How do you solve a problem like a Latvian?

In my (almost) four years here in Latvia, I feel like I’ve got to the bottom of a lot of riddles concerning this land and its people. However, there are some things that still mystify me, even after all this time. So, as my reign here is coming to an end, I thought I’d put them out there and see if anyone can give my poor tired mind a rest. Here goes.  

1. Why does almost every man in Riga carry a man bag, and what’s in it?

Recent weeks have taught me (the hard way) that they definitely do not contain any deodorant, so I’m genuinely curious. 

The man bags and the glad rags...

The man bags and the glad rags…

2. Why do Latvians wear the same clothes for days on end? 

Unlike your average woman, I rarely notice what people wear – I know, I know, but it’s true. However, when my students keep coming to lessons in the same clothes, I notice. At first, I just thought, “Oh, it’s his ‘Tuesday/Thursday’ or ‘Monday/Wednesday’ jumper…”, then I realised it was probably his ‘every day’ jumper.

An ex-colleague and I were delighted when our miserable boss showed up in the same dress two days running – dirty stop-out. But when she showed up in the same dress every day for the rest of the week, still looking as miserable as ever, we realised that she hadn’t got lucky, she’d just got a new dress and was wearing the bejesus out of it. 

Another guy I know seems to only have a summer outfit and a winter outfit. Day in, day out, he wears the same clothes. I’m not sure how many sets of the exact same outfit he has, but I really hope it’s more than one. 

3. Why do the old people in my building scream at each other through their open windows?

In the good old days, when I had time to take a nap in the afternoon, I was generally rudely awakened by the shrieking old biddies in my block having a conversation at a decibel level that made me fear for the safety of my wine glasses. Why, WHY can’t they just go to each other’s apartments and have a conversation over a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake like normal people? (I crossed out ‘normal’ because it has a different meaning in Latvia.)

4. How can a Latvian go into a café and not order anything?

Or worse, bring their own food? How anyone can walk past the counter, sit down, and then take a yogurt and a banana out of their bags without ordering anything from the establishment they’re taking up space in is beyond me. 

5. How is this an acceptable way to board a train?

Good luck

Good luck

Just to give you a little perspective, the top step is roughly shoulder-level on me. The height of each step is ankle-knee distance. I have to hold onto the railings on either side and haul myself onto the train (très elegant in a short summer dress), then cling to the railings and gingerly side-step down, as the steps aren’t wide enough to actually keep your feet straight. How people in their twilight years do it baffles me. 

6. Why is it the law to keep your headlights on all day?

Yet using indicators seems to be optional, and playing Candy Crush while laughing at the notion of a speed limit obligatory. 

7. Why do parents not discipline their children when they’re being brats in public?

I remember feeling slightly miffed in Ireland when some mother would say “Move out of the nice lady’s way” or “Apologise to the nice lady for almost crushing every bone in her foot”. You see, I still think of myself as a girl – delusional, I know. However, in Latvia, I’ve had kids ride roughshod over me with not a word of reprimand from their parents. And while I’d like to blame the little bastards darlings, the buck stops with the parents. Oh, to be called a “nice lady” here, just once…

8. Why do a lot of women wear shoes that are too small for them?

OK, this is a weird one, I know, but seriously, look at women’s feet the next time you’re out and about – 8 out of 10 times, their heels will be hanging off the end of their sandals or flip-flops…

9. Why do Latvians never have their wallets ready?

You’re behind a Latvian in the queue at Rimi. They stand there watching as the shop assistant beeps through their terrifying-looking fish, kefirs and biezpiens. There’s a pause as the last item hits the bottom of the conveyor belt, and THEN, the Latvian will start rooting around for their wallet.

10. Why do Latvians like standing so much?

When I’m on public transport, I like to sit. If I have to stand, I’m always ready to dart for the first seat that becomes available. Not so your average Latvian. If a seat becomes free, they’ll just stand beside it, effectively blocking anyone else from taking it either. 

And finally, just why?

Vodka down neck, cat on neck

Vodka down neck; cat on neck





About BerLinda

Adjusting to life in Germany, after living in Latvia for four years. Should be easy, right?
This entry was posted in Expat, Fashion, Humor, Humour, Latvia, Latvian men, Latvian people, Riga, Rudeness and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

177 Responses to How do you solve a problem like a Latvian?

  1. Pingback: Teaching English in Latvia: Linda - Gee, Cassandra

  2. 1WriteWay says:

    I have a good friend who carries what he calls a “man purse” and he is unashamed! He makes a good argument that to carry all his gear (cell phone, keys, wallet, sunglasses, etc.), he needs more than just a couple of pockets. Now, I’m not saying that’s why a Latvian man carries a man purse. I’m just … sayin’ 🙂 And I, for one, would love to get away with wearing the same thing day after day (I usually spend my weekends in one outfit (usually my jammies) if I can get away with it). Then again, clothes worn day after day do get to feeling a bit gritty (at least) 😉

    • Expat Eye says:

      It’s over 30 degrees here at the moment as well so… gritty is an understatement!
      Ah, I’m a big fan of pj days! 🙂

      • 1WriteWay says:

        I thought you might make an exception when it comes to pjs … then again, I doubt that you would wear them everyday, out in public anyway 😉 I must admit, your item about serial clothes-wearing reminded me of a coworker who wore the same dress 2 days in a row. Everyone snickered that she must have “gotten lucky” along the way. I don’t know if she got lucky or just was very absent-minded but she left me with the impression that clothes don’t smell as good the second day around 😉

      • Expat Eye says:

        Now imagine that times 5 days 😉

      • Expat Eye says:

        New post is up 😉 Wish me luck!

  3. Nerdator says:

    Oh, and speaking of Nr 9 – while I’ve seen this happen, but not often. It’s usually an old lady whose wallet is just in a bag in a bag in a bag, or a bunch of giggling teenagers, or a drunk who’s mentally on Mars at the moment.

    My personal peeve with supermarket lines is different, and happens to me all the time. It’s this rampant disregard for personal space of others, this absolute desire to stand as closely to the person in front of you that you can breathe down their necks. While I personally try to leave a gap of at least half a metre between myself and the person ahead, there is almost always someone immediately behind be, just looming at best – and at worst grazing my backpack or even my back with their stuff.

