Brush up on your Latvian history. Though declared an independent state in 1918, Latvia struggled under German and Russian oppression and domination between 1940 and the early 1990s. During this time, Communist rule dictated that women be treated equal to their male counterparts. Therefore, Latvian men and women were equally mistreated during periods of foreign occupation, and many died in concentration camps or were deported or killed by government officials during this 50-year stretch. With a restoration of freedom in 1990, Latvia agreed to the human rights documents of the United Nations, which included the 1979 Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. At that time, the Latvian government updated family rights laws, granting women permission to maintain their maiden names and own and manage property.
When traveling abroad, it is important to study cultural norms before visiting new countries. In some cultures, attitudes toward women have not changed in hundreds of years, despite developing political, economic and social systems. Travelers to Northern Europe should note, however, that women are typically considered equal to men in countries like Latvia. Studying Latvian culture and etiquette before visiting the country will help you understand how to treat women fairly and respectfully.
Look Latvian women briefly in the eye and shake their hands to greet them. Avoid talking down to them, as they are usually very highly educated. In fact, Latvian females are known to maintain a higher level of education than male residents, in addition to consistently higher university enrollment.
Treat Latvian women with respect, acknowledging their domestic and workplace commitments. As in the U.S., Latvian women often struggle to balance family and work life because their roles include primary childcare giver, homemaker and full-time employee. Men are still largely considered the breadwinners, playing a critical financial role but having less time to assist with the household and children.
Remember that Latvian women are proud of their culture and loyal to their families. After suffering through foreign domination, the country has maintained a remarkable sense of heritage. Its inhabitants maintain traditions while remaining open to progress, and boast strong family ties and a commitment to their cultural values.
Do not ask personal questions when talking with Latvian women. Latvians are private people and are unlikely to delve into the private lives of those around them. Even after establishing a relationship with a Latvian woman, you will most likely find that personal matters are not generally discussed with friends.
Do not be put off when Latvian women seem reserved. Latvians tend to be formal with those they are unfamiliar with, are rarely quick to smile and save affection and casual conversation for close families and friends.
Tips & Warnings
- Visit Kwintessential.co.uk for a more thorough guide to Latvian business and personal etiquette (see Resources below).
- Avoid making small talk with Latvian women or men. They tend to avoid conversational "fluff," and prefer getting to the point of the discussion.
- Do not treat Latvian women as you would your American friends and family. While Latvians are well mannered and polite, they are not used to American informality. Err on the side of quiet respectfulness when entering any unfamiliar culture.
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