The second guest post comes from one of my favourite Latvians. If we were guys, she’d be my brother from another mother. However, as there’s no female equivalent (that I’m aware of), I tend to think of her as my Latvian alter-ego – the leopard print to my Aran jumper, if you will, the grey peas and lard to my boiled ham and cabbage… I could go on but as this is a guest post, I really should hand the floor over to her.
I’m a 27-year-old Latvian girl and a big fan of Linda’s blog. (I didn’t make her say that.) I’ve been living in the UK for two years now. My family lives in Latvia so instead of going someplace nice and warm, I pack my bags and go to Riga whenever I can. I usually fear taking that trip. I have to add a disclaimer – what happened to me won’t necessarily happen to you. A good friend once told me that I’m an idiot magnet. He’s absolutely right. I do attract odd people all the time. This Christmas in Latvia was no exception.
The fun started before I even reached Latvia. I was at the airport waiting to board my flight when I overheard a Sri Lankan girl talking about Latvians. Being a bit of a masochist, I decided to listen.
“Ah, Latvians”, she said. “They are like animals. (Leopards, maybe?) They never smile, they push each other, step on each other’s feet and never apologise”. After hearing that, I had a quick look around. Of course, everyone was listening. Please, I begged quietly, don’t let her say anything else. She continued, “Women are actually okay. But men? Seriously, what’s wrong with Latvian men?” After hearing that, I laughed before I could stop myself. I had a quick look around again. No one else was laughing.
Sure enough, when I reached Riga, the locals pretty much confirmed her thoughts. Not that I had wanted them to. I was standing at the bus stop, reading FB on my phone when a Russian pensioner came up to me and stared at my phone’s screen. I looked up as he asked (not very politely), “What’s the time?”
Feeling all Christmassy, I closed FB to check the time for him when I realized that I hadn’t bothered changing my phone’s settings to show the local time (there is a two-hour difference between Latvia and the UK).
“I’m sorry”, I began saying in Russian while the pensioner was still staring at my phone. “You have to add two hours, see, Latvia is two hours ahead of the…” He interrupted me by saying, “Two hours? Why are you so stupid?” I just stood there, speechless. Undeterred, he continued, “What is your native language? Is it Russian? Latvian?” “Latvian”, I answered. “Now it all makes sense”, he said, all proud of himself. “All Latvians are idiots so it’s not really your fault. You shouldn’t feel bad, I don’t hate you. In fact, I like kids. My daughter is also twenty.”
“Except that I’m NOT twenty”, I said. He ignored me and continued, “I can understand that a girl like you doesn’t see education as one of your priorities. But maybe you should get educated! See, I’m only worried about your future!”
“Oh, I really appreciate your concern!”, I said in a sarcastic voice and rolled my eyes (I have two degrees). The man kept ignoring me. Suddenly, he exclaimed, “Oh, where are my manners! I forgot to introduce myself! I’m Boris, what’s your name?” He started rubbing my arm. “Can you please stop touching me? There is no way I’m talking to you or telling you my name!”, I said angrily. “Come on now, is your name that ugly?”, he asked while patting my arm. I asked him to stop touching me again and had a look around. Surely, someone would step in to help me?
The locals were too busy minding their own business. Fortunately, the Russian guy decided to leave but he made sure he told everyone I was “really stupid and had a really ugly name” as he was leaving.
My adventures didn’t stop there. As I waiting for my bus home, I saw another pensioner glaring at me. I looked down at my boots to avoid his gaze. As you may know, Latvians don’t bother cleaning up after their dogs but luckily, I didn’t see anything there. Meanwhile, the guy kept glaring. His wife gave him a questioning look. He poked her. She started glaring at me too. I remembered that you don’t actually have to do anything to be glared at in Latvia.
Soon, it was time to go home. My parents went with me to the airport and as we had some time to kill, we went into Lido for drinks. There were only small espresso cups but my dad wanted a cup of tea. He asked a waitress if they had any tea cups. She glared at him and walked away without saying a word.
As we stood there looking at each other in disbelief, she came back and said they didn’t have any because there was “a deficit”. Then she walked off again…
After spending a couple of days in Latvia, I realized that I couldn’t wait to go back home. My British coworkers used to ask if I was going home for Christmas. I told them that my home is in the UK. I don’t hate Latvia but I find the way people treat each other unacceptable. As a country, we still have a long way to go. I’m not talking about the GDP growth rate. I’m talking about treating each other in a friendly, civilised manner and accepting each other’s differences.
I know I’m never going to go back to live in Latvia, but I do hope that things change.
So, there you have it. Riga through the eyes of a Rigan. Although I promised three guest posts, I fear that this may be the last one as I still haven’t found someone who’s come back to live in Latvia and thinks they made the right move. Any takers?
Related articles: The Latvians take over! (Part 1)