    I think middle-aged and older people are more guilty of this, but not by a wide margin.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Oh, this is so true too! I find it especially true of the older generation though. So irritating. I feel like they’re trying to climb on my back sometimes! 🙂

      • Nerdator says:

        And it’s not like you’re going to be served sooner, or there is a line-climbing trophy at the end! 🙂

        Another bit of this sort is when you stand next to a shelf for supermarket baskets, you’ve put your stuff on the conveyor, and your basket goes into the pile, so the shelf is already empty, but there are still people ahead of you.

        And at this point the person immediately behind you reaches forward and puts the basket on the shelf right next to you – usually grazing you in the process. I am generally tolerant of this if the basket is full, and the person reaching doesn’t look particularly strong. But if the person just has a box or biscuits or something in there, it’s just screaming ‘I’m invading your space, and I don’t give a toss how you feel about it.’ And I’ve seen a cashier who annoyingly encouraged this behaviour, asking people to do this!

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ha ha! Why on earth would they encourage that! I hate people breathing on me – happens far too often here!

      • Nerdator says:

        I suppose there is no bad intention – more like ‘hey, don’t waste your time, you’re going to put the basket there anyway’. But this sort of false generosity/courtesy just turns out badly, and if you’re the one who’s being asked to do this, you’re trapped – either you pretend not to have heard it and don’t put the basket on the shelf, probably looking like a dick to the ‘nice’ cashier, or you inconvenience the person ahead of you.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Yeah, I don’t think people are being deliberately rude. Just a total lack of consideration for others.

  4. city_cat says:

    oh those trains… that is my pain because often I have to board them carrying a 15-20 kg luggage… a sincere thank you to all those guys who have ever offered their help

  5. Why does almost every man in Riga carry a man bag, and what’s in it? Umm. An extra pair of shoes?!!

  6. I’ve never been to Latvia and in some ways that made this list all the more entertaining. I have a similar list (in my head at this point) about Spanish customs, so I felt like I could relate. The point about the too-small shoes is just bizarre…!

  7. these are the questions in life. i think if someone blocked an available seat, i’d crawl into it the most awkward way for them. those things are covetable!

  8. barbedwords says:

    Many of your comments could also be applied to Italians (especially shouting through windows, wearing too small shoes and never having their wallets ready) so I think you could easily come to Italy if the move to Germany doesn’t come off??

  9. wasd says:

    Well look at that, am I latvian enough? O_O

    1. I hate those things, since I dont smoke and keep my wallet slim at all times, I don’t see any practical purpose on those bags. Me and my friends call them the douchebags not man bags.

    2. I tend to change them, but I am prety minimalistic on my clothing. Since they have mostly practical use. I own 2 pairs of jeans and some bunch of some closes to wear on top. Having a good colection of T-shirts to change when needed. Buying clothes just to change them because of new day seems waste of money for no practical reason whatsoever.

    3. They are practicing vocal cords probably, I have no other idea why. Have seen two people discuss private life. One of them was on sideway, other was up in 9nth floor window of building. Quite a view.

    4. I have seen that happening twice. And they were really old people. One time She was just waiting for husband, and needed to sit in common and visible place, so he can find her. Other time old lady took place with us on our table and tried to sell some vedgetables.

    5. Those things are for athletes only, dont even think about using them. Seriously tho, this is common problem in most of public transportation. In countryside they still use buses that require some athletic skill too.

    6. Most days of the year we live almost in dark, probably thats why.

    7. 50/50 There are awesome parents in public and then there are “those” parents. How can you expect your child to behave if you cant handle yourself in public.

    8. complexes, complexes and once more complexes.

    9. I havent noticed others, but my wallet is ready. Hate to take unneccessary time there.

    10. In public transportation its simple. The seats are dirty, you have no idea what kind of creatures use them when you sleep. Or my stop is just 15mins away, no need for seat. But I don’t recall blocking others from taking a seat, atleast not on purpose.

    Hope this helped a bit. 🙂

  10. Helen says:

    6,7,9 & 10… Are you sure you haven’t accidentally ended up in England? That’s what it’s like in the West Midlands anyway!

  11. 1. I carry a bag every second day and I have a sports stuff in it (+sometimes there is a laptop and/or tablet). I don’t know about the others.

    2. Because good quality stuff costs a hell of a money. So either you have few good ones and wear it daily or you have full closet of shitty ones to change every day. Look at this from financial point- medium salary is around 300- 350 EUR, good jeans in Latvia costs starting from 70- 80. If survival minimum is 280- 300 EUR, then probably you have only one good jeans you buy annually.

    3. Go to Italy, Greece or Russia and ask the same question. It’s not Latvia specific thing.

    4. I don’t know. Maybe to demonstrate how overpriced they are?

    5. Not a Latvian specific problem. There are new trains coming which won’t have this issue.

    6. Not a Latvian specific. All Nordic countries and Estonia has the same rules. It’s proven that it helps in our latitude to decrease traffic accidents.

    7. Pffff… you don’t know Mexican parents apparently.

    8. Never noticed.

    9. I’m wondering about it time to time as well.

    10. Because office workers sits their assess off whole day long and standing is at least some physical activity.

  12. Antuanete says:

    Q2: Contrary to [apparently] popular belief, clothes doesn’t start to stink or disintegrate, if you wear them two or three days in a row (at least if you are not sweating like a pig). I don’t see any reason to change my outfit every day, I’m not out there to impress anyone with the contents of my wardrobe 😀
    Q4: Never seen something like that. But in university we used to smuggle some booze into cafes because couldn’t afford drinks there but were eager to party 🙂
    Q5: Yes, those trains are nightmarish, especially for mothers with strollers. They are really Soviet heritage, just refitted inside, and for some technical reasons all trains were built in such way. As we can’t buy new trains (maybe you have heard about this inglorious public tender), other option is to reconstruct platforms in stations. This is really expensive, only few have been reconstructed somewhere in Aizkraukle and along this line, where recent railway improvements were taking place.
    Q10: I agree with theory that people are just shy and don’t want to be kicked out of the seat by some old lady. I’m guilty of this habit too 🙂

    I have seen this man with a cat nearby my office, and he was actually riding a bike with that cat on shoulders! Very impressive. Had he a GoPro and fixie, he could be Youtube star too!

