I recently agreed to do an interview for The Northern California Review (ZK Apskats) – a bulletin published by the Northern Californian Latvian Association. While my dealings with the Latvian media have been, on the whole, dire, I thought that this might be a fun thing to do. And, as it would mainly be read by Latvians living in California, there would be a pleasing amount of distance between me and the target audience.
Being interviewed was kind of a weird experience, but I think it went quite well. Or maybe I sounded like a total muppet. Hard to say. One of the questions did, however, prick my conscience a little – and I hate it when that happens…
Do you think you have helped to erase any stereotypes about Latvians or created more?
OK, first of all, what are the stereotypes about Latvians? Are there any? I know that I didn’t have any before I came here. In fact, I’d rarely given Latvia or Latvians a second thought. I’d only met two Latvians in my life, and they both seemed like rather jolly ladies. (Possibly because they’re now living in Ireland.)
A quick Google search didn’t reveal much, though this comment on Yahoo! Answers made me chuckle.
Tall and slim
Blonde and attractive
Folk singing Pagans
For all the Latvians’ posturing and bluster, it seems like the only countries that have any stereotypes/opinions of them at all are their dear neighbours – the Estonians (Latvians have six toes), and the Lithuanians (Latvians are horse-heads). I know…
I’d hazard a guess that many of my foreign readers knew very little of Latvia or Latvians before reading this blog – which, I suppose, is where I have to take some responsibility.
So what do readers take away from this blog? As a bare minimum, they now know one of the most popular men’s names, they know that Latvians are rather fond of nature, that they’re not particularly fond of smiling or small talk, and that the “fashion” here may hurt their retinas.
Are these stereotypes? Possibly. Are they true? I think so, but then, as a critic, I’m very easy on myself – somebody has to be.
So, I open it to the floor:
To my foreign readers: What, if anything, did you know about Latvians before you started reading this blog? What do you think of Latvians now?
To my Latvian readers: Have I helped to create/erase stereotypes about Latvians? Is there anything in the blog that is woefully inaccurate?
To the foreigners living here: What were your opinions of Latvia/Latvians before you came here? Have they changed?
Let’s get this party started…