It has been almost one year since Christel Wienziers, head of Alna Intelligence, moved from Denmark to Vilnius. While listing the differences between the countries, she emphasizes that she loves living in Lithuania, but, unfortunately, Scandinavia knows little about the interests of this country.
Christel Wienziers
© DELFI / Kiril Čachovskij

When did you come to Lithuania?

I started working here last July, however, I knew a lot about Lithuania as I’d been here more than 25 times while my husband had been working and living in Vilnius. Nevertheless, I only knew the city as a tourist. Now I have moved to Vilnius to work here as well.

Why do you think a Lithuanian capital company was in need of a head from Denmark?

We provide our services to the Nordic countries and the local market, and I mostly work with the Nordic countries. I should admit that it is near impossible to sell anything in Scandinavia unless you hail from there because a major role is played not only by the language and contact network, but also the similar cultural context and communication methods. The same situation applies in Lithuania and hence I have an excellent team which takes care of the local market. Although I am learning the Lithuanian language and already have a general understanding, I have doubts if I could learn this language well enough to communicate fluently.

Are the neighbours of Lithuania also looking for clients in Scandinavia?

Yes, for example Latvia or further afield Ukraine, and also companies from India and China also offer their services, however, their quality is not always sufficient and communication is difficult. The important thing is that Lithuania is close enough culturally to Denmark and it only takes 1.5 hours to fly from Vilnius to Copenhagen. Besides, there are a few flights per day. This is a great advantage.

Have you noticed any difference between the way of doing business in Lithuania and that in Scandinavia?

I see that these countries have different service models and processes and usually the Nordic countries have higher requirements and thus we need to gear up. On the other hand, the costs are lower in Lithuania, and after gaining more experience we’ve moved in the right direction.Sometimes I’m slightly surprised by the service, however, you can face the same in other countries; for example, in France the local personnel was advised to attend additional training courses due to their very arrogant behaviour towards customers and when I arrive in Copenhagen airport, I rarely see any Danes working there as they have mostly been replaced by the more service-oriented Swedes.

Have you noticed any differences between Lithuanian and Scandinavian employees?

I know my employees best and I have noticed that they are eager to learn, are loyal, and show more of an interest in new things. When I remember my work in Denmark, I can tell you that inspiring employees was not that easy. Sometimes the work in Scandinavia doesn't seem so pleasant. However, I have gained experience in places other than Denmark, for example, I have worked in India. The employees there are also eager to learn, but they are not as loyal as Lithuanians. If another employer offers a dollar higher salary, they will change job. I’ve also held management positions within international companies in the Nordic countries, Asia, and Western Europe, so I really know a lot about the relationship of business and cultural differences.

Dane who came to manage a company in Vilnius: I can live better here than in Copenhagen
© DELFI / Kiril Čachovskij

You mentioned that sometimes work in Scandinavia doesn't seem so pleasant. Was that the reason you left the country?

You leave a country due to various reasons. Denmark also went through economic crisis and many companies were focused on cost-cutting, however, they didn’t always act in the wisest of manners and that was not in line with my beliefs. Denmark, Sweden, and Finland have many excellent professionals, but when people live in a place where they have had dozens of possibilities for so many years; for example, they get paid for studying, the social security system allows them to live a better and peaceful life, and then this life becomes totally different, often “enthusiasm” is lost. Perhaps that’s why people in some countries become slightly spoilt, not always willing to put in additional efforts and this consequently leads to laziness.

But in this case shouldn’t the person feel safer and be more creative?

Yes, they should, but only some of the people become creative. I felt creativity and a desire to grow, and passion for their work was missing. I have noticed that Lithuanians are easier to engage. I am amazed to see that some Lithuanians have difficulties accepting compliments. For example, recently we signed a first contract with a company from Denmark and we have already received positive comments about the quality of our services; and in all likelihood we will receive more orders. When I passed this positive feedback to the employees, it seemed that they became slightly disturbed. I have noticed that here in Lithuania you have to repeat compliments to people a few times to get them to believe that they are doing really well. Maybe the reason is a lack of confidence and little experience.

What are the challenges you face working in Lithuania?

The employees in Lithuania are not used to working in a team, while in Scandinavia teamwork is very common, and sometimes it may seem that teamwork is overused. Another difference is that you can discuss any issue in Denmark; here we spend less time in lengthy discussions. Initially, many decisions were made on my desk; that was new to me as I’ve never stated that I was the most intelligent person. The decision has to be made together with or by the most knowledgeable people. In Lithuania, some people lack self-esteem, act with hesitation, and don’t like to open themselves up. When I started my work I was always straight about the things I didn't like. My openness could be surprising, but gradually we started communicating more openly.

Do you know of any reasons why the self-confidence in Lithuania is lower than in Denmark?

Probably the insularity was partially caused by the country’s historical experience. But I should add that Lithuanian employees are well educated and seeking to change their life and grow.

Have you noticed that Lithuanians are less optimistic than the Danes?

Based on surveys, the Danes are one of the happiest people on earth, however, at the same time the country is a leader in sales of anti-depressants, so I don't know if there is any connection between these two things. I had a chance to visit Grūtas Park with my colleagues, and so I understand why you are so fond of bright colours in comparison to the standard colours used in Scandinavia. Now there are plenty of great things in Lithuania.

Was it hard to move to a foreign country?

Well, the Lithuanian language is not the easiest one (laughing), however, at the time I moved to Lithuania I never felt unsafe or insecure, and now I’m not afraid to walk alone in Vilnius, which feels like a small and cosy city. Even our Lithuanian office is more beautiful than the one in Denmark (laughing), however, seriously speaking, people often think of this country as a horrible and dull place until they have visited it. Once you come, the experience changes. It is a pity that Lithuania’s self-promotion in Scandinavia is so low. You will see many ads about travelling to Prague or Budapest, but not often the Baltic States. We have noticed that our guests who visit Lithuania for a first time are pleasantly surprised. Vilnius is a clean city, the food is delicious and cheaper than in Denmark, you can buy a lot of things in boutiques, and tickets for cultural event are inexpensive. However, I can’t ride a bicycle like I am used to doing in Denmark as some of the drivers drive like maniacs. When my husband and I decided to move to Lithuania, we left our grown up children in Denmark and of course we miss many things. But, on the other hand, every second weekend we travel to Denmark.

Would you like to stay in Lithuania and work here?

Yes, I have decided to stay here for a few more years, later we will decide what to do next.

Translated by Invest Lithuania

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