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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.