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Latvian business culture guide - Learn about Latvia
 

Latvian business culture guide - Learn about Latvia

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http://businessculture.org - Find out about business culture in Latvia. This guide is part of the Passport to Trade 2.0 project which examined European Business culture in 31 countries looking at ...

http://businessculture.org - Find out about business culture in Latvia. This guide is part of the Passport to Trade 2.0 project which examined European Business culture in 31 countries looking at business communication, business etiquette, business meeting etiquette, internship and student placements, cost of living, work-life-balance and social media guide.

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    Latvian business culture guide - Learn about Latvia Latvian business culture guide - Learn about Latvia Document Transcript

    •            |  1     businessculture.org Business Culture in Latvia http://businessculture.org/eastern   europe/latvia/ Content Template Last updated: 02.10.2013 businessculture.org   This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the view only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein. Content  Latvia  
    •            |  2     TABLE  OF  CONTENTS   Business  Culture  in  Latvia  .........................................................................................................  4   Xenophobia: being a foreigner in Latvia ..............................................................................................5   International business in Latvia ............................................................................................................6   General education .................................................................................................................................7   Educational standards ...........................................................................................................................7   Other issues such as transport infrastructure ........................................................................................8   Cultural taboos ......................................................................................................................................8   Business  Communication  ..........................................................................................................  9   Face-to-face communication .................................................................................................................9   Language matters ..................................................................................................................................9   Useful Words and Phrases 10   Business relationship ...........................................................................................................................10   Making contact....................................................................................................................................11   Personal titles.......................................................................................................................................11   Business  Etiquette  ..................................................................................................................  12   Corporate social responsibility ............................................................................................................12   Punctuality ..........................................................................................................................................12   Gift giving ............................................................................................................................................12   Business dress code ..............................................................................................................................13   Bribery and corruption........................................................................................................................13   Business  Meeting  Etiquette  ....................................................................................................  14   Business meetings in Latvia .................................................................................................................14   Importance of business meetings.........................................................................................................14   Business meeting planning ..................................................................................................................14   Negotiation process .............................................................................................................................15   Meeting protocol .................................................................................................................................15   businessculture.org   Content  Latvia  
    •            |  3     How to run a business meeting ...........................................................................................................15   Follow up letter after meeting with client............................................................................................16   Business meals .....................................................................................................................................16   Business meetings tips..........................................................................................................................17   Internship  and  placement  .......................................................................................................  18   Work experience .................................................................................................................................18   Student Placements .............................................................................................................................18   Social security and European health insurance card ..........................................................................18   Safety ...................................................................................................................................................19   Do I need a visa? .................................................................................................................................19   Internship and placement salary .........................................................................................................19   Internship and placement accommodation ........................................................................................20   Cost  of  Living  ...........................................................................................................................  21   Money and banking ............................................................................................................................21   Traveling costs.....................................................................................................................................22   Work-­‐life  Balance   ....................................................................................................................  23   National holidays.................................................................................................................................23   Working hours .....................................................................................................................................23   Work culture .......................................................................................................................................24   Health insurance .................................................................................................................................25   Social  Media  Guide  .................................................................................................................  27   Social media guide for Latvia ..............................................................................................................27   Access ..................................................................................................................................................27   Organizational use ..............................................................................................................................28   Search and Social Media Marketing for International Business .........................................................28   businessculture.org   Content  Latvia  
