Eastern Europe

The Eastern European countries studied by the Passport to Trade 2.0 project are: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovak Republic.

Eastern European Business Culture map

Business Culture in Hungary Business Culture in Lithuania Business Culture in Romania Business Culture in Poland Business Culture in Slovakia Business Culture in Latvia Business Culture in Bulgaria Business Culture in Czech Republic Business Culture in Estonia

Similarities in Eastern European business culture

Business cultural norms when conducting business such as greeting a business partner, scheduling a meeting or gift giving are all very similar in nature across the region. Likewise, business etiquette regarding taboos, time keeping, dress code, bribery and corruption also share many similarities.

The education system is more or less the same across most Eastern European countries: for example, they all offer the possibility of changing school after the first 5 years of study to either a grammar or technical school. In the majority of these countries workforce is highly educated. All the countries also prefer face – to – face communication and address each other formally using their educational or office titles.

Attitude to business meetings, how to set up a meeting and greeting people at meetings are very similar too. Restaurant etiquette is also similar whilst cuisine varies from country to country. Punctuality is very important throughout the region and regarded as a sign of reliability; a lateness of up to 15mins is generally acceptable but frowned upon.

Student placement still does not receive enough support from the business community in most of these countries even though universities are working hard towards changing this fact.

Social media usage is high amongst individuals across the region with many SMEs also trying to incorporate it into their marketing strategy, but the level of uptake is at a level that is not yet comparable to that of Western and Northern Europe. Facebook is the most popular social networking site across all Eastern European countries.

Differences in Eastern European business culture

The countries included in this region cover the area from North to South:

Baltic countries -

  • Lithuania
  • Latvia
  • Estonia

Central Europe -

  • Poland
  • Czech Republic
  • Hungary
  • Slovakia

Balkans countries –

  • Bulgaria
  • Romania

This approach has highlighted some differences – for example, a more friendly attitude to foreign nationals in Balkan countries can be observed.

Poland is the biggest country in Eastern Europe with about 38 million inhabitants followed by Romania with a population of 21 million, while the other countries have much smaller populations: Czech Republic and Hungary about 10 million, Bulgaria 7 million, Slovak Republic 5 million, Lithuania 3 million with the smallest one being Estonia, which has a population of around 1 million people.

Because of this wide geographical spread there are some other notable differences between these countries, for example Czechs are generally non-confrontational while a Slovak or a Pole will be more straight forward and outspoken with their opinion. It’s a taboo to shake hands at the doorway for a Pole but acceptable for other countries.

Only Slovakia and Estonia use the Euro while the rest of the countries in this region are still using their local currency.

Though the structure of business meetings is similar, negotiating styles vary even though the hierarchical system is strictly observed; Poles and Estonians are more formal and written-detail oriented while Slovaks and Czechs prefer a good presentation and a longer negotiation process.

Another important difference is linguistics – this is due to a wide geographical spread. Though the majority of the Eastern European region, countries belong to the Slavic group of languages – Czech, Slovak, Polish and Bulgarian. There are also other language groups in this region – for example Latvian and Lithuanian belong to the Baltic group whilst the Romanian language has Latin origins and is very close to Italian and Spanish. Hungarian and Estonian languages belong to Finno-Ugric group.

Bulgarians and Romanians are mainly Orthodox while others in the region are Catholics (Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Lithuanians) or Lutherans (Estonians, Latvians) but in all of these countries you can find various types of Christians living together with Muslims, Jews and other religions.

Explore the following pages, which contain more information on each of these Eastern European countries:

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