Jānis and Gunta, sittin’ in a tree…

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.

California. It's very far away.

California. It’s very far away.

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?

Hmm.

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.

Restrained
Pessimistic
Tall and slim
Blonde and attractive
Germanic
Fascists
Nationalistic
Handlebar moustache-wearing
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…

Me, sitting on a Latvian

Me, sitting on a Latvian

 

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.

Sorry.

Ouch.

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…

 

 

 

 

 

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About BerLinda

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

196 Responses to Jānis and Gunta, sittin’ in a tree…

  1. barbedwords says:

    Everything I know about Latvia, I’ve learnt from you. So I probably won’t be visiting anytime soon…
    😉

  2. Nene says:

    I was a Latvia virgin before I started reading your blog! Re: leopard/animal print,err, have you been in a Dunnes/Penneys in the last 10 years??!! Here’s an example:

    http://www.dunnesstores.com/savida-leopard-print-top//dunnesstores/fcp-product/7906569?colour=leopard

    Go on, you know you want to! 😉

    • Expat Eye says:

      Add to bag? Um, no thanks 😉 I must admit, I did notice a lot of leopard and metallic stuff on my last trip back! Let’s hope it hasn’t hit Primark Berlin yet 😉

  3. You’ve open Pandora’s bag now Linda so I’ll just add to the consuming flames LOL! So to your question: What, if anything, did you know about Latvians before you started reading this blog? What do you think of Latvians now?
    I knew absolutely nothing about Latvians before reading your blog. I had a vague idea where Latvia was. Somewhere up there! But, you know, it’s a bit like Luxemburg. You’ve heard of it, but you don’t where it is on the map. What do I think now? Leopard print handbag, shoes, lamps, tables, and long hair!

  4. this BETTER NOT hinder you from coming visit us in Cali…mmmk, punkin? 😉 mmmm…I don’t think I knew or even heard of any Latvians before you. But, then again, we were in America before we ‘met’ you. so, pretty sheltered. also, I had to scroll down foooreeevvver to type this. so popular (how the heck do you have time for this?!)

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha! Yeah, Anna and I got a bit over-excited about her impending visit so that’s probably a fair chunk of the comments! Did she take billions of photos with you guys? 😉

  5. I’ve always enjoyed your blog for a double dose of foreign perspective. As an American, I didn’t know much about Latvian culture before finding your blog. However, learning about it from an Irish ex-pat makes it even more intriguing because I now get to examine both Latvia and how Irish people view foreign cultures.

    I don’t know if Latvian stereotypes exist or are common enough for the media to worry about, but I feel like you are always objective/positive in your tone so even if you are describing a frustrating moment, you aren’t denigrating Lativia or looking down upon the country or its culture.

  6. Heather says:

    The only stereotypes I had of Latvians before I arrived was that they’d be tall, blond and like to sing and dance. So far, those have proven true. Most everyone I’ve encountered here so far has been friendly and helpful, though I have seen an inordinate amount of leopard print. And guys wearing Hawaiian shirts and plaid shorts. But I just chalk that us as being local color 🙂

  7. Authority: I have a Latvian friend, also I have been to Latvia but only Riga and only for a couple of days.

    I guess my impression previously was that on the whole they don’t seem to be as effusive as Lithuanians, or at least not as effusive as the lovely lady who ended up accommodating us in Lithuania, although some (at least one) of them is still more effusive than me, and that they occasionally move to Singapore. And they don’t expect many people to know where Latvia is. I don’t know – she just seems like a normal and very friendly/smiley, touchy-feely person, and hasn’t even worn leopard print once. We’ve spent a lot of time on small talk.

    So I guess that’s all to say that I’m taking your stereotypes with a bit of a grain of salt. I’m sure Janis is every bit as popular as John or Finn or whatever it is these days, which is to say most people are not actually called Janis (John, Finn, etc). The leopard print does seem to be more common – I’d be hard pressed finding photographic evidence here – but likewise, most clothes are probably not leopard print. I think we also found out that the women are bitchy man-hunters, but on that I go back to grain of salt, because my friend is not. I’m a big girl, I can ignore you at will. 🙂

