An in-depth study of Lithuania's recognition and image abroad shows that relatively few foreigners outside the immediate neighbourhood know much about the country.
Lithuanians are generally regarded as welcoming and hard-working people, but also dishonest, especially in Scandinavia, and are associated with the Holocaust in Israel and the US.
Most people in Poland know about Lithuania and the country's image is quite positive there. On the other end of the spectrum, only 7 percent of the public in France know anything about Lithuania besides its name and geographic location, according to a study that surveyed public opinion in seven countries.
Eglė Kudzmanienė, a government adviser who led the study, says that Lithuania's immediate neighbours naturally know more the country, especially Poland that has close historical, cultural and political ties with Lithuania. But even there some stereotypes persist, she says.
Meanwhile, Lithuania could invest more into promoting itself in France, the study authors say.
“There are big potential economic gains – tourism from France to Lithuania is growing steadily, but we do not exploit the full potential due to limited marketing resources and irregular flight connections,” Kudzmanienė tells LRT.lt. “France is certainly a strategically important country for international political cooperation.”
What are Lithuanians like?
The study also looked into what qualities people in the seven countries ascribed to Lithuanians. Poles and Germans generally thought that Lithuanians were hospitable and friendly, while Swedes and Norwegians tended to think of them as hard-working. However, Lithuanians in Scandinavia are also often seen as dishonest people.
“We see a clear problem in Norway due to the crimes committed by Lithuanians,” Kudzmanienė says, adding that many Lithuanian expatriates in Scandinavia are highly skilled and honest people and the country should invest into improving their image.
Norwegians were also found to have a poor opinion about respect for human and civil rights in Lithuania and did not think Lithuania was a good place to invest, work or study in.
Meanwhile, Germans and Poles have a positive opinion about Lithuanians mainly because of their travels in the country.
“They get to know the country, its people, and leave with a positive impression,” according to Kudzmanienė.
A problem singled out by image experts interviewed for the study, particularly in the US and the UK, was the history of the Holocaust. It was also seen as a negative factor by the public in Israel.
More than tourism
The study also shows that tourism is one of the key factors contributing to Lithuania's recognition abroad. However, attracting tourists is not the main, let alone the only, reason for building up Lithuania's brand.
“We have had an effective ecosystem in tourism for a number of years now. However, the county has other goals, too, such as attracting talent, students, investment, increasing exports,” Kudzmanienė believes. “We have to start thinking about the generation that is 15 years old now [...]. For them, we have to build a clear profile of the country, show our values and future goals.”
She says that, at the moment, Lithuania has a very fragmented profile and no consistent message about itself.
“It's time for us in Lithuania to agree about the directions and guidelines of communication. The country has great many achievements, but the study results show that [people abroad] know precious little about us,” says Kudzmanienė.
The study was conducted by KOG Institutas and NORSTAT.