You had me at ‘Hello’

If you do come to Latvia, chances are you’ll meet a few Latvians. And, if you’re really lucky/unlucky (delete as appropriate), you might even get to know some of them.

One day, you might bump into the same Latvian twice. It happens. So in the morning, you’ll smile, nod and say ‘hello’. The Latvian will say ‘hello’ back and look a little constipated, but really, they’re trying to smile. When you see them later in the day, if you’re like me, you’ll smile and say ‘hello’ again. And this is where things get interesting -the Latvian will blank you.

The first couple of times this happened, I made excuses. ‘OK, I’m short, maybe they just didn’t see me’, or ‘Poor guy – he must have a lot on his mind’. But when it kept on happening, I started thinking ‘Well, I’m not that bloody short’, and ‘Really, nobody has that much on their mind’.

So one day, in a bid to at least rule out the short thing, I jumped up and down in front of a student, waved my arms around, shouted ‘HELLLLLOOOOOO’ and wiggled about a bit. There. Nobody could miss that. He did – he walked on by, not a peep out of him.

Can you see me NOW?!

Can you see me NOW?!

Refusing to believe that someone could just not want to talk to me, or shock horror, not like me, I decided to ask my students about this bizarre situation.

“Could it be that, in Latvia, people only get one ‘hello’ per day?”

Luckily, my students are used to my weird/stupid questions at this stage, so they were more than happy to answer. Yes, that’s exactly what it was.

It’s not often I’m stuck for words but this was one of those rare occasions.

Me: But, but…why?

Jānis: It’s a waste of time.

Me: (My speechlessness never lasts for long) I don’t get it. How is it a waste of time? You don’t have to stop and share life stories, just a nod, smile and you’re on your way. You don’t even have to stop walking.

Jānis: But what would he think if I said ‘hello’ twice in one day?

Me: No, you’re right. He’d be running home to his wife ‘Oh my GOD, you won’t believe what Jānis did today…’ (getting into my stride) Oh, oh, and then down the pub at the weekend, he’d be laughing with all of his mates, ‘Wait until I tell you about this crazy guy called Jānis I work with – he said ‘hello’ TWICE in one day!!! Guffaw, guffaw…’

Jānis: (Serious face) Exactly.

Me: (Sigh) I was joking.

Jānis: (Blank look) But seriously, it does get confusing from time to time. Sometimes I can’t remember if I saw the person that morning or if it was the day before. So I’m thinking ‘Was it today or yesterday? Should I say ‘hello’ again or just walk on? But what if it was yesterday and I don’t say ‘hello’? Will he think I’m rude? But what if it was today and now I’m saying ‘hello’ twice? Will he think I’m a fool?’

Me: (Slack-jawed) Honestly, wouldn’t it just be quicker and easier to say ‘hello’ again – just to be on the safe side, rather than go through this tortured internal monologue every time you see someone?

Jānis: No.

So there you have it. The reason why there will never be a Jānis Maguire movie made. He’d be too busy standing outside, dithering over whether he said ‘hello’ that day or the day before, to ever make it through the door.

About BerLinda

Adjusting to life in Germany, after living in Latvia for four years. Should be easy, right?
This entry was posted in Culture and Traditions, Expat, Humor, Humour, Janis, Latvian people and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

126 Responses to You had me at ‘Hello’

  1. Panagiotis says:

    Someone had once told me that if you smile when when being introduced to someone they think you have a mental problem, that there is something wrong with you

  2. Pingback: Rules of Engagement | Expat Eye on Latvia

  3. eNVee says:

    Hi Linda! (damn, I greeted you and introduced myself once in this blog already!)

    Warning! Wall of text.

    A short guide of the latvian greeting habits for you.

    Man meets another man…
    a) Sveiki/Labdien + handshake + saying ones name – they meet each other for the first time ever. This must be done seriously, no stupid smiling! Handshake must be strong, not too long. This is official. It’s a bad sign to forget the other persons name, so better listen carefuly!

    b) Sveiks + handshake – they know each other already, they are colleagues or neighbours, but are not considered to somewhat close. This is done ONLY once a day, a little smile is acceptable, but not mandatory. Same rules for handshake apply. No hugs, and for sure NO kisses. There is no reason to repeat this procedure on the same day.

    c) Čau/Sveiks večuk + handshake + smiling – they know each other very well, probably friends or relatives, could be colleagues as well. At this point a hug is not prohibited (still you may expect some “big eyes”), but no bloody kissing, otherwise considered gay! Why would anyone want to do this again today?

    d) Čaaau + handshake + wide smiles – they are close friends. Handshake may last rather long time. Hugging is totally ok, but no, do not expect them to kiss each other, or else… This is rather long action, no need to repeat it!

