What to expect when you’re expatting

Came to Riga for lurve? On the run from some dodgy people back home? Or maybe, like me, you just wanted to get out of the arsehole of Poland as quickly as possible. Whatever your reasons, you’re here now so let’s have a look at some of the delights that await you.

Phase 1: Years 1-2

You get off that Ryanair flight and you start to party like the beers are 1.50. Because, well, the beers really are 1.50. You make friends with a slew of locals and foreigners and when you walk into a bar, people shout out your name. The barman has your drink ready by the time you reach the bar and you start tabs in every bar in town.



You experience your first Baltic winter but it doesn’t really bother you too much – mainly because you’re drunk 80% of the time. Snow is pretty. You go ice-skating and snowboard down some very small Latvian hills.

You have high hopes of learning Latvian – it doesn’t really seem that hard, right? You’ve got ‘paldies’ and ‘labdien’ down pat – surely the rest will follow?

You also do things like go shooting, because really, where else would they give a 5’1″ woman an AK-47 and let her go nuts with it?



You are quite tickled by the misery on the faces of the people, and when they let doors slam in your face or barge into you on the street, you smile to yourself and say ‘Oh, must be a Latvian thing!’ and cheerilyΒ go about the rest of your day.

Your flat is held together by duct tape and a few rusty nails but you think this is ‘charming’.

You experience your first Latvian ‘LΔ«go!’ and after 3 days of using a loo in the middle of a field and cleaning yourself with baby wipes, you feel very Latvian.

If you’re a man, you lust after the rather attractive Latvian ladies. If you’re a woman, well, you’ve always got cheap beer.

You also work. A little.

Phase 2: Years 3-5

Everyone in every bar knows your name, which by now is not such a good thing.

You decide to get your head out of your arse and your arse off the bar stool and set up your own company. Things go well and business is good. Now you don’t have time to go out any more.

You realise that you say ‘paldies’ around 8 times more per transaction than any Latvian has ever said over the course of their entire lives.

‘Paldies’ is still pretty much the only thing you can say.

The misery starts to get to you and you frighten yourself when you see your face reflected in shop windows.

Snow sucks. It’s cold, your feet are wet and something as simple as taking out the bins takes on Everest-climbing proportions.

If one more person lets a door slam in your face, you’re going to kill someone.

If you see one more tree, or if one more person says ‘mushroom’, you might just kill yourself.

You think about moving on.

Phase 3: Year 5 – death

You don’t move on.

You spend most nights on ‘your’ bar stool, talking to other people who didn’t move on either about that time you ‘almost left back in 2013′.

You start to go a little mad.

If you’re a man, you start dating women in their early 20s who like wallets.

If you’re a woman, well, you’ve still got the cheap beer.




About BerLinda

Adjusting to life in Germany, after living in Latvia for four years. Should be easy, right?
This entry was posted in Expat, Humor, Humour, Language, Latvia, Moving to Riga, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

131 Responses to What to expect when you’re expatting

  1. Pingback: Giving expats a bad name | Expat Eye on Latvia

  2. hoaphamvt says:

    I love the photo that you taking the beer πŸ™‚

  3. Just wondering if you have visited Kurzemes juurmala? If not it is worth a look πŸ™‚ We have beautiful beaches and small fishing villages along the coast. It is completely different to Rigas juurmala. There is much quieter, peaceful and rural. I would suggest a trip to a lovely fishing village Paavilosta or better have a week or two there in the summer
    It would be like the life in dacha Lila
    described. Well you can get civilised accommodation with toilet and shower inside as well πŸ™‚
    That is the village with the most sunshine days per year πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚
    That is in case you get tired of Riga πŸ™‚ well some thought for the next summer πŸ™‚

    • Expat Eye says:

      I was in Pavilosta last summer actually! Just for an afternoon though πŸ™‚ Might head back at some stage – a bit of peace and quiet πŸ˜‰

  4. Kaufman's Kavalkade says:

    Except for all that it’s great?

    Is the beer that big or are you that small? haha. πŸ˜‰

  5. I think we are in the same book, if not on the same page πŸ™‚ . See http://freespeechlatvia.blogspot.com/ and http://thoughtsfromlatvia.blogspot.com/ (which has the title “Failed State Latvia” but has not been updated for quite a while. Like your stuff. Want to scroll back and check your posts when I get a chance.

