Well, well, well. Here we are at the 100th post on Expat Eye. Who would have thought that the Latvians and Latvia could be so damn (unintentionally) entertaining? Not me, that’s for sure.
Anyway, I thought that for the 100th post, I would focus on an issue so controversial, so contentious, that it might even rival ‘The Great Egg Cup Debate’ of, well, May.
This issue first came to my attention during a lesson last week as I was expertly explaining the Future Continuous and Future Perfect tenses to a group of students. This, by the way, is the lesson where students gain a fascinating insight into the glamorous world of TEFL teaching.
“At 8.15 tonight, I will be eating beans on toast.”
“By 8.30, I will have eaten my beans on toast.”
What did I tell you? Glamorous…
The final task of the lesson was a speaking one – about the different things we can do to help save the planet. Taking showers instead of baths was one of the topics for discussion. I was ambling around the room, listening to various students talking when I happened to stop by two girls as they were debating if showers really were better as they took ages.
Out of curiosity, I asked them how long they spent in the shower. Thirty minutes was the answer. THIRTY MINUTES! Now these are both average-sized women. Sure, they have hair but it’s not exactly going to rival Rapunzel any time soon. Before my brain-mouth filter kicked into gear, the question was out. “But what are you doing in there for 30 minutes???”
Considering most Latvians think “How are you?” is a highly personal question, I clamped my hand over my mouth in horror, expecting a mass walkout. But no, they calmly answered, “Well first, you have to wash your body, then you have to wash your hair, then rinse it, then wash it again… (Christ, sharing a bathroom with a Latvian woman must be a nightmare), then you put in the conditioner, then you brush your teeth while the conditioner…”
Me: Wait, what? You brush your teeth in the shower?
Me: So you’re spitting into the shower while you’re standing in it?
Ginta: Well, yeah, but…
Me: And brushing your teeth with warm water??
Gunta: Well, of course.
Now call me crazy, but to me, this is crazy. I brush my teeth at the sink. I thought everyone did. In the past, I’ve made the mistake of not turning the tap all the way to cold and the sensation of warm water and toothpaste in my mouth was just horrible. You see, in Ireland we have TWO taps – one for hot and one for cold. In this way, we avoid these sorts of mishaps.
Thinking that maybe it was just these two girls, I put the question to the rest of the class (yes, I’m very easily side-tracked – grammar schmammar). Pretty much everyone said yes and looked surprised that I would even ask the question.
Me: But why??
Only guy in the room/country: Why not? (Yes, it’s him again.)
Now I don’t know if all Latvians brush their teeth in the shower. I haven’t joined them and I’m not planning to. I know some guys who do ‘questionable’ things in the shower – mainly because there’s less cleaning up involved afterwards. (I know one who does this on hotel room floors for the same reason but that’s another story.) But brushing your teeth in there? That’s one I hadn’t heard before.
So tell me – sink or shower? Hot or cold? Wrong or right? Black or white? Help me before this turns into a full-blown Katy Perry song…