    That said, I’m constantly surprised by the number of people who take me seriously and/or at face value so I appreciate there is a level of responsibility and it’s good to think these things through.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Exactly – at the end of the day, it’s my personal blog, filled with my personal experiences/opinions – people can take it or leave it. I know many foreigners here who’d write a much more scathing blog (if they could be bothered) and several who’d write a glowing one (if they could be bothered) 😉 Everyone has a different experience here. Glad ‘your’ Latvian is nice 🙂 The two I knew in Ireland were very pleasant too – maybe a little more reserved than the average Irish person, but that’s not a bad thing. Keep taking that salt 😉

  8. Mārtiņš says:

    I didn’t pay attention to a leopard print before your blog.
    Generally I think Latvian women have a sense of style (apart from the leopard fashion) and they take care of themselves more than for instance German women (on the other side German man are more handsome than they’re women and they seem to be more concerned about their looks; they look better than German women).

    • Expat Eye says:

      I’m hoping German women have more to think about than painting their nails different colours and how to wear their hair, but I’ll keep you posted 😉

      • Mārtiņš says:

        I’ll be mean. “BRITISH women have been branded the ugliest in the world in an international poll.” Americans follow. And German women closely: http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/197439/British-women-tourists-are-the-ugliest-in-the-world
        also http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/sex/6542263/British-people-among-worlds-ugliest-according-to-BeautifulPeople.com.html

      • Expat Eye says:

        Don’t really see how it’s mean. I couldn’t really give a shit what people look like as long as they’re nice, friendly, helpful…
        In my ever so humble opinion, there’s far too much emphasis placed on looks here and not nearly enough on developing what’s on the inside. And is some sort of genetic fluke really worth patting yourselves on the back over? If one of the the only things Latvia can be proud of is ‘YAY we have the most beautiful women in the world’, it’s pretty tragic.

      • Mārtiņš says:

        Who says it is the only thing? Beautiful women are like beautiful scenery both are eye catching and always pleasing.
        And Linda, by the way, those women who wear leopard skin here, those man who wear adidas are stunning personalities probably but you keep ignoring that fact. How come?

      • Expat Eye says:

        What’s to say? Tracksuits and shoes – not a good look.

      • Nerdator says:

        Sorry to barge in here, but I got a comment notification, and I simply have to say something about the ‘ugliest in the world’ links.

        Because of what repulsive bollocks they are. I’m not even talking of the problematic, dehumanising (‘beautiful scenery’? Are you even listening to yourself?) idea of such gradation. It’s just that the whole ‘studies’ are complete nonsense.

        There is no detailed information about the surveyed people (and how it was assured that they were not biassed. Also, what they were shown was not controlled in any way.) – yes, it was a bunch of random people from touristy places, and a shady crowd from a web-site wanting to appear elitist.

        There are absolutely no quantifiable and unified metrics (and I dare you to find objective metrics for beauty). I’m sorry, ‘fat’ (bite me) and ‘not ashamed to let it all hang out’ (boo-hoo, you’ve made Allah cry) aren’t gonna cut it.

        Worse, these claims aren’t really observable in reality (the easiest way to check – register at OKCupid and do searches in different places). So both articles are just tabloid vomit that you should know better than regurgitate.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Yeah, the ‘beautiful scenery’ thing made me gag. I guess some guys see women as scenery; others see them as equals. It should be pretty clear at this stage how I feel about the former.

  9. rower says:

    btw, speaking of jokes… around 25 years ago there was a popular joke:
    like, there are three folks in hot air baloon – american, russian and latvian. baloon is falling, they have to get rid of everything unneeded. american takes a sip of whiskey and throws out the almost full jar. russian asks – hey, why? – we have lot’s of that stuff in US! – ok then!, then russian throws out a jar of red caviar (or some other expensive stuff Russia is well known of) for the same reason. then latvian throws russian out of the basket. now american asks – hey, why?! — you know, we still have a lot of russians back there in Latvia…

  10. rower says:

    q1: Have I helped to create/erase stereotypes about Latvians?
    a1: i think, that both about stereotypes is true. unfortunately, you’ve said almost nothing about “potatoes” and average poor latvian. and that thing about Jānis and leotard… yes, aii guess, you’ve introduced some new words, too. and that’s fun
    q2: Is there anything in the blog that is woefully inaccurate?
    a2: anything? just about everything ! 🙂 everything is true for it’s moment. and it’s sooo wrong, because it’s true 🙂 it happens with things put out of (or into wrong) context. is it good or bad – i do not know, but it has it’s fun/charm and definately is a sign of good sense of authors humour.

