Culture Shock – First Impressions

As I near the end of this journey toward an MBA, a few of my final requirements include a Capstone (think thesis – but in more of a consulting capacity), an elective and International Residency.

International Residency can briefly be explained as a consulting project with an internationally based business, designed to provide in-country experience in which cultural, political and traditional differences must be considered. 

On 30 May 2015, twenty of us would report to Rīga, Latvija (Riga, Latvia) for a seven day residency. Okay, so at this point you’re either bored, yawning or asking “where in the world is Latvia??” – I was too.

 So, there she is… the gem I’d soon get to know as Riga.

 I hailed a cab at the airport whose driver  exchanged enough words with me to confirm  that he was available and knew where I  needed to go, 25 minutes later, not another  word had been spoken and I was at the  Radisson Blu Daugava. Two very young  receptionists dutifully checked me in without  making eye contact nor cracking a smile.

In order to turn the electricity on, I had to  insert my hotel room key into a slot near the  door – this was interesting because it immediately modeled the importance of saving energy as opposed to the wasteful outlook we have in the states, especially staying in a hotel where you’re paying one price regardless of how much you use. The bed was king sized and took up just about all the floor space in the room; every morning when I woke up, I ran into the wall because there was hardly enough space to stand next to the bed. The outlets were funny shaped circles with two holes in the middle, the toilet flushed by pulling a lever straight up and the shower was enclosed half way with a glass panel and nothing else on the other half.

It was strange. When I showered, I made every effort not to get water all over the floor but still failed miserably – I have no idea how Latvians shower without making a mess!

IMG_2733 IMG_2735

When I first arrived in the hotel room late the night before, I immediately turned the AC down as far as it would go; 16 C which, by my handy Google conversion, should have been roughly 61 F. After tossing and turning all night, a mixture of jet lag, unbearable heat, and imposing sunlight, had me wide awake at 4:30 am. Yes, you read that correctly. I said sunlight and 4:30 am in the same sentence – full on sunlight.

4 June 2015, 4:08 am

4 June 2015, 4:08 am

I soon came to the obvious conclusion that the AC was not working properly and called reception around 6:30 am. Moments later a Latvian gentleman, who appeared to be in his early 40’s, was at my door. Through attempting to overcome difficult language barriers, I thought I was able to show him that I was operating the AC properly and it was not cooling the room. Unfortunately, his clearly frustrated body language, tone, and repeated demonstration of how to use the AC told me that he either was not convinced there was something wrong or was not tolerating my need very well.

Finally, he told me to “open a window”, threw his hands in the air, pivoted on his back heel to exit, ran out of my room and slammed the door behind him.

Welcome to Latvia.

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