  13. Kristine says:

    Will try to answer the questions and compare it with what i see here in Ireland:

    1. Why does almost every man in Riga carry a man bag, and what’s in it?

    Why not?! A man has a right to carry whatever it is that he carries in his man bag/backpack/ man tote or whatever. However, i understand where you’re coming from: most of ye average Irish lads will carry all their life belongings in their pockets (unless they have a laptop or sports gear).

    2. Why do Latvians wear the same clothes for days on end?

    Thankfully, none of my friends or family belong to this group, but I’ve seen those. And no, I can’t give you a valid reason for that. Laziness, perhaps? Or “peer pressure”?

    3. Why do the old people in my building scream at each other through their open windows?

    I’ve seen a variation of this: one person is screaming from a window, the other one is outside, sitting on a bench. It’s a generational thing. You answered this in your question already – old people (probably difficult to move, especially if your scream partner lives on the 5th floor).

    4. How can a Latvian go into a café and not order anything?

    I have seen this only when I was a child, i think it’s starting to change now. Probably something from the soviet times?..

    5. How is this an acceptable way to board a train?

    Yeah… have you tried to get in while holding a 20 kg suitcase? Sweet mother of god…

    6. Why is it the law to keep your headlights on all day?

    An it’s a damn good thing that they have this law! I got almost knocked down by a car here in Ireland, because that gobshite decided it was too early to turn on the headlights although it was already twilight. Also, my Irish driving instructor totally agrees with me.

    7. Why do parents not discipline their children when they’re being brats in public?

    Lack of education? Parents annoy the crap out of me in such situations. Even though Irish kids can be pretty crazy, they tend to apologise afterwards. Can’t say the same about Irish teenagers….urrggghhh.

    8. Why do a lot of women wear shoes that are too small for them?

    Haven’t noticed that one.

    9. Why do Latvians never have their wallets ready?

    Linda, you’re becoming too Latvian! You come from a country where a shop queue is twice as slow due to the fact that the cashier likes to small-talk, so what’s the problem with wallets?! 😀

    10. Why do Latvians like standing so much?
    I prefer standing because if I’ll sit:

    a) a granny will suddenly appear and I’ll have to stand up again
    b) said granny will give me a Judgmental Death Stare

    11. Vodka-cat man.
    These people are on the planet solely to make your boring day a bit more interesting.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Love that you said ‘gobshite’ 🙂
      The main thing I’ve learned from this post is that everyone is terrified of Latvian old ladies!!
      Thank god I’ve never had to lug more than a beach bag or backpack of books onto those trains – although I did have to do it in Poland… nightmare!

  14. Daina says:

    I’d rather there be a law re: headlights than not – as in the DC area I am continually amazed by the number of drivers who will drive in foggy and rainy/gray conditions without lights. Also, laws regarding not talking on a hand-held phone or even texting have been instituted in a number of U.S. states, and haven’t made much difference in people’s behavior. If anything, it just sometimes makes the situation worse as drivers try to hide their phones, meaning they are paying even less attention to the road.

    Re: the trains, that baffled me in LV, as well! In general, I really feel for anyone in that country who has any mobility issues. I’m a healthy young-ish person, and I’ve almost sprained my ankle any number of times on Riga sidewalks, and my mom actually had a hairline fracture in a bone thanks to tripping & falling on a Riga sidewalk back in 1992.

    Re: shoes, if you’re a larger size, I can imagine finding a shoe that fits properly in a place such as Latvia is probably damn near impossible – size selection is probably quite limited. One of my female friends who lives in Riga wears a US 11, which is 41 or 42 in Euro sizing, and she did tell me she has a very difficult time. I can imagine it’s the case for anyone with a wide foot, as well. Ironically, I think it was a British publication that just had an article which claimed that very many people nowadays are wearing shoes of the wrong size. People’s feet have gotten bigger (thanks to the population as a whole getting taller – and also fatter), but shoe manufacturers and sellers haven’t necessarily caught up.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Yeah, I guess I’m lucky with my freakishly small feet 😉 My problem is finding clothes short enough!
      And yes, anyone with mobility issues here must find it a nightmare. The pavements are a disgrace and most businesses are either up or down stairs.

      • rower says:

        you said – freekishly small ? my wife wears EUR 34 (being “measured hight” 158cm) . really rarely 35 (wrong chineese 35 sometimes happen to be 34). it’s near a nightmare. i’m stuck with EUR 39.5 – that’s nearly impossible to find, too.
        pavements and buildings in general – look, most (like 96.8%) are either from mid-war years (1920-1940), or soviet heritage (sleeping blocks). soviets “did not have” impaired people. this was general politics. earlyer – really rarely anyone cared about impaired. whatever has been built lately – usually has every means to accomodate wheelchaired.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Yeah, freakishly small was a bit of an exaggeration 😉 They’re perfect for my height!
        Are they ever going to do up the pavements do you think??

      • rower says:

        i’ve heard, they’re working on it. and one freind from canada commented it as “as ususal, work my S.” … but no, in fact “they” are retrofitting some block-houses with lifts for impaired. and pavments in respective areas, too. eventually, everything will be fixed. i just hope, that my grandchildren in theyr elder age will get to see that. or did you mean what pavements ?

        and a small note on trains. the “heritage” from soviet times is not the highth of platform, but rather the highth of train floor. this thing was unified throughout USSR (as train production was mainly concentrated in just a couple of places. at least – a lot of “short cirquit/near city” trains were made in Riga). however, the platforms were made more or less unified for each republic (short-span trains did not have an option on quickly retracting “top-step” gap filler, inter-republican trains, on contrary, still have that thing installed, and it’s manually operated). it’s not possible to change platforms overnight – so it stays as it is. and for a while it will stay that way.

