Did you know that Latvia is home for extraordinary beauties? Do you know who is Kristaps Porziņģis and why you should carry your ID even if you want to buy an energy drink? No? Great! Keep on scrollin’!
I’ll get you down the road of 20 curiosities about Latvia that will make your small talk with new Latvian friend less awkward 🙂
1. Latvians are super patriotic
Yes. Latvians are really patriotic. Let’s face it. They fought very hard to be an independent country so they appreciate it with all their hearts.
They also love their national symbols and colours – Latvian red. In winter it’s often to spot Latvian people wearing hats, scarfs or gloves in crimson shades. It looks very pretty and I think it also gives some sense of unity.
2. One of the oldest flags
There are written proofs of Latvian flag appearing in old chronicle, dates to 1280. It describes red-white-red colour flag, called ‘flag of the letts’ used by Latvian tribes during wars with Estonians.
There’s also a legend about flag’s colours. It says that during these wars, mentioned above, there was Latvian military leader, mortally injured during battles. When he was carried home, he was wrapped in a white sheet. Part of the cloth where his body was placed remained white but on both sides blood stains appeared. That’s why Latvian red is different that red colour of other countries.
3. Speak fluently in 3 languages
Or at least two. Older generations are able to speak freely in Latvian and Russian while younger people usually speak very good English as well.
It happens very often in job offers that excellent knowledge of Latvian and Russian is a must. You’d think that in Latvia everyone communicates fluently in Latvian but I’ll assure you that it’s not entirely true.
4. Minorities in Latvia
Russians are the biggest minority living in Latvia and truth to be told – many of them can’t speak Latvian. Honestly speaking, what would they need it for? When they go to governmental institution – employers speak Russian; when they go to the store – employers speak Russian; basically whenever they go – most of people speak Russian. Why would they need to learn Latvian then?
There are also Poles living in Latvia. It’s only 2.1% (comparing to 25% of Russians) but it’s enough to run Polish schools and events.
5. One of the most difficult languages
I’m Polish and I’m proud, especially that I speak fluent Polish. It wasn’t so hard for me to learn English; I used to know basics of German and Spanish. Latvian may not be as difficult as my national language (and it’s more pleasant to listen to) but it certainly isn’t easy. Especially when you take closer look to all 7 declensions and all exceptions they have.
Most likely that’s the reason why my best Latvian show is when I speak about my breakfast routine.
Brokastīs es parasti ēdu vienu jogurtu un vienu ābolu. Un es dzeru melnu tēju.
6. First decorated Christmas Tree
If you were taught at school that thanks to Germans we have tradition of decorating Christmas Tree – now it’s time to evaluate your knowledge.
According to old chronics, first spruce tree, decorated with candies stood in Riga and Tallinn in 15th century.
7. Latvian Song and Dance Festival
Once in every 4 years in Latvia takes place one of the biggest choral events – Latvian Song and Dance Festival (Vispārējie Latviešu Dziesmu un Deju Svētki). All amateur and professional dancing and singing groups are coming from all over the World.
It’s a beautiful experience, as well as for people sitting on stands and even more for participants, who spend long time getting ready for the event.
Next Festival will take place in 2018 and I honestly can’t wait to see it myself.
8. Beautiful women
Before I moved to Latvia for the first time I did little research in Google; about the weather, about culture, food, men and women. So I found out that one of the most important thing Latvia is famous for is beautiful women. I did go and I did realize that Google was right! Latvian beauties you can spot not only on catwalk but also while doing groceries or sweating at the gym.
9. Fitness People
Living in Latvia I realized that it’s not so often that I see overweight people. Of course, it happens just like everywhere else, but it is quite rare. I even started to think whether they are lucky to be born with awesome genes (like an addition to their appearance) but I discovered the truth when I signed in for a gym: they are active and they really work on their body shape. So, that’s a nice attitude to follow!
FYI: there are some nice and not expensive places in Riga – I go to “People Fitness” and pay only 19.90 euro for unlimited gym time (it’s 24 hours open).
