What do you think of Latvians?

Having been told ‘Go home…snobby immigrant’ by a less than enamoured reader, I’ve decided to curl up into a foetal ball (with wine), and take a break from sharing my views on Latvia and Latvians.

Instead, I thought that I’d see what other people think of them. A quick search on Google brought up a variety of discussion forums on travelling to Riga/Latvia and, I have to say, the results were pretty depressing. Of course, most thought that Riga was beautiful with stunning architecture and plenty to see and do. A few said that the surrounding beaches and countryside were worth a trip and that people were friendlier in the smaller towns and cities. But on the whole, opinions on Riga and Latvian people were overwhelmingly negative. Here’s a brief summary – over-priced bars and nightclubs, scams, beatings, ignorant and unfriendly locals (both to foreigners and each other), ‘don’t go there’, gold-digging girls, xenophobic people, ‘there are probably undiscovered tribes in the Amazon who have developed better manners and personalities than the Latvians’… Quite frankly, having gone through a few of these forums, it’s a miracle that any tourists come here at all.

However, deciding that people mainly only post on these forums when they’ve had a bad experience, I kept searching and found the results of a focus group conducted with expats living in Latvia. This was a little better but most felt that even after several years living here, they still didn’t totally understand the people or the culture, as Latvians are very introverted and unwilling to open up to foreigners. They believed that Latvians are possibly interested in other countries and cultures but would prefer to go and read a book about them or do an internet search, rather than actually ask somebody from that country.

At this stage, I was just about ready to climb into my bottle of wine, but one last-ditch attempt to find something positive resulted in this little gem:

In a vox pop conducted by Baltic Film and Media School students in a busy shopping mall in Tallinn, Estonia, the interviewer asks shoppers ‘What do you think about Latvians?’ The answers, from both locals and foreigners, are truly eye-opening. A few didn’t know anything about Latvians – no surprises there. One Estonian girl was vaguely aware that Latvia was the country below hers geographically – high-five to the Estonian education system. One thought that Latvians were friendlier than Estonians, and another that Latvians were really friendly and sociable.

But the part that made me sit up and take notice was that Lithuanians seem to think that all Latvians are ‘horse-heads’. I’m not quite sure what that means though. One theory is that it’s because of the shape of Latvia on a map. I prefer to think that maybe Lithuanians are jealous of the Latvians’ nice manes of hair…

The even more startling discovery was that Estonians think that all Latvians have 6 toes and sit around eating ice-cream all day. Do they mean 6 toes on each foot or 6 toes in total? A quick search on this one revealed that it comes from Latvian people’s wish to be special and different from everyone else.

Of course, I could easily confirm or deny the 6-toe thing but like I said, I’m keeping schtum. I’m just a snobby immigrant.

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About Expat Eye

Approximately 20,000 Latvians live in Ireland. One Irish girl lives in Latvia. Me. This blog is an account of some of my experiences and observations on living here. I hope you enjoy it!
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89 Responses to What do you think of Latvians?

  1. Ena says:

    Dear Linda,

    First of all, just a little comment on what you say about the video: The girl telling that the only thing she knows about Latvia, is that it’s the country just below Estonia, well, she actually is not Estonian, but Finnish ;) She speaks Finish! I can understand that for you it’s hard to differenciate those two. As far as I know (from statistics and my own experience being a student in Estonia and in one of the Western European countries (I won’t tell you which one for not to repeat this kind of posts ;), Estonian education system is quite good as to factual knowledge. Lacks more in analysing and connecting things and critical thinking, but there is an historical reason for it and it is changing. 2nd, the girl who is saying that, seems to me quite young, I’d say 12? Well, anyhow, if I were you, I wouldn’t go now to make any comments in addition about the Finish educational system just based on one quite SMALL girl’s knowledge. It’s sometimes wise to be careful about such judgements.

    I was just looking for information as well about Latvians as I’m working as a tour-guide for Estonian people and I’m curious about all the lands and their inhabitants that we cross on our way down to other countries. I have met many Latvians in my life, as well in my personal life as professional life as non-governmental work in youth NGOs, honestly, I met only very nice people, yes, reserved, like Estonians (does that really matter?!), people close to nature and culture in general (if we can generalize), and all those I met (even on the streets of Riga) were smiling at me (or did I just noticed the ones that smiled?;)), sincere, simple (in a positive way – easy to talk to) and so on…

    What I want to say with all this is that everywhere there is exactly the same amount of good people, doesn’t matter the country! The so-called “bad people” are in minority (and even them I wouldnt call like that). Everywhere! Of course in Italy people are talking to you on the street and want to have contact with you right away! Come on! If I had sun 300 days a year, I also would stay on the streets more and “living” more with others! Compared to Brazilians you don’t even imagine how introverted are Italians :D And it’s also understandable! Look at the history and the social-economic situation! People always tend to help each other more when there are difficult times! People always tend to be more opened when it is warm! (You see a huge difference in Estonians from winter to spring ans summer). There are always REASONS for everything.

