Latvians take responsibility

One of the most striking differences between the UK and Latvia is the degree to which individuals take personal responsibility for events in their lives and don’t take to the courts or expect the state to sort their problems out. Let me give you a few examples.

In the UK the road systems are designed so that you really need to be an idiot if you are going to have an accident. Motorway junctions all have roundabouts so that traffic entering and exiting at a junction who are travelling in the same direction don’t come into contact with each other. Not so in Latvia. When exiting at a junction you have to be very mindful of vehicles joining the motorway from the inside lane. It is your responsibility to be aware of what is going on around you.  Another major difference are traffic light signals. In the UK when a traffic light changes to green, you can go. Not in Latvia. If you want to turn right or left at traffic lights you have to check that no pedestrians are crossing your path as they have priority over you. If you hit a pedestrian you’re to blame.  It is not the authorities responsibility for not designing safer systems.

Probably for financial reasons many of the roads in Latvia are littered with holes and raised or sunken metal inspection covers. Everybody knows they are there and take appropriate steps to make sure they avoid them. There is no one to sue if you damage your car so you just have to be careful.

In Latvia, the pavements can be in poor condition and when winter arrives they can be absolutely lethal. Does that stop the stylish Latvian woman, risking her life and limbs by wearing her 10+ cm designer high heels on a night out.  Of course not. She just takes care, watches where she puts her feet and doesn’t get too drunk. It’s called personal responsibility.

Again for financial reasons, the state welfare and benefit systems are not as generous as the UK. There are few benefits and everybody has to pay something for medical care. I’m not aware of anyone complaining, people just seem to take personal responsibility for their own health and get on with their lives. I know the NHS is the UK is a fantastic institution but because it is free do the British really value it.

The Latvian sense of personal responsibility served them well after gaining their freedom from Soviet occupation and will serve them well again as they try to recover from the current financial crisis. At Christmas I visited my family in the UK and had a conversation with my cousin who is a lawyer representing insurance companies when individuals try to sue their clients for negligence. He said that a sign of how highly developed a society has become is by looking at its compensation system. If that is the case then please, Latvia, don’t develop any more.

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24 Responses to Latvians take responsibility

  1. vinebob says:

    As always an excellent article and perfectly true what you say.


  2. Steve says:

    I work in insurance and completely agree but all the sense of responsibility disappears when they arrive in the UK as claims from the Baltic States (unfair on Estonia because I have not seen one claim from an Estonian). Lithuanians and Latvians are serial claimants – if they had someone to sue in Latvia they would….only a matter of time!


  3. BerLinda says:

    You’ve changed your tune about Latvian drivers 😉


    • aedoxsey says:

      I think I just don’t notice it(the bad driving) anymore. I still see really bad examples, but I’ve become oblivious to most of it. What’s German driving like?

      Liked by 1 person

      • BerLinda says:

        Pretty good from what I’ve seen! I’ve never had to pause after a light goes green like I did in LV – I think it’s the pedestrians that take care there rather than the drivers. I always waited a couple of seconds after the man went green – someone invariably ran through the amber light at the last second. And it’s much more geared for cyclists here as well – though of course there are bad examples!


  4. klivins says:

    200 000 Latvians didn’t like the responsibility, and have left the country ( in 20 years or so) to countries where someone else takes responsibility for them.


    • aedoxsey says:

      Yes, many Latvians have taken the decision to leave Latvia and make their futures elsewhere. Whether they moved knowing or expecting that someone else takes responsibility for them I don’t know. All I can say is that all the Latvians I met in the UK were supporting themselves.


      • klivins says:

        Actually I wouldn’t say we like to take the responsibilities, its the life that makes us to do so.
        We actually expect from the government or any other body too much, not wishing to involve ourselves into the decision making process and not believing we ourselves can actually change something.

        Liked by 1 person

      • aedoxsey says:

        Is that failure to engage with the democratic process a hangover from the soviet time when the government did everything and no body had to think. It could take many generations before the population becomes involved.


