Interview with an American in Lithuania: Adelaide
Hey everyone! Today, we're doing something a little different from my typical blog post. I've decided to start a small series where I interview people in Lithuania - other foreigners and Lithuanians alike. I've surrounded myself with a select group of American (and Canadian!) friends here in Vilnius, and even more that have come and gone in my - gasp! - 1.5 years here.
A special kinship exists with other expats in Lithuania, but especially Americans... and in my case, especially Americans from the South. It does take moxie to get up and move somewhere upside-down-different from your home. This certainly self-selects for interesting friendships, commonalities, and conversations. My friend Adelaide is one of my newer American friends, and she touches all of these points, with an extra dose of kindness - because she's from Texas, y'all.
Because I'm me, I thought up a few questions to ask Adelaide, and I'm sharing her answers below. Her journey here was quite different from my own, but here we are, both surrounded by these beautiful forests. Enjoy, and let's meet back together at the bottom. ;)
1. Hi, Adelaide! What prompted your move to Lithuania? Were you excited? Nervous?
I moved to Lithuania because my partner is from here, and although we met living in England, he moved back here during the pandemic. It seemed simpler for me to get a job here where I could receive a work permit than for us to try to find jobs in the US or anywhere else in the world. (And it was! Only took a couple of months of job hunting!)
I was extremely excited because I finally got to move in with my partner, and we had been dealing with a very long-distance relationship for several years. I actually don’t think I was nervous at all before I got here, because I was so excited to start the journey and used to living abroad already. The year prior to moving here, I had been living in Sweden and then England, and I’ve traveled quite a bit over the past 5 years, so that made the transition a lot easier. And I love an adventure, so at this point in my life, I’m pretty open to living (almost) anywhere. My family, on the other hand, was definitely more nervous than I was! [Editor's Note: Sound familiar!?]
Meet Adelaide! Note Trakai in the background, y'all!
2. What was your first impression of Lithuania as an American, and has it changed - drastically, if at all?
My first impression came during the summer of 2021, when I visited for a month and a half, before my partner and I decided that I would join him here in 2022. I had no idea what to expect, but I have to admit - and I’m not proud of this - I think I was subconsciously surprised by how modern Vilnius is. Young Lithuanians are so hip, there is a multitude of great vegan options here (a huge selling point for me!), and it often feels like almost everyone in Vilnius speaks English. I'm glad that I first got to visit during the summer, though. While the country is gorgeous year-round, everyone just seems to radiate sunshine when it’s warm, and seeing the city so lively was a great first impression. This time of year, however, everyone seems to be hibernating. [Editor's Note: Truth.]
My impressions of Lithuania have not changed too much, as I’m still constantly impressed by how beautiful nature is here, during every season. Everything about living here has gotten easier over time though, as the more time I spend here, the more it feels like home. I also think my perception was initially influenced by everything that my partner had told me about his home country for 4 years, but by now, I’ve been able to form my own opinions. Vilnius in particular is much more international than I had expected prior to living here, and that makes me feel even more welcomed. Some days, it seems like I hear just as many foreign languages as I do Lithuanian!
I also have a much deeper respect for Lithuanians after learning more about their rich history and everything this country has been through. I definitely don’t find the people to be cold or unfriendly (no matter how many times Lithuanians try to convince me that they are!), but I do find them to be direct. This intimidated me at first, as a Texan who tends to word things as gently as possible, but I now understand that they just value honesty. I respect them for it, and I’ve tried to match them with the same transparency. [Editor's Note: Y'all know I get this. I just wrote a blog post on this exact perception!]
3. This is an important one. It's for science, really. How do you handle the gray skies and lack of sun during the wintertime? Do any specific activities help you to stay warm?
In a way, I think I was built to live in Lithuania, or somewhere with similar weather, because I have despised the sun my entire life. (Still getting used to the extreme cold and navigating walking on ice though. I’ve already slipped and fallen three times!) My pale skin couldn’t take the relentless sunshine in Texas, I hate weather that’s warm enough to make me sweat, and I’ve always lived for gray and dreary days. So in that regard, I think I’ve had a relatively easy time adjusting to life in Lithuania.
