Head of Work in Lithuania Eglė Adašiūnaitė had the opportunity to talk about the Lithuanian working climate and culture with none other than Chris Pyak, host of the popular Immigrant Spirit podcast. Join Eglė and Chris as they discuss the job market for internationals, living expenses, career paths and more. Below you will find a condensed transcript of the conversation.
Chris Pyak: In beautiful Vilnius, I speak with Eglė Adašiūnaitė. Hello, Eglė.
Eglė Adašiūnaitė: Hello, Chris. Nice meeting you and thank you for coming here.
Chris Pyak: It’s a real pleasure to talk to you. Eglė, tell us a little bit about your organisation, and why does the Lithuanian government care if international professionals come to work in Lithuania?
Eglė Adašiūnaitė: I represent Work in Lithuania– a small team that was established Invest Lithuania, which does its best to attract foreign direct investment. I think it’s only natural for us to consider the talent that we have to offer as the most compelling point of our value proposition. Seeing that Lithuania is a small country and that our talent pool will eventually be exhausted, the government understands the necessity to replenish it with talent with international experience, skills and knowledge that we don’t have so far or that we’ll eventually run out of.
Chris Pyak: So, it’s very important to understand that the government actively supports the immigration of highly skilled professionals, such that you have someone who has your back if you decide to move to a foreign country like Lithuania in this case.
Eglė Adašiūnaitė: Yes, exactly. We mostly focus on professions and talents that are most in-demand with regards to our investors and our local companies. Those would be IT, engineering and financial sector specialists, namely – ones that are becoming scarce or ones that are crucial for the continuous growth of our economy.
Chris Pyak: Did the coronavirus affect hiring in Lithuania? For instance, here in Germany, once cases started to rise, we saw a sharp drop in new job advertisements. Now we are coming out of this and recovering, and we are nearly back to the old numbers, but for two months or so, hiring was down by 50%. Did you experience anything similar in Lithuania?
Eglė Adašiūnaitė: Well, it depends on the sector. As I’ve mentioned, IT, engineering and global business services have been booming in Lithuania over the last decade. I think that the most affected sector in terms of employment during the quarantine was manufacturing or manufacturing engineering – the automotive components sector and so on. When it comes to IT and finance, things ran fairly smoothly –everyone simply moved to the work-from-home regime. The hiring process was either on-going or frozen for a short period of time. Now, however, it seems that everyone is positive and people are continuing with their plans, as agreed upon before the quarantine.
We have examples of IT companies who have even increased their headcount during the quarantine because the demand for their services increased. However, that is more related to e-commerce, cybersecurity and other customer-facing areas.
Chris Pyak: On your website, there are now over 150 companies who are hiring, is that correct?
Eglė Adašiūnaitė: Yes, those are the companies that are willing to hire internationals and are prepared to carry out the whole recruitment process remotely. All the positions that they are posting on our platform are suitable for non-Lithuanian-speakers. So, this is what we are trying to do as a programme, namely – to promote only those openings that are open to internationals.
Chris Pyak: So, the working language is English?
Eglė Adašiūnaitė: Mostly. Our business services have many multi-lingual positions and many multi-lingual professionals. I think that the highest number of foreign languages spoken in one of our centres is 35. Of course, most of those are Scandinavian languages and German, while English is a given.
Chris Pyak: Something that many of our listeners might not know is that all of the Baltic countries are really famous for their well-educated populations. When I think about moving to and living in Lithuania, I know that I’ll have to interact with the people in my home town, I want to make friends, and I want to get settled in society – all of which, at the beginning, is dependent on my knowledge of English. So, how widespread is English among Lithuanians? How difficult or how easy would it be for me to communicate?
Eglė Adašiūnaitė: Well, it depends on the generation and on the size of the city you are planning to settle in. Statistics show that 52% of Lithuanians know more than two foreign languages. The most popular ones, of course, are English and Russian. The older generation – that would probably be my parents’ generation – speaks Russian better than English. Younger people, on the other hand, are fluent in English. French, Spanish, and Scandinavian are less popular, but you can still find people who study and speak them. Learning a third language is also common in universities.