    Note: these two meet again, same day:

    case A and B – do not expect them to say or do anything regards greeting. Ok, you may nod.
    case C and D – you can do nothing, just say “atkal čau!” (hi again). But no handshakes, no hugs again. I told about the kisses already.

    Man meets a woman:

    In general it is the same, except that man does not give ones hand for handshake, but waits for the lady. If she is willing to do the handshaking, she will give her hand first. Good manners require to anticipate your own power and not to “wreck” her palm.

    Few more exceptions – you may smile a little, even in cases A and B, specially if you like what you see. Kissing is allowed in case D, rarely in case C. But don’t get too excited about it, or else… well, you dont risk to be considered as a gay, but her boyfriend/husband may not tolerate!

    There you go, cheers!

    PS. Dont take this all too serious, but it is quite true. 😉

  4. Nils says:

    I’m certainly not going to read through 115 comments to find out, but hasn’t anyone explained this? We don’t say “hello” more than once because it would imply that we have forgotten the first time we met that day (which could be kind of disrespectful and/or impolite – like forgetting someone’s name). It’s a bit stupid, but hey – it’s a local custom, aren’t we allowed these? 🙂

    • Expat Eye says:

      Well, ok then 😉 Guess I just don’t see the big deal in this one! It’s hello not mouth-to-mouth 😉

      • Piektdienis says:

        I was going to say just about what Nils said, I think. The point is of course it is OK to say hello again, but it DOES imply in this particular context, that you HAVE forgotten that you already met that person this day. Which IS considered impolite — hey, why the f*k do you greet me, if you are not even aware it’s me?

        I know, because I DO have to greet a lot of people at work during day, and I DO forget whom I have greeted, and I DO get mostly blanked, if I greet them repeatedly.

        On the other hand at work we have people who do not greet their colleagues at all, if they haven’t been introduced to them personally. Which is considered extremely rude and will actually get the person’s manager talked to, in order to rectify the situation.

        Btw, a bit on greetings and smiling about Russians:

        Decently written, and some parallels can be drawn, as, obviously, we have a lot of Russian influence here (whether or not we are ready to acknowledge it) — remember the leopard print clothing — purely Russian style 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        It seems that Latvians are very worried about being forgotten 😉 If I say hello to someone a second time, it just means that I’m seeing them for a second time – it doesn’t mean that I forgot the first time! 🙂

  5. glic an ear says:

    Saying Sveiks! in Latvia quite often accompanies handshaking for men. It is not equal to english Hello – Latvians use also italian Čau! that is more appropriate to Hello. Sveiks! is short version of How are you?, that implies, that replying person haven’t seen you for some time and can share news – IF there are any. To be safe and not waste other peoples time and energy complaining about hard life, it is also possible to reply with Vesels! – this might be something similar to that how british people actually are using HowAreYou?
    Since using Sveiks! for men involves handshaking procedure with everyone whom he meets, this *might* be a waste of time. If you are just passing by someone whith whom you greeted already Saying Sveiks! to someone again means, that one of you have missed them and could be interpreted as rude(or sometimes polite) reminding that he didn’t notice your Sveiks! earlier… Also people do not use Sveiks! on second(third and so on) encounter – to more familiar people it would be rude – if you know person, then you can use small talk and ask where he is heading… if direction is not the same, you can exchange some shorter small talk or even invite for dinner but if direction is the same you can even both accompany each other and chat even more.