    At the base human beings are the same. They more likely help you if you are helpful yourself! I am not talking about looking like helpful. I am talking about, do you really have this helpfulness in you, in your personality. People don’t see, but they feel the difference. I have had days when the simle just was on my face for the whole day because of what I felt inside and those days all the people who looked at me, smiled too! And then there are those other days…

    People and the world are our reflection!

    Good luck and good managing with culture shocks!

    Ena

    • Expat Eye says:

      Hi Ena, thanks for the epic comment! I’ve already answered this in around 100 ways on various posts but to sum up:
      1. Yes, I’m helpful.
      2. Yes, I’m friendly.
      3. Yes, I smile.
      4. The weather in Ireland is shit too. :)

  2. I can agree with most of this. However, you should understand that Latvians are not evil or unpleasant bunch just because they like to be evil or frequently summon evil lords of the darkness in their garden sheds, this has historical reasons – Latvians as a nation and people have been torn apart by and between bunch of wars, and nations, oppression’s and pretty damn effed* up stuff happening around lately. The hatred for each other and for the rest of the world is for a reason, and by my opinion, damn good one. But I think, this must and this will eventually stop. Some wonderful day when Latvians will realize, that biting each others asses off will eventually lead to nothing but further destruction and degradation. I just hope that by the time this happens we will not die out as a nation and community. You see, we have an optimist around here, yaay!

    Also, the reason you might not come around bunch of positive and interesting people around here is because it seems you have direct contact with just or mostly with the “lazy class” like I like to call them – people who owns nothing, cares about nothing and wants nothing. Believe me, we are not so boring, really.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Hi Robert, thanks for the comment! I don’t socialise in this area, I just live here! All of my friends are professionals with good jobs – most of whom told me not to move here ;) It’s nice to see some optimism around here! I really hope you’re right. Linda.

  3. Janis says:

    I have some really good advice – if you don’t like Latvia and Latvians why don’t you get the fuck out off our country? We don’t need ignorant bitches, like you!

    • Expat Eye says:

      But Janis, it’s charming individuals like you that make me want to stay.

      Really, when I read comments like this one it makes me wonder how tourists leave with the impression that ‘‘there are probably undiscovered tribes in the Amazon who have developed better manners and personalities than the Latvians”.

      Keep up the good work.

      • Anna says:

        [I bet it's someone whose heart you've just broken on that dating site. I mean, it IS a Janis...]

      • Expat Eye says:

        I doubt that’s his (?) real name ;)

      • Janis says:

        Than explain to me where do you even read/hear comments like this? Because I have been living outside Latvia for some time in many countries (Ireland is not one of them, however I do have some relatives living there), I have studied foreign tourist impressions about Latvia and while there are some not so pleasant comments most people are more than satisfied and find Latvians polite, friendly etc. It really feels like that all your judgment here is based on your own experience (and with attitude like this I’m hardly surprised that we are rude or anything towards you) and some (Really – SOME) comments on internet. I think you just skip every good comment about Latvia and focus only on negative ones.

        I mean seriously – who the hell you think you are? You come to foreign country and you expect everything to be like in Ireland (or some other country for that matter), and than when you are not satisfied with something you start saying that every Latvian is rude idiots etc. Have you even heard anything about cultural differences? We are not Spanish, we are not Irish. Yeah, Latvians may be reserved and introverted, but at the same time we are polite and friendly and we do help others. For people who deserves this, and, sorry, but you clearly don’t. Based on my judgments the most rude person here are you, not Latvians, and you can’t expect anything else from others towards you.

        You have said multiple times how you don’t like Poland, how you don’t like Latvia. But seriously – than why do you keep staying here? Go to your Ireland, nobody needs you here anyway.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Hi Janis, thanks again for your comments. With regards to Poland, that’s a whole other story and you have no idea what I went through there.

        I don’t expect every country to be like Ireland – far from it. I enjoy cultural differences and have travelled a lot. However, what I do expect, at the very least, is a little common courtesy, something that is sadly lacking in this country on the whole. There is a difference between being reserved and letting doors slam in people’s faces or ramming into them on the street – and these are total strangers so it’s nothing to do with me or my personality. And if you read some of the comments from other foreigners living here, my blog is actually pretty tame in comparison.

        I’m not sure how much of the blog you’ve actually read but it seems to me that you are just focusing on the negative. I have NEVER said that every Latvian is a rude idiot. I have plenty of friends here and most of my students are really nice – which I’ve also said repeatedly.