    •            |  4     Business  Culture  in  Latvia   The following is a very short introduction to Germany. External links at the end of this page provide you with more in depth information concerning different topics. The following video gives you an overview of the general facts: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUY9NeS5gm8 A country’s business culture depends on its political situation and economic environment. Stability will attract more investors from other countries than instability. The Republic of Latvia (Latvijas Republikas) is a relatively small country in Eastern Europe, situated on the Baltic Sea, surrounded by Estonia, Lithuania, Belarus and Russia. The political history of Latvia has been turbulent as the country has been successively annexed by Russia and Germany from the late 18th century until the late 1980s. Latvia was under the rule of the Soviet Union when the liberalization of the USSR began, which allowed Latvia to seek independence. Full independence was recognized on August 21st, 1991 and Latvia became a member of NATO and the European Union in 2004. businessculture.org   Content  Latvia  
    •              |  5   The capital of Latvia is Riga, the largest city of the Baltic States, and an important financial, cultural, industrial, business and political center. Riga’s population totals about 1 million inhabitants living in an area of 307.17 km2. The next largest towns are Daugavpils (112,000), Liepãja (86,000) and Jelgava (66,000). Latvia has a total population of around 2 million (July 2013 statistics). In other words, it is a small country of only about 64,589 km2, of which 1,000 km2 is water). The age of the population in Latvia is distributed as follows: 14% are 14 years old or younger, 69.6% are between the ages of 15 to 64 and 16.4% are 65 years or older. The main ethnic groups are Latvians at 57.7%, followed by Russians at 29.6%, Belarusian 4.1%, Ukrainian 2.7%, Polish 2.5%, Lithuanian 1.4%, and others at 2%. Latvia has a low birth rate of 9.24 per 1,000 inhabitants, while the death rate is higher at 13.66 per 1,000 inhabitants, meaning that population growth is following a negative trend. The official language of Latvia is Latvian and most people over the age of 15 speak Russian. Much of the population also speaks English, which is often used by people in government bodies and institutions, travel agencies etc., while German and other European languages are used less frequently. The main religions practiced in Latvia are: Lutheran (37%), Roman Catholic (33%), Russian Orthodox (17%) and others. The official currency is the Lat (LVL) and Latvia is in the Eastern European Time Zone and adheres to EET (UTC +2) during the winter and EEST (UTC +3) during the summer. The country scorecard rates Latvia as BBB rating for Sovereign, Currency, Banking, Political and Economic risk. Xenophobia:  being  a  foreigner  in  Latvia   Latvians are probably closer to Germans in their behaviour, as they tend to be very reserved and do not like expressing their emotions in public. They say little and like to get straight to the point. Therefore, it is best to adopt a very direct approach when addressing business topics with them. Latvians will certainly try not to hurt somebody’s feelings at the first meeting, but they will say what they are thinking and will expect the same from you. businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •            |  6     As Latvians do not like long meetings, you will be expected to be well prepared for the meeting, with all the relevant information at your immediate disposal. It is important to present all the key facts and be able to answer any direct questions on the spot. If your presentation is not credible or something makes your potential business partners feel uncomfortable, they may withdraw from the meeting and cancel further negotiations. When it comes to punctuality, Latvians are relatively tolerant. At a meeting with a foreign partner, they will try to arrive on time, but may not succeed. Latvians express their seriousness about business through their formal approach to the way they dress and conduct meetings. Their business style follows a clearly hierarchical approach and significant business decisions are made by the top management in the organisation, which can sometimes slow down the negotiation process. International  business  in  Latvia   Latvian government has been trying, since its independence from Russia, to reshape and redirect the dependency of its own economy, on the Russian economy. The Russian economy meltdown of 1998 had a direct effect on the Latvian economy, so that Latvia had to introduce stringent measures, to control the economy and to set in progress, the gradual reorientation of exports towards EU countries, thus reducing Latvia’s trade dependency on Russia. The main Export partners for Latvia are as follow: UK, Germany, Sweden, Lithuania, Estonia, Russia and Denmark. Exported commodities include wood and wood products, machinery and equipment, metal, textiles and foodstuffs. Imports comes from, Germany, Lithuania, Russia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Poland and Belarus. Imported commodities include machinery and equipment, chemicals, fuels and vehicles. The Latvian economy is dominated by three main sectors of Services, Industries and Agriculture. The Services sector provides the biggest employment opportunity in Latvia. It employs 60 % of the labour force and contributes 69.9 % of the country’s annual GDP. The Industrial sector is the second largest employer with 25 % of the labour force working in the sector. It generates 26 % of the country’s annual GDP; traditional industries – timber, construction, food processing and also information technology, electronics, pharmaceutical and chemical industries. businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •            |  7     The Agricultural sector used to be the biggest employer in Latvia, but the service sector has reduced its position. However, it is still a very important sector, in that; it provides employment for 15% of the labour force and generates 4.1% of the annual GDP. Most important of all, it feeds the population. Latvia produces the following items: Grain, sugar beets, potatoes, vegetables; beef, pork, milk, egg and fish. General  education   Latvians are well-educated, as they see education as a way of securing a good job and earning a living. Their education system consists of 9 years for primary school, 4 for secondary school, and 3 to 5 years for higher education (depending on the chosen course of study). The right to free education is guaranteed by law for primary and secondary studies. Universities are different; students who pass the higher education council exams receive grants for their education, while the others have to pay their own fees to study. There are many private higher education institutions in Latvia that provide extended diversity and choice, and compete with the state institutions. In fact, Latvia has an extensive range of professional and academic routes to higher education at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. It typically requires 3 to 4 years of study to receive an undergraduate degree and a further 2 years to achieve a master’s degree. As with other universities, proceding to doctoral level studies is only possible on successful completion of a master’s degree. The Higher Education System in Latvia uses a credit point system to benchmark the amount of work a specific course requires, with an approximate allocation of one week of full time studies equivalent to one credit. This credit system is compatible with the European Credit Transfers and Accumulation Systems (ECTS), where one ECTS is equivalent to approximately 30 to 35 learning hours. Therefore, an