Doing Business in Lithuania
Lithuania is a new EU country which has good road connections with Germany and Russia. The geographical center of Europe lies not far from Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania. Vilnius is located in a picturesque valley at the confluence of the river Neris and the river Vilnia, from which the capital city’s name has originated. It was founded in 1323 when the Grand Duke Gediminas built a castle on the top of the hill. The castle was destroyed in the past and only one tower is left nowadays. Despite this, it symbolizes the whole castle and the city visitors can enjoy a fantastic view of the city from the top of the tower.
In the 17th-18th centuries Vilnius experienced a whole series of disasters, such as battles with Russia (then Napoleon marched into the city) and Sweden, fires, plagues and sieges. Later on the capital was occupied by Germans and it was passed to Polish hands, thus during the First World War the provisional capital of Lithuania became Kaunas, the second largest city. Therefore, Lithuania has become a perfect location for foreign investors and businessmen due to its proximity to big markets and location, transport and attractive standard of living.
There are a number of famous places that are worth visiting while you are in Lithuania. The main attractions in Vilnius are the University buildings with inner courtyards and arcades, which is amongst the oldest universities in Central Europe. The Gothic St. Anne’s Church that Napoleon intended to take on his palm to Paris, the Gate of Dawn with its famous icon of the Virgin Mary (18th century), the Cathedral build in the Classical style, St. Peter and St. Paul Church, Europe Park and Belmontas Park, located near Vilnius.
The Lithuanian language belongs to the Baltic branch of the Indo-European group of languages and it is one of the most difficult languages. Although Lithuanian is the official language, Russian, English and German are widely used. In case of a language barrier, an interpreter is available and it is advised to request one prior to a business meeting. You could make a very good impression if you learn to say a few common phrases such as:
|English ||Lithuanian |
| Hello||Sveiki |
| Good morning || Labas rytas |
| Good afternoon||Laba diena|
| Good evening ||Labas vakaras |
| Good-bye||Viso gero |
| Please|| Prašom |
| Thank you||Ačiū|
| Yes/No|| Taip/ ne|
| Excuse me||Atsiprašau|
Initial contact. Meetings are arranged in advance and confirmed by a letter, e-mail or fax. Try to avoid meetings on Lithuanian Bank and National holidays. Lithuanians are punctual, so punctuality is expected from the visitors, although it is allowed to be 5 – 10 min late. Lithuanians are oriented to trade issues and start a conversation about the matters arranged in advance without engaging in small talk. Agreements are discussed in detail and before signing, read them carefully.
Greetings. Handshaking is customary before and after a meeting, even for businesswomen. Each person introduces himself/herself telling their full name and title, if they have one. In Lithuania business people call each other by their last names and their title, unless they agree otherwise. It is important to respect older people and those who have a better position in a society.
Business cards. There is a tradition to exchange business cards, so make sure that you have enough of business cards with your clearly indicated position in your company.
Dressing code. A formal and conservative manner is very important in Lithuania. Businessmen usually wear suits, white or pastel colour shirts and a tie of a similar tone, whereas women wear elegant dresses or suits, but not too posh.
Body language. During negations Lithuanians try to avoid direct answers, show expressiveness, fellowship and honesty. Eye contact is considered to be important and there is no obvious physical contact. The distance between business people is an outstretched arm and it does not matter whether the negotiators are sitting at the table or standing. In Lithuania, it is rude to keep your hands in your pockets and chew gum in a public place.
Food/drinks. Although Lithuanians do not discuss business issues during lunch time or dinner, they tend to do it during breakfast. Lithuanians are a very hospitable and friendly people. In order to show courtesy to them you should accept the offer to try any dish, such as the traditional cepelinai and vedarai. If you are invited for dinner at a private home, you can bring a bottle of wine, cognac or a box of chocolates.
Gifts. Acceptable gifts for business meetings are pens, calendars or posters with your company logo. An even number of flowers (usually roses) can be given to a woman.
Beliefs and superstitions
Do not shake hands through the threshold – it is considered to bring bad luck.
Do not give yellow flowers, as they mean separation or splitting.
When eating a meal do not sit at the sharp corner of a table if you are single as it means that you will stay single forever.
Police officers are called ‘cucumbers’ as they wear green uniforms.
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