    The rules of this behaviour can be described as followed: vilku barā esi – kauc līdz 😉

    I’m originally from countryside(like most latvians) and these rules of greetings are more understandable, because people in countryside usually were on field working or when they went to some places, where there were more social life, they were there also for just a moment(weather can change, animals needed care and food and so on), so there was not really much time for talking, but they like to do it – I know it for sure. If people sometimes just passed by, when someone was working they used more appropriate greeting Veiksmi darbā! Many rules of Latvian behiavour actually are based on sharing. Time is resource. If you are working and someone is coming to you for a talk, then he is stealing time. You are expected to help, but since you also have many things to do, you are just wishing success with Veiksmi darbā! and maybe share some news and go on on your own business. Also there is rule for eating food in a bus, that is really widespread in UK – latvians can eat something in bus(though this is not really comfortable), but they are expected to politelly ask to share everyone else around – this would actually mean that by default they have approval to do so, if there are no complaints. Also if you are on a bus and there is some kid and you are eating candies, this is not really nice, that this kid has to swalow saliva… Also I just remebered one more thing that I don’t like about public transportation in UK – if there is someone behind you and he is coughing, then most probably he doesn’t shield mouth with hand – there is quite a big chance, that something sticky would be in your hair… other than that – I find, that polite people in UK(it more relates to northern part) are quite similar to that mentality of latvians as country people are sharing – because of this I’m feeling in UK just like in Latvia.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Oh god, the something sticky in your hair part almost put me off my cake 😉 Thank you for your very detailed explanation! I’m going to be watching everyone like a hawk from now on to see if they follow ‘the rules’ 😉 Linda.

  6. Well, Latvians are pretty closed people. Perhaps it’s the heritage of Soviet times and lack of personal freedoms, perhaps it’s just the Northern climate but that’s how it is. We don’t want to lose face and that’s pretty much why Latvians tend not to share outrageous or controversial opinions (or they simply do not express their opinion, for example in classroom) at all. That also is evident in your conversation with the guy. It really is so, we worry about ”looking silly”/losing face even in such a simple situation as saying ”hello” more than two times per day. I remember even yesterday I greeted a colleague in the morning and later went out for a lunch and when returned back I saw him standing outside and smoking and greeted him again (after that, thinking for a few seconds what an idiot I was, as I had already greeted him in the morning) 😀

    It’s just what people expect from you here, an unwritten rule that you only say ”hello” once per day. If you greet somebody twice during the same day, you might get the same stare as when Borat in the TV show told people ”I had a good shit” after coming out of the bathroom. It’s just an unwritten rule to say ”hello” one time per day only.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha ha! I love the Borat comparison! Quite true! Yes, it took me a while to realise that that was what was going on – it was only when I had it confirmed by my students that I could actually believe it 😉 Yesterday, I was quite proud of myself for stopping myself saying hello twice to someone – first time I’ve managed it 😉

      Thanks for the comment Andris! Linda.

  7. K says: – “Rules” in Finnish trams. Hmm, sounds familiar? 🙂

  8. kriss says:

    I am a Latvian and I am sorry about the cold attitude of Latvians. It is just how Latvians communicate. I have noticed this thing too. I think only escape is to find some friendly, easy-going Latvians and stick with them. There are such Latvians too.

  9. sandradan1 says:

    With the Spanish, it’s staring. I don’t think they just stare at us, though that’s certainly what we thought in the beginning, I think they stare at everyone who passes by. If you smile and nod at them, they smile and nod back. The stares are not threatening. Is it curiosity? Not, sure, I think it’s just that we English are taught when we are knee-high that staring is rude. The Spanish are not embarrassed to stare. SD

    • Expat Eye says:

      Here it’s glaring 😉 Staring I could handle! Today this woman I’d never seen before looked at me like I’d just stomped her puppy or something 😉

      • aabola says:

        I notice the glaring thing only when I moved from LV to Copenhagen. But the funniest thing is that I am also doing it without realizing. Sometimes in metro just (what I think) normally apsorving people I meet a surprised still worried look from somebody. An yea .. then I realize that I probably had the meanest looking, from toe to top scanning stare that Latvians grow up with 😀 . Now I am starting to control it and look at people with some kind a smile ( because not staring is something impossible for Latvian ) And now I know that Latvian scanning stare with smile looks like madly in love flirting … 😀

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ha ha, staring with a smile! It’s a start I guess! 🙂 You’re living in the happiest, least corrupt nation on earth so you can afford to smile a little 😉 I would! Thanks for following the blog! Linda.

