Latvia is one of the few European Union countries that benefits from a perfect geographical and cultural location, bordered by Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, Belarus, and Sweden (across the Baltic sea). The former Soviet Union country has seen significant economic growth since its independence in 1989.
Joining the European Union in 2004 and later adopting the Euro as its official currency has helped the country to reach further. But, despite all these advances, Latvia’s economy still needs a boost.
Lower taxes attract multinational companies to the country. This means you can start with an internship in your area in Latvia and continue your career within that company elsewhere.
You’ll experience life in a European small country (population under 2 million) with enough breathtaking natural scenery to thrill any outdoor enthusiast. Urban explorers will also find a home here, especially in the capital, Riga, with more than 800 Art Nouveau buildings and the foodie's heaven Central Market.
Latvia was under Soviet influence until 1989, but the small European country has worked hard and fast to catch up with the rest of the Western world. For that reason, finding an internship in Latvia in your preferred field is relatively easy. We narrowed it down to the top four industries.
Although companies still value offline marketing as a part of their communication strategy, if a brand lacks digital presence, then it’s practically invisible. In Latvia, despite the country’s effort to opening up to the world digitally in the early 2000s, Internet users didn’t reach substantial numbers until 2007.
On a positive note that will probably make other countries green with envy, Latvia claims the fourth spot in the list of world’s fastest internet connections.
For many companies, jumping on the digital bandwagon comes with a set of challenges that you can help them overcome. You’ll be able to test your skills on the ground while helping local businesses stay ahead of the competition.
Latvia is one of the fastest growing economies in the European Union, but still below ideal growth levels. It’s fair to say anyone who has studied business management might have a thing or two to learn in this Baltic country while still sharing knowledge and expertise.
Understanding what’s different about business in Latvia and learning these skills on the job will enrich your CV. There are plenty of multinational companies with offices in Latvia looking for English-speaking interns willing to develop their leadership skills.
Like other countries in the European Union, Latvia has a well-established public healthcare system. If language is an obstacle at first, you can learn a lot about how the system works just by shadowing local nurses and doctors.
Unlike other countries, where you’d most likely intern to close a gap in human resources, in an EU country you’ll gain a complete grasp of the highs and lows of a publicly-funded healthcare system.
Latvia’s growing economy has its eyes set on the future -- and it’s a high-tech one. Mechanical engineering is one of the country’s top target sectors, exporting most of its products all over the world, but environmental technology is also growing as the country embraces renewable energy sources.
Bonus points if your area of expertise falls under the mechatronics label, the technology that combines mechanical engineering and electronics.
Planning Your Internship
Going overseas for an internship can put a lot of weight on your shoulders. To lighten that burden, here are a few things you should know to plan your internship in Latvia.
Best Time to Get an Internship in Latvia
Although you can scout for internships all year long, summer months are the busier ones, with companies looking for highly-qualified recent graduates to join their workforce.
Looking for and applying for the internship that fits your profile can be done proactively by directly contacting the company (or companies) you wish to work with. If you’re not comfortable with this approach, keep an eye on websites like Prakse.lv (a Latvian website listing over 3,000 companies in different industries) and on expat groups and forums.
Apartment living is the norm for Latvians, whether they live in the city center or in nearby towns. The difference, however, lies in the rent prices, with Riga, the capital, leading the ranking as the most expensive.
Cost of Living
Compared to other European countries, living in Latvia is far more affordable. The latest information on gross average monthly wage sets it under €860 (about $1,000), with almost half of it being spent on housing and utility bills (which aren’t included in the rent).
Basic food supplies (like dairy products, bread, meat, chicken, vegetables) and eating out are inexpensive, which means they won’t have a large impact on your monthly budget.
Latvia is a member of the European Union and one of the 26 European countries that are part of the Schengen Agreement. For foreign students and interns, the government requires that the candidate apply for a temporary residence permit with the assistance of your future employer.
The Latvian government issues different types of visas and permits according to type and area of employment. Always check with the official government entity in charge if you're unsure.
Latvians are known to be straightforward and prefer direct in-person contact to conversations on the phone or via email (although the latter is becoming a more common mean of communication in most companies). But don’t mistake this with a desire to mix and mingle with co-workers. On the contrary, people in Latvia tend to keep to themselves.
At the beginning of the working relationship, personal titles matter, so make sure you address your colleagues and your bosses accordingly. As you spend more time with them in the workplace, they are bound to relax on this rule a little bit.
As a greeting, you are expected to shake hands with all participants of a meeting when it starts and after it ends.
Health & Safety
As part of the European Union, Latvia has a healthcare system that all residents can access for free or at a low cost. As a foreign citizen, though, this might come with extra costs to you, although it doesn’t prevent you from having access to public health facilities. Investing in a health insurance before leaving is not mandatory, but advisable.
There are no reports of major safety issues besides pickpockets in major cities. When looking for accommodation, check with locals or your employer about which areas are considered safer.