Lithuanian business ethic

Lithuanian business ethic

Photo: Fotolia

Lithuanian business ethic is not much different from their neighbours’ in Eastern Europe. However, as academics despite the fast-proceeding process of globalisation still keep producing books on national character it must have at least some impact on all spheres of life, business including.

Roman Catholic Church is the dominant religion in Lithuania and this is quite an important factor, which determines business ethic in the country. Despite the fact, that following 50 years of Soviet occupation majority of population are not deep believers, attachment to ceremonial culture is still there. No difference between practicing Catholics and their scions, whose Catholicism is more or less limited to enjoying abundant traditional Christmas and Easter meals, cooked by mamas and grandmas.

 A good illustration on Lithuanian drive for grandeur – pompous wedding ceremonies organised in churches. Recently they became fashionable even among non-believers. And this is despite numerous time-consuming procedures they have to undergo in order to prove the conservative Lithuanian clergy they really deserve the God’s blessing.

It is hard to imagine this would happen in Protestant countries, traditionally adhering to rationality and simplicity. It must be these features which more than 100 years ago led the great German sociologist Max Weber to the conclusion that the Protestant culture has a positive influence on the development of business.

Compared to the northern neighbours, who are predominantly Lutherans, Lithuanians are emotional rather than practical. This could be the reason why Lithuanians pay more attention to kinship and establishing a friendly relationship with their business partners.  

Foreigners comment that at first sight Lithuanians give an impression of reserved people. However, once the contact is established they do treat their partners as friends. It does not take long to get invited to their homes. This may never happen in some countries of Lutheran culture, where the process of establishment of business relations is in many aspects is simpler and smoother than in Lithuania.

The society is still conservative in Lithuania and many of procedures are too bureaucratic. Entrepreneurs of older generation, who got education and started careers in Soviet time, are more attached to a hierarchical culture. They show more respect and deference to people of authority and their recommendations. For this reason the process of decision making is slower.

However the younger generation is pretty fast in taking over western practices. The true Catholic virtue – modesty – does not prevent them from pointing out the other virtues they possess to seniors. Majority of them are active, well educated, multi-lingual people striving for a result and willing to do it efficiently. Unlike in some neighbouring countries with a liberal Protestant tradition, where majority of top managers of large corporations are in their 40s and 50s, in Lithuania it is no longer unusual to see young people in their late twenties in charge of business divisions of big international companies.

It could be a proof that the Lithuanian national character as well as business ethic is undergoing a rapid change and things that are appropriate today may be not applicable tomorrow.

However, here are 10 advices on "does" and "don'ts" for foreigners in present Lithuania:

  • Despite majority of Lithuanians are not very fast to smile, they appreciate good humour and like smiling people;
  • Lithuanians are quite punctual people and expect punctuality from others. The Mediterranean type of punctuality might not be helpful in boosting relationships.
  • To speed up the process of negotiations it is best to address the top boss: it is him whose word is final;
  • It never makes any harm to be charming to the bosses secretary: it is her who tells him whom he is to meet and deal with;
  • If invited to a Lithuanian home, it is appropriate to bring wine, flowers, or sweets to the hostess;
  • Always give an odd number of flowers: an even number of flowers is considered a sign of mourning and is reserved for funerals; chrysanthemums serve for the same purpose;
  • Make sure that the young model-type woman half the age of your business partner is not his wife before starting to assist her, assuming she is his daughter.
  • Lithuanians are hospitable hosts, trying to ensure plentiful refreshments and keeping urging the guests to eat and drink. Numerous toasts followed by liquors might be dangerous to those with sensitive digestion system and no alcohol tolerance gene;
  • Brilliance in telling toasts and anecdotes; are quite helpful in finding a common language;
  • And eventually, reciprocity in nurturing a friendly partnership is most welcome.




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