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Lithuania - Culture, Etiquette and Business Practices

What will you Learn?

You will gain an understanding of a number of key areas including:

  • Language
  • Religion and beliefs
  • Culture and society
  • Social etiquette and customs
  • Business culture and etiquette

hot air balloon over vilnius

A bird's eye view of Vilnius. Photo by Igor Gubaidulin on Unsplash

Facts and Statistics

Location: Eastern Europe, bordering Belarus 502 km, Latvia 453 km, Poland 91 km, Russia (Kaliningrad) 227 km

Capital: Vilnius

Population: 3 million (2019 est.)

Ethnic Make-up: Lithuanian 80.6%, Russian 8.7%, Polish 7%, Belarusian 1.6%, other 2.1%

Religions: Roman Catholic (primarily), Lutheran, Russian Orthodox, Protestant, Evangelical Christian Baptist, Muslim, Jewish

Language in Lithuania

  • Since 1991, the official language of Lithuania is the Baltic language of Lithuanian, a language closely related to Latvian.
  • More than 80% of the country's 3.8m population speaks Lithuanian as their first language.
  • Minority languages include Belarusian (1.5%), Polish (7.7%), Russian (8%).
  • Others, most notably Ukrainian and Yiddish make up a further 2.1%.

lithuanian graffiti

Street Art and Graffiti captured by Darya Tryfanava on Unsplash

Lithuanian Culture and Society

The Family

  • The family is the centre of the social structure.
  • The obligation to family is a person's first priority.
  • Together with religion, the family forms the basis around which all other parts of life revolve.


The Role of Religion

  • The Roman Catholic Church has great influence on daily life.
  • The Catholic Church helped preserve the county's identity during the Soviet Union years.
  • The church's influence on the culture is seen in Lithuanian festivals, many of which are religious observances as well as in the celebration of name days rather than birthdays.
  • The church's influence is manifested in the respect for hierarchical relationships.


Customs and Manners in Lithuania

Meeting and Greeting

  • The most common greeting is the handshake, with direct eye contact, and a smile.
  • Once a relationship has been established, greetings may become more unreserved and include a hug.
  • Wait for your Lithuanian friends to determine when your friendship has reached this level of intimacy.
  • People are addressed by their honorific title and their surname. Wait until invited before moving to a first name basis.


Gift Giving Etiquette

  • If invited to a Lithuanian's home, bring wine, flowers, or sweets to the hostess.
  • Give an odd number of flowers.
  • Do not give chrysanthemums - they are used in funerals.
  • Do not give white flowers - they are reserved for weddings.
  • Gifts are generally opened when received.


Dining Etiquette

  • Table manners are quite relaxed in Lithuania.
  • Wait to be told where to sit.
  • Table manners are Continental - hold the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
  • Always keep your hands visible when eating. Keep your wrists resting on the edge of the table.
  • Take small amounts of food initially so you may accept second helpings.
  • Try everything.
  • Napkins are kept on the table, not on the lap.
  • To indicate you have not finished eating, cross your knife and fork on your plate.
  • When you have finished eating, place your knife and fork across your plate with the prongs facing down and the handles facing to the right.
  • The host offers the first toast.
  • Toasting is generally done with hard liquor and not wine or beer.
  • You should reciprocate with your own toast later in the meal.

bowl of borscht

Borcsht - beetroot soup - Lithuanian style. Photo by Wayne Hsieh (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Business Culture and Etiquette in Lithuania

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Business Basics

  • When conducting business, err on the side of formality and adhere to conservative etiquette and protocol.
  • There are marked differences between young entrepreneurs and older businesspeople.
  • Younger businesspeople generally have a less bureaucratic approach and are eager to do what is required to close a deal.


Building Relationships & Communication

  • Lithuanians prefer face-to-face meetings, as they need to build relationships of mutual understanding.
  • They prefer to turn business relationships into friendships.
  • Accept offers of hospitality and reciprocate, as this is the sign of a true friend.
  • Once a friendship has developed, Lithuanians are willing to discuss business.
  • It is important to make your initial contact with a high-ranking person who is in a position to make a decision.
  • In many ways this is still a hierarchical culture, so showing respect and deference to people of authority is recommended.
  • Although they are industrious and hard working, most Lithuanians are very modest. People who brag are deemed arrogant.
  • At the same time, Lithuanians are impressed by titles of authority and advanced university degrees, so it is a good idea to let them know your status within your company.
  • Lithuanians speak softly.
  • They are not particularly emotive speakers.
  • They do not touch others while speaking and can appear standoffish and reserved upon the initial meeting.
  • It is important that you do not display anger, even if frustrated by the excessive bureaucracy.
  • They do not interrupt others while they are speaking, and patiently wait for their turn.
  • Many Lithuanian companies adhere to a hierarchical structure. In such cases, senior-level businessmen only speak with people of their same rank.
  • More junior members of a team should not address a senior-ranking Lithuanian businessperson directly, as it is seen as a breach of etiquette.


Business Meetings & Negotiations

  • Appointments are necessary and should be scheduled 2 to 3 weeks in advance.
  • Send a list of the people who will be attending and their titles so the Lithuanians can assemble a team of similar level people.
  • Confirm the meeting when you arrive and again the day before the meeting, since meetings are sometimes cancelled on short notice.
  • Arrive on time for meetings. Punctuality is important.
  • Meetings are formal.
  • There will be a period of small-talk while your colleagues get to know you and decide if you are the type of person with whom they wish to enter into a business relationship.
  • Wait to be told where to sit. In many cases you will be seated across from someone of a similar level.
  • Presentations should be thorough, clear, and concise and include back-up analysis to support your position.
  • Expect to discuss each point thoroughly before moving on to the next.
  • Business moves slowly due to the bureaucratic nature of society.
  • Be prepared to meet with several lower levels of people before getting to the actual decision maker.
  • Lithuanians often use time as a tactic, especially if they know that you have a deadline. Be cautious about letting your business colleagues know that you are under time pressure or they will delay even more.
  • Lithuanians will not be rushed into making a deal. They must think it is in their best interest before agreeing.
  • Meetings often conclude with a summary of the discussion and a toast to future dealings.


Management Culture


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