approximate ECTS credit value can be calculated by multiplying Latvian credits by a factor of 1.5. Typically an undergraduate degree will require 120 to 160 Latvian credit points and a postgraduate degree 80 points. Educational  standards   Using the ECTS system, students are able to travel within the European Union for student placements at either higher education institutions or in private business work placements. businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •            |  8     Student placements are practical assignments, which must be eligible for a minimum of 39 ECTS credits or 26 national credit points. Placements are normally organised by the university and students associations. For example, AIESEC, the international student body, offers four types of placement programs abroad. Latvian students have to submit several placement applications in order to secure a placement of anywhere between 3 to 18 months. For students studying in Latvia, English is a required language and it is better if they are able to speak Latvian. Foreign students are also eligible to apply for student exchange programs; so that they can take courses in Latvia. Students who are interested in studying in Latvia have to submit their placement applications directly to the institutions that have international vacancies. The application process, including submission methods and deadlines, varies from one university to another, according to their internal policies. Students are encouraged to apply for placements to gain experience and familiarity with foreign environments and languages, which helps promote study programs, business partnerships and cooperation opportunities between the host and originating institutions. The body responsible for the recognition of international credentials and certifying the parity of academic qualifications in Latvia is the ‘Academic Information Centre of Latvia’. This institution will help you to verify your academic qualifications and, where necessary, recommend the equivalency exams required to meet the standards of certificates and diplomas awarded in Latvia. Other  issues  such  as  transport  infrastructure   The younger generation represents a labour force with a high mobility in Latvia and many have moved from the countryside into the big cities to look for better jobs. Since Latvia joined the EU, people also have the opportunity to travel abroad for jobs. Mobility and transportation are relatively new issues on the government agenda for Latvia, further information is available from the following sources: Cultural  taboos   With Latvians, there are no topics of conversation that should be avoided but it is important not to criticize the people of Latvia or their country, even as a joke. When Latvians criticize their own country, government or economic situation, it is better to reassure them by saying you think things are getting better or that you are sure everything will be fine in the end. businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •              |  9   Business  Communication   Communication is a crucial aspect of doing business. Dealing with people from a different background requires the ability to communicate efficiently and understand something about the differences in communication. It is important to know how to deal with people by telephone or by letter/fax, how to address someone by their correct title, how to introduce yourself, etc. Face-­‐to-­‐face  communication   The best way to contact someone in Latvia is to make a telephone call. Latvians enjoy using their phone and they will gladly receive your call. Contact by email is becoming increasingly popular, but response times still vary considerably and it may take a while before you receive an answer. Nevertheless, email is often preferred in the business environment because there is a clear written record that can easily be referenced. Letters are also popular in Latvia for business communications, but this is definitely a slower form of communication with replies taking up to two weeks. To get things done, it is best to invest in regular and constant direct interaction. Latvian business people like to look straight into your eyes while discussing business; so, eye contact is an important part of business meetings in this area of the world. Failure to make eye contact signals a lack of interest and may be interpreted as an effort to hide something. Shaking hands is an imperative part of greeting one’s partner. Latvians shake hands with all participants at both the beginning and the end of meeting. As they are not talkative by nature, Latvians prefer to get straight to the point without small talk. They do not show their emotions while discussing business and their verbal communication style is simple and direct. Language  matters   Most Latvians speak more than one language. Most people over the age of 15 are likely to speak Russian, as there are still lots of schools in Latvia that use it as the language in which children are taught. Many Russians still live in Latvia as a result of the occupation; for this reason, the second language of Latvia is Russian. In business, Russian is the language of choice for middle-aged professionals working in Eastern European companies, while English is usually preferred if the potential partners are younger or from a western company. businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •            |  10     If you want to break the ice, try to learn some Latvian words and surprise your host. Latvians are culturally reserved; yet, as soon as some familiarity has been established, they will become more comfortable. Useful Words and Phrases • • • • • • • • • • • • • Hello! = Labdien!; Hi! Sveiks! Good morning! = Labrit! Good evening! = Labvakar! Goodnight! = Arlabunakti! Days of the week: Monday-pirmdiena, Tuesday-otrdiena, Wednesday-trediena, Thursday-ceturtdiena, Friday-piektdiena, Saturday-sestdiena, Sunday-svetdiena Numbers: 1-viens, 2-divi, 3-tris, 4-cetri, 5-pieci, 6-sesi, 7-septini, 8-astoni, 9devini, 10-desmit Apart from their own language, many Latvians speak Russian (most people over 25) and English. In Latvia, there are many Russians and Polish people and business people from the other Baltic States. Find out where the person you are meeting is from so that you can make arrangements for the right interpreter, where one is needed. Since 1991, schools in Latvia have taught a foreign language from the age of 9 and a second foreign language from the age of 12. Favourite foreign languages are English, Russian, German and French. Business  relationship   In some cases Latvians are very suspicious of something they do not know, so you may find it useful to get a mutual third party to introduce you to your potential business partner. You can even ask the third party to participate in a first meeting and commission that person to open business contacts and/or represent your company in Latvia. Businessmen in Latvia know one another very well; they have created a ‘clan’ and their community is quite closed. businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •              |  11   Once a contact has been established, it is important to make frequent visits to Latvia to keep the relationship going. In business, personal relationships are vital. For important business issues, face-to-face discussion, visits and calls are needed to build the trust required for a long lasting relationship. Making  contact   The strategic location of Latvia on the Baltic Sea makes it an ideal distribution point between Europe and Asia and many business-friendly policies have been introduced to attract foreign direct investment. Nevertheless, if an opportunity to invest in Latvia arises, it is recommended to seek advice from a professional body, such as a chamber of commerce, industry body or trade association, as well as government advisory and investment bodies. Most companies send representatives to business fairs, exhibitions or conferences at home and abroad because these are excellent venues to meet potential business partners. Whenever possible, it is better to be introduced to a Latvian business by a third party who is known by both businesses. This will ensure that the foreign business partner receives a warm reception and will