Latvians and their backsides

On Friday, as I had a nice early finish, I decided that it was about time I made an appointment to have my hair cut. I had been putting this off for a while, partly because I was afraid that the hairdressers of Riga might be reading my blog and I’d end up bald as a coot. The other reason was that no matter how much I say, “I want the fringe left long – below my eyebrows”, they always cut it too short and I end up looking like this:

Not a good look on me

Not a good look on me

I popped into the hairdresser’s on my way to my last meeting and made an appointment for around an hour later. At 1.15, I found myself twitching nervously in the chair in front of the mirror, having my typically awkward hair confessional.

Supermodel Hairdresser: Oh, you must be getting your hair cut for tomorrow – you know what day it is?

Me: Yeah, International Women’s Day. No, that means nothing to me. I’m getting it cut because it’s been 9 months since my last haircut.

SH: (makes a valiant effort not to look horrified) Oh. Um, OK. Wow, your hair is actually in really good condition! How do you normally style it?

Me: Style it?

SH: (Sigh) So, what do you want done?

Me: Y’know, just a bit off the back, TRIM the fringe.

SH: OK, how much would you like off your backside?

Me: Well, quite a lot actually but I’m not sure you can help me with that…

Over the last week or two, I’ve noticed a few of my students and clients saying ‘backside’ when they mean to say ‘back’. For those who don’t see the difference, ‘backside’, certainly in British English, means ‘arse’.

Latvian backsides

Latvian backsides

I had just come from a meeting with a client who was preparing the opening speech for an international conference. The participants would all be given badges with information about the conference on them. I was going through his speech with him, making sure that the English was correct.

Jānis: On the front side of your badges, you can see your name and personal information. 

Me: OK, I think you should just say “on the front”.

Jānis: Right. (making changes) And on your backside, you’ll find the wifi code, twitter hashtag and other contact information. 

Me: (Picking myself up off the floor) It could be rather awkward if they have to find the wifi code on their backsides. I guess they could ask another participant to look for them. Or if they’re feeling really brave, they could always make the other person drop trou and bend over…

Worryingly, it seems that Latvians are not only a little fixated on their backsides, but also rather fascinated by what comes out of them. A few years back, the Latvian national basketball team made it to the European Championships. Despite not doing very well in the basketball stakes, they put on quite the performance elsewhere. Rumour has it that back at the hotel, one of the players thought it would be a fabulous idea to take a shit in the coach’s shower head…

Brings whole new meaning to the expression “shit for brains”, don’t you think?

About BerLinda

Adjusting to life in Germany, after living in Latvia for four years. Should be easy, right?
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78 Responses to Latvians and their backsides

  1. Back and backside. It is funny because in Latvian the simplest word is actually more naughty. Pakaļa is arse. Although the same root can be used in more formal expressions: aiziet pakaļ (kaut kam) – go back (in order to get something). Griezties atpakaļ – to return. The point is that you have to add something to avoid sounding inappropriate whereas in English the adding of -side makes it naughty.

  2. lizard100 says:

    I noticed that back side is also an American term. We had a dive guide I. Egypt years ago who talked about the backside of the reef. Hilarious! It’s great to read someone who has a strong ear for thus type of stuff!

  3. Aussa Lorens says:

    Hahaha incredible. I remember getting a haircut in China… most traumatizing experience of my life. I don’t think they’d ever dealt with such mangy/naturally curly hair. They sprayed it wet and then started trying to just yank a brush through. My hair was shattering all over the place like some red nest explosion. It was terrible and I didn’t get a haircut for about a year afterwards. I think I need to go hold myself for a while now that I’ve thought of it, actually.

  4. Can you show us a picture of you in that do? Because I don’t know – I think it might look cute.

    Also, it might help me get the shitty shower image out of my head. Uuuuuuuuugh.

  5. lafemmet says:

    Oh my, All I can think of is having a wifi code on my bum and someone asking me for it. I would turn around and then shake my booty. It was funnier in my head. In black and white it just looses something.

