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Lithuania, just like any other country in the world, has some hot topics which should not be discussed during small talks with strangers. It is important to know the cultural etiquette of the country you are going to visit. For starters, here are the things you should never say in Lithuania.
Lithuania has a very long history with Russia, as it once belonged to the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. However, it is all in the past and today Lithuania is a free and proud country, which belongs to NATO and the European Union. That said, Lithuanians are still very sensitive about the past, especially when people assume that it is still a part of Russia. So, be careful when touching this topic and make sure that Lithuanians around you are fine with such silly jokes.
Basketball is the second religion of Lithuania and people are crazy about this sport. Lithuania, a relatively small country with less than three million people, is among top five best countries in the world when it comes to basketball. Kids start handling the basketball as soon as they can move and it is a dream of many to play for the Lithuanian National team and Kaunas Žalgiris. So, even if you think basketball is not an interesting game, you should keep this idea to yourself as Lithuanians would probably not agree with it.
Alcoholism is a huge social problem in Eastern Europe and Lithuania is no exception. According to some researchers, Lithuania consumes the most alcohol per person in the world, so you can tell it is a sensitive topic. However, it is a bad stereotype that everyone is a heavy drinker in Lithuania and it is quite insulting to assume that.
As well as not making jokes about Lithuanians being alcoholics, you should also avoid insulting Lithuanian beer as it something that its people are proud of. Many locals will say that Lithuanian beer is as good as Belgium or German, and that is probably true. So, instead of making fun of Lithuanian beer, better drink up and enjoy it.
The Forest Brothers were Lithuanian partisans who fought against the Soviet Union. Those people gave up their lives for Lithuania and are considered to be heroes among the local people. However, the Soviet propaganda always tried to portray the Forest Brothers as bandits who stole food from local people and raped its women. Well, better avoid saying these things if you don’t want to make Lithuanians angry.
One thing is for sure, Lithuanians are well aware that it is usually raining in Lithuania. Even though you might think you are being funny when talking about bad Lithuanian weather, it is probably the most boring topic ever for Lithuanians.
If you are already in Lithuania, there is a very good chance that you know where it is located. However, when Lithuanians travel to foreign countries and tell the locals about Lithuania, the question that follows is usually “Lithu-what? Where is it?” Traveling Lithuanians hear this question so many times that it gives them an instant dislike of the people who don’t know where Lithuania is.
Lithuanians are proud of their traditional Lithuanian dishes, especially cepelinai. Even though people won’t get insulted if you don’t like cepelinai, they surely won’t trust your taste anymore. So, if you don’t want to discredit your good taste in food, make sure to compliment Lithuanian cepelinai!
There is something about Latvia and Lithuania that make them similar in the eyes of the rest of the world. People often confuse Lithuania with Latvia, and that does not make either Lithuanians or Latvians happy. However, it is even more annoying when foreigners try to show-off and impress everyone with their knowledge about Lithuania by saying that Riga is the capital of Lithuania. It is not. Riga is the capital of Latvia. Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania. So you should either learn this by heart or avoid this topic with locals.
There are some old people in Lithuania who are still pro-Soviet and miss the times when Lithuania was part of the Soviet Union. However, it is not a wise thing to say in Lithuania because the rest of Lithuanians really hated being occupied (what a surprise, right?) and even the thought that someone could think that living conditions were better under the Soviet Union is insulting. So, don’t say it to a Lithuanian.