  11. Diana says:

    Before your blog, the only thought I have ever given to Latvia is ….well..not much at all. I have thought about the Baltic area in general and grouped it in with eastern Europe, and thought pretty much of it being super cold with ( I admit) beautiful women. I know! A sweeping generalization! But I certainly had no idea about their crazy addiction to leopard print! ha, ha, ha, ha….

  12. I don’t think I had given Latvia any particular thought before reading this blog. What do I think/know of them now? Their fashion is ‘unusual’, they don’t smile much, lots of the men seem to have the same name, the way they operate the rent system on properties is odd (but I can’t remember the details), but I think they like to go out and have a good time (even if it’s not the same sort of good time as we might like to have). 🙂

  13. Well, it’s hard to tell whether you succeeded in smashing some stereotypes, or whether you’ve created new ones about Latvians for me. Since I’m Lithuanian, I’ve already had plenty of stereotypes about our neighbors to begin with 😉 Surely, I have never noticed THAT much of leotard in Latvia, but hey I haven’t the best of eye sight so I must just have missed that 😉 And I usually go to Latvian seaside, and that’s like Latvia sans Latvians and like every second person there is actually Lithuanian or something, so maybe I’ve seen too little of actual Latvians during my visits to the lovely Latvia or something. One thing I’m pretty sure of, and this was well confirmed both by my own experience and your blog at some time, that Latvians drink a lot of kefir. And while some of my fellow countrymen do indeed refer to Latvians as zirga galva, I’d say this stereotype should be busted, and we should stick with pūķis from now on 😀 Sounds so much more fun, especially since in Latvian pūķis equals dragon, and in Lithuanian pūķis sounds more like ‘fluff’. Fluffy dragon, anyone? 😀

    • Expat Eye says:

      It’s cuter than horse head 😉 And yes, by god do they drink a lot of kefirs!

      • Emmi says:

        damn latvia is so strangely similiar to Russia I literally laugh out loud. cause Linda almost 80% of stuff you say about Latvia can be applied to Russia its ridicoulous. even the kefir thing or the restaurants which combine sushi pizza and everything else or the 24 hour flower markets … are those eastern europeans trying to copy each other on purpose?

      • Expat Eye says:

        I’m looking forward to getting Anna’s take on it all! A real Russian opinion!

  14. Besides what has already been written in these comments, I learned that Janis is not always a girl’s name.

  15. Aussa Lorens says:

    Hahaha actually, Latvia randomly came up in some conversation last week and I was able to contribute something: “All I know is the women wear a lot of Cheetah.” Thank you for that!

  16. lizard100 says:

    111 comments?!?!?!??
    I’m trying to make macarons!

  17. linnetmoss says:

    I learned that Latvian women have a tendency to go all Travis Bickle on (1) men (2) public restrooms and (3) their own wardrobes. But especially men…

  18. Nerdator says:

    Answering the question in the post – I know it’s been mentioned before – you’ve certainly raised leopard awareness here!

    I mean, I never liked it before (I’m allergic to various sorts of flashy, and the leopard print seems to be an element of cheap, lowest common denominator flashiness), but I never really cared.

    And now, you’ve opened my eyes – oh noes, I see bloody leopard everywhere! It’s absolutely horrifying! A few months ago, I would never have noticed a pair of leopard sandals with golden finish in the window of a local second-hand shoe shop (this really happened the other day). Now, they jumped into my eyes, screaming ‘Hey, look, look at us in all our pathetic tacky pretence of glamour! Look, look! Aargh!’ 🙂

    (Re: inaccuracies, I don’t remember seeing anything really egregious in your posts.)

  19. OOoh you do LUV to invite a good debate, eh?

    Well… I’m definitely a ‘firangi’ reader who knew virtually nothing beyond where to find Latvia on a map, the capital is Riga and a vague stereotype of faintly dour folks (shameful!). Delighted to be educated on the finer points of Janis n more! 😉

    PS Ray’s list is most amusing! 🙂

  20. Anna says:

    Are you seriously asking?
    OK then.
    The only thing I knew about Latvia before your blog was that – like all the Balts – they arent fond of Russia. Never have I ever had it in my plans to actually spend my hard-earned russian-propaganda rubles actually visiting the place. Or that I’d actually pick Riga out of the Riga-Tallinn-Vilnus lineup.