  6. Was gonna post a comment but covered by the above! (never point a gun at someone – there’s a person behind you in the distance cowering)

  7. A Swede in Riga says:

    Haha I have had similiar experiences and you shouldn’t care about the hate mail. People without a sense of humor get offended by these kinds of posts so keep it up and keep your mood up!

  8. Reinis says:

    Fun read! And please do go visit Moscow. After Russia you will miss the door slamming. It is not a joke, you sincerely will.

    • Expat Eye says:

      I’ve only been to St. P so far – I’d had 3 fights by the time I got to my hotel room πŸ˜‰ I thought about just getting the next plane back πŸ˜‰

  9. You drink to much. That explains a lot…
    But have to agree, some observation are 100% true.
    And at last in 1/2 of places “Latvian” should be replaced with “Russian”. Because you are living in Riga and apparently not in a best district…


    One thing that you definitely forgot; Latvian state terrorism towards it’s own citizens. Last month they organized a supermarket to be blown up and have covered that up since; but this was probably state terrorism. I live in Riga and hear many people say this. Think about the facts and draw your own conclusions:

    After the attack many people noted suspicious circumstance surrounding it:

    +the attck took place in the main Latvian nationalist week, after November 18th, when the Latvian government usually whips up hatred of Russians.

    +the attack happened in Zolitude, the area of Riga where the most Russians live.

    +the attack happened, not in the middle of the night, when the store was empty, but at 6PM, when the store was at its busiest.

    +the Latvian government refused help from foreign governments, especially Russias. (What did they have to hide?)

    +the Latvian government ordered the scene cleaned up as quickly as possible (what did they have to hide?)

    +despite it being a small incident, the prime minister of Latvia resigned just after a meeting with the president.

    What many people think happened is this: the Latvian government, which has long wanted rid of it’s Russian inhabitants, planned the attack. Placing a small amount of explosives at key points on the roof, timed to explode at a time when the store was at its fullest. (The building work gave perfect cover.) The attack happened without the knowledge of the President. The government thought he would just go along with it, even if he found out. However the President did find out, summoned the Prime Minister to a meeting and there, told him that he knew everything. He then blackmailed Dumb Rovskis, threatening to expose the plot unless Dumb Rovskis resigned and allowed Berzsins to appoint a puppet Prime Minister, who he could blackmail into doing his bidding.

  11. Good blog. Especialy the parts about finanses. I will repost some parts in homepage of this organisation http://www.bestriga.com/en/page/expanded/article/617 [only article in english about us].

    Well, i would argue about thing or two, but in overal its good. I suggest to write more about finances and depresion and less about some dirty place – we can find one like that in any town.

    See, the thing in here is not that we have small salaries, just our regime is much more diferent. From payroll of 800 Latvian lats you got 442 lats on hand. In Ireland from 800 lats (recounted to lats) you would get 780 lats, in England 738, in U.S 736. And in here the regime is much diferent from Ireland democracy, in adition most of people are ready to live in this conditions and the ones who fight against are in lack of finances [if not, then they strike your financial situation]. And the groups who have money to fight, got them from confederates who work in Western Europe –

    so there is first point where we can say thanks to west. And the other is to you – that you talk about these things – so more of … not so smart people can understand that this all is not normal.

  12. Claire Duffy says:

    Brilliant and so true – could be applied to most countries, I think. When I first moved here, a friend told me that for the first six months I’d think everything was so amazing and clever and brilliant and better than anything I’d ever encountered before, and then the honeymoon would be over and everything would be terrible and ridiculous and wrong and stupid, and then after about a year I’d settled into somewhere in between… I still swing back and forth between those two, though!

  13. edward says:

    No offence on my opinion, but you need some serious help.
    I had been couple of times in Riga and also had lived there for a while and only approx.5% of this is true. If you tried to make some attention with this blog to latvians – you’ve probably earned it. I have met dozens of latvians and it depends with whom you’re catching with and how you look on it. I have been in Ireland as well, and I had had in a horrible situations, connections and conditions as well, but what you wrote there makes me puke. I really regret reading this and wasting my time. Hope you’ll find you’re way of surviving.
    Poor next country you visit.