I did, however, recently have my Vitamin D levels tested, courtesy of my employer, and to no one’s surprise, I was extremely deficient. So I’ve started taking a supplement, which I would recommend to anyone living here! I also love going on walks, regardless of the weather, so the cold and darkness haven’t stopped me from forcing myself out of the house every day.
Thankfully, the cold and darkness have not affected my mood significantly, but I have definitely learned to appreciate the sunny days and take advantage of them whenever they strike.
4. Do you feel like Lithuanians have an innate connection to nature, or am I making that up in my head?
They absolutely do! For years, my partner had told me how much he loves being outside and how he identifies as a “nature boy,” but I did not fully understand where he was coming from until I literally saw where he was from. His hometown, Molėtai, has over 250 lakes, so he grew up spending entire summers camping in the forest and swimming in the multitude of beautiful bodies of water this country has to offer. He also insists that I drink Lithuanian tea, which I would consider to be grass floating around in hot water, and cannot wrap my American brain around why he wouldn’t want to remove the tea leaves before drinking it, but, “It’s natural!” [Editor's Note: Wait, like... just grass!?] I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met Lithuanians who introduced themselves to me and followed their name with, “It means insert nature word.” Eglė means evergreen. Vėja means wind. Rasa means dew. Ieva is also a type of tree. Ugnė means fire. Ruta is an herb. The list goes on and on, but I think the way they choose to name their children says a lot about how beautifully intertwined with nature Lithuanians are.
5. What would you change about your experience here? What do you love - as an American, international, etc?
I wish that I had more time to focus on learning the language. I know the absolute basics to politely get through public interactions and a long list of random words that I’ve asked my partner to teach me, but with my full-time job, I just haven’t been able to prioritize taking a class. We don’t know if we’ll live here forever, so my goal isn’t to become fluent, but I would like to be able to speak more easily with my partner’s mother in her native tongue!
I also still have a slight fear of going to the doctor, dentist, pharmacy, or anywhere else I might encounter people who don’t speak English. I always feel ashamed and embarrassed in those situations because I recognize that I am in their country. Having a partner who’s fluent in the language certainly helps, but there are times when he can’t be around (like when I spent a week in the hospital…), so I’d like to be more self-sufficient. [Editor's Note: Yes to all of this!]
I wish that they sold American coffee creamer in the grocery stores here, and if Trader Joe’s would set up shop in Naujamiestis, my life would be complete. But there are so many things I love about living here that I wouldn’t change for the world. In terms of living in Vilnius, I love how beautiful the city is. Whether the sun is shining, the leaves are falling or there’s snow covering the streets, I can’t help but notice how pretty this capital is. I love that I can walk almost anywhere I need to go from my apartment, and if it’s too far, there’s always a convenient bus to get me around. I love that I’ve met so many Lithuanians who have welcomed me into their circles and who actually think that it’s cool that I decided to move here. I love that I feel a deeper connection to my partner now after being able to spend time in his hometown, meet his family, try many delicious traditional Lithuanian foods, and learn so much more about his country and language. Lithuania is such a hidden gem in Europe, and I feel extremely lucky to be here.
Aaand, we're back! I definitely agree with Adelaide that Lithuania is a hidden gem. If you live in Lithuania, do you agree? If you've never been, does this make you want to visit? ;) Before we close up shop, y'all should know Adelaide's favorite Lithuanian treat is tinginys, what people here affectionately call Lazy Cake. (I brought the ingredients home to share with my family in America in November - two thumbs up!) It's a good one.
Thank you to Adelaide for sharing her Lithuania experiences! Isn't it interesting to see where it mirrors my own, and then where it veers off on its own path? That's the beauty of meeting someone from exactly where you are - similar but different - in a new environment. You never know what kinds of friends you'll make. Feel free to follow her Lithuanian adventures on Instagram at @adelaide_ross. She's just as precious as she looks in the photos, I promise you.
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!