Somehow I imagined Lithuania a bit different. The image I had in my mind was a country full of people queuing in front of stores, and big grey blocks as buildings. Sad people everywhere. And imagine, I went there in January, the darkest month of the year anywhere in Northern Europe.
Lithuania, 10 years in the European Union (24 out of the Soviet one)
None of that in Lithuania in 2015 – okay some grey blocks do remain from the Soviet era, and January is still a winter month where rain and mist come quite often. But it has been 24 years since the country broke free from the Soviet rule, those images in my head were from a long time ago. Today, the only queues I could see in front of shops where not because of shortage in basic necessities but because the country just switched to Euros (on 1st of January 2015) and everyone was very confused on how much they actually had to pay in the new currency. It took me 15 minutes to buy stamps because the lady was calculating the price of each stamp in Litas and then in Euros for what seemed an eternity, especially with the queue getting longer and longer behind me. Lithuanians have embraced capitalism with open hearts and open purses, and the free wi-fi in every café of Vilnius would put to shame any European capital.
Lithuania is looking North to Scandinavia
Even more surprising was to see that Lithuania not only looks West by entering the EU (2004) and adopting the Euro, it also looks North. Every major Scandinavian bank is present in Lithuania, whether it is DnB, Danske Bank or Swedbank. But it doesn’t stop there: Statoil is at every corner and people wear Swix sweatshirts (a Norwegian company producing ski-wax and outdoor and skiing clothing). The opening of the first IKEA in the country was live on national news and the President of Lithuania herself proudly cut the ribbon to this temple of capitalism à la Swedish. I have never seen a country with so many Scandinavian businesses outside of Scandinavia.
Also, I learn that Lithuania has 2.6 million inhabitants plus an estimated 1 million more living abroad, especially in the UK and in Norway. Suddenly the cheap and frequent Ryanair flights between Oslo and Vilnius made sense to me. Lithuanians like Scandinavia a lot, and apparently Scandinavian businesses like them back in return.
But do Scandinavian states love them back? “We want a Scandinavian country to adopt Lithuania” says my friend Birute. Yes Birute is a girl’s name which means “snow” in Lithuanian, they have other names which are unheard of anywhere else, such as Aras (eagle), Audras (storm), Daina (song), Miglè (mist), Svajonè (dream). Because Lithuania has its own language, its own culture and its own literature. None of these are common to many other countries, except maybe Latvia. “You see Estonia has Finland because their languages have the same roots, but Latvia and Lithuania are alone. We need a Scandinavian country to adopt us. Do you think Norway would want that?”. Hum I don’t know. I could ask, but I can’t promise anything. Maybe there is a form to fill in on Noway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website?
Anything but Russia
“What about Russia?” I ask. A glacial wind seems to have set at our table. “We are afraid of Russia”. Understandably. With its recent intervention in Ukraine (2014) and earlier in Georgia (2008), Russia seems to be ready to take back any part of what was once “their” territory if the chance comes. And Lithuania, jammed between Poland, Belarus and that little piece of Russia out of Russia, is dead scared Russia will turn to them and claim they are Russia all over again. Lithuanian TV talks about Russian invasion as imminent, and prepares people on what to do in case of war.
“Okay okay, so you guys need Norway to adopt you. What are the Lithuanians doing in Norway?” I ask. “Mainly criminal activities”. WHAT? My friends are laughing. “Well, that’s what they are famous for at least”. Criminal activities are not good on an adoption record, especially in Norway, I tell them. After checking, it turns some criminals make the news, but most Lithuanians working abroad are nurses, cleaners, or work in kitchens or in the construction industry.
Lithuania turns out to be full of surprises, and much more complex than I expected. At the end of the 14th century Lithuania was one of the largest countries in Europe and included present-day Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia. Today they have a Polish minority, a Russian minority, and even a Tatar minority. They used to have many Jews, but 91% of them were killed during World War II. Shit, 91%, that’s really a lot, I think while looking at the little sculpture made for the duty to remember at the entrance of what used to be the Jewish ghetto of Vilnius.
“This country wasn’t great during WWII, but now it came back fighting for human rights right?”. “Yes definitely” answer my Lithuanian friends. “Except if you’re gay”. What about gay Jews I want to ask, but let’s not make this more complicated than it already is.
Lithuanians want everything from Europe and Scandinavia, except for gay rights
“What’s up with gay rights?” I ask. “I thought Lithuania loved everything that was Scandinavian, and that includes gender equality, non-discrimination and human rights for all”. Well, yes, they love the low unemployment rate, capitalism, social welfare, the fact that it’s not Russia.
After making a little research, I find that “gay activity is authorised in Lithuania” (sic) but civil partnership isn’t. More importantly, the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer persons face high social and political hostility. According to national surveys, 62% of Lithuanians object to a Gay Pride parade being held in Lithuania. Jeez that’s a lot of people objecting just for people to have a party in the street with multicoloured flags. What if the survey asked about gay marriage or having kids? “Skinheads came at the Baltic Pride (Lithuania’s first Gay Pride in 2010), but I was with my mum who is a teacher so they didn’t dare to insult or attack us” says my friend. Great.