  14. Lila says:

    do u have face cotrl in latvian clubs? in germany they let anyone in which is awsome. and cheep too! beats moscow where they only let in women under 30 in some clubs and men who look rich – and u have to pay for the entrance! but then ive never been in a really posh club in germany yet

  15. Dare I ask what is the Latvian LΔ«go? Wow, only 1.5 years left by your logic….where would you go next? I selfishly would love for you to move just so we can all read your funny views about a new place!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Maybe I’ll come to a town near you – shake up some Germans πŸ˜‰ LΔ«go is the biggest celebration here – midsummer festival. Pagan roots, lots of drinking, dancing and shashliks! πŸ™‚

  16. Aija says:

    After reading this blog, the most obtrusive thought that came to my mind was – how can be one person so unlucky, so depressive and biassed. Where do you find all that leopard print, weird Latvian people and negativity? I’ve lived here for all my life and I’ve never experienced even a half of all these bad things you write about. Darling, maybe you are the one with problems, not the people around you?
    Please, go home as fast as You can, stop tormenting yourself and nibbling the bones of Latvians.You will never understand us because you don’t even try. Criticizing something just because it’s different is quite..narrow-minded. I thought that Irish are more positive and intelligent – this blog proves otherwise.

    P.S. I’m a Latvian. I don’t have single thing in leopard or any other animal print. I wear high heels because I LIKE it. I love our long and snowy winters, forests and grumpy people. By the way, grumpy Latvians are actually very welcoming and sympathetic if you don’t spend your time on spitting in their faces…

  17. Incs says:

    I just read the “summary” of your look at Riga. Quite interesting. However, let me disagree just a little bit. I am probably the lucky one who lives in a beautiful region of Riga (Pardaugava near Botanical garden) and pay less for my 1-room studio-type apartment. It also takes 25 min to downtown. My main point is – yes, we have an ugly face in Riga, but there is also a quite beautiful face of Riga (and not just OldTown). Just a reminder πŸ™‚ Hope your stay in Riga will get better.

  18. Pecora Nera says:

    I love the post, I wonder if Italy has changed me?
    PS the comments are fab especially the Stockholm syndrome πŸ™‚

  19. RΔ«ga says:

    bye bye πŸ™‚

  20. Aussa Lorens says:

    Oh and PS- the title of this post is hilarious. Well done.

  21. Aussa Lorens says:

    Haha! I luuuuurve these posts. How long have you been there?! 5 years?! I didn’t realize it was so long, if so! And your descriptions in this one totally remind me of the Czech Republic in January *shivers*

  22. Ok, I’m no life coach, but surely it’s a simple strategy for you?
    1. Capture a nice Jānis by sinking a few sarkanvΔ«ni, deploying some foliage about your person, and slurring your name so it sounds like β€œLΔ«ga”.
    2. Then, for the fake pregnancy, step up the pancake making/eating a few notches (ok, a lot of notches) and viss kārtībā!

    • Expat Eye says:

      OK, I think I’ve got the red wine part down – slurring ensues. The foliage and pancakes I can work on. But a fake pregnancy?? May be a step too far πŸ˜‰ I’m not sure I want a Jānis that badly πŸ˜‰

  23. brathahn says:

    Hey there!

    Keep up the nice and fun blog!
    My Latvian Girlfriend ( i know, no Leopards though.) and me are often sitting together, reading your blog and laughing our arse ( yep i giggle about ARS too πŸ˜‰ ) off. I donΒ΄t know if I`m in that way lucky. Even though she has her “Latvian Days” still on and off, she learned to cope with my daily rants about the city and country.They are quite similar to yours.
    I try to explain that itΒ΄s mostly not because i donΒ΄t like the place, but actually because i DO. But as soon you address problems or not so well running things you get the response:

    “Why are you talking bad about Riga” – IΒ΄m not, iΒ΄m just not living in a pink bubble. EVERY city has bad things going on.

    “Why are you showing your friends not just the good looking places” – Well because Riga and Latvia is not just the Old Town and Jurmala Beach.

    “Well if you donΒ΄t like it, leave” – Why should i, even though the salaries are bad, the weather is shit and dill is everywhere. Even though there are a lot of bad things, in some weird way i like that place.

    And to the old town bars iΒ΄m not going since a year anymore. Was too creepy that they prepared a drink as soon as i came in πŸ˜‰

    • Expat Eye says:

      Thank you SO MUCH for your comment! It’s so nice to know that there’s a like-minded soul out there! And that you get the same things said to you that I do – your answers are far more eloquent and reasonably-stated than mine though! Sometimes I wonder… πŸ˜‰
      I feel like having a little cry of relief after reading this – you should definitely comment more often in future!
      But really? Not even a very small piece of leopard print hidden in the back of the wardrobe somewhere?? Are you sure?? πŸ™‚

      • brathahn says:

        When i found your blog i was actually thinking the same, ah finally someone who is saying what i am always thinking!