        I have also written some pretty complimentary pieces about my various trips in Latvia – OK, so they’re probably not tourist board friendly but they’re honest. I don’t know how long you’ve been gone but maybe you have a rose-tinted view of the place? It happens.

        I take the rough with the smooth and most of my students and friends here (Latvians) actually agree with most of what I write. Some of them, gasp, even find it quite funny.

        Anyway, if you hate it so much, you should probably stop reading it. Clearly, it has a very upsetting effect on you…

      • Anna says:

        Janis, I’d like to add to Linda’s response.

        Currently, I am a Russian living in Russia, though I’ve spent about half of my life living in the US. This country suffers from many of the same problems that Linda addresses in her blog about Latvia. Rudeness, [verbal] shortness, lack of common courtesy, disregard for basic customer service. Foreigners complain about it. No, it’s not great to hear. But you know what? Russians complain about it too, because it’s true. Not about every store or every person, but en mass – yes. These things have been the bane of our general existence for about 3 decades now.

        Ignoring or dismissing a problem just because ‘some stupid foreigner said it and should just shut up or get the F out’ doesnt make it any less TRUE or any less of a problem. It’s just about the least productive thing one can do. Plus, what you’re saying is ‘fuck free speech, dont you dare say anything about X [in this case, a country where a person has lived and worked in for years] unless it’s nice and will make X look good’ – wow, what a great PR for the free and liberal Latvia!

    • Lāsma says:

      Jāni, kārtējo reizi pārliecinos, ka cilvēkiem bez humora izjūtas ir grūta dzīve.

      • Janis says:

        Lāsmiņ, ja tu saprastu kāda nozīme ir tūrisma galamērķa mārketingam un atsauksmēm, tad, iespējams, tu domātu savādāk. Šī ir viena no pirmajām lapām, kas izlec meklējot Latviju Google. Nu tad padomā velreiz, kā šo “joku” uztvers kāds potenciālais tūrists.

      • Lāsma says:

        Jāni, ir ļoti nepieklājīgi nepazīstama cilvēka vārdu pārveidot deminutīvā. Te nav bērnudārzs.

        Latvija nav populārs tūrisma galamērķis. Taču cilvēki, kuri uz Latviju tomēr dodas, parasti to dara ar skaidru mērķi. Ja jūs uzskatāt, ka viens interneta blogs sabojā Latvijas reputāciju, tad jāsaka, ka problēma ir dziļāka par šo blogu. Iespējams, ka tā saistīta ar faktu, ka, neskatoties uz iztērētajiem miljoniem, Latvijai joprojām nav izdevies sev izveidot starptautisku tēlu.
        Kas attiecas uz šo blogu, jābūt tiešām ar intelektu neapdāvinātai personai, lai nesaprastu, ka šis blogs ir rakstīts ar humoru un NAV domāts Latvijas nomelnošanai. Tādu blogu varētu uzrakstīt par jebkuru valsti. Jājautā, kādu tēlu jūs šobrīd radāt Latvijai ar savu publisko gānīšanos?

    • Gustav August says:

      Stulbais Jānis

    • CrazyCatLady says:

      I’d really appreciate it if Latvians got out of MY country. Oh – and by the way – you guys aren’t shy about judging MY country, even though it’s sinking under the burden of economic migrants like you (many of whom are deceitful petty criminals – either by cheating social services, tax office, or right out criminal activities such as burglary, contraband, fraud, etc.)

      Your comment sums up most Latvians I’ve come across and read about – primitive, unworldly, rude.

      Personally I’ve seen many sides to Latvia- some good, some bad. People like you are an embarrassment to the very country you’re quick to defend.
      It’d do my head in to live there; I was once sent into exile to Latvia for 5 weeks in 2002; I seriously considered suicide, that BA plane departure date could not approach fast enough!
      And do you know what makes people feel like that? People like you!

      Even the highest echelons of your society behave like barbarians who’ve never been to a civilised world.
      On one particular occasion I was unfortunate to be in the company of your presidents’ posse, during the London 2012 opening ceremony. Oh. My. God. You may as well had recreated a scene from a Parisian brother circa Luis XIV days (instead of free flow of fine wine queue “smuggled” brandy etc.). Ghastly.

      In conclusion – people in glass houses….

  4. Adrian says:

    I’ve been to many Eastern European countries and stayed among many Eastern European people and I have to say by far, the most two dimensional, arrogant, rude and conceited people are the Latvians. This is an extremely unusual thing for me to say because of course, you can’t generalize a whole nation of people but unbelievably, no matter how hard I tried in the week I was there, every man and woman I met was a cookie cutout of the other.