assure the Latvian company that the approach is serious and should be given the utmost attention. If this approach is not possible, the next best thing would be to use a suitable written form to overcome possible linguistic barriers, such as a formal letter or fax. If you do not speak Latvian, it is important to let your potential partners know and arrange for translation where appropriate. Email is normally used for day-to-day communications, but not for first contact; although, an increasing number of companies are beginning to adopt this approach. Personal  titles   The method of address in Latvia is very formal. If a person has a position in the company, Latvians use it in their forms of address (e.g. Mr. Director.) Address your business partner according to what is written on their business card, using their title together with the surname, for example Ing. Sakalauskas. Academic titles are rarely used. While they might expect you to use the title at the beginning of the relationship, once you become more familiar with each other, they will certainly ask you to stop using it. businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •              |  12   Business  Etiquette     Latvians think of themselves as straight forward and trustworthy and they expect their business partner to be the same. During the gradual transition to a market economy, many of the state companies were sold to either local businesses or to foreign companies. Many Latvians had the opportunity to work with foreigners who were brought in to help train them. In this process, there were obvious clashes, because of differences in attitudes and values. Latvians are well educated and do not like the idea of a foreigner telling them what to do in their country. Clearly, if the foreign manager understood the general business environment he was going into, the reception he would receive would be more favourable. Corporate  social  responsibility   Ecological problems are now less severe than they used to be. Yet, Latvia continues to have lots of issues to deal with: decreasing the high rate of pollution of ground water; clearing out areas where the Russian army was stationed; upgrading the old transportation network. The Latvian government has recognised these problems and is trying to solve them through new legislation intended to create natural reserves and other means. Water quality is constantly increasing, although it is still not up to EU standards in a number of areas. The government has tried to reduce the amount of water waste since 1990. Agricultural effluent and the dumping of waste into rivers by large companies have been reduced through the introduction of sanctions. Waste management has been massively improved in most places, especially in terms of hazardous waste, compared to how it was managed during the totalitarian period. Punctuality Usually, Latvians are punctual and will appreciate the same courtesy. If you try to arrive a few minutes before your appointment, you will have time to prepare yourself a little more while you are waiting. Gift  giving   businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •            |  13     Business partners do not expect presents at the first meeting, yet small gifts to business associates are generally accepted. You should bring something small from your country, a unique souvenir representing your country or company. This could be a small plate with a monument picture, a key holder with a representative historical or natural monument, heraldic signs applied on various small objects as pres-peppier and so on. Business  dress  code   In business, cleanliness and tidiness are essential for creating a professional impression. Men wear suits and a tie; women, jackets and skirts, or trouser suits. For most business meetings, anything formal will do just fine. However, the way you dress will express your status, which is why Latvians prefer expensive clothing, shoes and accessories and women, in particular, are fond of wearing gold jewellery and using strong perfumes. First impressions are very important, so dress smartly and be polite, following the local etiquette. At the office, business people follow a less formal dress code and in smaller businesses there are usually no formal dress codes. Bribery  and  corruption   As in other former communist countries, bribery and corruption are used as a means of doing business in Latvia. You may need to give presents in order to speed up government processes and get things done, such as reducing waiting time for official papers or convincing politicians to pass favourable legislation. Latvia’s overall score in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index for 2012 is 49. It was improved in the last years. businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •              |  14   Business  Meeting  Etiquette     Business  meetings  in  Latvia   Latvians are considering the business meeting a form to know your partner and to create and consolidate a relationship. They are taking very seriously the meeting and spent time to prepare them. Being in time, stick to the agenda, rise important issues, coming with idea and proposal will demonstrate that you are also dedicated to the subject in discussion. Importance  of  business  meetings   Latvian firms are hierarchical and essential decisions are made by the senior management. So, a business meeting without a top manager routinely becomes an opportunity to exchange ideas, which can later be presented to the senior management for a decision. Latvians do not like long meetings; they prefer to get to the point and finish as soon as possible. They like to speak their minds and will openly tell you if they find that you are unprepared or if they reject your proposal. They also prefer to do business with partners of the same status as their own. So, it would be a good idea to let your Latvian partner know your position in your company in order to meet with someone at the appropriate level. Latvians prefer to have agreements written on paper, signed and sealed. Verbal agreements are not legally binding and are not treated with respect. Consequently, agreements, deadlines and procedures have to be set down on paper and signed by both parties. Business  meeting  planning   When proposing a meeting, it is important to offer several possible dates and allow your partner to make a choice. When requesting a meeting you should state the subject you wish to discuss, why you want to meet and the participants you wish to meet. If you want quick decisions, invite the management to participate. Latvians prefer one-to-one meetings, so it is best to limit the number of meeting attendees to one or two people at most from each side. Inform your partner of the identity of the person(s) participating from your side and their position in your company and ask your Latvian partner to do the same. It is desirable to obtain a written confirmation for the place and time of the meeting and for the people who are going to attend. If you cannot attend the meeting for any reason, it is important to call or write in order to cancel the meeting. The favorite time for a business meeting in Latvia is from 9am to 1pm. A business lunch can also be arranged, after 12:30pm. The host will be in charge of businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •              |  15   reserving the venue, the meeting room and the refreshments. You should agree on the language of the meeting and let your host know whether you intend to bring a translator. In case your business or products have not been introduced to your hosts, take some samples, brochures or other informative material with you. Negotiation  process   Business negotiation is Latvia is tough. The host is not easily moved, once they have adopted a position. The main thing is to be specific and be ready to bluff, if necessary. Latvians do not express their emotions during negotiation, so it is best to adopt a similar approach and not show any sign of weakness. The time required for negotiation depends on the attitude of the partners and the nature of the sector. It usually takes longer to negotiate with the public sector than to do business with the private sector. Meeting  protocol   When you greet your partners, look them