        Well, i wouldn’t call it being more eloquent and reasonably-stated πŸ˜‰ I guess itΒ΄s very much depending on the day and the mood, and as grumpier i get as darker and sarcastic are my ways to point out things which are, in my mind, fucked up πŸ˜‰ and my explanations are then often dearly misunderstood as my mother tongue is NOT Latvian and NOT English πŸ˜€

        Ha actually i should have a look if there is something hidden somewhere in the wardrobe. Who knows, maybe a heirloom of the mother or grandmother πŸ˜‰

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ha ha, you never know! Let me know if you find anything πŸ˜‰ There would definitely be a post in that!! Although your girlfriend might kill you πŸ˜‰

        What is your mother tongue as a matter of interest??

  24. linnetmoss says:

    Dark humor posts sound very northern European to me. Is the Latvian sense of humor a very grim one? Maybe you’re going native!!

  25. barbedwords says:

    Ha ha, excellent post; I’ve always wanted to frequent a bar where they shout my name when I go in though – but only if my name was Norm… I can relate to stages 1 and 2 but I really hope to be back in UK before stage 3! Hope your business takes off so you can escape too πŸ˜‰

    • Expat Eye says:

      I was going to use a pic of Norm but thought I might get in trouble πŸ˜‰ I loved it when they did that every time he walked in! I met him once – he did not look like a healthy man πŸ˜‰ We used him in a Jameson campaign in Ireland. I think I need to stop going to bars before I start looking like that!

      And fingers crossed! πŸ™‚ Everything is going well so far…

  26. Mr Kev says:

    Whoah! Bleakness! (I feel your pain somewhat, though! πŸ˜‰ )

  27. bevchen says:

    The owner of “my” Irish pub used to start pouring my drink as soon as I walked in the door… so I switched drinks πŸ˜‰

    Germans slam doors in your face too. I’m always pleasantly surprised when someone holds a door for me… or thanks me when I do it.

  28. KristΔ«ne says:

    Hi Linda! I stumbled upon your blog just today and pretty much spent the day reading your posts instead of studying for my finals. I really enjoy your writing, it often describes Latvian people spot on. Being Latvian and all I might not appreciate your humour in its entirety, but here it goes anyway – do you actually enjoy living in Riga? I mean, I understand that it’s satire and stuff but it really doesn’t sound like you like anything about Latvia (except for a few times when you mentioned that it’s pretty).

    • Expat Eye says:

      Oops, sorry for keeping you from your studies! But glad you like it (mostly!) πŸ™‚ I know it can come off a bit negative but all in all, I’m pretty happy here most of the time. My students are fantastic, I have some really good friends and a great social life, business is going really well… I do a little bit of travelling around – not as much as I’d like but hopefully that will change in the new year! So don’t let the sarcasm fool you – I’m happy enough! πŸ™‚ I’ll do a nice Christmassy post soon, showcase some of Riga’s finer moments! πŸ™‚ Cheer everyone up. I don’t like Christmas but… for you guys… πŸ™‚ Linda.

    • Zane says:

      This was also my concern – nice to read but it’s so much negative in overall. It’s like – someone has made you stay here and you despise everything about our country and to be honest – for most things I don’t agree, therefore I sometimes question – with what kind of Latvians do you spend your time as I don’t have any friends who wears leopard (only for New Wave themed carnivals), all of my friends and colleagues say “thank you” and smile, never allows to slam doors on someone or be rude in overall.
      I understand sarcasm and I am quite a cynic myself, but from time to time some nice things aren’t that bad. And it’s not a surprise, if everything around is being perceived in a negative spectrum, that you receive negative vibes. Look for the good things and you will be rewarded with good happenings. πŸ™‚

      • Expat Eye says:

        I’m actually sitting working in my favourite Latvian student’s office at the moment – he’s not wearing any leopard print – damn him. Told him he has to wear it in future πŸ™‚

  29. nancytex2013 says:

    OMG…you mean you’ve been there for longer than a few months? What? Why?