    What have I learned since? That Latvians loathe to be bundled with Russians – or even Eastern Europe – and blame a lot of their problems on Russia, yet they are still similar in many ways, particularly their love of leopard print clothing and mushroom picking. I’ve learned that all the guys are named Janis, that Latvians have the highest (or one of) rate of female representation in the parliament in the world, and one of the highest internet speeds. I now know that it is very easy to start a small business there – that it’s very friendly toward small enterprise. I know I can expect gloomy customer service in pubs but relatively cheap beer. And that in Latvia there is beautiful art nouveau architecture and a really wide waterfall. Are some of those things stereotypes? Perhaps. But so much of it is not, and it’s gonna earn Latvia some of those propaganda rubles in just 9 days!

    Bravo, lassie!

    • Anna says:

      *would be able to pick Riga out of that lineup…

      • rower says:

        russian speaking “guides for Riga” are already lined up to see you comming. someone definately must sell tickets for this venue.

        p.s. as for rosengrāls — since they’ve risen prices, they’re less fun. but still, it’s OK. cousine is “almost authentic” – just not for peasants.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Yeah, I looked at their menu – ouch! They also spelled dessert and gallery wrong 😉

    • Expat Eye says:

      9 more sleeps! Huzzah! I’ve even got sort of a rough plan of what we can do – punctuated with food and drink stops 😉
      I think you’ve got a pretty good idea of Latvia/Latvians actually! I doubt many locals would disagree with your summation!

    • I. says:

      Hi, Anna! Please do not confuse the “do not like Russia” with “disagree with the politics of some particular guys over there ;)”. You are welcome to come to Latvia and I am sure you will enjoy it and people will be very nice to you (unless you start singing”glory to the Soviet Union”, of course, which I am sure you will not ;). We have loads of Russians over here coming for holidays. I was recently in Jurmala and it seems to me that Latvia has become more and more popular among Russian tourists. The same in the old Riga. Always welcome! 😉 I think you will be pleasantly surprised after reading this blog 😉

      • Anna says:

        LOL, yeah, Linda really went for the hard sell there 😉

        I was obviously being simplistic with the Russia stuff, but I know there is a pervasive anti-Russian sentiment in the Baltics which predates Putin, even if people, esp in cities, might be very kind toward particular visiting Russians.

        All that aside, I am REALLY looking forward to coming next week!

      • Expat Eye says:

        And I’m REALLY looking forward to seeing you! 🙂

      • Anna says:

        AWWW!
        Latvian Love Fest!

      • Expat Eye says:

        It’s probably overdue 😉

      • I. says:

        Yes, it is true that Latvians do not have \warm memories of the soviet times and enjoy their national independence, but many Latvian-Latvian people here have friends either Russian-Latvian or in some cases from Russia and they are all friendly. There are also many mixed families, many people with parents of both ethnicities, with wives, husbands of the other ethnicity. I had nice classmates, who had Russian as their first language. Why I am saying all this is because once a girl from Russia I had met in Paris as part of an exchange was very surprised that I was talking to her, as she assumed I must automatically dislike her, which could not be farther from the truth. I really could not believe this to be honest. Again, enjoy your holidays, both of you and, Linda, good luck with your resettlement in Germany!

      • Expat Eye says:

        Thank you very much! 🙂 We’ll have a blast, I’m sure 🙂

  21. Yikes, that is a bit of a sticky question. ;s

    I’ll admit–I didn’t have much of an idea of what Latvians were like before I started reading your blog. If anything I thought of Estonians, as Estonia was the only country in that direction that I’d visited. In other words–thank you for educating us all, even the Californians 😉

    • Expat Eye says:

      Yeah, for some reason, people seem to be more aware of Estonia (maybe because of Skype?) and Lithuania – not really sure why! Poor little Latvia… 😉
      I’ll have to be careful if I ever visit northern California – if I see scowls among the smiles, I’ll know that they’re Latvian American and have probably read the article 😉

    • Mārtiņš says:

      Ask.fm comes from Latvia (now sold to Microsoft like Skype)

  22. NancyTex says:

    My only previous experience with Latvia (and the Baltics in general, really) was a meeting with my counterparts from around the globe. The two gentlemen from Latvia and Lithuania (one from each) either forgot to pack deodorant or hadn’t showered in about 3 years. Not a good first impression.

