Are Lithuanians Rude? An Expat Perspective
Happy New Year, everyone! We've made it through the tumbleweeds of what-December-day-is-this, and I feel like I've been spurt out right into 2023 on fresh, damp soil.
My days are getting longer here in Lithuania, I'm starting to see more of the sun, and I'm feeling dedicated to my practice of being a good human. But along with these wins, I took time off from writing this blog post to travel around Lithuania - and it turns out, that's where the gold was.
I had a few experiences while in Klaipėda that really got my wheels turning, and I'll share them below. But let's retrace our steps for a moment. I haven't been shy in the past sharing my own personal pros and cons list about Lithuania, and I've also delved deeper into the Lithuanian national mindset around, say, Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
But there's this one persistent question I've been getting a lot recently.
The question, asked - of course - by curious Lithuanians: "do you think Lithuanians are rude?"
How did I not realize I get asked this all the time? On the train, in coffee shops, at Christmas events, in pubs, in online spaces. Back to that Pros and Cons post for a moment, I made it clear then that I'd noticed Lithuanians have a bit of an inferiority complex. From my own words back in May on their dispositions:
Why the heck did two Americans decide to pick up and move to their small country? There's usually some version of shock and awe - and then, I think, pride.
But then come questions about the cultural differences. As I peel it apart, I recognize that - at this point in the conversation - Lithuanians are amused, curious, and a bit concerned.
In short, to answer your question, Lithuanian friends and strangers: no, I don't find you to be rude.
It's true that Lithuanians may appear colder, ruder, more shut down than Americans in any place I've lived. But from my own expat perspective, most aren't rude - they're just minding their business. As an additional perspective, The Scientist comes from a part of the United States with similar weather patterns to Lithuania, as well as a similar coldness - even a bluntness. Do I understand it? Not fully. That's not how I operate in the world, but suffice it to say: all you need to do to experience culture shock in America is to take a road trip. And the case could be made that Southern hospitality is too, well, fake. What's with all the niceties? Just be honest - it's refreshing. Who cares when you ask "How are you?" if you don't even want to know how I'm really doing? (If I ask you, I'll always want to know the answer.)
So, I get it. Take public transit, for instance. I've noticed that Lithuanians keep to themselves - unless they happen to be sitting with a friend. Public transit in America may have a few more characters psychically begging for your attention, but I'm usually listening to music in my headphones, anyway.
Shopping for some holiday-related items in Vilnius a few weeks ago, The Scientist and I got to the checkout line with a plant, a candle, some trinkets, and a fun language barrier. We've learned to choose our cashiers with discernment, because hell yeah, some of them can be rude! Mostly, they just seem bored, and this cashier was no exception. But she surprised us! Beeping our various items monotonously, she got to our candle and lifted it to her nose to smell it. I recognized enough Lithuanian words to know she was praising our candle selection and then winked at me before continuing with her scanning. I smiled, she smiled, she went back to minding her business.
These small sacred interactions do happen, and maybe I just choose to focus on them more than the cold energy other people give off. Some from older generations learned coldness as a means of survival during Soviet occupation. The younger ones have no excuse, but I don't hang around them, anyway - unless I'm in a restaurant.
And now we're back to Klaipėda, less than a week ago. I'll be real: I haven't experienced a lot of rude customer service here. Maybe I'm lucky. People generally want to help, and they want me to have a good European lounging experience. (We'll skip over people in governmental or bureaucratic spaces, who just may suck everywhere. Sorry.)
My lunch meal got messed up at a Klaipėda restaurant, and even with a language barrier, I understood that our server felt apologetic - genuinely so. I brushed it off. But later that evening, my friends and I went out to a pub that had excellent drinks service, but our waiter took an hour to bring out my food. But this server was not only rude - she was apathetic and careless, even after multiple check-ins. Maybe she was having a bad day, but this definitely stands as my worst restaurant experience in Lithuania. I did my best to navigate and empathize with the Lithuanian-Soviet backwash, but some people are just assholes. You can't see me right now, but I'm shrugging.
Overall, the sentiment stands. My Lithuanian friends are kind-hearted and genuine. Lithuanians won't go out of their way to help you, but if you ask, they've got your back for life. (Sounds like New England to me!)
I delight in the contrast, as a matter of fact. Do I wish Lithuanians smiled more? Sure. But I would only truly want it if it was genuine, and I've got a good crew of genuine smiles around me, Lithuanian and otherwise.
So, don't fear, Lithuanians. You're good. Go back to minding your business, and I'll try not to make you too uncomfortable with my American smiles. ;) And that's it for this week, folks!
As per usual, feel free to subscribe at the bottom of this page to receive a bi-weekly email from me on whatever's on my heart that day! And as always, I'll see you next time here at Into the Forests I Go - iki pasimatymo - see you soon!