DELFI decided to find out what foreigners know and think about Lithuanians. In conversations with foreigners it became clear that the majority of stereotypes about the country and its citizens held by Lithuanians themselves are not shared by outsiders. Foreigners call Lithuania a country of beautiful women, great culture and history and of viable economy; they learn about it not only during their stay, but also from cartoons.
The mayor's tank ride and a great history of the capital city
For example, Andrew from Great Britain says he knows that Lithuania was once part of the Soviet Union, and the name of its capital city begins with a V. Also, he remembers the story when the capital city's mayor drove a tank over car that was parked in the place it was not supposed to be - probably one of the most successful PR stunts in the history of the country.
Damien from Belgium admits he knows little about Lithuania too. He has interested himself in Vilnius only, which he says is a city of impressive history.
"But I know that Lithuania has a good basketball team. And, I think, a hockey team? I do not remember,” the Belgian smiles. “Yet I know that, as of January, Lithuania will be in euro zone. I am ashamed, but that's all."
Business-friendly and hospitable country
Unsurprisingly, foreigners who have visited Lithuania know much more about it. For example, Jeff from the United States believes that Vilnius is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
"You have one of the most beautiful cultures and the most beautiful people in the world. My experience is that the Lithuanians are very welcoming and happy to introduce themselves and their country to foreigners. These features are well reflected in the business market, where understanding and trust are the most important characteristics. I think this explains why Lithuania is suitable for business and it has one of the most promising economies in the world," the American said.
His views are shared by Cynthia, a Canadian. She confesses that she would be proud if she were Lithuanian.
"You have a beautiful language. I know that its roots are in India. All the people I met in Lithuania were nice, open, friendly and hospitable. I was very interested in the history of Lithuania. I have heard that Lithuanians once believed in nature, then they accepted Christianity. I also liked the castles of Lithuania. I think the Cold War tested the Lithuanian people and influenced their mentality and culture. I am surprised how such a small nation managed to keep its identity," the girl says.
The size of supermarkets also left her a deep impression; the Canadian is surprised that shopping malls house even a skating ring. She also likes Lithuanian beer, music and food; she still remembers a pineapple-shaped dessert.
Brazilians remember Lithuania after a cartoon
Brazilians interviewed by DELFI gave witty answers. Gustav Paim Rodriguez, when asked what he knew about Lithuania, was quick to retort: "It is a country, is it?" Meanwhile his compatriot Vanessa Yee added that she knew that it was in Europe.
Brazilian Alexssandro Mello Furtado was the one who surprised us with his knowledge. When he was a child, he often watched a cartoon called "The Break", which featured an annoying character who kept mentioning that she collected Lithuanian spoons.
"I also know that it is a country in Eastern Europe, a part of the former Soviet Union. I think that, by European standards, Lithuania is considered a poor country, but I am convinced that the situation in Lithuania is better than in Brazil. I also heard that it is a very very cold country. However, I do not know what language is spoken there. I guess, it is Lithuanian? " the Brazilian smiled.
Meanwhile another Brazilian Davi Cao De Jesus, who has actually visited Lithuania, says that before the visit he had heard nothing about Lithuania, not even about basketball. However, a few months ago the largest Brazilian TV channel showed a weightlifting competition that was won by a Lithuanian. The Brazilian jokes that since then, even his brother became a fan of that Lithuanian and Lithuania.
Italians admire Lithuanian women
In Italy, if you ask men about Lithuania, many of them will tell you that it is a unique country inhabited only by beautiful blue-eyed blonde women.
"But that's not all. They are particularly fascinated by Lithuanian women’s courage, independence, willingness to work and achieve something. They admire our emancipation, which does not prevent from being nice, loving wives and girlfriends," says Roma, a Lithuanian who has recently visited Italy.
Norwegians choose Lithuania for weekend trips
The chairwoman of the Lithuanian community in Bergen, Norway, Edita Jakubkienė, says that most Norwegians she met, who had the chance to visit Lithuania, were quite impressed by the country.