      • Expat Eye says:

        I guess they go and they usually go on time. For me, that’s OK but for others…
        And yeah, I meant more the pavements – blaming the war is only valid for so long 😉

  15. 2. Why do Latvians wear the same clothes for days on end?
    I am wondering about this as well. I find it impossible to wear the same thing 2 days in a row. But some of people I know still do it. One of those people I am thinking of – she just doesn’t care that much of what she’s wearing, maybe a bit lazy in that area? Compared to me at least (I like dressing up).
    I think it’s historical. Something to do with Soviet times? When I was a small child I had like one pair of jeans and wore them almost every day. And a couple of sweaters. I am still horrified of how my parents dressed me. Have no idea why it was like that. Apparently they just didn’t pay attention to such thing. Were busy and didn’t care enough? As soon as I started caring about my clothes it changed, of course.
    I think it has something to do with some strange post soviet patterns of thinking.

    • Expat Eye says:

      When I look back at how my mother dressed me… 😉 And my best friend’s mother cut her hair so short she looked like a boy – seemingly that would strengthen her hair for life 🙂

  16. Vilx- says:

    TL; DR. If someone else has already commented this – +1 from me.

    1. Why does almost every man in Riga carry a man bag, and what’s in it?
    Varies from man to man. But. seriously, where else do you put your wallet/phone/pen/etc? Women have handbags that often seem to bend the laws of space-time. Why can’t men have bags for their stuff too?
    2. Why do Latvians wear the same clothes for days on end?
    I think you just noticed the few oddballs. They’re not the rule, they’re the exception.
    3. Why do the old people in my building scream at each other through their open windows?
    Cause you got shitty lazy neighbors that don’t want to leave their apartments to chat. Again – exception rather than rule.
    4. How can a Latvian go into a café and not order anything?
    Due to the overall economical situation (and historical economical situation in the Soviet Union) a lot of people in Latvia _don’t_ eat out everyday and rather take homemade lunches to work with them. I think it’s not so common in other countries. That’s why a microwave and a fridge are standard equipment in Latvian offices. Some people though want to go out of the office to have lunch. A nearby cafe is a convenient place then. A lot of establishments don’t allow this though.
    5. How is this an acceptable way to board a train?
    Trust me, we’ve all been wondering this for the past many decades.
    6. Why is it the law to keep your headlights on all day?
    This one MUST have been answered a zillion times in the comments already. The lights are on because they really DO make it easier to spot other cars on the road. And that’s true not only at twilight/night, but also (and especially) at daytime. It really makes cars stand out, and you can much easier catch them from the corner of your eyes etc. So, basically, it improves road safety by making cars more visible. People who don’t use signals/text/speed are usual road criminals, found equally in all countries, and punished just the same here as anywhere else.
    7. Why do parents not discipline their children when they’re being brats in public?
    You should read Seriously, in Latvia, it’s pretty good.
    8. Why do a lot of women wear shoes that are too small for them?
    The definition of “too small” can be rather subjective. 🙂
    9. Why do Latvians never have their wallets ready?
    Haven’t noticed this, will try paying attention now.
    10. Why do Latvians like standing so much?
    Because they think that darting for the first seat that becomes available is rather rude to the other passengers who might also want that seat. 🙂 Also, they’re not blocking it. They’re just not moving from the (standing) place they’ve taken (most of the time the transport is too full to move anywhere else anyway). Anyones welcome to sit in the empty seat and if you approach it with clear intentions to sit there, they will move aside.

    • Expat Eye says:

      I always make my intentions pretty clear 😉

    • Nerdator says:

      Regarding question 10, I personally prefer to stand in public transport (I’m talking about city transport and Riga, obviously), because I sit so much otherwise. If I’m only in for a few stops, looking for a seat is too much of a nuisance – I’m getting out soon anyway. Plus, I don’t want to look like a decrepit old geezer for whom standing is hard work.

      Generally, people obstructing access to free seats happen only in full buses/trams/trolleys. With one exception – the bloody small yellow buses. These things are from hell – they’re so cramped that no matter what you do inside of them, you immediately become an obstruction.


      As to the ‘granny’ conundrum mentioned above, I have a solution that allows me (at least internally – and legally – which is all that counts) to retain a high moral ground and not give a toss about old ladies’ being annoyed at the lack of proper deference.

      There are seats with stickers next to them, saying, in short: ‘if you’re impaired somehow, this seat’s for you’. I never take these seats. If you are a crotchety old person, go and take them, and feel free to be entitled about having the privilege to take them.

      Otherwise, it’s not my job to accommodate you. If I’ve taken a seat, I’m either tired or I am riding across the entire city, so I bloody well need it, too. I mean, I could give away my seat if asked politely. Obviously, this never happens – old ladies are old school.