in the eyes, shake hands firmly, say your name clearly and offer your business card. They will do the same and usually their business cards will be written in both Latvian and English. Keep any business cards at hand for easy reference during the meeting. Shake hands with all the participants at the beginning and the end of the meeting. When introduced and in the early stages of a business relationship, it is advisable to adopt a formal approach by addressing people with their family name and educational title. As Latvia is a formal society, it is better to allow your partner to take the lead in progressing to more friendly terms. If your host invites you to call them by their first name, this is a sign of a comfortable relationship, but not necessarily that you are negotiating on friendly terms. How  to  run  a  business  meeting   Latvians are very careful in their approach to business meetings. They generally follow the agenda arranged for the meeting and do not like interrupting while someone else is talking. If they do not understand something, they will ask questions. Try to speak clearly using simple language, if the meeting takes place without an interpreter, but be wary of seeming patronising. Latvians are reserved, but determined; once they have reached a decision, they will not change it. When you are presenting a project, it should be very well researched and provide enough evidence to convince your prospective partners to get involved. The main determining factor is how much money the Latvian contact can make from cooperating with your company. As it is the senior management that makes any decisions, do not expect any decision to be made during the meeting or immediately thereafter. The management will need businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •              |  16   to be briefed about your proposal and take time to think about it before any decisions can be made. During meetings, coffee, tea, soft drinks and water will be offered and, occasionally, a sandwich lunch may be organised. Follow  up  letter  after  meeting  with  client   A few days after the meeting, a written memo that summarizes the essence of the discussion, the decisions the partners have agreed on and the actions to be carried out will be distributed by one of the attendees. Agreements and decisions should be set down in writing in both languages, to avoid misunderstandings. The inclusion of fixed deadlines and dates for actions and decisions with the names of those responsible is essential to ensure that things get done. Whether or not a meeting is successful, it is always a good idea to write to your host and thank them for their time and effort. Business  meals   Latvians prefer to invite their guests to lunch or dinner at a restaurant, rather than to their homes. But, after a few visits to Latvia when you have got to know each other better, a business relationship can develop into a friendship. At this point, an invitation to dinner at the home of the host might be forthcoming, so that they can introduce you to their family as a friend. You might also be invited to visit their “summer house” or to go fishing. Breakfast meetings are uncommon and will only happen at the request of the visitor. Business lunches are common, but a business dinner is preferred and is reserved for relaxing and getting to know one other. Business lunches and dinners are usually somewhat formal, so formal dress is recommended, especially on first meeting. When the purpose of the business dinner is to entertain and spend time together in getting to know each other, then more casual dress is appropriate. At the beginning and during lunch or dinner, short toasts will be raised. Therefore, be prepared to make a toast yourself. You are not obliged to eat everything put in front of you, but it is very important to say how good the meal was and express your gratitude for the invitation. The host will usually recommend and make reservations at a restaurant that offers traditional local food, but they will ask their guest for their preferences. If you are not being picked up from your hotel by the host, then arriving on time is expected. At the restaurant, you will usually be asked to choose your seat first and, for two people, face to face is the most common seating arrangement. It is recommended, even if the restaurant has an English menu, to ask for suggestions from your host or the waiter, especially if you are interested in tasting the local cuisine. You may offer to pay, but usually your host will politely refuse and pay the bill themself. businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •              |  17   Latvian foods generally do not use strong spices and there is a reasonably high fat content. Latvians eat a lot of meat, mostly pork, beef and chicken, except along the coast where fish is more plentiful. Typically, a Latvian dish includes some kind of fried meat or fish in a cream sauce, with potatoes, rice or vegetables and a fresh salad. Soup made from pork or fish with vegetables like onions and carrots or fresh nettles are often eaten as an entrée or starter. Dairy products and fruit form the base for various desserts. At lunch time, Latvians usually drink fruit juice, ‘kefirs’, milk, tea or coffee. Alternatively, water is always an acceptable option for a business lunch. The most common beverage consumed in Latvia during the day is medium strength black coffee or tea. However, their favourite beverages are beer and vodka. In Latvia, there are many beliefs and customs related to food. Offering food to others around you when you are eating is considered normal, especially to children. The first slice from a loaf of bread is called the ‘farmer’s son’ and it is usually offered to a young woman as a portbonheur for wealth and prosperity, in the tradition that they can marry into wealth. Another tradition dictates that a loaf of bread should be sliced from the fatter end first in order that the eldest daughter will marry first. Eating in Latvia is a serious business, so you should be calm and act with decorum. It is important to show respect for the food and for those who have worked to put it on the table. Good appetite! Labu apetiti! Business  meetings  tips   It is important to be well-prepared and knowledgeable in the subject of your negotiations when presenting to your Latvian business partners. Like most people in former communist countries, Latvians resent being underrated and will react negatively to any arrogant or patronising behaviour. They expect to be treated as equal partners, are well educated and very hard working people. If you give them time and ask for their opinions, you may be surprised at their ideas and ability to innovate. Trust is very important to Latvians. Once they feel they can trust you, they may be prepared to introduce you to more Latvian companies who would work with you. businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •              |  18   Internship  and  placement     Work  experience   Just as in other European countries, during undergraduate studies, certain specializations require the students to go through a practical work experience. Student  Placements   A placement involves the placement of a student in a temporary work, school or research environment to acquire valuable experience profitable in the long run. There are several student organizations facilitating student placements in Hungary: the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IASTE) helps students find summer placements for science and engineering; AIESEC (Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales) facilitates the exchange of information on programmes for students and recent graduates worldwide; the Leonardo Da Vinci Programme helps students with vocational training and business placements and is funded by the European Commission. Social  security  and  European  health  insurance  card   During their stay in Latvia, students should be covered by private health insurance. Students are advised to take out a policy that will cover all the expenses that may be incurred from an accident or unforeseen health problem, including transportation to their country of origin, in the event of very serious injury or death. The healthcare system is well