Chris Pyak: With English, you will always find someone who can communicate with you.
Eglė Adašiūnaitė: Exactly. Especially in the bigger cities – if you go to the capital, to Kaunas, or our port city Klaipėda, finding someone who speaks English will not be a problem. You won’t even have to look very hard.
Chris Pyak: If I’m interested in a job in Lithuania, do companies mostly hire European Union citizens or are companies also open to international candidates like, for example, those from the US, South Africa, India, China, and so on?
Eglė Adašiūnaitė: I think that the choice depends on the position and how much time a company has to spare. Of course, hiring from the EU is easier and way quicker, but the fact that we have the most immigration from countries like Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, means that the procedures for third-country nationals outside the EU are not a big obstacle for Lithuanian companies to hire.
Chris Pyak: Can you tell us a little bit about the visa process? Is it difficult to acquire a visa when a company agrees to hire?
Eglė Adašiūnaitė: If you’re coming for work-related reasons, it’s relatively easy – especially for highly skilled professionals and those in high demand, because we have special procedures for them. The procedures for EU citizens are rather standard, and it’s not a problem to come here to work and live. If you want to stay longer than 3 months, however, it would be wise to acquire a residency permit. If you come from outside of the EU, I would strongly advise you to apply for the EU Blue Card. It’s a specific procedure for highly-skilled non-EU citizens. It’s way quicker, there’s less hassle, and you acquire the permit to both live and work here. I think that it’s valid for three years and it can be extended for up to three more. In addition, it allows you to not only reside in Lithuania and to bring your family together, but, while valid, to also move to a different Member State of the EU and do that highly qualified work that you want.
Chris Pyak: Do you know anything about the requirements? Here in Germany, for example, the Blue Card is subject to only three basic requirements: 1) you need to have a university degree that is recognised here in Germany, 2) you need to have a certain minimum income, which in Germany is 54,000 euros per year, and 3) you need to have an employer here in Germany who hires you. The obstacle here in Germany is not so much the legal restrictions, but the fact that only 1% of German companies are hiring in English. Do you know a little bit about the requirements for the Blue Card in Lithuania?
Eglė Adašiūnaitė: The requirements for the Blue Card in Lithuania are similar to Germany in terms of format, but they are a bit lower. The minimum wage that makes one eligible for the EU Blue Card is around 2,000 euros per month gross. This makes it much lower because it’s 1.5 times the average Lithuanian monthly wage. Or you should be a highly qualified specialist, meaning that you have a higher education degree or five years of working experience in the related field that you are applying for.
Chris Pyak: One thing that I really like when I look at your website is that you make a real effort to help people understand things in context. For example, a salary in itself doesn’t mean a whole lot if you don’t compare it to the cost of living. And I saw that on your website you have a very good comparison on what you would pay for rent for a studio flat in, for example, Vilnius, as compared to London, Berlin and other cities; what you would pay to go to a restaurant in Vilnius, as compared to Barcelona, Paris, and so on. That said, can you give our listeners a quick overview of what you can expect in terms of a typical salary for an IT position? Of course, it’s the ones that are in highest demand everywhere in the world. And put that in relationship to what you would typically spend in Vilnius as, say, a young family.
Eglė Adašiūnaitė: If you’re a mid-level programmer, you will definitely earn more than 2,500 euros. For that you will be able to rent a flat – probably in the city centre – for around 500 euros per month, and the rest you’d be able to spend on your living and sustaining yourself.
Chris Pyak: What would be a typical grocery bill? If I go to the shop to buy food for me and my family that includes, say, two children, what would I typically spend, roughly speaking?
Eglė Adašiūnaitė: May I be straightforward?
Chris Pyak: Okay.
Eglė Adašiūnaitė: I can relate much more with being single.
Chris Pyak: What would you spend as a single person?