  17. Juune says:

    1. Why does almost every man in Riga carry a man bag, and what’s in it?
    Since when carrying a bag is a crime, seriously? As for the contents — anything like a wallet, a laptop, a book to read while on a commute, a screwdriver, a pocket knife, a bottle of water, a packed lunch [to be eaten at some cafe] …
    More seriously though I don’t love what constantly carrying things in pockets does to my hubbies jeans [leaves marks and lated holes in the shape of his phone/wallet/whatever], so I actually convinced him to get a bag instead.
    2. Why do Latvians wear the same clothes for days on end?
    If the person changes the t-shirt daily under the jumper and is not too prone of dropping food onto the said jumper, it’ll easily stay decently clean for a week. Think about what would become of our planets limited natural resources if every person on the globe changed all the clothing every day! More clothes, more laundry … That kind of lifestyle isn’t even sustainable!
    3. Why do the old people in my building scream at each other through their open windows?
    No idea. They obviously like to? Never had neighbors do that. Maybe it’s time for new windows with a better sound insulation?
    4. How can a Latvian go into a café and not order anything?
    Only place I’ve ever seen something like that is quite some time ago at a canteen at the university or high-school, where I think it’s acceptable. Maybe the customer service here isn’t so heartless here after all if they allowed that? You wouldn’t like to eat your packed lunch in the snow and -20C, no?
    5. How is this an acceptable way to board a train?
    Yeah, those trains are horrible, a remnant of times bygone. Haven’t been on a train for years, but I remember dreading getting on those things as a child. No idea why the design is like that. My granma always said not to touch those handles, ’cause those probably have been peed on.
    6. Why is it the law to keep your headlights on all day?
    So that it’s easier to tell if a car is moving?
    Now I’m feeling really offended, I always use those indicators and never use my phone while driving 😦 :((( :((((( BwaaaahWaaaah …
    7. Why do parents not discipline their children when they’re being brats in public?
    I’ve pretty rarely observed kids truly misbehaving in public. And I’m often in places with a lot of kids, ’cause I have kids.
    8. Why do a lot of women wear shoes that are too small for them?
    *Looking under the table at my feet* *Slippers certainly no too small*
    No idea. I’ve never noticed shoes too small being common? I think “their heels will be hanging off the end of their sandals or flip-flops…” can be caused by other issues than just wrong size; like closure being too loose [or broken — we are all very poor here, remember?].
    9. Why do Latvians never have their wallets ready?
    It’s more complicated to find a wallet in a bag [see 1# ] than in a pocket, right?
    10. Why do Latvians like standing so much?
    Well, if the standing person is obstructing your way to the much desired seat, just say “Palaidiet, lūdzu!” with a smile on your face and they’ll jump aside alright.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Oh man, I really wish I hadn’t read that pee thing before I have to go for the train! Still, it’s my only option, well, outside of using my hands on the steps and crawling up 😉

  18. Kristīne says:

    Linda, you are a total sexist 😀 At first you fuss about other women staring you down for wearing comfortable shoes, but now all of a sudden men aren’t allowed to carry comfortable bags?! Only women have the right to choose comfort over stylishness?

  19. hahaha awesome funny post! Really made me laugh…this about the cafe could never ever happen in Paris or here in Germany! Really weird… I thin the answer for your question is: maybe they are normal (in their country) and weird for us hahaha

  20. rower says:

    okay, i know, my HO is not of any value for yor readers, still, i can’t stop myself to let you (and others) know.
    1) there are many things that average male tends to carry around. spare socks, undies, shirt; large wallet, hundreds of membership/discount cards, a tablespoon (just in case), drawing album, notebook (paper), notebook (computer), power adapter for his NB, his GF forgotten bra, a couple of teabags (his own favorite brand), small sachet of sugar, folding knife, roll of toilet paper, 3-pint bottle with birch juice freshly brewed local beer, flask with stronger liquor, large plastic bag… as for myself – a couple of pens/pencils, drawing album (notebook), notebook, its power cables and adapters, mouse, 3g adapter, passport, spare socks, something to read, towel. you should never leave the house without a towel, you know 😉
    2) it’s a question of habbit and allowance. an _average_ latvian really might have only 2-3 pairs of any clothing, and rarely more than one “representative” suit. it has its roots in soviet uprising and in overall poverity. however, it’s not uncommon to change every day – it’s just less convenient for male to do it 🙂
    3) it’s inner culture, one might say. or, rather, lack of it. roots in times, when there was no cheep phones and tee (with cakes/choco) was hard to get.
    4) it’s inner culture … or, rather, lack of it. 🙂 and, yes, it’s not a common thing.
    5) for historical reasons. in soviet times there were 2 standards (in SU) – “high platform” – which is level with traincar floor, and “low platform” which is some 12-16 inches above rail, and which you can see on the photograph. the later is (of course) much cheaper to build and maintain. much to our shame we have to admit, that _most_ of ex.ussr teritory uses “high platform” standart, and “low platform” might be seen only as temporary or extension of existing high-platform structure (where really long trains are expected). and quite a lot of railway infrastructure is heritage from tzar or mid-war times…
    6) large answer is in another comment 🙂
    7) again – it’s that inner culture thing. firstly one thinks about his/her own belly, then about kids, and in the really last place – about the people around. it’s not that long that we’ve come down from trees, you know… most likely – those parents did not even notice.
    8) inability to pick the right size ? 🙂 after all, much more footwear (and clothes) than you think is bought at second-hand.
    9) err… you really have an eye for weird or something 🙂 i’ve seen that maybe once or twice.
    10) the average Latvian had a point there. and, true, you’ve never ever experienced an old lady fighting “those youngters, never give a place for elderly” ? 🙂

  21. linnetmoss says:

    The shoe, brat, and wallet things are international, I assure you! Absolutely love the cat-on-neck accessory for strolling. Must get one of those!

  22. Anna says:

    What an existential post.
    #2 is probably a money thing – used to be that way in Russia.
    The too small shoes thing is new to me – never seen it here!

