Why foreign workers are flocking to this 700-year-old European city

When Ricardo Schmitz’s brother was visiting him in Vilnius, Lithuania, the pair went for a wintertime walk at midnight — something he said they would never do back home in Brazil.  

“My brother hadn’t seen snow since he was a kid, so he was super excited. We walked from midnight to 3 a.m.,” Schmitz told CNBC Travel. “Not at any moment did I feel stressed or concerned. For me, this is priceless.”

Schmitz first came to Vilnius in 2018 as an exchange student in a study abroad program. After securing a full-time role, he returned in 2020 and now works as a senior consultant for Deloitte and a lecturer in finance and tax law at Lithuania’s Mykolas Romeris University.

“When I came back here I had that peaceful feeling that I’m at home,” he said. “The plan for the foreseeable future is to stay.”

Skilled workers wanted

Schmitz is one of many foreigners living in Lithuania, whose numbers rose from around 145,000 in 2022 to more than 200,000 in 2023, according to local media.

The tongue-in-cheek “Vilnius — the G spot of Europe” campaign hit global headlines in 2018, while government-funded organizations — like Work in Lithuania and Invest Lithuania — aim to attract skilled foreign workers and investment to the country.

Ricardo Schmitz.

Source: Ricardo Schmitz

With a population of just 2.8 million, Lithuania has a shortage of local talent to fuel the country’s growing technology and finance industries.

Young professionals like Schmitz are drawn by these career opportunities. In a survey of 1,300 foreign students currently studying in Vilnius, 42% said they see their life after graduation in Vilnius.

The streets of Vilnius at night.

Craig Hastings | Moment | Getty Images

“I started as an intern, then I moved to consultant, and now I’m in a senior position,” said Schmitz. “Because it’s a small market here, you’re exposed to more opportunities, and it helps you grow.”

Visa processing times decreased from eight months to just one, and there’s even an arrival allowance of 3,444 euros (around $3,764) awarded to foreigners who work in occupations the country needs. According to Work in Lithuania, around 400 allowances have been granted.

A healthy lifestyle

Indonesian national, Misha Johanna, in Lithuania.

Source: Misha Johanna

“My company here really encourages people to take all of their vacation. That’s very different from the working culture in Indonesia where I’m from,” said Johanna, who is from Jakarta.

Like Schmitz, she came to Vilnius for schooling, her choice influenced by her desire to be with her Lithuanian boyfriend, whom she had met in Bali, she said.

Indonesians tend to be more relaxed about work than Lithuanians, Johanna added. But in Indonesia, she feels bosses are less likely to approve vacation leave, meaning workers tend to make up reasons, usually involving family, to hide their vacations, she said.

“I don’t have to do that here,” said Johanna, who works nights from her apartment in Vilnius as a manager for the marketing data platform Whatagraph. It…

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Why foreign workers are flocking to this 700-year-old European city

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