Eglė Adašiūnaitė: I think that you can spend 80 euros for groceries, and those groceries would last you for around a week. If you want to have lunch in the city centre, it would be from 6 to 8 euros for a meal of several dishes. If you go out to the city, a cup of coffee will cost anywhere between 1.5-2.5 euros, depending on the location, the café, and the coffee you choose. I think that our cinemas are relatively cheap, compared to the rest of Europe – a single cinema ticket would cost anywhere between 5-8 euros, depending on the time and day.
Chris Pyak: Even though it varies between different counties, I’d like to ask whether movies in Lithuania are shown in English or are they dubbed?
Eglė Adašiūnaitė: That’s a good question! It actually goes both ways. You can choose from movies screened in their original languages or movies that have been dubbed, although the latter are mostly intended for children. If you’re interested in seeing a cartoon, it might be a bit challenging to find one in its original language – you’ll probably have to devote a time slot during the working day. Otherwise, it’s okay.
Chris Pyak: That’s one real advantage of living in small countries – you can always watch movies in their original languages. Before I moved away from Germany in 2000, I never even thought about the fact that I’ve watched every movie in the German language, because everything’s translated. Then I lived abroad for 10 years and now, when I come home, I cannot watch international movies in German anymore. Because when you know how actors speak in reality, it just feels so wrong, you know?
Eglė Adašiūnaitė: That’s right, actually. I think that most only consume content in English – in the original language. I think that Netflix and other online platforms have changed the way we perceive content and its consumption in general. And I feel the same – I cannot watch international or, say, foreign movies translated into Lithuanian because it does not give the message right.
Chris Pyak: Great! Now that we’ve talked about the things that you can do when you’re living in Lithuania – because, obviously, you don’t just come here to work, you also want to live your life – what about you, Eglė? If I moved to Vilnius, what would be some of your personal highlights that you would recommend me to experience?
Eglė Adašiūnaitė: It’s a very difficult question, actually, because I can either list the thing or destinations that you will definitely need to see or the way of living to experience—
Chris Pyak: Way of living would be more interesting. What is the one thing that gave you the most joy in the last weeks?
Eglė Adašiūnaitė: Instead of referring to the last several weeks, I’d rather bring up my own experiences that I’ve had coming back from Budapest. I’ve lived there for more than a year, and only then re-evaluated or reassessed the quality of life that Lithuania can offer. I realised that every country that attempts to attract talent says that they have a great quality of life and that their work-life balance is perfect. But when you come to Lithuania, those words are actually true. And I’m not the only one who can confirm it – even the OECD had ranked Lithuania as sixth globally according to work-life balance.
And, of course, you’re probably curious about what makes Lithuania so great that it even reflects in international rankings. And that is the unique mixture of great opportunities to work at international companies, where you can kick-start your career with less time and less hassle. At the same time, you can enjoy Western and Northern European work practices at the office that respect an attitude towards you that comes with this way of working. The cities are very compact, so the thing that I enjoy the most is that it takes me 30 minutes to an hour get out of the city and enjoy my bike ride along a lake or just go for a hike. That saves a lot of time. Plus, I have never ever imagined that our digital infrastructure is so well-developed. I used to take it for granted, but now I understand that the availability and the speed of public Wi-Fi and internet access are exceptional.
Chris Pyak: That’s one thing that I also really enjoyed in the Baltics, namely that you really embrace the digital age.
Eglė Adašiūnaitė: Yes, exactly.
Chris Pyak: You seem to be at the forefront, while in Germany people still use fax machines.
Eglė Adašiūnaitė: I don’t even know how to use those, actually. In any case, I think that as a result of this whole mixture of criteria that Lithuania has to offer, it allows you to spend more time on things that truly matter – your hobbies, your friends, your family, and yourself.
Chris Pyak: Eglė, thank you very much! If I’m interested now and I would like to find out if there are jobs for me in Lithuania, where should I go?
Eglė Adašiūnaitė: Well, I know the perfect site – it’s called workinlithuania.lt. It’s our job portal where our international companies post their job openings, and you where you can see whether any of those match your expectations.
Chris Pyak: Thank you very much, Eglė Adašiūnaite, head of Work in Lithuania programme. Thank you very much.
Eglė Adašiūnaitė: Thank you!