  23. hey girl, you’re digging right into the pile of the many quintessential questions I’ve been having, and I’m a ‘corn fed’ Lithuanian here 🙂
    1. Man bags. It must be summer, I’ve got no other explanation , but in summer outfit they have a sudden need to ‘replenish’ the lack of pockets with carrying a man bag or something.
    2. You would not believe but nowadays things have gotten so much better and people wear same clothes just for a few days or a week tops. When I was a kiddo and the red flag was still flying around it was so much worse. Fact is during those dark Soviet times decent clothing was not easy to get (or you needed it to be sown for you), and washing machines weren’t all that common, people used to wear same stuff until it could stand on their own or got stinky. So a week is like an improvement. On the other hand, when you thing that wearing same clothing for more than a day is proper you keep on doing this. And in most cases there is going out and staying at home separate sets of clothing, so technically it’s wearing same stuff just for half a week 🙂 and for the rest of the time it’s some homey sports trainers or other stuff. Mind you, I’ve never wore same clothing for more than 2 days ever since I’ve got my own say in this matter, but my mom still things I’m wasteful *roll eyes*
    3. That’s how a marriage works, doesn’t it? Frankly, no idea, cause I haven’t got noisy neighbors, so can’t really comment. Or might be they’re sort of deaf?
    4. Can they? My personal biggest crime is perhaps that I have a bottle of water on me, but I try not to flash it or anything. Though I must confess that some ten years ago I’d always brought some contraband booze with me to outdoor festivals, though technically that was illegal and I should have bought everything on site.
    5. That’s a reality of any homo sovieticus. Public transportation (and if you come to think about it, nothing in general) was made to be of easy of use. So why bother with making trains comfortable, huh? Luckily, some new trains are so much easier to get onto. Hopefully some day all will be.
    6. Ah, darn I think we might’ve copied this ‘headlights on at all times’ law from Latvians. While initially it did not make much sense, nowadays I’s so used to it, that I get pissed with drivers who do not turn on their lights on, ’cause you kind of only associated a moving vehicle with a one with lights on. Couldn’t tell if lights make cars more visible during summer time, but it sure makes it easier to decide whether some distant car on the side road is moving (light on) or not lights out)
    7. That’s probably that legendary French or Japanese or whatever (cause it’s not a real thing after all) child raising method where you never say ‘no’ to your child and let them do like anything they want. For this nonsense I sometimes wish I’d have a license to kill
    8. Ugly Cinderella’s sister complex? Shoe won’t fit, but still want to be princess? 🙂
    9. Can’t say take much notice of this. On the other hand, when you have tons to stuff into shopping bag all on your own, it’s faster with your both hands, and when it’s done you pay or something. I’m more concerned with the fact that in my local Rimi if you go shopping in the afternoon you end up queeing for at least 20 minutes even if you’re fourth in line just because something goes wrong every time – be it slow service or some pensioner demanding his discount or something. Almost never happens in other stores though, so I blame it on this Rimi entirely
    10. Oh, I always go for an empty seat myself too, though if I see an old person vulturing around I try to give way (seat). I don’t use public transportation much nowadays, but sometimes when I do and then a bus or trolley bus isn’t very crowded, and I’m going home after a long day at work spent mostly sitting at my computer, I also may opt to stand just for a change. Thinking back to the late 1980s when i was a kid and bananas were one hell of impossible to get in Soviet days, whenever they were on sale it meant queeing for hours and hours just to get your share of 2kg/per person in the end if you were lucky. Sos some folks might just got used to standing or something

  24. My (M) Nan wore shoes more suited to a Barbie doll and her ankle-spillage was something to behold.

    Point 9) – this causes me all kinds of internal rage. I need professional help about the issue.

  25. Aggie says:

    1. I haven`t been in any train station since high school so I never seen those bags… cos I am surrounded between man with money their bags looks like this

    2. not only Latvians… I have guy here who wears every day one and the same cloth… secret is: he has two sets of the same clothing, when he is wearing one set other one is in dry cleaning services… and dry cleaning services in Ireland are working fast, you can get your clothing back after couple of hours… leave in, walk in town, and pick it up…

    3. …you just need private house. I got lucky, I never lived in apartments, but I now what you are talking about… really annoying

    4. really??? I remember, if you would have your own stuff you been asked to leave… you really live in some wrong Latvia`s part…

    5. oh… those trains we have since USSR… history… you can`t change it…

    6. this law is in Ireland too, but people are not punished for not using them, that`s why they are just ignoring that rule

    7. I could say the same about some irish kids, so spoiled that can`t even say Please or Thank You!!! and manners… they don`t have any manners… it all depends of parents what they are teaching to their children… in general all people are the same

    8. really why??? in Ireland women wear one size bigger…

    9. this is what I learned from Irish… cashier would even chat with customer about life and it is Ok that there is queue standing… so once I went back to Latvia and I was shopping in Rimi and I forgot where I am… I started to put everything in my shopping bags while cashier was waiting for me to pay… customer behind me shouted on me: “Pay first then you can put everything in your bags!!!” first I was shocked than I remebered: Oh, sorry, you live in Latvia and I don`t…

    10. …those seats are so dirty… I don`t think so they are cleaned after every shift… even I was standing in trams…

  26. Katerina says:

    I was shocked when my colleagues said to me once: Katrina, you are so stylish, you never wear same clothes 2 days in a row.

  27. Anita says:

    Public transport – probably because as soon as they sit down,can elderly person will come and demand a seat so it’s better not to waste your time…

    • Expat Eye says:

      The buses are half-empty these days!

      • Half-empty? Mmmm… maybe till 7:30 AM, then 11:00 AM till 4:30 PM and later starting from something like 7:00 PM. Rest of the time I have to squeeze into the bus already at the second stop. There are few exceptions, like the trolleybuses number 20 and number 1. Overcrowding is the only reason you need a car in Riga, otherwise public transport is really convenient (I mean the coverage), modern and precise.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Maybe I was just on a quiet route – I don’t take public transport that often usually! This month I’m in Majori every day though. Starting to see an advantage to not sitting as I end up with an arse or a belly in my face most days 😉

  28. NancyTex says:

    I think #2 is what contributes to your observation in #1 (the lack if deodorant). You can’t possibly wear the same outfit that many days in a row/without laundering it and not smell, regardless whether you use deodorant or not. And cologne does NOT substitute for deodorant men (and women).

    Years ago when I would travel to Europe for global meeting with my peers from other subsidiaries around the globe, I learned very quickly to keep my distance from the men who hailed from the Baltic regions. (Lithuania was just as bad, FYI). Their shirts/suits were impeccable, but had clearly never been laundered. My gag reflex is very strong – and body odour is the scent that triggers it quicker than all others. I nearly threw up in the conference room when I caught a whiff of it the first time.

    p.s. #8 skeeves me out too. Is it vanity that makes them want I buy a smaller size? Do they not realize that half your heel hanging out the back makes your foot look BIGGER??

  29. freebutfun says:

    Where would everyone keep their stock of vodka and beer if not in a man bag (that might double as a cooler)? Probably also where the cat is if not on the neck 😉

  30. Cindi says:

    With all the tunnels in Norway, “headlights on” is definitely a requirement (and the law). Going from blinding sun to absolute darkness took time for me to get used to when I first started driving here. And if one headlight is out, a car looks like a motorcycle in those dark tunnels. Scary!