established in Latvia and organised so that services are mainly co-located in larger health centres. Access to healthcare is normally by referral through a family doctor, so foreigners who are not registered with a primary care physician will normally be charged for any treatment at the point of delivery. The cost can be covered through private medical insurance or paid by the patient before treatment is administered. If the person is eligible for medical expenses under the European Health Insurance Card system, the costs are only covered for treatment at a state-owned hospital or clinic. businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •              |  19   Treatment in private clinics is not covered, except when otherwise informed and you might have to pay for part of the treatment that you receive from the state hospital. Pharmacies can be used for all the prescriptions and over-the¬-counter medications required. However, some medications are only available with a prescription from a doctor. Pharmacies are usually only open from 8am to 8pm on weekdays, except designated duty pharmacies that stay open during the night and holidays for emergencies. Most of the specialized hospitals are situated in the capital and largest cities. In Latvia, there are two types of public hospitals: state hospitals, which are accountable to the Ministry of Health, and municipal ones. The national emergency telephone number for the ambulance service is 104. Safety In Latvia, as in any European country you should be precut about your and your belonging safety. So, when travelling, you should be aware of pickpockets and take care where you are placing the documents and money. Never leave your luggage unattended in public spaces. It is better to ask if the area you are leaving is secure in the night and the hour is better to be back. Do  I  need  a  visa?   A citizen of the European Union does not require a visa in order to enter and reside in Latvia for a period of up to 90 days, provided that they present a valid passport or national identity card. For a visit of more than 90 days, an EU citizen must register with the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs and receive a registration certificate. For studying and working in Latvia, a residence permit is required as a condition of the application and enrolment process. The universities apply, on behalf of the students for the residence permits for the period of enrolment, after the arrival of the students. Internship  and  placement  salary   In Latvia, employers are required by law to pay a minimum wage at a rate of not less than €255 per month. An employee who performs additional work outside of their normal hours or who is subject to difficult or dangerous working conditions is entitled to additional pay and benefits in accordance with their contract with their employer. businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •              |  20   Internship  and  placement  accommodation   As in other countries, many Latvian universities have their own halls of residence for students. There are also a number of resources which help students identify alternative accommodation. The housing market in Latvia is not very easy to understand, even for those who live there. So, you are urged to seek advice from either your host university or the company where you will be undertaking your work experience. businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •              |  21   Cost  of  Living     According to EURES, the European Job Mobility Portal, the cost of living in Latvia seems to be lower than in other European countries. Students from countries in Western Europe may find that they spend less than they would normally in their country of origin. The ERASMUS subsistence grant for Latvia is about €500 per month, which is enough to successfully cover the costs of living. For students, the International Student Identity Card (ISIC) is generally recognised and accepted in many Latvian businesses and organizations as identification and for entitlements to student discounts. Money  and  banking   The official currency of Latvia is the Lats (LVL), which is subdivided into 100 santīmi and equivalent to approximately €1.42. Latvia entered the European Union in 2004 and the Lats is due to be replaced by the Euro on January 1st 2014. Promoting foreign direct investment (FDI) is essential for Latvia. So, its government has continuously tried to improve investment conditions and create a competitive business environment, by offering grants and tax breaks to potential investors. Moreover, individual regions may offer more incentives to companies at their own discretion. Latvia allows the creation of companies with special tax status as offshore companies and has special conditions for job creation and enterprise developments created in specific priority areas. During recent years, there has been more capital readily available for businesses, although borrowing rates still remain high for many small and medium sized enterprises. Foreign investors have equal access to credit in the local market, with the exception of special government credits, small business loans, European Union grants and international financial loans that are restricted to local businesses. The tax system in Latvia has been harmonized under the guidance of international financial organizations and is managed by the State Revenue Service, which provides detailed information on the breakdown of various taxes. businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •            |  22     Traveling  costs   • • • • • Cost of local transport inside city should not exceed 2,5 LVL. A single trip is about 0.5 LVL or 0.7 LVL if the ticket is bought from the bus driver. In Riga e-tickets could be bought in advance. The cost of taxis is about 0.5 LVL/km and additional start fee of about 1.50 LVL. Transport from airport to city center in Riga will be about 7-8 LVL. Transport between cities by bus or by train is between 10 to 15 LVL. If you hold a valid European Driving License, you are entitled to drive in Latvia in accordance with the Road Traffic Safety Directorate (CSDD). businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •            |  23     Work-­‐life  Balance     Latvians consider themselves to be uncomplicated and dependable and they expect their business partners to be the same. Latvia’s gradual transition to a market economy triggered the selling of numerous state companies to local businesses or to foreign companies. So, many Latvians have had the occasion to work with foreign people brought in to help train them. This process has involved numerous cultural clashes, due to differences in attitudes and values. Latvians are well educated and dislike the idea of a stranger telling them what to do in their own country. So, when a foreign manager understands the general business environment they are going into, the reception they receive is more favourable. Latvians are willing to work long hours, even overtime, in order to provide a good standard of living for their families. Latvians are reserved and very probably will not talk about their family matters with you. National  holidays   Public Holidays: • • • • • • • • • January 1 (New Year’s Day); April 14 (Good Friday); April 16 and 17 (Easter Sunday and Monday); May 1 (Labour Day); May 4 (Independence Proclamation Day); June 23 and 24 (Midsummer Holiday); November 18 (Independence Day); December 25-26 (Christmas); December 31 (New Year’s Eve). In Latvia, employees are entitled to four calendar weeks, 20 business days, of paid holiday a year. Most Latvians tend to take their vacation in the summer months of June, July and August and also around Christmas time. Working  hours   The working week is typically 40 hours with 8 hour days. Part time work is not yet well established. The official business hours usually start at 8 to 8:30am and last until 4:30 or5pm. businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •            |  24     However, people in business often work late, even at weekends. Because office hours may vary, it is better to enquire about your partners’ hours of business and make appointments in advance. Friday is a short day in many businesses and many people leave work at