Somebody asked me if Latvia is cost-efficient

Last week my follower Martin [not his real name] wrote to me saying he’d heard Latvia is cost-efficient. He wanted to know if I could confirm it.

Hundreds of conflicting thoughts ran through my mind immediately. I know that many Latvian small businesses operate incredibly cost-efficiently considering the circumstances they’ve had. My own experience of running small companies in Latvia is extensive enough to judge. I also know that most Latvian residents live incredibly cost-efficiently. It’s unbelievable what they manage to accomplish with their salaries.

At the same time, I also remember cost-efficiency related public discussions about some projects of national importance.  One of such projects is the construction of The Southern Bridge (Dienvidu Tilts). It was built between 2004 and 2008. (The actual cost of the bridge greatly differed from the initial projection. As a result, it obtained a nickname, The Golden Bridge.) However, that’s in the past. I write it off as a learning curve.

Also, many Latvian residents believe that the government apparatus is too big for Lativa and that it doesn’t work efficiently. Yet, I trust that Latvian people will learn to communicate with the government more efficiently and will be able to get better services.

Those were my initial thoughts after I read the question. However, this is not the answer that Martin expected. He meant something else by asking about Latvia’s cost-efficiency.

He wanted to find out if studying in Latvia is cost-efficient

It turned out Martin was considering studying in Latvia in order to obtain a degree in economics/business. He clarified himself after I asked. I needed a moment to think about how I would answer. So, I promised I’d make my next post about it.

This is how I reason now after you tell me you want to study in Latvia vs your home country:

  • You’re considering Latvia because you’ve heard it is comparatively affordable. (Don’t confuse “affordable” with “cost-efficient”!)
  • You’re considering Latvia because it is a Member State of the European Union. (Perhaps you also know about the 4 pillars EU stands on. They are: free movement of goods, services, capital, and people.)
  • You’re considering Latvia because you’ve heard positive things about it from a reliable source. (Yet, you still want to hear other opinions.)

So first, I’ll give you some information that will allow you to figure out how affordable it is to study in Latvia. Please watch this video where I have included some valuable information about the costs of studying in Latvia.

The costs of obtaining a business degree in Latvia

You’ll notice that, in the video, I differentiate between EU citizens and citizens of other countries. Firstly, please note that by saying “citizens” I mean “nationals”. In other words, those are not only citizens but also persons who have similar rights to those of the citizens of the person’s home country. Secondly, due to limited space for the text in the slides, I don’t specify other countries to which the lower study cost applies. Please check the website of the school of your interest.

Get the presentation in your e-mail

How to think about cost-efficiency regarding investment in education?

The word cost-efficient suggests getting good results out of an investment. The first logical thing you’d be thinking about what income you’d expect to have after you graduate. (For most young people income would mean their salary. Some though may venture to go for entrepreneurship.)

Think about the companies in your country that you’d like to work for. Research their employees and their background. If possible, find out how much these companies offer to pay.

Also, think about what is more important for people who make recruiting and hiring decisions regarding youth with no or limited work experience:

  • Is it the content of your study program?
  • Is it that you studied in your own country or that you studied at a reputable school in another country, or that you obtained a degree in a European member state?
  • Do many people know about Latvia in your country and what it is they typically know about it?

Then, weigh it against the investment you’d have to make to complete studies in Latvia and obtain the desired degree.

What are your chances of getting a job in Latvia after you get your business degree?

Of course, I understand there is a possibility you want to stay and work in Latvia after you complete your studies. That’s only possible if you can get a work permit. Citizens of all Member States can work in Latvia on the same grounds allowed to Latvian nationals. (Bear in mind that in positions where you serve the general public you must have a certain level of Latvian language proficiency.)

The nationals of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway can work in Latvia on the same grounds as EU nationals since they belong to the European Economic Area. Swiss nationals also have the same rights based on the EU-Switzerland Agreement.

If you come from a so-called third country (a country that does not belong to those I mentioned above), you should check out what additional requirements apply. A good place to start is this article: Inclusion of Non_EU Nationals.

Decide if you are mentally ready to stay in Latvia up to 4+ years

If you have never lived in another country that is geographically distant and culturally different, you might not realize how moving can affect you mentally. You have to be very open-minded in order to adjust successfully. Below, I’ll mention just a few aspects that you should consider:


People of northern regions are used to cold seasons and have learned how to live comfortably in any kind of weather. People that are used to warmer climates might have a hard time with Latvian weather and can even get seriously depressed.

Latvian is situated quite far up in the North. Latvian summers are short and winters are long and dark. It starts getting dusky already around 3 pm in wintertime. If there is snow, it makes it brighter, but Latvia can have numerous wet and snowless winters in turn. Nowadays, many Latvians take vacations to the South in winters.

Similarly, there have been years with no summer. When I say summer, I mean what people understand by summer at the same latitude I live now. Today, on February 15, it was as warm as it was last year around midsummer in Latvia.


Despite the weather, a typical Latvian is quite outdoorsy. You’ll see Latvians walking, running, bicycling, swimming, skiing and even winter-swimming which has become rather popular in Latvia. I have plunged in the Baltic Sea on one New Year’s eve too.

Many Latvians also like to attend concerts and drama theatre performances which are of outstanding quality in Latvia. However, in order to enjoy the theatre, you better start learning Latvian.

Sauna culture is popular in most North-European countries including Latvia. Latvians prefer the wet saunas also known as Russian saunas with steam. There are special rituals on how to experience the sauna. It usually involves being spanked with birch twigs.
Saunas can be used for health and relaxation reasons, but also to get together with friends. Many Latvians own sauna houses and have sauna parties at home, but there are saunas available for rent as well, and they are usually fully booked in cold seasons.


Typically, Latvians eat a lot of potatoes, root vegetables. Of those, red beets are rather popular. If you are a true vegan, it shouldn’t be too difficult for you to find what to eat because veggies are relatively cheap in Latvia. If you are a vegan who likes fake burgers, sausages, and milk, it might become pricey.

Traditionally, Latvia is a country of dairy farming. So, you’ll find dairy products in most meals in all traditional quick lunch restaurants in Latvia. It’s easier for vegetarians than for vegans to find where to eat out in Latvia.

If you are a meat eater – you’ll always find chicken and pork, but not so much other meats. You’ll also discover various kinds of salted and marinated fish options. Yet, there are the same kinds of frozen fish you’ll find elsewhere in the world.  You won’t find a great variety of fresh fish though which might be surprising taking in the regard that Latvia is full of lakes and rivers and is situated on the shore of the Baltic Sea.

Although Latvia imports fruits from southern regions, the fruit that you’ll see in Latvian grocery stores might not seem appealing to you if you come from a southern state. That’s because it’s traveled a long way.


Latvians are rather spiritual, but not very religious as a nation. In Latvia, religion is definitely separated from the government. They say the same about the US, but I see religion being present in meetings of governmental and non-governmental organizations here.

Having said that, I’ll mention that the main religion practiced in Latvia is Christianity. If you practice another religion, you might find meeting places in the capital city Riga, but it might be impossible to find anyone in other towns of Latvia.

I’ve talked previously in one of my videos about Latvian superstitions. They are a part of Latvian culture which somewhat merges with Latvian pagan rituals. However, Latvians don’t take all that very seriously. It’s more like a just-in-the-case or a fun thing. Yet, you definitely won’t miss Latvians practicing it every now and then.

I hope you’ll find the information I gave you here valuable. Please comment and let me know.

I invite you to stick around and read more. Here’s my article about the most popular summer dish.


Ilze Be is a Latvian born American educator, entrepreneur and public speaker.

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