    Thanks to you and this blog I now have a soft spot in my heart for those tree hugging. Leopard-wearing scowlers. xoxo

  23. Jude says:

    All I knew about Latvia before, was that Riga is the capital and they do well in hockey. I’d have to visit to know for sure what stereotypes you have created or proven true!

    Ps-Johnny depp and Vanessa paradis broke up ages ago, I’m not even sure he still lives in France. What kind of fair weather fan are you ;)?

  24. Ray says:

    You have been in Latvia too long when…

    1. you try to prove everyone that Latvia is in Northern Europe, not Eastern
    2. tall blonde beauties in short skirts are nothing special for you anymore
    3. you specify ‘no gas’ when asking for mineral water.
    4. when you see 5 cars in a row, you think you caught up in the busy traffic again
    5. every year in the end of June you go to countryside with friends to have some beer and eat some cheese
    6. you get used to explain abroad where Latvia is
    7. you get shocked if somebody abroad does know where Latvia is.
    8. you are proud that Latvian Lat is the most expensive currency
    9. the phrase “go to seaside” means for you 15-20 minutes by car
    10. you get used that all shops have approximately the same prices
    11. you know EURO and American Dollar exchange rate up to 5 digits after decimal point
    12. you think pelmeni is a national Latvian dish
    13. you know what is Carbonade in a French style
    14. you know what Pernavas, Chaka and Lienes street are famous for
    15. with a meal you drink either beer or tea
    16. ice hockey has become the most important thing in your life
    17. you support Riga Dinamo team
    18. half of the population working as “managers” seems reasonable to you
    19. it is okay to meet some famous politician in town
    20. half of your friends disappear to study or work in Ireland or UK and you think that’s normal
    21. you’ve learned the hard way that a triangle means women’s toilet and a triangle upside down means men’s
    22. during a long night of partying you went out pissing in the cold streets because there was only one unisex toilet in the whole pub
    23. you think drunkards shouting at you in Russian are a normal part of life
    24. anything goes wrong you blame the Russians
    25. anything goes wrong you blame the Latvians
    26. you think hot chocolate means melted chocolate and you love it
    27. you see someone smiling in public, you think: well, a bloody foreigner
    28. e
    29. you have become tired of explaining to your friends and relatives at home, that you are not in Lithuania and not in Russia
    30. a meal for you must contain either potato or meat, but usually both
    31. you start leaving out the articles, even in English and your native language
    32. you become scared meeting big old babushkas in furs, because they trample down everything in their way
    33. you are afraid crossing a street, especially at zebra crossings or traffic lights
    34. you feel guilty entering a flat wearing your shoes
    35. everything 50m above sea-level seems like a mountain
    36. you start counting the ground floor as first floor
    37. you love the Baltic Sea and go swimming there at nearly any temperature
    38. you love going to the Sauna, but always leave your trunks/bikini on
    39. you consider Latvia the best and worst place on earth – at the same time
    40. you put an “s” or “a” at the end of foreign names, so you can conjugate them
    41. you carry around three cell phones and several cards from eight different phone-companies, so that you always get the best price.
    42. You consider fastening your seatbelt a sign of weakness and are not surprised if a car hasn’t seatbelts at all.
    43. In your eyes Coca Cola is the unhealthiest drink in the world and that drinking lots of beer, sugary juice and bread drink prolongs your life
    44. apart from the summer you haven’t seen a bright sky for months and you don’t miss it anymore
    45. you consider rain the normality and sunshine a special weather phenomenon
    46. whiskey and apple juice is a regular cocktail for you
    47. you are trying to buy alcohol before 10 o’clock in the evening, but just in case you store some alcohol at home
    48. A friend asks about your holiday plans and you answer, “Oh, I’m going to Europe!” meaning any other Western European country.
    49. you no longer scrunch up or fold your paper money. You always put it in your wallet
    50. you see a student take a front row seat and wonder “Who does he think he is!!??”
    51. silence is fun
    52. hugging is reserved for sexual foreplay
    53. you refuse to wear a hat, even in –30 degree weather
    54. you know that “religious holiday” means, “let’s get pissed.”
    55. you know that more than three channels means cable
    56. you accept that 80 degrees C in a sauna is chilly, but 20 degrees C outside is freaking hot.
    57. also, you accept -30 outside as a reasonable temperature, but anythuing under 22 indoors is unreasonable…
    58. you sincerely believe that Laima is the best chocolate in the world.
    59. you think it’s normal to not pay income taxes and know what is to get salary in envelope.
    60. you are thrown off guard when the doorman at the nightclub is happy to see you.
    61. you’re not sure what to do when the traffic police only asks you to pay the official fine.
    62. you wonder what the tax inspector really wants when she says everything is in order..
    63. you start thinking of black bread as a good chaser for vodka.
    64. you drink the brine from empty pickle jars.
    65. you can read barcodes, and you start shopping for products by their country of production.
    66. you know more than 50 Janis.
    67a. you know more than 20 Ligas, Ilzes, (each!)
    67b. you know more than 20 Olgas, Natashas, Yulias, Katyas, (each!)
    68. you think metal doors are a necessity.
    69. you can’t even imagine what is gallon, farenheits, inches or pound.
    70. you know the difference between trolleybus and bus
    71. you don’t feel guilty about not paying on the trolleybus.
    72. the elevator aroma seems reassuring somehow.
    73. you never smile in public when you’re alone
    74. (For women) When you dress up in your best outfits for work and ride the tram.
    75. when mayonnaise becomes your dressing of choice.
    76. you laugh at Russian jokes.
    77. you actually get these jokes.
    78. you have crossed river on ice, because it was a shortcut
    79. you don’t wonder when see a black big car with number plate “GARIK” or “MOCKBA”
    80. you don’t know anyone who speaks less than 2 languages, and just few who speaks less than 3