around 4 pm or even earlier. Banks generally open at 8am and close early, whereas shops generally open later and stay open until 6pm on weekdays. Lunch breaks are normally short, except during a working lunch which can involve lengthy discussions. Work  culture   In Latvia, there are a number of laws and constitutional rights that affect employment and business operations. ‘Latvijas Vēstnesis’ is the official publisher of the Republic of Latvia and the best source of information concerning the legislative environment. When doing business in Latvia, it is possible to specify the jurisdiction of any written agreement, to determine which laws will apply to the agreement. Therefore, an employment agreement may be subject to the laws and regulations of a foreign country rather than the laws of Latvia. Normally, any agreement should be written up and original copies prepared for each signatory, so that each party receives an original signed copy for their records. Working hours must be specified by regulations, shift schedules, or by an employment agreement. Employees in a regular job may not work more than eight hours a day, and employees exposed to special risk and adolescents must not work more than seven hours a day. On the day preceding a holiday, the working day must be shortened by one hour. In Latvia, the minimum wage is equivalent to a minimum monthly salary of €255. Appropriate supplements are required to be paid for overtime or work carried out in special circumstances, such as night work or during holiday periods. Employees are also entitled to rest periods of at least 30 minutes, if their work day is longer than 6 hours, to be taken within the first 4 hours of their day. According to Latvian legislation is illegal to employ persons under the age of 18, with certain exceptions. businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •            |  25     Children between the ages of 15 to 18 can be employed with the written consent and supervision of their parents. In exceptional cases, children as young as 13 can be employed. However, there are additional legal protections for children who are employed and work should be outside school hours, light, safe, moral, and not harmful to the development of the child in any way. The main areas where people under the legal age are employed are cultural, artistic, sporting and advertising activities. Provided the consents are in place, employers would also need a permit from the State Labour Inspection. There are no maximum legal ages for employment in Latvia, and expected retirement age varies depending on the type of employment and personal preference. The protection of parental rights is quite strong in Latvia and women are entitled various forms of prenatal, maternity and parental leave. Parental leave is granted according to the length of time a person has been employed but should not exceed 18 months in total. Leave can be requested for a child under the age of eight. During this period of time, the employee cannot be fired unless the company is shut down, bankrupted or in some other special legal situation. In Latvia, confidentiality is expected, even when it is not expressly stated in a written contract or agreement. All employees are under an obligation of respect, which means that they should not reveal information about the company, business and their activity to any person or entity outside of the company. Special circumstances relating to confidentially may form a clause in a written agreement. Foreign nationals may only be employed if they hold a valid work permit. Employers must request such permits through the State Employment Agency and approval is automatic if the employer had already registered the vacancy. A work permit may not be required, if the duration does not exceed 14 days and either: • • the employee is an author, artist, performer, administrative, technician or specialist brought in to resolve a problem or to increase the quality of a process; or the agreement is carried out by an education institution, research and scientific body, independent researcher, or expert. Health  insurance   businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •              |  26   If you or any of your associates are suddenly taken ill or have an accident during a visit to Latvia, free or reduced-cost treatment is available; in most cases on production of a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Only state-funded hospital treatment is covered and you will receive treatment on the same terms as ‘insured’ local residents. Treatment in private clinics is definitely not covered, except when otherwise informed and sometimes you might have to pay for part of the treatment that you receive from the statehospital. Therefore, it is advisable to get private medical insurance to supplement any healthcare expenses, prior to travelling to Latvia. Pharmacies in Latvia can be used for all the prescriptions and over-the¬-counter drugs. However, some medications are only obtainable on prescription from a doctor. Regular business hours for pharmacies are 8am to 8pm on weekdays. Designated duty pharmacies can be accessed during the night, at weekends and during holiday periods. Most of all the specialized hospitals are situated in the capital and largest cities. The Ministry of Health operates the larger state hospitals and local municipalities are responsible for the other two types of public hospitals. The national emergency telephone number for ambulance service is 104. businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •              |  27   Social  Media  Guide     Social  media  guide  for  Latvia   Latvia is one of the Baltic states along with Lithuania and Estonia. Being a small country most of the activities are concentrated in the capital and social media is also concentrated in Riga and the internet is very popular. The rate of internet penetration was about 73% in 2011 according to the statistics Standard Eurobarometer 76 ‘Media use in European Union’ Report, issued in March 2012. That means that more then 1.5 million people are using the internet in Latvia. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are popular in Latvia and a lot of companies are using them for promoting their businesses and maintaining contact with their customers. There are over 1 million active users of social media networks in Latvia and the growth rate is high. In accordance with the aforementioned report, the use of social media in Latvia is high (55%), placing the country in second place among European countries after Netherlands (56%). At the same time, the internet is the second most popular information source in Latvia after television. Even though penetration and usage rates are already at a high level, significant growth is still happening, especially in the business and education fields. The most popular and useful social media network in Latvia is Draugiem. This local network was created in 2004 and currently has about 2.6 million registered users. It is used in daily communications with business contacts, family and friends and for some it has replaced email. The top three pages and brands present in social media from Latvia, according to Analytics PRO, are Vanilla Travel, Samsung Latvia and Riga Spirits & Wine Outlet. The Latvian government has also decided to use social media in its communication strategy with citizens. Access Active social media users form more than half of the population with home usage having the largest (86%) proportion. It is also noted that families with children tend to be more active businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •            |  28     online, suggesting that the younger generations tend to be accessing the internet and engaging with the online networks more regularly. On the other hand, internet access from the workplace is only about 34%, suggesting that the majority of businesses are yet to maximise their use of the internet for business development. The youth age group seems to dominate internet usage with the vast majority of 15 to 19 year olds regularly accessing the internet. However, the ‘silver surfers’ are catching up and the highest growth rate is attributed to users in their 50’s. Those users in their 60’s tend to be only marginally represented