    They are literally almost all the same. The men think they are God’s gift to women and the women think they are God’s gift to men. If you speak to a Latvian, they speak to you as if you are lucky to be able to speak to them. Also, they have a strange obsession with the energy drink ”Monster”.. It’s logo can be found everywhere all over Latvia, very strange.

    Like I said, I’ve been to a lot of post-Soviet countries, Poland, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Georgia etc… Latvia? Never again.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Yeah, it’s funny – I don’t know why people here are like this! So many countries have roughly the same history but the Latvian attitude trumps anyone else! Pity you didn’t meet me when you were here – at least you’d have got one smile ;) Linda.

  5. Hi,
    was just wondering why there are so few Latvians living in Lithuania. I see there are many other ethnic minorities in your country (see below for percentages), but your immediate neighbours have the least numbers. Just curious.

    84.1% Lithuanians
    6.6% Poles
    5.8% Russians
    1.2% Belarusians
    0.5% Ukrainians
    0.1% Jews
    0.1% Tatars
    0.1% Germans
    0.1% Romani
    0.1% Latvians
    1.3% others

    • Expat Eye says:

      Hi, well, I’m actually in Latvia but if I had to guess, I suppose conditions in Lithuania are pretty similar to here. Most Latvians choose to go to better paid countries, such as the UK, Ireland or Scandinavia. Just a guess though!
      Linda.

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  7. Alice says:

    Contrary to the general consensus, I find that a lot of guys in Latvia (in their 20s) are beyond hot. They’re blond, blue-eyed, quite skinny and tall, and I’m a sucker for that kind of look. But the women…oh dear. I’ve never come across a more deluded, narcissistic and arrogant segment of society. In general, Latvian women are not good-looking but still seem to think they are god’s gift to men. Oh and don’t even get me started on their fashion sense!
    The thing that is most worrying is that because the country is now part of the EU, there are no restrictions on things like, say, drivers licenses. People in Latvia do NOT know how to drive, they have no concept of courtesy and common sense and think that if they overtake you just to come to a grinding halt at a red light a few yards in front of you they are the best drivers ever. I mean, hey, they overtook you! This is a cause for concern because it’s a well-known fact that people buy or cheat their way into getting a license, then emigrate to wealthier countries in the EU and cause havoc on the roads there.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Hi Alice! Thanks for commenting! I have to say, the drivers here terrify me. People keep asking me why I don’t get a licence – no thank you! Although, I’m no safer on the pavement really as they mount that whenever suits them!
      There are a few good-looking guys here but few and far between!

      I agree with you about the majority of women. I’d love to see what they look like without the inches of make-up, hair dos, fake tans and manicures! If only they spent half that amount of time and effort working on their personalities… ;) Linda.

      • Alice says:

        Couldn’t agree more about the drivers! I drive an Audi TT and am going to get rid of it in order to get a cheap-yes, cheap-car because I can’t have women reverse into me randomly on busy roads, I feel really bad for my car. I swear this actually happened, a woman reversed and bumped into me without even bothering to look in the rear view mirror-it beggars belief! I guess you’re best off using taxis here, they’re cheap anyway.
        I agree about the guys too, it’s just that my taste is very specific and is well catered for on a Friday nite at Rock Cafe or Black Friday. :)
        Yes, if only women put more effort into their personalities…Trouble is, if you told them that they’d go on a rant how British/Western/American women are all just jealous of them, they always get defensive like that and bury their head in the sand. x

      • Expat Eye says:

        Yeah, I get a lot of that! Clearly being a Barbie doll whose boyfriend cheats on her is my ultimate dream… ;)
        I’m not surprised you’re getting rid of your car. I almost got run over AGAIN today by some asshole who shot out of a parking lot without looking to see if there were any pedestrians on the path. Luckily I’m always on high alert here so I spotted him in time! I would have been a Linda pancake otherwise ;) Where are you from and what brings you here??

      • Alice says:

        Hey Linda, I was born in Switzerland to Russian parents, therefore I speak Russian, but don’t consider myself such. I’ve lived in several countries (Switz, USA, Russia, France, England) and traveled to many more, and I spent the past 7,5 years in London where I started dating a Latvian (Russian) guy. When I realized I could get an apartment twice the size of my London one for a quarter of the money here in Riga, no references required, no deposits, no questions asked, I decided it might be a good idea to use it as a base and invest the money thus saved into traveling instead of paying 2 grand a month for a 1 bed in London. The whole economic situation has taken its toll on the UK in the past few years, and it’s not looking good. :(
        The apartment is awesome, my cat’s loving the balcony, but that’s pretty much the only positive thing I can come up with. I’m just counting down the days until the season opens in Val d’Isere, going snowboarding there for a month-it’s a bit like waiting to go back to civilization! :D

      • Expat Eye says:

        Poor you! Sounds like you’re not having any fun here! Are you still with the Latvian Russian guy? I guess the money you’re saving is good motivation to stay but it had better pay for a hell of a lot of trips!