  10. Brilliant. Just brilliant. And utterly hilarious! Now, wait a minute, we’ve kinda chatted already over at my blog so who’s the fool now, hey? I can’t believe I just said hi again here. Dammit.

  11. barbedwords says:

    I tried this out at school pick-up this afternoon. Everyone I’d already said hello to this morning said hello again so it’s obviously not an Italian trait! Also, now I think about it, the kissing thing doesn’t seem to happen with people who see each other everyday, seems to be more when you go to someone’s house or see them after a bit of a break. Or maybe they just don’t want to kiss me??

    • Expat Eye says:

      I’m sure that’s not it – you sound very kissable! 🙂 Love that you’re carrying out little experiments on behalf of ‘the cause’ haha! 😉

  12. nancytex2013 says:

    In a previous life, when I worked for the technology behemoth, I used to meet several times per year in various European cities with my global counterparts. The first time was in Copenhagen, another bastion of warmth and demonstrative emotion. My comrades from the Baltic regions seemed to fit right in. Fast forward to the next meeting in Paris, with all the kissing, repetitive greetings, and general invasion of personal space. 🙂 The representatives from Lithuania and Latvia looked like they were about to have an aneurism, likely caused by constipation.

  13. Anna says:

    This is hilarious. And applies in Russia, too – my colleagues and I always greet each other in the hallways in the morning, but then I get all kinds of weird if I run into them again in the afternoon. Pretending not to see the person or to stare stone-face seems weird, so usually I just go for a tight-lipped smile and a nod.

  14. Zane says:

    Well, yes, it is a waste of time, because it doesn’t mean anything, Latvians don’t do anything if it doesn’t mean anything or is pretentious. 🙂 I think us, Latvians, have a bit different perspective on relationship between people. We are closed up but if we invite someone into our “space” it’s friendship forever. And others are just strangers for us. Of course no one will ever pass you second time a day on street without glancing, nodding or smiling, but the “hello” part is unnecessary. But if this person is more than just acquaintance then you definitely stop and ask how’s it going, this must be destiny we meet twice, so maybe we should stop and grab a tea.
    Northern countries don’t spill their hospitality over everyone they meet. You can call it cold, snobby or maybe just cautious. You can blame mentality, history or weather, but that’s the fact. We don’t jump on strangers with questions with “Howdy’, partner!”, kiss their face all over (like Italian or French) or press our presence if we are not sure if it is wanted.
    The main thing I want to say – there is no right or wrong way. You just have to accept local mentality and way of things. I bet many ways of doing something in Ireland would seem totally strange to a Japanese or Argentinian or… Latvian. 🙂

    • Expat Eye says:

      And I would totally read that blog 😉
      I guess what I struggle with is why everything has to MEAN something! Why can’t it just be a friendly gesture, a moment of shared humanity, a moment of shared crapness when you’re both standing waiting for a bus in the freezing rain, an ‘aw, you’ve got a cute kid/dog moment’…I just don’t get why people have to overthink something as simple and innocent as a smile or a hello! Why is it fake if I want to acknowledge that I know you and like you? Of course it doesn’t mean that I want everyone to be my best friend – that would just be ridiculous. But tell me, how does anyone here make new friends???

      • Zane says:

        For making friends – there are many ways and not necessarily it involves talking to strangers in pouring rain. And again – I want to remind that there i no “right” way to do something. Some do like this, some in other way. Just accept it.
        But about meanings and value of words – I genuinely think that it’s better to say less with a bigger meaning, than more with no meaning. In my humble opinion, that’s why so many people use for example word “love” in just… the wrong context. You can’t love popcorn, be in love with indie music or love the sound of dogs howling and at the same time say to your significant other – I love you. That’s why northerners use “like” to describe preferences and “love” only when they really mean it.
        This is our mentality. And again – no right or wrong ways here. It would be pretty boring if all of us were the same and acted the same.

