Expat Eye on Latvia

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

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

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?