"Norwegians know that Lithuanians are hard-working, diligent and find a solution in any situation. I know some Norwegians who came to Lithuania to spend their weekend or to watch a basketball game. A year ago, we introduced the Lithuanian cuisine in Bergen Days, it was a wonderful event with a joyful mood and smiles," she said.
Ukrainians appreciate loyalty and friendship
DELFI interviewed a resident of Kiev Danila Benatov who said that ordinary Ukrainians know very little about Lithuania.
"The older generation, of course, remembers many brands: TV, refrigerator, knitwear. They also remember [basketball player] Sabonis, [actors] Adomaitis, Banionis and Budraitis – I like the latter three very much. They remember holidays in Druskininkai and Palanga. They remember dairy and meat products, which were of the best quality in the former Soviet Union. Young people know about Lithuania much less. Still, it is not so easy to get a visa, and young people like spontaneous travelling – well, you take your things and go. However, everybody who visited Lithuania at least once fall in love with it forever.
“In addition to that, Lithuania and Poland are Ukraine's faithful companions in the international arena. You can often see the wording in the press that the EU, with the exception of Lithuania and Poland, betrayed Ukraine. Ukrainians appreciate this friendship very much.”
Chinese know basketball team and Kazlauskas
Rokas Liutkevičius has been working and living in Beijing, China, for four years. He says that what most Chinese know about Lithuania is that such country exists.
"When I was teaching the course of Lithuanian language and culture for Chinese students, I would speak about Lithuania each week. A small group of Chinese students visits Lithuania every year, and, I am sure, they admire, respect and tell about our country in a positive way.
“Indeed, most of the local population knows little about the smaller European countries. An ordinary Chinese person has heard the name of Lithuania, but often the knowledge ends there. Usually the Chinese are familiar with our basketball team, many of them might know [basketball coach] Jonas Kazlauskas [who once coached the Chinese national team].
“To tell the truth, the wonderful staff of the Embassy of Lithuania, Lithuanian language courses at the University, a number of successful Lithuanian entrepreneurs, make Lithuania known little by little even in East Asia,” Mr. Liutkevičius assured.
Maltese believe we are part of Russia
Vice president of the Lithuanian community in Malta Erika Noreika says she can present several different opinions of the Maltese people.
"For local people, especially the elderly, the name of Lithuania is associated with Russia (without being able to say exactly where Lithuania is located on the map, they ask for names of neighbouring countries. Since Latvia and Estonia do not sound familiar either, one has to mention Russia, and Lithuania is identified with it later).
“Locals who know where Lithuania is and even refer to the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, are working mainly in the field of tourism, media, politics or any other similar sphere, or they simply have had to travel to the Baltic countries. Unfortunately, there are not many such people.
“One local person (a reporter) said that it was not much told or taught about countries like Lithuania in schools and universities, so people have to take interest in other countries of the world to learn more about them", said the Lithuanian living in Malta.
Icelanders impressed with nature and quality of service
Although Lithuanians are the second largest immigrant group in Iceland, after Poles (Iceland data of 2013: over 1,600 Lithuanians and 9,000 Poles), the chairwoman of the Council of Icelandic Lithuanian Community Jurgita Motiejūnaitė says that there is not much of the Lithuanian presence in the island country. Some of the incoming Lithuanians come to work temporarily, while others created a family here or even received the Icelandic citizenship.
“The level of Icelanders’ familiarization with Lithuania and Lithuanians varies. Some have just read something in newspapers or heard on other media about Lithuanians breaking the law (most of the cases were related to drugs, bullying and murder. Although the number of such offenses is small, they resonate relatively loudly), others have Lithuanian friends, colleagues or spouses.
“Some have visited Lithuania, so their knowledge about Lithuania is also very different. There are Icelanders who accuse Lithuanians, like other immigrants, of taking away their jobs. There are Icelanders who regard Lithuanians as very good, dutiful, creative and responsible people. Frequently, hostile views of Icelanders are more oriented towards immigrants in general, not specifically Lithuanians. Icelanders who have been to Lithuania are particularly impressed by its nature, historical buildings, museums, our culture of service, food and the abundance of choice," the Lithuanian living in Iceland said.
Translated by Lotus Translation
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