      • Expat Eye says:

        True. About the rain thing, I didn’t mean it so literally. I meant it as a moment of shared sympathy in a crap situation – then you go on about your business feeling a little brighter. And trust me, I have no problem overusing the word ‘love’ – ‘hate’ would be closer to the mark 😉 And don’t even get me started on the word ‘awesome’…

        But actually, I met my best friend in New Zealand in quite random circumstances. I was waiting at a bar – alone – for an American guy who then texted to say that he had a serious case of the shits and couldn’t make it. I snorted with laughter, she and her friend looked over, we got chatting, had a fantastic evening – way better than I would have had with the dude I think! We became firm friends and ended up travelling around the country together. We’re still in touch.

        So no, while there’s no right or wrong way of doing things, I’m just saying opening yourself up to the possibilities has always worked for me. I treat everyone I meet the way I would like to be treated. If they turn out to be a total asshole, then no big deal. On to the next one. Generally though, there are far more good people out there than bad ones. But if you treat everyone with suspicion, you’ll never find that out.

      • Zane says:

        Well, what works for you might not work for me or others. And if a person is introvert (which most Latvians are), then just don’t intrude. They don’t like to be bothered and therefore don’t bother others – just like you said – they treat people like they want them to be treated. But it doesn’t mean that in “crap situations” they won’t be able to come together, have a logh or strike a conversation. 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        Fair enough! I never realised I was such an extrovert until I moved here 😉

      • Anna says:

        Hmm… introvert/extrovert is a psychological personality profile. Not sure nation-states are formed on that basis 😉 I’d say societally-reinforced socialization norms is a much more appropriate explanation of behavioral quirks on a broad scale. Raise a Latvian in the US, and I bet it will be “hi/hello/howdy” all day long! 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        Very true. Look at Ms Desaine, raised in the UK. A more outgoing and extrovert young lady you could not find…

    • Zane says:

      Well, this is ridicoulous, because all this sounds like: “Me good, you bad! OMG!”

  15. What were you thinking asking for a second hello in one day? Clearly, you were asking for it. 😉

  16. Karolyn Cooper says:

    Interesting. I would say “Good morning” once only. That’s a greeting that only works the first time you see someone that day. But then I will “hello” “hi Linda” all day long. Maybe even “hello again” with a big smile if we see each other twice in quick succession.

    What about the countries where people greet each other with kisses? Are there rules about one kiss a day?

    • Expat Eye says:

      Interesting point! Maybe someone living in Italy, France can help???

    • bevchen says:

      Some people here do the kissing thing (I live in Germany, but close to the French border). If you meet in a bar or something, they’ll do the kissing thing once when you arrive and again when leaving. I’m not sure whether anyone does it if they just happen to run into someone in the street though… this is not actually France/Italy so there probably aren’t the same rules.

  17. The Rider says:

    South Africans are much friendlier- some even say “have a nice day” after they have robbed you at gunpoint…

  18. 1WriteWay says:

    Try saying “goodbye.” Are they willing to do that more than once a day?

  19. linnetmoss says:

    So the “cut direct” is not considered rude if one has already been acknowledged that day??? Why not save even more time and only say hello once a week, or once a year? Why not just say hello once and for all, and have done with it?

  20. laine says:

    That is strange, all my life people have greated me the second time around with a lovely smile and “and here we meet again”. In Rīga. In Valmiera. Etc. Its the french who stress its “rebonjour” actually when i have accidentally said hello the second time. Are you sure you have not moved to France, then everything you write would make much more sense to me.
    But then I do not know a single person in Rīga who would take english lessons at the level you describe, so obviously Not the same country/universe:)

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha, I take the liberty of putting all conversations in ‘real’ English 😉
      And no, I’m pretty sure I’d have noticed if I’d moved to France! Are you sure you’re not drinking heavily right now??? 🙂

  21. Lila says:

    oh but Linda… I never thought you ppl from the anglosphere are so different… but it does make perfect sense. hello is a greeting. u greet a person when u first see them during the day (in russia). then if u see him again u just say hey whats up or what r u doing, when do u have ur lunch break, lets go drink some tea=)) but if say hello to someone twice a day in russia he ll actually reply – we already greeted each other/saw each other today. saying hello for the second/third time around is like saying good morning at 6 p.m. in russia. here in germany ppl hello me several times a day, and smile, yet they rush off home from work so quickly and nobody seems to invite me for tea except for my foreign non german friends=) and everyone in my office avoids sharing a table with anyone if they can. i d rather take the genuine eastern european friendlyness over the fake western politeness anyday (not saying that all westerners are always fake though). btw try to replace ur repeated hellos with “whats up, wanna have a cup of tea” next time and see if that has any positive effect=)))

    • Expat Eye says:

      Oh god, this is such a bullshit argument and I hear it all the time. Westerners are so fake blah blah blah. At least Latvians/(insert any cold nation here) are ‘honest’.