    Tell me it’s not all true :D)))

    • Expat Eye says:

      So, so, so, so. so, so true! 🙂
      I’ve seen this before, but every time I can check another couple off the list! I still don’t get Russian jokes though 😉

      • Ray says:

        Well, I must admit, I don’t either, thank God I’m not the only one 😀

      • Expat Eye says:

        I think a lot is lost in translation – or maybe they’re just not funny in the first place 😉
        I have also never learned to appreciate the frigidness of the Baltic Sea!

      • Nerdator says:

        People tried to translate them to you? Goodness. Translating most comedy is a lost cause, and these jokes are in the ‘most comedy’ category.

        Plus, you do need a lot of cultural background to get them. Plus, ‘sensitive’ isn’t the word you could use with many of them, but often, if presented right, they can be quite good.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Yeah, I think it’s more than just a language issue!

      • rower says:

        emm… probably, there are a couple of people here, that can help you with that. 🙂

    • Ray says:

      Well in all my years looking at the Baltic sea, I always have the same question, what colour is it, it would seem like a simple question, but alas, I am still waiting for the answer.
      By the way, I will be there before you leave, I arrive on the 8th, so pre Berlin drinks will be had 😉

    • Nerdator says:

      Okay, I couldn’t not respond to this bit.

      1) I wouldn’t call it Northern, because I know what is typically meant by Northern Europe – socially and politically. But this tosh is really sold all the time here – even in schools.
      8) The Lat was ‘the most expensive currency’? 0_o What?!
      12) Pelmeni are very much a national dish – just look at the fridges in the supermarkets, no need to live too long here for that. 🙂
      17) I don’t support the Dinamo, and the only reason I know this team exists is because they slap their crappy logo onto various consumer products, which pisses me off – hey, here’s an idea, Dinamo, how ’bout selling TP rolls with your logo on the paper?
      23) This bit means you have spent too much time in Riga. 🙂 Do you want to have drunks shouting at you in Latvian? Take a trip to the country. 🙂
      33) Personally, I’ve never had problems at zebra crossings. There is an occasional wanker who tries to squeeze in in front of the pedestrians, but there’s certainly nothing to be particularly scared about.
      41) This seems to have come from a different list about a different country. 🙂 I’ve never seen this happen – and why 3 mobiles? Operators can’t limit a mobile they sell to a particular network or sim-card anywhere in the EU. Since forever.
      42) There might be hypothetical macho lowlifes who consider safety belts to be an affront to their scrotums, but it’s been a long time since I’ve ridden a car in which there were people who weren’t fastened.
      58) I really, really hate Laima’s chocolate. I don’t know what they do to it, but it’s got an annoying aftertaste. And the quality of the fillings in their choccies has deteriorated over the years. If you want good Latvian choccies, buy Pure (ironically, AFAIK, their chocolate isn’t made locally). Also, never ever give the ‘standard’ Laima rectangular chocolate box as a gift to someone you care about – it just screams ‘I don’t give a shit’.
      69) Welcome to the 21st century. 😉
      75) Yes, mayonnaise should be rooted out. I don’t care about tax evasion, mayo must be destroyed in all its forms!
      78) Well, if the winter is cold enough – why not? It’s been a long time, but I used to do this a lot as a child. This isn’t really just a Latvian thing.

