Latvian Survival Phrases You Must Know in Latvia

Latvian Survival Phrases You Must Know in Latvia
21 June 2023

While the vast majority of Latvians speak either Russian or English in addition to Latvian, it is a good idea to learn a couple of the most basic Latvian words and phrases to use during your time in Latvia. Learning some Latvian words will demonstrate your appreciation for the country to everyone with whom you interact. It will show that you are making an effort to get to know the country, for which the locals will definitely commend you! Knowing a few Latvian survival phrases and greetings will come in handy in any and all interactions with locals at the supermarket, market, restaurants, etc.

 1. “Sveiki” (hello)

While there are many different ways to greet someone in Latvian, “sveiki” is the easiest and is applicable to all situations. (Pronounced suh-vey-ki)

2. “Čau” (hi/bye)

The first letter of the word might seem unfamiliar and intimidating, but as you might be able to guess, this word is the Latvian approximation of the Italian “ciao,” with the first letter being pronounced as ‘ch.’ Since “čau” is used both to say hello and goodbye, it sure is a very useful word to remember! It differs from “sveiki” in that “sveiki” is more formal than “čau,” but “čau” can be used more flexibly. You can try saying “čau čau” too! (Pronounced ciao)

3. “Paldies” (thank you)

“Paldies” is used to express gratitude. This phrase comes in handy after paying for food or groceries, or just for thanking a local for their help. Make sure to say this often! (Pronounced pahl-dee-yes)

4. “Labi” (good)

“Labi” means “good.” The word is useful for you to communicate to a local how much you like something that you tried or bought with a simple “labi.” (Pronounced lah-bee)

And now that you know the meaning of “labi,” you can also try out other phrases such as “labdien” (good afternoon, pronounced lahb-dee-yen), “labrīt” (good morning, pronounced lahbreet), and “labu apetīti” (bon appétit, pronounced lahboo apeteeti).

5. “Vai tu runā angliski/krieviski?” (Do you speak English/Russian?)

This is a very practical question. If you are in a situation where you are not sure if you are able to communicate with a local in either English or Russian, try asking them “Vai tu runā angliski?” for “do you speak English?” or “Vai tu runā krieviski?” for “do you know Russian?” (Pronounced vah-yee too roonaa angliski/vah-yee too roona kree-yev-is-ki)

Hope these Latvian survival phrases turn out to be useful for you during your stay, paldies! 


Yeap, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz Riga

(Photo credits to the author)

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