  6. If taking a little (uh…a lot) of my backside simply consisted of making a hair appointment, I’m moving to Riga STAT!

  7. barbedwords says:

    Ha ha, enjoyed reading all this post but really laughed at the shit in the shower head bit – nice to know my sense of humour isn’t getting more mature, even if I am 😉

    • Expat Eye says:

      Maybe you could play for the Latvian national basketball team – by the sounds of it, actually being able to play isn’t that important 😉

  8. Claire Duffy says:

    Also glad I wasn’t drinking whilst reading this – brilliant! I actually have the opposite problem with my fringe: my hair grows insanely fast (I swear I can practically see it go at times) so I always ask them to cut it quite short so that I’ll be able to see for at least a week or two… but bloody trendy Swedish hairdressers can’t bring themselves to do it, so I look like a sheepdog most of the time, and have actually got lost before because I couldn’t see where I was going on account of being stuck behind a fringe.

  9. linnetmoss says:

    Funny! But the shorter fringe must give you a certain Betty Page allure… irresistible if you pose with a snake!

  10. Anna says:

    Duuuuude. What’s with all the gross stories later? My prissy princess brain cant process…

  11. bevchen says:

    Some Germans say “back side” when they mean “back” as well… it’s a direct translation of Rückseite.

    You could fit a lot of wifi code on my backside 😉

    • Expat Eye says:

      You could fit half the internet on mine at the moment 🙂 Need to start doing something before summer sneaks up on me! (Picks up muffin) 🙂

    • wasd says:

      Not really dirrect translation, but “aizmugure” is somewhat similar with “backside”. There was time, when I was confused with Front and Rear. Because as Latvian used to hear names, rear does not realy describe something in back phoneticaly to me.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Isn’t pecpuse backside in Latvian?

      • There are so many names for “pēcpuse” in latvian. 😀

        But I also think that “backside” is direct translation, and for me personally “on the back” relates to our other part of the body – our back. It might be strange for you to hear the name backside at hairdresser, but I can relate to those people who say it. 😀

        Thank you for your funny blog post!

      • Expat Eye says:

        You’re welcome! And yes, I can totally see where it comes from! But I’ll use anything for an entertaining blog post – I’m shameless like that 😉

  12. Who cares about the backside, we want to see a photo of the new hairdo 😀

  13. June says:

    Here in LT they tend to cut fringes at an angle, not straight like the rest of the world. I actually have an LT friend who lives in Sweden and came home to get her fringe cut as “they always cut it straight in Sweden”. How’s yours – straight or angled?

  14. In American English, we sometimes use “front side” and “back side” – “backside” used for a person’s posterior is a little archaic and childish here. Still, the simpler “front” and “back” are preferred.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Yes, I looked it up to see if it was just British English. The dictionary said that Americans do use it to mean back – as in the backside of the hill 🙂 Gave me a giggle too 🙂

  15. isbergamanda says:

    I have never heard anyone say “backside” instead of “back”! Lol. Loved this post!

  16. nancytex2013 says:

    Hilarious darling, but most importantly, did she do your fringe right or did she fuck it up??

  17. aliciasunday says:

    Haircuts can be scary can’t they? I’ve got a eighties photo of me with a fringe like the photo above, but maybe I should have gone to a hairdresser instead of trying to cut it myself – it just got shorter and shorter.

  18. bmagpub says:

    Once again, thank you for the chuckle. There is indeed a lot lost in translations! I’m on the ferry with my 22 year old son (work for me, uni for him – english major), and he chuckled too. Glad I didn’t have wine – or it would be on my keyboards backside too. How did the haircut end up? Happy day/evening to you. 🙂

  19. Kaufman's Kavalkade says:

    I tweeted “oh joy, poop” first! And I was right… So gross. haha.

  20. Liene K says:

    This one is pretty easy – the side that isn’t the front in Latvian is mugurpuse – literally “the back side.” If you were to just say “the back of” you would be giving whatever it is human qualities, as papers, signs and things do not have backs (the kind that carry backpacks). However I prefer to keep twitter hashtags and wifi codes off my backside… Thanks for the laugh!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Yeah, I’d never be able to keep the blog going if my wifi code was on my arse 🙂 I had a feeling it must be a direct translation – just sounds so funny in English 🙂

  21. Cindi says:

    Thank God I finished my wine earlier. It would have been all over my laptop screen with my “bwaa haa haaa.” 😉

    • Expat Eye says:

      Thank god indeed! If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s wasting perfectly good wine! 🙂

      • Cindi says:

        I dunno; it was a good wine, but spewing it might have enhanced the effectiveness of the post and the laughter. 🙂

        I’ll have to try the experiment another day. No more wine in the house. Sigh.

      • Expat Eye says:

        What a sad day! 😉
        If you spewed wine all over your keyboard, you wouldn’t be able to write any more and that would be really sad!

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