      • rower says:

        #8 just means, that exchange rate for 1 LVL was less than 1:1 to € (0.7+- 3%, actually) and less than 1:1 GBP (~0.85) or whatever else currency. nothing about stability or real value.

      • Nerdator says:

        Has anyone really expressed pride over this?

        And it was 0.702804 – it’d been set hard since 2008, and you tend to remember the exact ratio when you have to convert the fees your clients pay you.

      • Mārtiņš says:

        65. I can read barcodes. If first three numbers are 590 and it’s a chocolate – beware, it can be more tasteless than Laima.
        58. Is a Past tense. Not only they taste awful they also contain trans-fat… Good for your heart! Laima has the courage put it in Serenāde – used to be the most expensive sweets. Palm oil can also be met in their production. Very Latvian style indeed…
        Don’t wanna be only hater. I’d say – try an ice-cream Ekselence double caramel http://www.foodunion.lv/lv/lv/dubultais-karamelu-ekselence Official Riga 2014 ice-cream. Actually made from milk.

      • Nerdator says:

        Speaking of Laima, when I was a child, my favourite chocolate they made was ‘Rīts’. The filling has made a successful transition to crap since then.

        Do you want to feel what I feel?

        1) Try ‘Rīts’ as it is now, with its non-taste and scaly texture.

        2) Then try soft Spanish turrón (turrón blando, you can buy it at Stockmann, speciality Spanish food shops should offer it, too). And that’s how ‘Rīts’ used to taste.

  25. Laura says:

    I didn’t take time to read, but I loooove the headline, because I have grandparents and their names are… guess what, Janis and Gunta. I will read the whole story. Later. I promise 🙂

  26. vtv says:

    Before reading it in your blog I actually had no idea there’s something going on about leopard print. Still I can’t say if Latvia is hit by this trend more than any other country, but I started seeing leopard prints around me! They really exist. I guess this counts as creating a stereotype. Well done!!!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Not sure I’m proud of that 😉 But I was just pointing out what I saw – everywhere!! And now it seems like it’s growing and growing – but this might be a global thing 😉

      • vtv says:

        I thought of that and I’d say it is declining. As I see it started in late 80’s – early 90’s when people got hold of all the goods they’ve never had before. If you’ll look closer on some videos from those times you’ll see that somehow this leopard print is associated with rich, succesfull & etc. Maybe now for some it’s a requiem for their youth and for those who are younger it’s something unconscious.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Or maybe I’m actually keeping the cycle going! Sometimes when I see people I’m like ‘are you wearing that just to annoy me?’ 🙂 Yeah, I’m that self-involved 🙂

  27. Vika Nikitina says:

    Folk singing pagans! Haha! I love it! 😀

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha! Yeah, that was the one that made me laugh! That, and the handle moustache bit! 🙂 Written by someone who’d lived here for a while as well!

  28. mmarinaa says:

    Honestly, I mostly started reading your blog because half my family is Latvian and I had no idea what that meant and I felt like your insider, but foreign input would help me to conceptualize some idea of what that meant. The pictures have showed me that Latvia is quite bleak. The leopard talk has amused me, because I have that stereotype of Russians, and from what I know, Latvians don’t like to be lumped in with Russians, haha. The Janis thing is also amusing because I have an uncle named Janis.

    Before your blog, my conception of Latvia was that it was cold, but pretty. And not Russia. (My family emigrated because of that whole USSR business, so perhaps that’s relevant to my conception.) Also, they liked rye bread and sauerkraut. And they never wear their traditional outfits, except for like ten minutes at festivals to perform. (I’ve been to one Latvian festival in my life. I met my uncle Janis that day.)