      Trust me, if you ever go to Ireland, people will smile at you, ask you how you are and mean it, ask you out (for a pint, not tea) – here you have to know somebody for months/years before you can break down the barriers – if you can manage to do it at all.

      And to be perfectly honest, I’d prefer someone saying hello to me and smiling at me than ignoring me/glaring at me. Call it fake if you will.

      And hello/hey/hi – they all mean the same thing. If I said good morning in the evening, it might be a bit strange. Hello works any time.

      • Lila says:

        umm i dont mean u being fake. i my case its indifferent germans vs more open minded russians but then its just my experience. and btw hey and hello is not quite the same… well in russia if a person tells me we already greeted each other today he ll usually smile and not glare at me) i guess what u experience in latvia must be a baltic/ scandinavian thing… but i may be wrong.
        as for the germans, or lets say some of the americans, i met the reason why i get so frustrated with them is because they can be over the top friendly at work and never continue the relationship outside of the workplace. my eastern european collegues (poles, ukrainians, russians) have similiar experience. maybe germans warm up to each other and other westerners a little bot more but i experienced friendliness here on one occasion and then next day u ask for very small help with smth at the office and ppl are stone faced. in russia it just wouldnt be the case. in russia if ppl are genuinbely friendly to u it menas they really care about u.

        i dont know about ireland though. however i ll soon find out about england=))) me and bf are moving to birmingham soon… lets see how smiley ppl there actually are=) im just gonna try remain positive no matter what… and if things go wrong i ll always have my beer to fall back on

      • Anna says:

        I have been getting to the office between noon and 1pm all week, greeting everyone with ‘good morning.’ People just laugh 🙂

    • bevchen says:

      Umm… I live in Germany and I don’t find people here fake. Maybe it’s because I’m also a westerner?? And most people I work with wouldn’t invite me for a cup of tea or to meet up outside of work because I’m just not their kind of person! I have 1 or 2 colleagues I meet up with outside of work – the others are pefectly friendly to me in the office, but we are NOT friends and I don’t expect them to magically become my friends just because we work together…

      • Lila says:

        like i said it must be a bit easier for westerners to make contact with germans. as for me, i made friends with the local irish, english, turkish, japanese and a whole bunch of eastern europenas so i wouldnt describe myself as an unpleasant person who cant make friends. at the same time i noticed that german ppl i work with simply avoid me and other collegues from eastern europe (we have a few poles, bulgarians, and 2 ukrainian girls). at the lunch room the germans sit separate from us (like in high school) and none of us has any contact with germans outside of work. i asked a few friends of mine from the university where i attend a spanish class and from what i observed if anyone is from a poor/eastern/less wealthy contry german ppl stay away from him to the point that he doesnt know his neighbours. the only ppl attractive for the germans are english speakers, especially the brits. my bf constantly gets hit on by german women=)) i used to find this incredibly shallow but then i just got over it.

        what im saying is in russia if a person starts being friendly to u it usually means he wants to get to know u. we give pretty much any one a chance to become a friend at leats u have a chance beacuse we socialize with u and dont ingore u. in germany i had ppl being perfectly friendly to me to the point where i thought they liked me and would want to get to know me but i was always disappointed. now i just dont care anymore. i guess i m one of those ppl for whom a smile really has to meen something. no idea how i would survive in latvia – maybe i d fit right in with my mentality, or on the other hand would be osrascised=)) but i ll never go there anyway so… and yeah dont we all start appreciating our homeland once we leave it? it it wouldnt be for my guy (hopefully a future husband) i d be at the airoprt in a minute, 2 hour flight back to moscow and there we are!! but theres no way i can convince him to live in country where ppl still have outdoor toilets so….poor me=).