  30. JMC says:

    πŸ˜€ What about > 15 years like me ahahahahahahahhahahaha

  31. mollytopia says:

    The is sad, but poetic, and that makes it awesome. So did you start your own company? If yes, how can your pals at WP help you? If not, when can we come claim a bar stool of our own and hang out with you?

    • Expat Eye says:

      I did! It’s a proofreading company but I also teach English – hoping that the proofing thing gets big enough that I can do it from anywhere – and maybe pop back and forth if necessary! πŸ™‚ And you’re more than welcome to pull up a bar stool anytime! I’ll get a round in πŸ˜‰

  32. archecotech says:

    Do what ever it takes to keep the sanity. I really glad I don’t drink. By the way winter’s here suck too!!!!

    • Expat Eye says:

      They sound even worse, if possible! I’m hoping to break this one with a week somewhere sunny! Need to keep the cash rolling in πŸ˜‰

      • archecotech says:

        Had a great time in Eilat, Israel and it was very inexpensive too. We stayed at a hotel there for a week which included breakfast and dinner for 2 and it only cost us $550 for the both of us.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Wow, that is cheap! My best friend here is actually moving to Malta in the New Year so I might try and blag a week with him first πŸ˜‰

      • archecotech says:

        Interesting. I will be in Cyprus in January myself. That trip for 10 days will cost around a grand, which includes airfare, hotel, and food. Will be traveling with the University that I teach with. Really looking forward to getting some good sunshine. Russian winters are a bit harsh, like no sunshine for 3 months.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Then Cyprus will definitely be a welcome break! I find the winters here hard going as well although we do get some clear sunny days!

  33. 1WriteWay says:

    Time to go! Actually, I’m really hoping you’re just still milking Latvia for all its worth, but I guess perhaps there’s not much left to milk? Anyway, life is short, Linda dear, and I do hope you have a plan for traveling to warmer climes and being among smiley people. You’ve paid your dues several times over now πŸ˜‰

  34. Anna says:

    I kid, I kid. I do miss having my ‘own’ bar where the barkeep knows my name and my drink, like in NYC, where I guess I was an expat too. Also the pints in Moscow are $10.

  35. Anna says:

    Mushroom! πŸ˜‰

  36. Well at least you have your sense of adventure! Who knows where you’ll go next or if you’ll stay. and always remember, you’ve always got beer! hahaha love your stories (:

  37. lafemmet says:

    Somebody needs an animal print onsie to brighten her day… that and another cheap beer. Cheers dear.

  38. You’ve got a year and a half left(?) What if you miss the window?!?

  39. mikemajor9 says:

    It really takes some serious lady balls to do what you’re doing there Linda — you should be well proud of yourself. I think after so long living in any other culture it starts to wear on you a bit – I know it did for me after only a couple of years – and that was in England. Hopefully – if you’re interested now in exploring other options – something might pop up in a non-Latvia based circumstance? Before the real madness sets in? — Love the pics of you with that huge beer and double armed with guns — further proof that you don’t mess with Linda!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha, indeed! πŸ™‚ Well, if business goes the way I would like, I should be able to work from pretty much anywhere! All I need is Word and the internet!
      Lady balls, eh? Wonder if I should give them names!? Any suggestions??

  40. arzus says:

    Lol, as a Latvian this reminds me of the time I spent in London some years ago, none of the experience with my life in Riga, tho. I believe that alcohol and desperation during being abroad should never be mixed together, I tried that in London and it lead me to quit drinking altogether. Apart from the alcohol, the first thing that will always make me unhappy whenever I leave home for a longer period of time is the weekends. And by weekends I mean the weekends when I would normally get to leave my daily routine behind, go to the countryside, meet my parents, sisters, family, best friends and do all those positive things together with your closest people which make life worth its worth. You have to have something really positive and worth striving for in your life or else you will go nuts.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha, yeah, I’ve seen a number of cases of it here! I hope I’m not including myself in that number – yet, anyway! πŸ™‚ Are you back in LV now? I’m looking for someone to write a guest post about moving abroad, moving back again and it being a great decision!

  41. That must be one enormous beer that takes two hands to lift!
    How do they say “Cheers!” in Latvian??

  42. Ann Koplow says:

    Great post. Thanks!

  43. Vicky says:

    Hilarious! Sounds like I got out while the going was good!

  44. I think it’s time to get out of Dodge. Run away!

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