What if your first assignment will be to the Baltic States?

If so, there is nothing to worry about!

Baltic Countries are three individual countries by the Baltic Sea area – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. If you are not familiar with the location at all and if to give a quick overview, then Estonia is 80km across the bay from Helsinki and Latvia and Lithuania follow us going towards the south, where eventually Lithuania will boarder with Poland and Belorussia. All in all as a wider geographical area we are in Central-Eastern Europe.

Access to the Baltics is most likely by air, sea or road. Our railway system is rather undeveloped and though international bus routes do come here, they might take a rather long journey. So if most likely you are arriving by air it is advisable to plan as much as ahead as you can, as unfortunately even air connections can sometimes be limited and due to the fact that we do not have low cost carriers here much, the prices can become quite expensive the closer you get to your departure date. Probably most convenient part of it is that all 3 airports in the capitals are located very close to the city center, so eventually when you arrive, the journey to the city will be quite quick and inexpensive. In terms of carriers, then Air Baltic is a domestic Latvian carrier who probably has most connections from Europe, so their routes can be considered. Otherwise other European carriers also have their connections, like SAS, Finnair, LOT, Lufthansa and so on.

If you are a non-EU citizen, your main priority would be to check how you can enter as you will need visa or a residence permit to enter. For EU-citizens the entry is free of any visas.

Now, if you are not aware of the historical background, then all 3 countries have been under different occupations throughout the history, but the latest and common one for all was the Russian regime. Now more than 20 years we are all again independent and countries have developed a lot both culturally and economically during these years. You will be able to notice that in all of our capital cities – Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, where new skyscrapers and office buildings have been built, old houses renovated, infrastructure renovations constantly in process and so on. Capital cities are also most likely locations for foreign expats to reside and work, as the main global international companies are usually located there and local community is also more used to seeing foreigners on the streets and as their house neighbors. In the smaller towns in the countryside this is still not that common and even doing basic registrations at the authorities can be more challenging due to language barriers and less experiences.

When you arrive, you most likely would have a question, how you can communicate here? In the capital cities and other bigger cities you will be able to do just fine with English. You will also notice though that you will hear a lot of Russian language on the streets of Tallinn and Riga, as around 20% of population in Tallinn is Russian speaking and in Riga it can make even up to 40%. You may also notice though that older generation will still prefer to speak Russian with you, while younger would already prefer English, as that is the most popular foreign language to be chosen to study at school. Otherwise each country has their own national language which is the primary language in use daily by the locals and these are: Estonian for Estonia, Latvian for Latvia and Lithuanian for Lithuania.

From the first glance people may seem slightly colder and distant as well as probably not give that many smiles as you would be used to, though in general we consider ourselves hard-working, reliable, smart and friendly. In attempt to avoid being seen as obtrusive or aggressive, we tend to keep to ourselves and wait for you to make the first move. So, in case you would need any help or suggestions, the best way is always to approach the person and kindly ask if they could give you any advice or be of help. You can be sure not to get a negative response to that – in our nature we are actually kind and helpful. You may also notice that it is not that common for the locals to invite you for a dinner party or drinks at their house even if you have invited them to visit yours. This though is something that will require a little time and once they really get to know you, there will be an invite in return and you will be treated with warm hearted welcome. I guess it relates to our historical background and one’s home is considered kind of a fort where people want to feel relaxed and most as themselves, therefore it is really a nice reward to be welcomed at someone’s home as you will have a real chance to see and get to know them as they really are. And once you make good friends with locals, you can consider them as loyal friends throughout the rest of your life, no matter which location your venture might take you next.

As there would be a lot to tell more, which we will definitely do in the coming blog posts as well, I guess main advise to give before arriving to Baltics to live or work, would be do read a little of our history and have a really “open minded attitude” once you finally arrive here. That will help you establish local contacts much easier and you will see that adjusting to real daily domestic issues will also be much smoother. Some things work like they do everywhere in the world, but some are very specific to the region, so you just have to go along and try to enjoy the experience. And naturally everything will take a little time, but it is definitely worthwhile the adventure!

“My Estonia” by Justin PetroneIf you would want to read a little more, then one book suggestion, this is for Estonia though, would be to read “My Estonia” by Justin Petrone, who opens the life here through the eyes of a foreigner who followed his heart to be with his Estonian wife. The books are available to order on Amazon and should also be available as e-books if you prefer the online version.

Perioodil 19.märts 2012 kuni 31.mai 2012 viidi Euroopa Sotsiaalfondi kaasrahastamisel läbi disaininõustamise projekt "BRS korporatiivse identiteedi arendamine" OÜs Baltic Relocation Services. Projekt sai tuge EASi Teadmiste ja oskuste arendamise toetamise meetmest.