Irma Kalniņa is a world-class expert on professional etiquette, international communications and diplomatic protocol for over 25 years.
After acquiring a bachelor’s degree in education at Ohio University, she studied protocol in Washington, D.C., as well as with renowned etiquette expert Letitia Baldrige. After relocating to Europe, Irma Kalniņa expanded her professional qualifications at an international protocol school in Brussels.
She applied her professional knowledge of protocol from 1993 until 2000 as the spouse of an ambassador in Washington, D.C. Since 2005 she has headed her own business etiquette, protocol, and communications consultancy firm “Irmas Kalniņas Konsultācija” (Irma Kalniņa Consulting).
Her clients include professionals from the public and private sector, representing the President’s Chancery, various state ministries; government agencies; major law, finance, IT firms; hospitality businesses as well as educational and nongovernmental organizations. Irma Kalniņa is convinced that understanding the standards of etiquette in any situation is a key to success in business, politics, and private life.
Her teaching skills, diplomatic experience, and irreplaceable knowledge have earned her the reputation of being Latvia’s foremost leader in etiquette and communications.
As an academic instructor at the Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music (JVLMA) in Riga, she lectures in the bachelor programme “Concert stage presence” and in the Master’s programme teaches “Professional etiquette and communication.”
Speaking about kings and servants
Irma Kalniņa was born and raised in New York to a family of Latvian immigrants. She first learned good manners and proper etiquette as a child from her European-born parents. Her father came from a Riga family of well-renowned tailors, who owned an exclusive clothing store in the city. As head of a clothier dynasty, Adolfs Ferlins taught his daughter not only how to dress elegantly but was also determined to raise her so that she could easily know how to dine with the Queen of England and then be as courteous and gracious to the Queen’s servants as she was with the Queen.
Although at the time, Irma thought her father was somewhat lofty in his ambitions, his words became prophetic years later. As the wife of an ambassador she has met and dined with a US President and First Lady in the White House, dined with visiting royalty in Riga, socialized with government officials from around the world. Irma and Ojārs Ēriks Kalnins were the first diplomatic couple to represent Latvia in the US after the restoration of its independence in 1993, and did so for seven years strengthening US-Latvia relations. After moving to Latvia, both became actively involved in the country’s social and political life, helping Latvia develop self-esteem locally and identity internationally.
Concern for Latvia
Ethical values and good standards of behavior form the foundation of etiquette and protocol. In addition to these values, Irma is also passionate about philanthropy and humanitarian work. During the soviet occupation of Latvia, she founded an NGO dedicated to sick children and mothers and led a campaign to provide critical medical and humanitarian assistance to orphanages and hospitals throughout Latvia. She worked with the Bush administration and later with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
On any given Saturday, Irma will be volunteering at the St. Saviour’s Anglican Church soup kitchen, where she continues to provide for those less fortunate in Riga.
Thanks to Irma Kalniņa, the concept of philanthropy and charity became a permanent part of life in Latvia. In the beginning of 2000, as philanthropy expert at the NGO center, she introduced corporate social responsibility by promoting CRS concepts to businesses throughout Latvia. The NGO Centre focused its work on strengthening civil society, transparency and rule of law.
As her gift to Latvia’s centennial, Irma wrote a book on children’s table manners and etiquette. “Pie Galda” (At the Table), and is published in its third edition.