        Let me know if you want to meet up for a chat sometime!

  8. Anna says:

    This was really interesting. So, Latvia(ns) tend to hate Russian(s) – lovely USSR legacies. They couldn’t wait to be free from the Soviet Union and rejoin Europe. Ironically, judging from what you’re describing, it seems that they have inherited all the worst Soviet and post-Soviet legacies, from rudeness to fashion. I expected to hear things like ‘Latvians are reserved but polite, everything is really clean and safe’ – at least that would be closer to the stereotypes of the Baltics held by Russians.

    • Expat Eye says:

      It’s a seriously messed-up relationship! And you’re right, they seem to have inherited all the worst traits. Although it is pretty clean here – even if the streets underneath are falling apart ;)

  9. FYI: The girl who knows Latvia is below Estonia is not Estonian. She’s a Finnish tourist.

  10. Kristin says:

    I meant to comment on this post forever – you really cracked me up! That video is just too funny!
    As I mentioned before my dad grew up in Latvia, and when he moved to Germany he was told that German women had enormous feet. And then of course he met my mum who has the tiniest feet ever, like size 6 or something. But it makes me wonder why there are all those stereotypes about feet… Honestly, have you ever been interested in other people’s feet?? Strange, but highly entertaining!
    And I am kind of relieved to read that other people get hate mail too. I never get that. If people can’t deal with the sarcasm, why don’t they just go and read something else? That’s what I do when I stumble upon a blog I don’t like. Why leave nasty messages? Uh well, it takes all sorts, doesn’t it?
    Anyhow, thanks for making me laugh again. I just forwarded the link to my dad, I am sure he will appreciate your posts!

    • Expat Eye says:

      I hope so! Hopefully I’ll give him a giggle! Yeah, I don’t really get the people who leave horrible comments either – I tell them to just stop reading if they don’t like it but they keep coming back! Some create an email address just for the purpose of giving out to me and then delete it straight afterwards! Sort of admire their dedication in a way ;) And no, I hate feet! I try to think about them as little as possible!!!!

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  12. I think you should take being called a “snobbish immigrant” as a massive compliment, for this is based on the fact that you are fundamentally superior. If you had been called a “yobby immigrant”, for example, you might have cause for concern.
    I also think that under NO circumstances should you give up teaching the, until recently, seriously suppressed East Europeans about the wonders of free speech. They may not like what you say, but they should defend to the death your right to say it. Teach your students that. In a snobbish way, of course.

  13. Laine says:

    The linguist in me cannot shut up, so here..between my former neighbour who happens to be a Lithuanian with some Latvian roots and me (a Latvian with some Estonian roots) we concluded that the interviews were rather a nice (and quite subtle) collection of linguistic puns. For “zirga galvas” the two most common explanations are 1) Lithuanians find it funny how Latvians say these words 2) and, as you have noted on several occasions, Latvians have long faces.
    As to the ice-cream references, as far as I remember, all Estonians know the word “Saldējums” from their childhood trips to Riia (or maybe it meant something ( I ll ask my Estonian collegue if I see her). That aside, in any wider international event/environment the Baltic community is extremely close and suportive of each other.
    Off topic, I am going to Riga for two weeks on Saturday (29/06 to 12/07), would you like to have tea with me? I also hope you have a good plan for 23 and 24 of June.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Hi Laine, I’d love to! Thanks for asking! My email is linda_ogrady@hotmail.com so you can email me directly and we can make a plan. I’ll be leaving Riga on the 10th of July but I’m sure we can arrange something before then!

      Thanks for the info on the linguistic aspect of things – I’d noticed that some words in Lithuanian are quite similar to Latvian but to me, the way the Lithuanian guy said it didn’t sound that different to the way a Latvian says it! That’s why my pronunciation is so awful I guess – maybe I sound like an Irish Lithuanian when I speak ;)

    • Nerius says:

      Good comment! There’s numerous ideas about where the zirga galvas came from and most are equally nonsense. One idea my father had (take into account – I’m 100% Lithuanian, but I live in Riga) is that in the late XIX/early XX century the Latvians literally were very good with horses and the ones who lived close to the border and did a lot of trade (in horses) were known by the name of zirga galvas (as in “knowing-about-horses”) and it was really high praise. Now of course it’s part humor (from the more educated crowd) and part stupid insult (from the bottom of the Lithuanian gene-pool).

      And I do love your comment about the Baltics being very supportive of each other which I find very true and try to make happen as much as I can. Estonians may be a bit more distant but us Lithuanians are true braliukai with our Latvian neighbours.