and only about 12% of these are engaged on social media, which seems to be a common characteristic of Eastern European countries. The mobile internet has reached only about 44% of total internet users and it is dominated by people in the 20 to 29 age range, despite 91% penetration of mobile phones. Only 26% of youngsters aged 15 to 19 have used WAP services on their phones. Women are very active on social media networks, who tend to have adopted Draugiem.lv as a replacement for Facebook. Other social media networks frequently used by women include mamman.lv, which is used a a forum to discuss topics related to children and motherhood; and Calis.lv, Latvia’s oldest and largest forum dominated by female contributors (more than 70%). Organizational  use   Large numbers of companies have setup Facebook pages and created profiles on other social media networks to get in touch with their customers and advertise their business. Travelling, studying and working in Europe is considered a means of connecting Latvia with other countries. For Latvians who live abroad and for foreigners that are interested in Latvia, various website, portals and blogs were created to showcase Latvia and provide access to opportunities. Latvians Online is the biggest global site for information about Latvia. As with many other European countries, Latvian government is investing heavily in digital literacy skills, aiming to contribute to the Digital Agenda in Europe. Search  and  Social  Media  Marketing  for  International  Business Learn how to use social media for business from one of Salford Business School’s latest business management courses. The course was jointly researched by the Passport to Trade 2.0 project team and prepared in collaboration with some of the leading digital marketing agencies in the UK. businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •            |  29     This Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) can help businesses and individuals to make the best use of search and social media platforms. The course is called Search and Social Media Marketing for International Business and is applicable to students looking for placements abroad as well as businesses thinking about new trade links; it comprises the following twelve topics: How to develop a personal brand online (1/12) • • Whether you are a student beginning a job search or a business person planning a new business venture, personal branding can make a difference. Learn about personal branding and why it is important for you. http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=l9LYw0mgtn4&feature=player _embedded How to use Twitter (2/12) • • Learn the basics of using Twitter to develop an individual or business profile. Remember to use hash tag #SSMMUoS to share your learning journey on this course so far! http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=9CVY3pp91Dc&feature=playe r_embedded How to use Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) (3/12) businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •            |  30     Learn the principles of SEO to ensure that your website and any social media profiles are found by individuals searching for your name, products and services. These basic principles of SEO include keyword research, on-page optimisation and off-page optimisation. • • http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=zw27cRcwtM0&feature=player _embedded How to use social media for international business development (4/12) • • Social media networks break down the traditional country barriers, but do you know which networks are relevant for the country you are interested in trading with? Find out in this video how to identify the relevant networks and what social media strategies you might be able to use on these networks. http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=Bx-B56AHS4c&feature= player_embedded How to use Facebook (5/12) • • Facebook is currently the largest social media network in the world and it can benefit you as a business as well as an individual. Learn how to develop a Facebook business page and see how other businesses use it and what strategies work for them. http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=UmRGn-vdcO8&feature= player_embedded businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •            |  31     How to use YouTube (6/12) • • YouTube was identified as the second largest social network amongst younger internet users as part of the Passport to Trade 2.0 project. Learn how to optimise your video content in order to reach wider audiences for your profile. http://www.youtube.com/watch? feature=player_embedded&v=G2 0OVpmTBss How to use LinkedIn (7/12) • • LinkedIn is one of the three main professional social networks – the others being Xing and Viadeo which are also popular in several European countries. Learn how to make the most of LinkedIn for your profile. http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=N6e_EAUQqic&feature=playe r_embedded How to use Google+ (8/12) • • • Google+ is the second largest social network as of January 2013. It is one of the fastest growing social networks and one that has the biggest impact when it comes to search engine results integration for anyone who uses Google as their main search engine. Learn how to make the most of Google+ for you and your digital profiles. http://www.youtube.com/watch? feature=player_embedded&v=8ti 3SPHkEWw businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •            |  32     How to use copywriting online (9/12) • • Copywriting is a process of translating technical specifications and product descriptions into engaging and understandable customer focused text. Learn about the basic techniques in structuring your online content here. http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=5f1hx_f2ONI&feature=player_ embedded How to stay legal on social media (10/12) • • Everything and anything you do and say online can be potentially viewed by anyone who has internet access. Always respect the law and familiarise yourself with new options offered to you through a creative commons licence which is popular online. http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=eQxDpiHsdk&feature=player_embedde d How to use monitoring and reporting (11/12) • • Whether you are an individual or a business spending time on social media – there has to be a return on your engagement online. How do you justify your engagement on social media to your boss? Listen to the industry experts in this area and see what you might be able to measure in respect of your on-line engagements. http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=LbEq7jsG0jg&feature=player_ embedded businessculture.org     Content  Latvia  
    •            |  33     How to blog (12/12) • • http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=OqVjR7oI8Rs&feature=player _embedded businessculture.org     • Blogging is a process of writing text and sharing content with others. It can help your customers or friends to keep in-touch regardless of social media platforms. Think about the voice you might want to adopt and who your audience might be. Share your thoughts with us by writing a blog post about this MOOC. Tweet us the link to your post on the #SSMMUoS Twitter hash tag. Content  Latvia  
    •              |  34   Passport  to  Trade  2.0  Project  Partnership   Five Universities: Lead partner: Salford Business School, University of Salford, United Kingdom Elena Vasilieva Aleksej Heinze Alex Fenton URENIO research unit at Aristole University of Thessaloniki, Greece Christina Kakderi Nitsa Papadopouloui TSE Entre Research Centre Turku School of Economics, University of Turku, Finland Satu Aaltonen Elisa Akola Institute for Information System Research University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany Verena Hausmann Susan P. Williams Petra Schubert Valahia University of Targoviste, Romania Adriana Grigorescu Leonardo Badea Three Small & Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) Spin, Italy Carmine Antonio Donato Dorella De Tommaso Technology Development & Innovation – TDI LTD Bulgaria Milanka Slavova Ivan Stoychev TIS Praha, Czech Republic Anna Klosova Richard Adekeye businessculture.org     Content  Latvia