    Man bags? Not so sexy. But that’s why my purse is so heavy in the summer … I’m usually schlepping my husband’s “stuff” since he thankfully doesn’t have one! 🙂

  31. bevchen says:

    I wore the same trousers three days in a row last week. I don’t *think* any of my colleagues noticed… Phew!

    By the way, I went to an English-speaking meetup last night, and a Polish girl who ended up sitting on the corner of the table commented “Supposedly if you sit at a table like this you’ll end up alone with no husband or kids”. So it’s not just the Latvians! (She’s married with 2 kids, so she was safe from the evil powers of the table corner).

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha! Yeah, they probably have a lot of the same superstitions there! Getting married is just as important, if not more so, certainly!
      And – dirty bitch 😉

  32. Emmi says:

    1. Why does almost every man in Riga carry a man bag, and what’s in it?

    actually more and more people do that because its handy! in good old times men only carried some change in their pockets. now they have to have their driving license, sometimes ID, Ipod, Ipad, Iphone, minibook, elecronic reader and so on…… truth be told in Austria and Germany men prefer backpacks but when you go to work in a suit everyday backpack doesnt look fancy

    2. Why do Latvians wear the same clothes for days on end?

    mmm… that contradicts your earlier statements….. didnt you say that all latvian women are very pretty and dressed feminine?.

    3. Why do the old people in my building scream at each other through their open windows?

    aah its such a joy to shout to your neighbour smh a few windows away… they do it in Italy and spain too… remember the phones made from tin cans we had as kids? with a wire thrown across the balcony to the window of a neighbours apartment?

    • Expat Eye says:

      I do remember that!
      The women are still pretty – I don’t think I ever said stylish 😉 But that doesn’t mean wearing different clothes every day! If you’ve found the perfect leopard print dress, you want the world to see it – and you keep on wearing it until it does 🙂

      • Emmi says:

        Im still expecting to see you wearing your leopard print dress before you live Latvia in the good bye post. you should keep it as a souvenir. I mean you promised us to do smth latvian but so far no visits to the sauna or mushroom picking… how about a leopard print dress and slutty shoes with stilettoes?

      • Expat Eye says:

        I’m not sure I’ll buy one but I’ll definitely try one on! Need to get someone to come with me and take photos… 😉

  33. Diana says:

    ewwwww…the clothes thing is yuk. I mean…ok…even if you don’t have a lot of money, certainly you can afford to have TWO changes of clothes and alternate every other day?? And the shoes that are too small? I guess the women want to feel like they have tiny feet?

    But making me laugh more than anything is bringing your own food into a cafe!!! What nerve….I really want to come and visit there based on all of this funny stuff you talk about. What a scene!

  34. Those train steps look truly terrifying! How do get on there WITH LUGGAGE?? I’m extremely clumsy, I’d break my neck!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Yeah, thank god I’ve never had to do that! I remember having to do it in Poland as I had to take the train to the airport. I used to have to stand back from the train, pick up my suitcase, hurl it and hope it made it through the door!

  35. June says:

    Brilliant, just brilliant – it’s ten in the morning and I have the soundtrack from The Sound of Music stuck in my head. I’m going to be singing it all bloody day.
    I’ve actually come round to the man bags – it saves me putting his keys, wallet, sunglasses, etc. in my bag. Will never get used to the smells in summer. Parents will walk through you themselves without apologising so why would they correct their kids. I debate this one with Arūnas all the time – it’s just not considered rude. A cultural difference I don’t think I’ll ever understand but need to accept. And the cats – well, that’s just plain crazy.
    So, how do you hold a moon beam in your hand?

  36. TRex says:

    The trains and platforms really are a crime against society.
    There. I feel better now.

  37. There’s actually a condition where you get a cat attached to your shoulders. It’s rare, but part of the risk profile is genetic, so you get regional concentrations of cases where a whole family is affected. One day they’ll be able to treat it more effectively, but at the moment due to its rarity it’s not profitable enough for big pharma to get interested in, so these poor cats are left just sitting around up there.

  38. lizard100 says:

    I think I should move to Latvia!

  39. The clothing thing… it’s probably just cheaper. If you’re around the smell of week-old clothes every day, you probably no longer notice the smell after enough decades.

  40. philly89 says:

    I won’t have a word said against man bags. Not a word.

  41. Paul says:

    Q1) ManBags
    I was also curious at first, but having seen the size of some older apartment keys and that by law you must carry your driving licence and car passport and often your own passport for in-branch banking, I can understand the use of bags especially in summer. In winter if you go to the Opera etc, do you leave all your valuables inside your coat in the obligitory cloakroom or carry a handbag like a big girl?

    Q6) Headlights
    Daytime driving lights will be obligitory all over the EU in a couple of years time. In fact next time you go home, you will see that many cars there have daytime lights on, as most new cars are now produced to meet the forthcoming regulations.

    Q8) Up until a few years ago, it was extremely difficult to get ladies shoes bigger than euro size 39 in LV, Now with Clarks & others as well as internet shopping it is less of a problem.. unless you are an Irish leprechaun and can shop in Mothercare 🙂

    Q10) If you stand, you can shuffle away into a space. If seated the local loonie WILL sit next to you! Instead of Loonie, insert alternatives from your Q2, Q3 & Q7

    Winters are v.cold. It takes a long time to train a cat to act as a scarf. You need to start in the summer. Cats are lazy. Vodka calms the cat. Vodka dulls the pain from scratches. Vodka disinfects the wounds. Vodka helps disguise the cat pee down your neck.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha! Love the cat explanation!! It’s a brave cat – he’s always hammered – if he falls, the cat goes down too 🙂
      Guess I’m lucky regarding the shoe thing – I’m a 36-37 🙂
      And yes, the loony always sits next to me! I’m a loony magnet 🙂

      • Paul says:

        We all know drunks never hurt themselves when they fall.. and cats always land on their feet.. as for drunk cats, they are twice as safe 🙂

        As a looney magnet, try standing.. you can take the looney for a shuffle around the bus 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ha, sounds like a country song 😉

      • Paul says:

        Linda, Linda, Linda, Linda
        I’m begging of you please don’t take my man
        Linda, Linda, Linda, Linda
        Please don’t take him just because you can

        Your beauty is beyond compare
        With flaming locks of auburn hair
        With ivory skin and eyes of emerald green
        Your smile is like a breath of spring
        Your voice is soft like summer rain
        And I cannot compete with you

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ha! That’s one of my favourite songs! But unfortunately, I don’t have flaming locks of auburn hair – or Dolly’s, um, assets 😉

  42. Europeen says:

    6. Why is it the law to keep your headlights on all day?

    You really get used to this in Latvia! Ever since I’ve moved to the good ol’ Yurope, I have been nearly killed several times simply because all the cars that I see on the street and that (naturally, doh) do not have their headlights on during a bright daylight just make an impression to me that they are STANDING and NOT driving. I really cannot get used to this. I need all Yurope to keep headlights on ALL day, lol, or they will kill me!