      It is often joked that that the Latvian TV host who during Eurovision went along the lines of “and our 12 points go to… our braliukas in Lietuva” achieved more in our international relationship than 20 years of diplomatic relations.

      • Expat Eye says:

        That sounds like a valid explanation of the horse head thing! I’ll be going to Lithuania for a few days on my way back to LV so I can do a bit of on the ground research while I’m there ;) I don’t want to talk about the Eurovision though – Ireland came last!! :)

  14. Vaira says:

    Until there’s at least 1 positive thing out of some 10 or even 100 not so positive things about Latvia, even Latvians will keep reading your blog :) I love your way of writing and in most cases agree with you – we are different to say the least and it’s good to have someone to point that out through laughter or sarcasm. Yes, we don’t like it but desperately need it.
    What I’m sometimes missing here – at least on some most shocking cases digging deeper why it is like that. That would make the whole picture clearer and take out some agressive comments. Even if it’s an urban legend about Freedom Monument (and I’m pretty sure it’s not – media would not lie so badly), that kind of behaviour from arrogant Westerners (typical Latvian perspective) is like peeing on our post-occupied freedom and country. Our history has been quite messed up, national identity even more and especially in Riga where the bi-national melting pot (without actual melting) is the brightest, and pace of life is crazy, all kinds of surprises are to be seen.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Hi Vaira, I hear that! I’m actually going to attempt to write a post on the Russian/Latvian issue in the coming weeks – god help me on that one!

      In response to the Brit-peeing legend, I actually did some research on it. Around 100,000 Brits come to Riga every year (these figures were from 2009 so may be a little out of date). Out of that number, 5, yep, 5 were arrested for peeing near the Freedom Monument. Obviously I’m not condoning it. It’s a pretty disgusting thing to do anywhere let alone near a symbol of national pride, but 5 out of 100,000 makes it seem like it’s been blown a bit out of proportion.

      A Latvian Minister was quoted as saying that Britain is a ‘dirty, hoggish nation’ and that anyone who gets a cheap Ryanair flight here is a ‘savage’ – a bit extreme wouldn’t you say!?

      Anyway, I’m glad you like the blog and find it funny for the most part! If you’re looking for something positive, you should read my latest post on Kuldiga – I loved it! So much so that it took up two posts in fact! ;)

      Thanks again for the comment and keep reading! Linda.

  15. As many others have already commented, keep writing what you want to write! We are all here and follow you regularly because not only are you funny and witty but your blog is also interesting. I had never even heard of Latvia before! As the saying goes, the truth hurts; so those offended should just suck it up or stop reading. :)

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha, I’m with you! Thanks for the support – and the compliments – I’m going to have trouble getting my head out the door after all this ;)

  16. 1WriteWay says:

    Glad to see you’re turning lemons (negative comments) into lemonade (excellent blog post). It does crack me up that the commenter called you “snobby”! If he/she actually READ your blog, that person would know that you always qualify your opinions and that everyone is fair game, even yourself. You have a sharp eye and a sharp but hilarious tongue that you put to great use here. And you’re also a very nice, big-hearted person who I hope will keep blogging ;)

    • Expat Eye says:

      I don’t think I could stop now if I tried! I really love it! It’s such a great pastime and way to keep (kind of) sane – and of course, meet like-minded people from all over the world! Thanks for your constant support! :)

  17. M.E. Evans says:

    I’m really interested in this whole concept. I hear the strangest assumptions about Americans and Italians pretty regularly. Someone once asked me if it’s true that American parents loathe their children, I’ve also been asked how often I think my husband cheats on me because he’s Italian. Weird. Also, who gives a shit what some asshole says. Write what you want to write and (sneaky, sneaky) when someone says something stupid edit their comment and make it say something awesome. Change his comment from “go home snobby blah blah blah” to “I would be willing to cut off my sixth toe if I could only have your hand in marriage.” It’s the little things in life that are entertaining.

    • Expat Eye says:

      I LOVE that idea! ‘I’d put my horse’s head in your bed any time’ haha! Sort of works for the Italians too! Where did they get that weird idea that all Americans loathe their children?! How bizarre! I guess the Italian Stallion stereotype kind of explains the other but still, pretty insulting for someone to actually ask you that!

      • M.E. Evans says:

        The American parents hate their children is a pretty common idea here. I think it’s because we move out really early (between 18-22) whereas Italians stay at home until they marry which used to be until like 26 but now is like 82. They think that our parents basically throw us to the wolves. Kind of like American mothers squat down, have a baby, and then run away and if the baby can catch up with her it can live. Really. Yeah, the Italian stallion thing is actually kind of true. They do cheat have a high rate of cheating (like the French) but it’s odd to assume everyone does it. Stereotypes. So fun.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Cheating is rampant here and yet they have no reputation for it – I guess because they have no reputation for anything really! I think everybody should live by themselves (or with friends/flatmates etc) for at least a couple of years – going from mother to wife sets a dangerous precedent ;)

      • M.E. Evans says:

        Odd that you said that. I just barely wrote a story for The Florence Newspaper, on “mamma’s boys” in Italy (I think you already saw it). HUGE problem here. In fact, it’s crashing the economy and stopping the birth rate. Crazy.

