Lithuania has a long and varied history with a fascinating culture and customs. As the largest of the Baltic States it has been fought over by different powers for hundreds of years and was, until 1991, part of the USSR. The country’s beautiful landscape is peppered with natural resources like Iron ore, limestone, mineral water and quartz. The fact that it is now a member of both the EU and the Schengen treaty has also made it a more attractive place to do business than ever before. If you are planning on doing business in this country then it is important that you respect the business etiquette. Even though it may seem exactly the same as many European countries it most certainly has its own culture and customs.
Meeting and Greeting
When you arrive at a meeting, the common greeting is to shake hands with every person present. While shaking hands it is extremely important to make sure that you make eye contact and keep smiling. The Lithuanians place a huge amount of importance on eye contact as it conveys trustworthiness and sincerity.
Lithuanians also place a great deal of importance on titles. Any academic or honorific titles should be used followed by their last name. If someone does not have a title then Sir or Madam should be used. It is not appropriate to use someone’s first name until invited to do so.
While most Lithuanian business people will speak English it is better to phone ahead and if needed hire a translator to help you in your negotiations.
It is also important to understand how Lithuanians speak so that you do not take it the wrong way. Lithuanians are extremely upfront about what they say and do not like small talk. This can be seen as combative by some people, but it is just their way of no nonsense talking. Lithuanians usually have an Agenda for meetings and stick to that agenda to keep the meeting to the point. As such any meeting that you plan should be accompanied by an agenda for the meeting, so that they can study it beforehand.
The dress code in Lithuania is similar to much of the rest of Europe. For the most part it is conservative with men wearing suits, shirts and ties. Women usually wear female business suits such as pencil skirts or pants and blouses. However, none of these rules are set in stone and depending on which industry you work in, business casual may be acceptable.
Punctuality is definitely a virtue in Lithuania. Arriving on or preferably ten minutes before a meeting is expected in Lithuania. Arriving late without having phoned ahead or giving a good excuse for your tardiness is considered extremely rude. As such appointments should usually be arranged two to three weeks before the meeting so that you can help to ensure you will be on time.
Business Card Etiquette
There are no specific rules for business cards in Lithuania, but it would be best to air on the side of caution and treat them with respect in case your host takes offence.
Gift giving at business meetings is not expected in Lithuania, however, it would probably be much appreciated. Good gifts would be a small gift from your home country or something with the company’s corporate logo on it. If however you are invited to someone’s house for dinner then a gift is very much expected. Good gifts include wine, liqueur and chocolates/ sweets.
If you are a western European or American these rules will not be too alien to you and will be relatively easy to adjust to. For any business person the most important point really is punctuality. As long as you are on time your business trip should run relatively smoothly.