I have a little bit of a nausea. “The Demonstration for All (against gay marriage, in France) go a lot of media coverage in Lithuania” they add. You bet.
Where does Lithuania belong?
But none of this can deny that this country is beautiful: its lakes, its former capital city Trakai is just lovely with its castle and islands. The amber rings, the Dziugas cheese (I bought a jar of that cheese mixed with honey, nuts and cranberries, a Lithuanian classic apparently), the zalgiris (a local alcohol with 60% of percentage of alcohol, of great interest for the Norwegian tourists coming around here). Its food is so peculiar. I ate there a fermented cucumber soup (warm), deep fried bread with cheese and garlic mayonnaise, a Tatar-inherited pastry called Kibinai, a drink made from bread and a delicious prune cheese.
Despite the wonderful food, I had an after-taste of finding Lithuania in between two worlds: The youth obviously craves for more capitalism, more Iphones, more IKEAs and international companies. Lithuanian society hates Putin yet adopts his values on homosexuality, gender equality and all those conservative measures that don’t have their place in Western Europe, let alone Scandinavia. Where does Lithuania belong?
As I leave Vilnius, I pass by Uzupis Republic, a “freetown” in the old Vilnius that artists claimed as their own, with streets full of graffitis, art and thoughtful sentences. It reminds me of Christiania in Copenhagen. They have their own constitution, which includes among other things “6. Everyone has the right to love; 4. Everyone has the right to make mistakes; 15. Everyone has the right to be in doubt, but it is not an obligation”. Later that day it is snowing beautifully on Vilnius’ churches and streets, and teenagers are gathered on the French square. They ask us to join them in a snowball fight. They already built their ammunition: dozens of perfectly shaped snow balls are posed on all the benches. As we politely decline they start throwing their snow balls at each other, screaming of joy and rolling themselves in the snow.
I don’t think Lithuania needs to be adopted by anyone. Lithuania is its own proud Baltic country, and considering how many changes this country has seen in the past 60 years, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more change in the future. As the Bible says, as long as there is life (and joy, artists and human rights defenders), there is hope.
34 thoughts on “Does Norway want to adopt Lithuania? (Please, it’s for a friend)”
Hello there 🙂
First, love the blog!! Second, if you’ll allow me, three things I’d like to say. Bear me with me, I’m about to rant on for quite a bit. ^^
A tiny correction: “where there is life, there is hope” is a common English saying, not a direct quote from the bible. It may have been inspired by the bible (like many other sayings) maybe the book of Ecclesiastes inthe Old Testament “Anyone who is among the living has hope”, although that is only the first half of the actual verse and may have been taken out of context. #literaturegeekandpedantYEPyougotme
Anyhoo, super interesting stuff about Lithuania. I really like the way you described the city. I felt like I was walking down the streets of Vilnius with you as I read. Thanks 🙂
I’d like to respond to the gay rights issues which you pointed out. First, I didn’t know those statistics about Lithuania and that most people seem to not be in favour of gay marriage. I don’t mean to start a huge controversial conversation thread but I wouldn’t be too quick to judge Lithuania on that. You have to take the culture and history of the country into consideration. Lithuania, unlike France, has no such things as laïcité (which, in my opinion, is short for ‘let’s try and pretend we’re making everyone happy by enforcing more restrictive secular rules everywhere’) so in the mind and heart of a Lithuanian probably remains a strong attachment to their Christian roots and beneath there lies the Christian definition of the family as a union between a man and a woman. That’s not homophobia or has-been or Russian or segregation against dancing whilst waving multi-coloured flags–it’s about choosing a particular viewpoint on the definition and dynamics of the institution itself, and if they want to keep it that way, why not? This does not excuse homophobia–nothing does–but let’s not put Lithuanians in a so-called ‘conservative’ box too quickly–and I don’t mean ‘conservative’ in the confusing republican-ish American political sense (anything to avoid talking about US politics, ugh). Conservative can just mean attachment to certain values they’d like to preserve. Doesn’t necessarily make them retarded or uncool. Not looking for anyone to agree or disagree, just wanted to say that because some European countries want to be progressive and allow gay marriage doesn’t mean everybody else should follow (who establishes those rules anyway?).
Regarding the gender equality thing, or lack thereof, well yeah that is NOT cool, Lithuania. Notttt cool. I live in France and my Norwegian friend is always amazed (not in a good way) at the male chauvinism that’s going around here–I mean, it’s everywhere. [She should go to Japan, gender equality = minus 100, she’d be horrified]. Women should not be undervalued, abused or underpaid in the workplace or anywhere else for that matter. Now, I wouldn’t have a problem with agreeing that men are superior to women IN SOME WAYS, like they’re generally physically stronger and more likely to succeed in leadership roles or to enjoy a big caveman-style camping trip for example (let’s be honest, gals, who among you can move furniture or build stuff from scratch? let alone enjoy it? And don’t say IKEA. Swedes are from Mars.), if only those same men took those roles seriously and used their super powers to protect us like they should instead of, err, not. Now don’t go all feminist on me just yet 🙂 I do consider myself equal to a man in that we are made from the same stuff = we’re both human beings,but I am a woman and I want to be treated as a woman, with my own sets of weaknesses and strengths, I’m not a bloke, but neither am I a dog or a commodity. So I think France, Japan and Lithuania could all learn a bit from Norway in that area. Actually, scratch that. They defnitely NEED to learn from Norway in that area.