      • Expat Eye says:

        I just can’t really get my head around the attitude I guess! Living on your own is such a massive step towards having your own life, freedom etc. So much for the Italian Stallions – sounds like they wait until they’re married and then start sleeping around!

  18. pollyheath says:

    I’m fascinated by this whole six toe thing. I hope it’s true.

    Also, your blog is excellent and it would be a tragedy if it went away — how else would I get information about my tiny neighbors to the west?!

  19. Pecora Nera says:

    When I started reading your post I thought you were going to stop your blog :( I nearly dropped my glass of wine :)

    Keep up the fun.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha, it’ll take more than a couple of haters to get rid of me! ;) Don’t ever drop your wine on my account!

      • Pecora Nera says:

        Almost, only almost.

        I know there is a temptation not to publish derogatory comments. I had a flurry of comments from one lady because she thought I had put a funny review that I had found of a hippy (nudist) commune on her blog.

        When she had calmed down, she said I could remove the comments she had posted. I said I wouldn’t dream of it. :)

        Keep up the fun, and I guess “tongue in cheek” doesn’t translate into Latvian..

      • Expat Eye says:

        I guess not! I decided at the beginning that I would publish all comments – positive and negative. Of course I understand that not everybody will like what I write about and I suppose they’re entitled to their opinions too ;) Then I try to respond in as reasonable and polite a manner as I can! Not always easy but good practice in writing :) And then, sometimes, like this rude one, the comment can lead to another blog post so I guess it had the opposite effect to what he/she intended as it just spurred me on haha!

      • Pecora Nera says:

        It is the best way to deal with them.
        :)

      • Expat Eye says:

        Brings out my creative writing side ;)

  20. Once again your blog made me laughh. What is even funnier that reading this blog I was actually sitting on a comfy chair in Riga’s airport while waiting for my flight to Helsinki :) Talking of ‘horse-heads’, I’d say some Lithuanians use it as some sort of insult to our brothers from north. The rest are just reffering to the fact that Lavian is in many ways similar to Lithuanian language, yet different enough to sound funny. Same regarding other ‘myths’ on Lavian language – I’ve heard that dragon in Lavian is ‘pukis baisuokls, which would make an equivalent of ‘fluffy scary thing’ :)

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha, I’ve never heard of fluffy and scary being used together like that! Or of a dragon being fluffy for that matter! Google says just pūķis which is also the word for kite which doesn’t make much sense either! Have a good trip! :)

  21. You provide an honest and humorous look at the society from a unique perspective. I don’t read you judging or boasting your culture better. I read you describing differences in a very humorous light which has readers like me, who have never been to Latvia, reading. Keep on!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Thanks! That’s pretty much the way I see it – but of course I’m biased ;) And if it has the side-effect of making Latvians take themselves less seriously, and giving foreigners who know either nothing or very little about the place a bit of an insight, then so much the better!

  22. Justin says:

    I don’t think anything you’ve posted is too far from the truth. I think the keep to yourself, slightly pushy and rude and unsmiling faces are very much a Baltic thing. In NYC we don’t make eye contact or speak on the subways or in the streets either but if someone asks a question you’d be quite surprised by how helpful people are. We’re just busy with going to and from places. But it gives us the reputation of being quite rude. So I’m used to it when I visit places like Riga :D

    I remember going to Ireland for Christmas and was very skeptical of the Irish! I thought there is no way the people could be this nice. This is after having been in Estonia for 7 months. It was incredibly foggy in Galway and a local noticed I was lost and offered to walk me around the city to find my hostel. I thought he was leading me down an alley to rob me. Then the next morning another local offered to drive me to find some food because after all it was Christmas morning and everything was closed. So I will agree that Latvians and Estonians in my experience, are very interested in foreigners but they are so introverted and standoffish you’d never know. So impressions vs reality are hard to distinguish unless you’re there for a prolonged period of time.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha, glad you didn’t get mugged in Ireland. We are a suspicious-looking mob ;) I’ve had the same experiences in America. I was stranded at Flagstaff Airport, totally unprepared for snow with not a taxi in sight, and the girl who’d been sitting beside me on the plane, rang her dad, got him to pick us up and made him drive all around town until he found my hostel! And in Las Vegas, a lovely woman from the bus took me under her wing and got her friend to give me a guided tour down the strip and drop me safely at my hotel door! I’m not sure that would happen here ;)

