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9 Things Lithuanians Have to Explain to Foreigners

by Milda Ratkelyte Oct 28, 2015

1. Trejos devynerios.

The infused liquor Trejos devynerios (“Three Nines”) goes back a long way. It has an infusion of 26 herbs (the 27th flavour comes from the hornbeam kegs that are used to store it). “Three Nines” is used not just as a liqueur but as a universal medicine for colds and joint pains and healing wounds. A shot a day keeps a doctor away.

2. Our last names.

Where do I even begin. The last names for males and females as well as married and unmarried women have different endings in Lithuania. For example hubby Jonaitis has a wife whose last name is Jonaitiene and his daughter’s last name is Jonaityte. When his daughter Jonaityte marries a guy with the last name Kazlauskas, she becomes Kazlauskiene. I promise you that after the herb-infused shots it all becomes clear.

3. Lithuania is not part of Russia.

We get it; we are a tiny country to compare to our gigantic European neighbours, but this does not mean that we are glued to our ex, Russia, in any way, shape or form. It’s time to move on.

4. We do have summers and we do see daylight.

Once we finally clarify not being part of Russia and explain that Lithuania is in northern Europe, that puts us in another pickle — people start assuming we live at the Northern Pole. “How do you cope with the cold? Do you get any daylight?” Yes, dear, we do get daylight, which ranges depending on the seasons, and the summers are, in fact, relatively hot.

5. We’re not only good at basketball.

We are extremely proud of our basketball achievements. Who wouldn’t? But we are also great at other sports. Virgilijus Alekna, for example, is a 2-time Olympic, 2-time World and 1-time European gold medalist in discus throw while Rūta Meilutytė is a Lithuanian competitive swimmer, Olympic gold medalist, and world record-holder.

6. Our language origins.

Although a tiny country, we have a unique language. It is believed to be the oldest living Indo-European language. We have numerous inflections and our letters often look unfamiliar to a foreigner: ą, ę, į, ų, ė, č, š, ž, ū. Still, at least in one respect the Lithuanian language is simpler than English or French: our words are almost always pronounced as they are written.

7. The 12 dish Christmas Eve dinner.

The Kūčios (Christmas Eve) meal normally has 12 dishes — one for each of Jesus’s followers. None of the dishes contain meat. Traditional dishes include fish (often herring), kūčiukai (small sweet pastries in poppy milk — might need to explain that one as well), kisielius (a drink made from cranberries), dried fruit soup. The best part is that you have to taste them all! New year’s resolutions to eat less and stay fit always fail at this point.

8. Cold Pink soup.

Upon seeing Šaltibarščiai, a bright pink soup, the first thing many ask is “Is that a natural color?” Let me reassure you, it is not bubble gum. The color comes from mixing buttermilk and beets — an acquired taste. Other ingredients in this cold soup are cucumbers, dill, green onions and hard-boiled eggs — it is basically a liquid salad!

9. Our deal with potatoes.

We love potatoes. When asked whether we don’t get fed up with eating so many of them, we’ll come back to you with a list of yummy dishes to be made using spuds. We dare you to go through all of it and not fall in love with potatoes.

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