting in Latvia is a quick, firm handshake with direct eye contact at the beginning and end of meetings. When introducing someone it is common to state their first name and surname wit the honorific titles “kungs” for a man, and “kundze” for a woman. Business cards are exchanged at the beginning of meetings.
- Gift-giving: In Latvia, business partners do not expect gifts at the first meeting. However, small gifts to business associates are generally accepted. It is best to bring something small, a unique souvenir that represents your country or company.
- Dress code: In Latvia, the dress code for meetings is formal wear – men wear suits and a tie, whilst women wear jackets and skirts, or trouser suits. Latvians like to wear expensive clothing, shoes, and accessories.
- At the office, employees follow a less formal dress code. In smaller businesses, there is usually no formal dress codes.
- Formality: Method of address is very formal in Latvia. Locals use company positions in their forms of address (e.g., Mr. Director), but you may address your business partner with what is written on their business card, using their company title together with their surname. Academic titles are rarely used. At the beginning of the business relationship, titles are expected – but once you are more familiar with each other, you will be asked to stop using them.
- Meetings: Office meetings are formal affairs and tend to be short, owing to the Latvian’s communication style of being simple and direct. Preparedness is highly valued in meetings, and Latvian businessmen also prefer to do business with partners of the same status as themselves.
- Agreements: Verbal agreements are not legally binding. Agreements, deadlines, and procedures must be set on paper and signed by both parties.
- Socializing: It is also common practice in Latvia to have lunch and dinner meetings, but this is more for socialization than to discuss business – however, this depends on your relationship with them. Latvian businessmen may also invite you to their home, or summer house, if they are interested in developing their relationship with you.
- Hierarchy: Latvian business structures are hierarchical – meetings normally happen with associates that are in similar stations to you, which is then followed with an invitation to meet with the higher levels if the meeting goes well. If you are in the higher levels, however, you can request to meet them (CEO to CEO, for example).
- Communication: Latvians are controlled in their facial expressions and are not quick to smile. They are initially reserved, but warm up as they get to know you. Eye contact also signifies interest. Their verbal communication style is simple and direct, and they speak softly.
Latvian Minimum Wage
In 2021, the Tripartite Cooperation Council (which brings together the government, employers, and trade unions) announced a new national minimum wage of EUR 500 per month in 2021, which increased from EUR 430 in 2020.
Probation Periods in Latvia
In Latvia, according to the Labor Code, the probation period can be established in the employment contract. The probationary period cannot exceed 3 months.
If the probationary period ends with both parties willing to continue the employment relationship, the contract will continue to have effect with no additional actions needed.
However, if the probation period is proving unsatisfactory, the employer or employee can terminate employment with a written 3 business days’ notice, and the employee is not entitled to severance pay.
Working Hours in Latvia
In Latvia, a typical working day is 8 hours, 5 days a week. The working day starts at 8 or 8:30am and ends at about 4:30/65pm. Office hours can vary, and Friday is often a short day with people leaving at about 4pm or earlier. In some cases, the working day is extended to 6 days.
Workers in the private sector commonly stay late at work and may also work on weekends.
Daily lunch breaks shall be no less than 30 minutes.
Overtime in Latvia
Overtime work may not exceed 144 hours within a 4-week period and 200 hours within a calendar year. Overtime work is permitted if the employee and employer have agreed upon it in writing.
However, overtime work can require an employee to work overtime if it is required by urgent public need, under exceptional circumstances, and to complete unexpected work.