Should you take the leap and decide to move to Latvia, the first question you will probably be asked is “Why did you move to Latvia?”. Closely followed by, “But why? Why Latvia?”. Now I know why I moved here, as do the rest of you at this stage, but maybe you’re curious about what brings other foreigners here. Maybe not, but that’s what this post is about so… tough.
As people love lists and categories, and I love sweeping generalisations, I’ve compiled the ultimate list of what makes people move to Latvia. This in-depth research is based on four years of going out and talking to people – very scientific, I know. Of course, there are some people who don’t fit into any category (cough – on the run – cough), and some people who fit into several, but hey, people are pesky like that. Here goes:
The Scandinavian Super-Humans
Seriously, what is it with Scandinavian people? Are they all smart, friendly, open, funny, pragmatic and positive, or just the ones who go abroad? Certainly, the ones I’ve met in Riga have been intimidatingly perfect – but in the nicest possible way. They work for international companies, they open their own businesses, they invest in other people’s businesses, they set up support networks, they provide opportunities, they give free advice – and still manage to find time to keep themselves in shape and be nice to everyone. Is it any wonder people sometimes think I’m Scandinavian? (OK, that never happens.)
The English Teachers
Latvia doesn’t really attract the fresh-out-of-uni Tristans and Quentins wondering what to do with their lives and still unable to use a washing machine. I guess the lure of ping-pong shows in Thailand wins out over the prospect of six months of snow in Latvia. No, the English teachers here tend to be of a more mature breed. They come from all walks of life and, of the ones I know, I’m probably the youngest (and the only woman). Most of them are in relationships with locals and are generally quite a sedate lot. Present company excluded.
The Femme Followers
These are the men (not being sexist, but I don’t know a woman who’s done it) who meet a Latvian abroad, get into a serious relationship and decide to give living in Latvia a go. This is usually done at the suggestion of the Latvian missus, who misses home and promises a family-friendly, inexpensive, quieter, nature-filled way of life. I can see the appeal. And for some, it works out.
However, BEFORE you decide to sell everything you own in the UK, or wherever, live here for a year first. Don’t base your decision on a few weeks of beer and shashliks in summer, when the country is at its best, and there’s music on every corner. Investing everything you have in setting up a life here (and it will be more expensive than you think) is all well and good, BUT if you change your mind in a few years, selling everything you own here won’t afford you the same luxuries at “home”. Think on.
The Russian Romanticists
These are people who are fascinated by Russia and the Russian language, but not quite fascinated enough to move to Russia. They move here to improve their Russian skills, while still being in the comfort zone of the EU. Not sure how the Latvians feel about this…
The Latvia Lovers
An interesting bunch. These people feel some connection to Latvia, despite having no actual connection to Latvia. Despite having got off the plane around 10 minutes ago, they will pooh-pooh your advice on living here because they already know it all. After a couple of Latvian lessons, they’ll be correcting foreigners’ pronunciation and Latvians’ grammar. They do weird things like staying in all day baking piparkūkas (gingerbread cookies) and posting pictures of them on Facebook. Then, presumably, sitting down and eating them all by themselves because both the locals and the foreigners think they’re total loonies.
The Opportunistic Optimists
The people who think that Latvia really is brīnumzeme (land of miracles) when it comes to untapped resources and opportunities. Then they realise that they are in LATVIA, dealing with LATVIANS, and that half-assed is considered “normal”.
The Management Mutineers also fall under this heading. They are generally sent here to manage the “Northern” European branch of an international company. You’ll find them wondering why, despite assurances from head office that everyone speaks three languages, nobody is speaking to each other, let alone them, in any of them. The rest of the time, they’re browsing recruitment websites.
The Pervy Posse
I’ve talked about this before, but if you don’t like links, these men (I use the term loosely) can be found in and around various bars in old town, leering at women young enough to be their daughters, and (laughably) thinking they’re in with a shot. But just because I’m feeling kind tonight, I’ll give them a glimpse of what they’ll probably never see again in real life.
The Latvia Lifers
This group can be split into two. On one hand, you’ve got the people that have made a real life for themselves here and are perfectly happy. On the other, you’ve got the people who didn’t much like Latvia when they arrived, yet are inexplicably, and very vocally, still here decades later. Having realised that I will probably never be in the first camp, I’ve made a firm decision never to find myself in the second.
So, what do you think? Have I missed anyone? Is this Latvia-specific or could it be applied to any country?