      • bevchen says:

        I am English and like I said most of my colleagues want NOTHING to do with me outside of work. Colleagues are colleagues, friends are friends. Occasionally the two cross over… but you can choose your friends, colleagues you have to work with even if you would never have wanted to be friends with them. That’s the situation where I work anyway… I get on with everyone there, but not to the extent that I want to be friends with all of them.

      • Lila says:

        ok maybe back home in russia i wasnt huge friends with every single collegeue but still there was a certain feeling of fellowship, comraderie… we would celebrate every ones birthday in the office bringing pies and cakes and playing guitar and drinking. we knew enough about each other in order to pronounce 30minute long toasts with wishes for the birthday boy/girl. we pitched in money and went to mosocw suburbia for a field trip or picnic on weekends. maybe those ppl did not lend me their life savings and did not ask me to be their childrens godmother but still the relationship was great at alomst every office i worked for in russia. at least tea and cake was always there and shared during lunch break.

        i just cant inagine anything like that in germany in my office. btw do u teach english? if so u could easily make friends wth ur students. it seems to me as if english teachers in myuniveristy have tons of friends – if not friends for life, then at least good acquitances. and also its hard to choose ur fiends when ppl give u no chance to get to know them. i love my foreign friends but it would be cool to have at least a semi friendship with a german person. ur comments o nmost of ur co workers not wanting anything to do with u kinda made me feel sad.

      • bevchen says:

        I have one coworker who I see outside of work… but I have other friends. I don’t live in the same town I work in, so it would be more difficult for me to see people outside of work anyway. And one of the colleagues who wants nothing to do with me is English btw. BUT people always bring in cakes on/just after their birthday… we have a “Stammtisch” once a month where we all go and eat somewhere, a different restaurant every time. And whenever somebody leaves we all eat lunch together (usually pizza, paid for by the company). Most days we don’t eat lunch together because not everybody wants to eat at the same time. The atmosphere is not unfriendly. Oh, and I work as a translator… no students.

  22. Ilzele says:

    Your story reminds me of something my coursemate from Cameroon experienced when he had just moved to Germany. Now, if I got it right, in Cameroon it is common to shake hands, A LOT. You cold end up shaking the hand of a person you’re talking to multiple times during the same conversation. And, naturally, every time you meet a person you know (independent of whether its the first or the fifth time you see them that day) you would shake their hand. When he tried to do the same in Germany the German person whose hand he was trying to shake for the second time that day would become very confused (and, I assume, slightly embarrassed) and reply with something like: “no, no, but we already did that!”

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha, yes, I can just imagine their faces! I guess a lot of these Northern/Eastern European countries are similar! If I didn’t say hello or, at the very least, smile at a person I worked with – no matter how many times a day I saw them – I’d be branded a ‘stuck-up cow’ or worse 🙂

  23. mikemajor9 says:

    Ah life in the land of the cold, brooding Janis’s! That just sucks 😦 — Here in Canada we say hello every single time we pass the same person in the corridor at work – they might be in the next office – you might pass them 20 or 30 times on any given day – if you fail to at least nod, even once, you are branded a total prick for life. Seriously. It’s the law. We’re really nice here in Canada… mayor of Toronto excepted obviously.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Yeah, it’s like that in Ireland too – without the sucky mayor, of course. He’s one of a kind I think!

      Oh, and I just read Hollowroseheart’s latest – you know where I am, right?? 😉

      • mikemajor9 says:

        Haha! Yup, you’re in for sure 😉 — oh nope, hang on a sec… I just remembered you said you’re more of a two swordsman gal… dammit – that just won’t do 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        I could make an exception 😉 Just don’t tell anyone – you’ll ruin my reputation! 🙂

      • mikemajor9 says:

        Sweet – alright, we’re back on like Donkey Kong! — Can you just imagine though really? I mean, Hollowroseheart and her pair of love monkeys are having one crazy time of it. What a wild set-up. I try really hard not to think about it… like all the time. She keeps totally making fun of me and rightly so 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ha ha, on like Donkey Kong – love it 😉

        This blogging thing has been a bit of an eye-opener for you alright – sometimes I worry it’s all too much too soon! 🙂

      • mikemajor9 says:

        Oh man you ain’t kidding! An old long-time married dude like me — I simply had NO IDEA what you young gals were getting up to out there in the world these days. Not gonna lie though… I enjoy reading all about it 😉