      • Thanks for your defence! I really didn’t come to the UK to be supported. I think and hope I still can support myself, but anyway it’s just nice that you don’t need to worry about services which you actually paid by your tax. In the UK I see where my tax money is gone.


      • amaji says:

        >Is that failure to engage with the democratic process a hangover from the soviet time when the government did everything and no body had to think. It could take many generations before the population becomes involved.

        This. Yes. A million sad times of yes. Though I think it won’t take many. This is literally the first (I was born in 1991) generation finally [somewhat 🙂 ] grown up, shouln’t take THAT long.


  5. Joanna says:

    There is a bit of a dichotomy here though, just because Latvians get on and do the best they can under the circumstances, doesn’t mean they don’t think that the government should do more. Try asking questions of who they think should bring jobs into an area. Who they expect to do that and who they think should do that may differ i.e. many think it is the Government’s/Authority’s job to do that, but do not necessarily expect them to do anything about it. Things are changing as years go by, but it is still hard to change from expecting the state should provide many facilities and knowing they might not, to not expecting that to happen and taking that responsibility on yourself. I hope that makes sense.


  6. lawrence parramore says:

    I think the last Latvian to stand up and take responsibility was Dombrovskis and he was made to resign… People would disagree with you about the medical services here, but I have found them marvellous! Yes people care for themselves, but how far does the responsible attitude go and is it indeed actually being responsible or simply self preservation? Is it a lack of money that causes potholes, or simply a couldn’t care less attitude to doing the job properly? I know of a hole in the road that has been covered with asphalt about five times, first they throw some dirt in and then they asphalt over it, I don’t know if they ever bothered to check, but it is a failed drain that is undermining the road and that is why the hole keeps appearing and getting larger, is that responsible? Zolitūdes, you weren’t here at the time but it is likely to be the first of many, was anybody involved with that project responsible in any way? Legal people cost money and the laws, such as they exist are not yet robust enough to deal with many situations, so people take things into their own hands. Say somebody wants your farmstead, threatens you, attacks you, tries to kill you, then you have to be responsible, because there are no laws to protect you here.


    • Ranom latvian says:

      Of course all of those things are already illegal, just like electronic crimes are already illegal without new laws in the old world because for a crime to be a crime it needs to affect the real world and at least in continental Europe the path to that only affects the verdict but not whether it’s a crime.
      The problem is with applying the laws and admittedly it’s worse in post-soviet countries where it starts with worse than good for nothing police, continues with attorneys not giving a damn about the case or you (unless you’re in some way related to them) and ends in hopeless courts that allegedly can often be bribed.


  7. lawrence parramore says:

    As to job creation, NIMBY, in the countryside, like elsewhere in the world, people are opposed to new people coming in, plus a fair bit of racism towards foreigners and a dislike for seeing change. Couple that with the soviet legacy of turning people into machines and you have quite a dysfunctional workforce, that will sign petitions to stop new development and if it happens treat it like it is a collective farm, ‘whats yours is mine’ and also the state will replace what I break! Result being that villagers rather than supporting a proposal for a glass factory for example will petition to stop it on the grounds that it will smell! So the village stays with high unemployment. If they do start up, the machines are quickly damaged, half the workforce isn’t seen again after the first wage and so on. Latvian businessmen know how to deal with these phenomena, foreign businessmen hire advisors, who think it is funny when the business fails. The advisors wont be going to the drunks houses to get them out of bed and wont take people to the woods, Latvian Businessmen do.


    • aedoxsey says:

      I’m afraid NIMBYism exists in all countries and the UK is as bad as any.


      • lawrence parramore says:

        Nimbyism is usually people with something not wanting a blot on their landscape, here you have people actively campaigning to have less, doing their upmost to destroy their surroundings, that is quite unusual.


  8. Mario Kaiser says:

    I agree with you and I´d also have some funny stories from Riga however Latvia will change step by step. Thanks that you are the first WP follower of our Baltic blog B2Baltic since first launch 2014.


  9. Linda says:

    Fascinating post. Thank you so much for sharing.


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