  43. average Latvian says:

    Hi Linda
    Funny observations but can’t agree with some of them 🙂
    1.Maybe in terminal where people bring some things with them but usually most Latvians despise man’s bags and call them pidoraski (pardon) from some not polite Russian word.
    4.Haven’t noticed that. I experience great shame even when I want to drink water in beach cafe and have by chance bottle with me.

    6.Agree, that’s stupid. But such law exists in most EU countries. Some bulb manufacturer have lobbied all day headlights by excuse that it increases safety.
    10.We have been told all life to give seat to older people so to be sure it is safer to stand to not miss some granny and be called rude 🙂

    • Expat Eye says:

      From what I’ve seen of the grannies here, they can fend for themselves 😉
      Number 4 has happened to me on several occasions – I’m kind of looking at the waitress waiting for her to come over and say something – but they never do 😉 The headlight thing is just ridiculous – you can’t even see them when it’s sunny. If people just obeyed the speed limit and didn’t drive like idiots, that would increase safety!!
      The man bag thing is everywhere these days 🙂

      • average Latvian says:

        It is easier to be caught with headlights off than for not obeying speed limits because we have only four speed cameras per country so we choose to switch lights on 🙂 In fact people obey speed limits much more than ten or twenty years ago. You should have seen that. And from my observations there are no big difference now between Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and all other countries to south in this scope.
        Okay, I’ll look more carefully. Maybe man’s bags spread because summer outfit – t-shirt and shorts has much less pockets than coats :).

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ha, maybe that’s it!
        I’ve only been here for 4 years so I guess I’m still a newbie really – the speed cameras are a joke though from what I’ve seen 🙂 Everyone knows where they are so they slow down for 3 seconds and then speed up again 😉

      • CrazyCatLady says:

        “Number 4 has happened to me on several occasions – I’m kind of looking at the waitress waiting for her to come over and say something – but they never do”

        <– you've not been to Čilli Pica near that cinema place (Forums?). We went in there eager to spend loads of money, had some water bottles which we plonked on the table as we sat down. The waitress flew at us to reprimand as though we've just crouched down and taken a dump in the middle of that establishment. "Remove those bottles immediately!" she screeched, leaving us bewildered. When questioned about her crass approach she pretty much put us in the same consumer bracket as local school kids who sneak in shop bought bottles of coke.
        It was grim. We upped and left. Not because we couldn't afford 50 santīmi bottle of water, but because we were treated in a manner that I can only compare to Edwardian debt house inhabitants.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ha ha! Oh my god! I’ve never experienced that here! The odd time I’ve taken out my own bottle of water and taken a swig – mainly because it takes so long to get served! I’ve seen people either order nothing or else take their own meal out of their bags and nothing was ever said!! 🙂

      • Antuanete says:

        I strongly disagree about headlights being ridiculous – when driving, headlights really makes it much easier to spot a car from distance and evaluate its speed. So, as a driver, I really appreciate this rule (especially after being abroad, where headlights are not mandatory).

    • rower says:

      6. is _not_ stupid. i’ve been driving quite a lot for last 12 years, and as soon as regulations leave slightest room for “common” sense – you find out, that “common” is the wrong word. around 20 years ago wording in regulations was smth like “driving lights/headlights are to be switched on during twilight, and at all times, when vision is distructed/obscured”. and around there were hundreds of drivers who thought “hey, it’s not twilight _yet_”. it might be true around mid-summer, but it definately is not true more than half a year. headlights (or so called “daylight driving lights”) do increase visibility at all times, except for bright daylight. and it’s much simpler, too – sit by the wheel, buckle up, start the engine, switch on the lights. driver should be able to rely on “it’s headlights are on – it moves, headlights are off – it doesn’t move” at all times. and no one may ever say “it’s not dark enough”.
      as for 1 – i’ve been told, that pidoraska is not the bag, but the headgear, that looks like large sock. and i’m definately sure, that even an average latvian does not use that word 🙂

      4 & 10 – totally agree, might even sign under every word. ,)

      • Expat Eye says:

        Sign away 🙂

      • average Latvian says:

        I wrote it slightly wrong. Here is more explanation about these man’s bags in case you read Russian 🙂

        Still don’t agree about 24/7 headlights. I’ve driven before this rule and drive much here in Latvia and in countries without mandatory lights. Driver should and must notice every moving and still object on road and not rely on rule that only shining objects are moving 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        Sorry, I don’t read Russian! But I’m sure plenty of readers do!

      • rower says:

        translation from thar links article (from russian argo dictionary)
        – small male-carried (or for male designed) bag with loop-like handle, to be carried on palm or lower arm, for carrying money or documents. derived from commonly used «педераст»(pederast).

        if you’d allow me to comment – this description fits large port-monais (i hope i’d spell it right) or “male” counterpart of ridicule. and i’ve never ever heard this word used in regard to anything carried in hand. not in moscow, saintpetersburg, odessa, minsk, kiev or riga, vilnius or tallin. or, at least, in circles where i did rotate (unis, IT crowd, figure skating crowd). or, maybe, everybody around me was well educated and culturaly mature 🙂 yea, i often wunder, how it happens that really a lot of what’s written in those argo (slang) dictionaries does not comply with everyday usage of smth by anyone who’s around me…

  44. This is our next stop on our trip so very entertaining read!

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