      • Expat Eye says:

        You’ve been upgraded from Blogdaddy to Horndaddy 😉

      • mikemajor9 says:

        Sad… but oh so true 😉

      • Expat Eye says:

        You say it like it’s a bad thing 😉

    • Anna says:

      I love that Canadian politeness has become a punchline. I want to live in a country like that 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        Let’s ALL move to Canada! 🙂

      • mikemajor9 says:

        This is the best – from the Urban Dictionary:

        Canadian Standoff – A situation in which both parties are too nice to let themselves win at the other’s expense. The opposite of a Mexican standoff.

        For example, if two Canadians arrive simultaneously at a narrow doorway, each is likely to stand aside and invite the other to cross first, and so on, until they both give up, set up camp for the winter, and offer each other a beer.

        This actually happens 🙂

      • barbedwords says:

        The Canadian Standoff is the exact opposite of the Italian Standoff where if two Italians arrive simultaneously at a narrow doorway, neither would ever let the other go first or be seen to give up. They would be stuck there until an English person comes along, apologises to everyone for no particular reason and enlarges the doorway until they can both go through together 😉

      • mikemajor9 says:

        Ha-ha! Too true — apologies all around all the time for we Brits and Canucks. Someone bumps into us – what do we say? “I’m sorry.” We’re all mental 🙂 — and ah yeah, those virile Italians eh?

      • Expat Eye says:

        An Irish person would just fall through all of you in search of a loo after a few pints too many 😉 We’d say sorry while we elbowed you out of the way though!

      • mikemajor9 says:

        Ha-ha! Yup, so long as you say sorry as you charge on through – we’re good 🙂

      • Anna says:

        I love this so hard!

      • Expat Eye says:

        Don’t say ‘love’ – the Latvians will read it and get angry. Jeez, you ‘love’ a dictionary definition. What do you say to your partner?! 😉

      • Anna says:

        What ‘partner’… >.<

      • Expat Eye says:

        Or parent… 😉 Or someone that you love (keeps digging) 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        Phew, yes, that’ll do nicely! 🙂

      • mikemajor9 says:

        …and we all know that hard love is the very best kind of love 😉 — ahhh! so sorry – just couldn’t resist 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        I have to agree 😉 But you knew that anyway!

      • mikemajor9 says:

        Yup. Yes I did 🙂 The harder the love the better am I right? 😀 Okay, I promise to behave myself now.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Damn, just when things were getting good 😉
        (Cold shower time) 😉

      • Anna says:

        Never apologize for raunchy low-brow humor. It’s always a winner in my book!

      • Lila says:

        actually when someone bumps into u it may be ur fault so i either say sorry or be carefull. however if in russia someone steps on ur foot and u apologize it may be interpreted as a sign of weakness by those crazy pushy babushkas in the metro and they may actually snarl at u after stepping on u!!

      • Anna says:

        Those Babushkas saved the world from Nazis, they’re allowed.

      • Lila says:

        um maybe… but unfortunately the younger generation is picking up that habbit too so now when someone steps on me or pushes me in russia i just glare back.

  24. Ye Pirate says:

    Oh you haven’t seen the Finns…the Latvians are mere amateurs at that, mere amateurs….! Seriously…even with your Latvian training I think a Finn could take your breath away in this regard!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Wow, if it wasn’t so expensive there, I’d give it a go! 🙂 Maybe I could break them!

      • Ye Pirate says:

        Would be wonderful if you did! Not even sure why they invented Nokia other than to avoid face to face. But even by phone it is an experience,and the ignoring thing – amazing. You can go out for a few..expensive..drinks with a Finn..the next morning they won’t even acknowledge your presence….or spend the night together and same happens as the norm according to others. Has to be seen to be believed…

      • Expat Eye says:

        I’m now looking at my Nokia like it’s the enemy 😉
        That does sound pretty intense! Nice, if you never want to see the person again though – you don’t have to be polite in trying to shake them off! 🙂

  25. Strange thing… it won’t let me ‘like’ the post… maybe because I ‘liked’ already earlier on today???? WP has caught the Latvian bug!
    I’ll try and re-load. Maybe that’s the answer… to everything.

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