  23. Ilzele says:

    Thanks for sharing the video! I loved it and it reminded me of something I’ve been pondering about lately. I was recently doing interviews in Latvia and one of my questions was about foreign countries people see connections or commonalities with. Much to my surprise the most common answer was Germany (not something many Germans would say) not the other two Baltic countries. I suppose that since we know our neighbors much better than other European countries and share much of our history people are much more sensitive to the few differences as opposed to the many similarities.
    When I was a teenager I participated in some international youth camps and we always had a lot of fun with the Estonians and Lithuanians, telling each other the jokes we have about the other two countries (Estonians and supposed to be slow and the Lithuanians impolite, not something that would apply to my Estonian and Lithuanian friends)

    • Expat Eye says:

      I’ve heard that about the Estonians alright – I put it to a group of students this morning and they all started doing ‘slow faces’ and saying ‘duh’… They seemed a bit kinder towards Lithuanians – think they’re friendlier. Seemingly there are a lot of jokes about the Estonians but all have the same punchline – Estonians are slow. :)

  24. Liga says:

    From my Estonian friend I’ve heard that 6 toes is because of LV (if not mistaken it’s an Estonian abbreviation for “extra toe”; don’t ask why would they have an abbreviation for that). For one reason or another they think that we are faster and more likely to cheat them (we think the same about Lithuanians). I’ve heard a story of Estonian mother saying to her child to eat out all porridge otherwise a 6-toe Latvian would come and eat it out :)

  25. The toes issue – clearly, they must have three on each foot. They have to have two taken off (or maybe they just die off…?) in order keep those stilettos on all day long. In fact, the Latvian word for ‘stiletto’ is “stillthreetoes”. And you didn’t know that?!? Tsk, tsk.

  26. Ansh says:

    I, as a latvian, think that if you consider 99% of latvians as introvertes, you wont be far from truth :)
    And don’t go home, we really need some smiling people on the streets :D

    • Expat Eye says:

      Aww, thank you! People like you make me want to stick around ;) Have a great night! Keep smiling! Linda.

      • Ansh says:

        Oh, c’mon :) believe me, most of the latvians are not really that bad, don’t judge us from the facial expression :) I have a couple of proofs for that from personal experience.

      • rjschutte says:

        I agree till a certain level. There are exceptions. Latvians working in an international company are far more smiling than people in stores or the tram ;-)

      • Ansh says:

        Sure. But what i am telling, is that even those tram-people are ok, just no smiling :D Actually i have been told, that when i am thinking something by myself, i have that cold-eyes-bitten-teeth expression of face.

      • Expat Eye says:

        I love your description! And I’m sure they’re all nice people really. Under the funereal expressions! ;)

  27. rjschutte says:

    What really surprises me is the difference between something negative and something positive.

    In the last months of following this blog I see two types of reactions:

    1. positive (or critical but positive) ones. Mostly from other immigrants, Latvians living abroad or occasionally a free spirited Latvian living in Latvia. These reactions are given as a comment on critical or positive statements.

    Latvia has one of the fastest internet connections in the world, Every second cell phone in Latvia is sold with unlimited internet and there are hardly native Latvians commenting on these statements in a constructive way (exceptions excluded :-) ). Maybe it is getting too personal?

    2. negative ones. The negative comment (suicide instructions or ordering to leave the country) is given only to the critical statements. Also remarkable is that these comments are written by ghosts.
    After commenting they delete their profile and hide in the huge Latvian crowd. I call that coward behavior.
    If you stand for what you say and willing to have an open discussion about it, You don’t hide behind a tree (Did you know Latvia has a lot of trees? Might be for a reason).

    Linda, keep up this constructive, but critical work.

    • Linda, I’m with rjschutte all the way. Haters gonna hate, it’s a sadly unavoidable part of life, just remember that those haters are massively outweighed by your legions of adoring fans :P

      What’s really cool is that you are raising awareness of Latvia, reaching out with your blog to people who had never heard of the country and weren’t interested in it before in the slightest. That is what’s magic about what you do- the more you write, the more people learn. The more people learn, the more they can’t help but care about a place. In today’s crowded and noisy online world, it’s a huge coup to capture people’s attention enough to make them care about a faraway country.

      • Expat Eye says:

        What a great way of looking at it! You’re so right. After all my online searching last night, I realised that not only had people in far-flung places never heard of Latvia, but even some Europeans had never heard of it! Now there are people in Venezuela, UAE, Philippines, South Africa and Bangladesh to name a few who are reading about it! I’m always amazed at the list of countries that pop up on my little blog! Thanks for reading and for your support! :)

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