    Most Latvian jokes involve potatoes and being poor, so I assume those are stereotypes about them. (Although those also apply to your people, haha.) Jokes are a great way to understand the stereotypes of a land. Enjoy these gems: http://www.reddit.com/r/Jokes/comments/14q1lq/collection_of_my_favorite_latvian_jokes/

  29. We knew it’s geographical location! That was about it 😉 Then we travelled there and saw it with tourist/traveler eyes and following you has given us the real-deal Latvia that only any insider would know 😉

  30. bevchen says:

    The only thing I knew about Latvia was that it was up there next to Estonia and Lithuania, and it was probably cold!

    By the way, I saw somebody in top to toe leopard print at the train station on the way home from work yesterday. She even had a leopard print scarf around her head! Sadly it was the one day I forgot to take my phone (and I tend not to take my camera to work) so I couldn’t get photographic evidence.

  31. Honestly did not know Latvia existed!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha! And soon you’ll have a postcard from here! 🙂 Or never – depending on how crap our postal systems are 😉 Still no sign of yours!

  32. Gypsy says:

    Linda, Latvia wasn’t even a blip on my radar before I discovered expat eye. Yet thanks to following your blog I was one of the only people at work who actually knew enough about Riga to be truly concerned when the roof collapse occurred earlier this year.
    Thanks for introducing me to a new country and actually making me care about what happens there. And thanks for making me smile while you did so 🙂

    • Expat Eye says:

      Hey Gypsy! Long time! Thank you for the lovely comment – I remember your comment on the Maxima post as well. Made me even more emotional.

  33. freebutfun says:

    I’m not quite sure what to think when I hear the leopard print is still going strong. The one thing I remember from my first visit to Latvia almost 20 years ago… And I learned that it’s not the east, it’s the north (pardon my stereotyped thinking but shouldn’t there be more track suits then instead of leopard? It’s unfortunate how often I still see them here… umm…north of north ;))

    • Expat Eye says:

      I see a fair few tracksuited Russians in my area – but then I can’t really talk as I pop to the shop in mine as well 😉 At least it doesn’t have stripes though – and I don’t wear it with shoes 😉

      • freebutfun says:

        If you don’t have the stripes it doesn’t count. Unless yours is matching with your partners. Then it totally counts.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Nah, unfortunately not! I did see a Russian in a very stripey tracksuit today – with a black spangly cap, turned to the side of course. That’s how the gangstas here roll 😉

  34. Emmi says:

    I knew the following (from communication with latvians living in UK):

    – they do not smile much
    – they love nature especially forests
    – quite a lot of them speak Russian fairly well, eat Russian-influenced food but a have a strong dislike for Russia at the same time
    – they have lots of beautiful women
    – they like singing in a choir

    all of it was confirmed by you. then you ve added some new stuff: the leopard print, the jealousness of the women folk, the corruption and lazy workers that do not do stuff in time, bad customer service, unatractive men, very strange ways of communication… and so on. during my very short visit in Latvia I must say I saw not that many stereotypes except for the women who indeed behaved somewhat strange sometimes. the men were handsome, leopard print was nowhere to be seen (I dint really look for it), custimer service was fine (Im not a picky customer) as for the rest I simply dont know.

    All Im saying is, your blog is as close to the reality of Latvia as it can be. of course in the end of the day its just your opinion but its not fake or pretencious at all. any personal opinions must be taken with a grain of salt, however, your blog really tells the world about latvia and evokes enough curiosity for people to visit, but gives enough warnings for those who wish to stay and expect an easy ride. I personally think your blog is usefull and awesome and latvians should be gratefull for it=)
    p.s. girls one thing she is completely lying about – the ugly latvian men. they are HOT. so dont listen to her cause she simply doesnt want to share=)

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha! No, no, you’re more than welcome! And I agree about the grain of salt – at the end of the day, it’s one blog by one person who lives here. This week, I met an Aussie who is totally shell-shocked by the place, and an English guy who really likes living here – so everyone has a different experience! And thank you for always reading and commenting Emmi! 🙂

  35. lizard100 says:

    Judging from that first photo, scrubbing floors could be an option in Berlin then…

  36. Your blog has been an education on all things Latvian. I was especially delighted to learn that their cakes are good. And that they like trees.

  37. Latvian says:

    Oooooh, gotta run and get my popcorn ready…

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