10. National Sports
Most likely you’ve never seen Latvian team in soccer championships – neither did I. They are not too big on it and I was this weirdo talking about Champions League, trying to make smalls talks when I moved here few years ago. While living in Latvia I found out that I should change my sport of interest otherwise my social life may suffer. As it turned out this country has some things to offer. If you want to find out what I’m talking about, please do check out Latvian teams for ice hockey, bobsleigh or BMX.
11. NBA star
Basketball also takes special place in Latvian hearts, same as basketball players or one in particular. Kristaps Porziņģis is New York Knicks star and this year winner of Skill Challenge that took place during All-Star Weekend. Little hint then – if you are planning to go to Latvia and make some friendships – make sure you Google the guy. You will have a great opportunity for small talk with your Latvian friend.
12. Latvian dark bread
Latvians love bread just like Poles do. In comparison to Poland where white bread is number one – in Latvian stores dark one take the lead. Truth to be told that I’m not big fan of how it tastes. It would be really great if not for little addition that I simply can’t stand (and about which I didn’t know I dislike). Cumin. Latvian bread is loaded with cumin. So if you, just like me, don’t like it – better go for plain, white breadstuff otherwise your taste buds may not be satisfied.
13. No alcohol after 10 pm
You are planning a party where you’ll serve alcohol for your guests? Better make sure your supplies are enough because if you run out if it after 10 pm then… ooppsss… you’ll be left with non alcoholic beverages. Or you can always go to pubs, bars, clubs and continue having fun 🙂
14. ID for Redbull
In Latvia you need to be over 18 to buy energy drinks. You also have to have you ID with you while making a purchase. So if you are still a minor, better go for that cup of coffee.
15. Widest waterfall in Europe
Latvians likes to be proud of things that makes their country be well-known for and sometimes they will point them out for you (or maybe only N. does it, hmm…), just like in this case: did you know that Latvia has the widest waterfall in Europe? No, I didn’t but now I do.
Ventas Rumba may not be very impressive if it comes to its height (around 2 m) but it is quite wide, indeed, for its width 249 m (up to 270 m during spring flood).
16. Fast Internet
Latvia is in top 10 countries with fastest internet in the World, with number 8 on the list. Leaders are: South Korea, Sweden, Norway, Japan, Netherlands, Hong Kong and Switzerland.
Well done, Latvia, my Grey’s Anatomy streams in a blink of an eye!
17. Latvians are shy
… or “not easy to open”. Well, okay, it doesn’t sound good but it’s true. What I have on mind is that it takes time to befriend Latvian person. They could be quite careful on the beginning and you better watch out your tongue because you may scare them away. I’m still quite surprised that I managed to get along with them so well, considering my big mouth and ability to say things that shouldn’t be said (out loud) on the beginning of new friendship but hey, you just need to learn how to crack ‘em! If you do, I’m telling you – Latvians easily can make friends for life 😉
18. Latvian houses have names
It’s quite interesting, actually. So here’s how it goes (according to my Latvian teacher from years ago – Baiba). Latvians are not noisy people; they mind their own business, don’t gossip (too much) and like to be left alone. You can literally notice that when you drive through Latvia and you see that countryside houses are 500 m away one from another; they are rather to be surrounded by forests and fields than neighbours. Because of the fact how widely village houses are spread – I’m guessing there was no point of giving any street names, neither house numbers, as it could be difficult to set the order. Latvians figured it will be nice to give their house a name. In this case, when you send a postcard to your Latvian friend – don’t be surprised there’s no street name included.
Moving to Latvia few years ago I discovered they are very crafty people. Of course, comparing to me everyone is talented but Latvians are super handy and very DIY type of people. I guess they like these kind of stuff. I remember once we had Masquerade Ball so I run to the store to get some good looking mask while my roomie simply Pinterested the thing and made it entirely herself. I am kind of envious of these skills as I’m more likely to glue my fingers together rather than make an something out of nothing.
Riga is also full of little workshops called “Darbnīca” where you can buy hand made jewellery, candles, soaps… Literally whatever you wish. Great idea for souvenir from Latvia 🙂
20. No Starbucks
If you hoped for quick coffee break on the way I must warn you – better look for Double Coffee or Costa Coffee than Starbucks. As far as I know – the most famous coffeehouse chain is not planning to go into Baltic market.
If you have something to add to the list above – feel free to share in comment section below.