A friend of mine lived in Lithuania for three years and visits regularly, he may have some interesting insights, I might share this link with him!!
So, like I said, this was a rather long rant… If you made it this far I am honoured and thank you for your time! Keep up the great writing Froggie! ^^
Not fair to put Lithuania in the same box as France and Japan regarding gender equality. Very different cultures and histories. There is nothing particularly bad about gender equality in my country compared to others. Wages, distribution in workforce, long maternal leaves that scare off employers. But women are respected and can take prominent positions as exemplified by our president.
Lithuanians lack sexual education. There’s no such thing at schools, and as is evident parents don’t talk about it to their children. In my mind this is what makes people irrationally scared of homosexuals and transgenders. They simply don’t understand this. Religion does not help here by labelling unknown as devil and I do not like that you are trying to give Lithuanians an excuse to continue being ignorant because of it.
You write you don’t want to start a polemic, but that is a bit too easy said when you start writing controversial stuff.
From a ‘pure christian’ (as you seem to describe yourself on your blog), I would have expected more empathy. Me, being gay and being a man, let me change the words ‘gay rights’ and ‘gender equality’ and use your own words:
“Not looking for anyone to agree or disagree, just wanted to say that because some European countries want to be progressive and allow gender equality doesn’t mean everybody else should follow (who establishes those rules anyway?).
(…) Regarding the gay rights thing, or lack thereof, well yeah that is NOT cool, Lithuania. Notttt cool.”
And although it is clear you are not a defender of gay rights, I am sure you are ‘christian enough’ to behave in a civilised way when you happen to meet gay people. Unfortunately not everyone knows even this minimal civilised behaviour. #neverstopfightingforgayrights !
Apart from this comment: thanks to the author for this contribution about Lithuania, I enjoyed reading.
I wanted to add that the middle paragraph, where I changed the words ‘gay rights’ and ‘gender equality’, is obviously used to create a shock effect. No need to say I would disagree with such a stupid words (at least the first part)…
Très intéressant blog !!
excuse me, I’ve some trivial remarks. There in Lithuania is yet another Scandinavian bank, SEB 🙂 ”Zalgiris” – 75 % of alcohol (did you taste it?) :), and the attitude of the most Lithuanians concerning Gay Pride and everything has nothing in common with Putin 🙂 Thanks to Sando for your response in this particualr case, it seems you know Lithuanians.
anyway, thanks for the adt. 🙂 As concerns adoption, there is one problem. When we are dead drunk (75%, and so on), especially the women, we ask for the adoption, but after we sober down, we figth for the freedom 🙂
Situation regarding LGBT rights is rapidly changing in recent years. No doubt that bigger part of older generation lacks of information about gay people – that’s where that homophobia is from. But youth fully supports gay rights to marry or to have/adopt children. I’m very optimistic that we’ll have completely different situation after 10 years.
I’m quite surprised that you got gender inequality impression here. Of course, according to statistics, men’s salary in Lithuania is still ~12% higher than women’s, but unemployment among men is also higher. I know a lot of ladies in 25-35 yr age group who earns a lot more than guys and a lot of them currently occupying important positions in various business fields. In many companies women staff outnumbers men.
As a random Lithuanian who has lots of Scandinavian (especially Norwegian) friends, I can say that our ties with Scandinavia are definitely getting stronger year by year. I’ve been to Norway once for three weeks and loved it. One of my brothers has studied Norwegian language at University, another moved to Bergen 3 years ago. At least 4 of my friends work for Norwegian companies in Vilnius now.
Seems that Norway’s ex-ambassador in Lithuania also fell in love with it (see http://www.investlithuania.com/norwegian-ambassador-after-visiting-lithuania-i-waited-20-years-to-be-sent-to-vilnius/).
No need for adoption but let’s keep up good ties! 🙂
Very nice article!
I just wouldn’t agree that Lithuania adopts Putin’s values on human rights issues. Lithuania is the second country after Sweden to punish buyers of those forced into prostitution, has the best Protection from Violence in immediate surroundings law (2011), according to which other countries are drafting their’s. So I wouldn’t summarize it all like that. Lithuanians are very well educated (according to EUROstat several years in the row are the best educated EU country) and progressive country, I really hope that in no time conservative force at the parliament would be changed by socialist. 🙂
ahh, I wish you would be right… But unfortunately most of your arguments doesn’t make sense. “Lithuania is the second country after Sweden to punish buyers of those forced into prostitution”—- could be. But it is not because system truly fights against human trafficking for sexual exploitation successfully. Such data “appears” because of latency of this crime, in other words- we just don’t know about most of the cases of human trafficking for sexual exploitation. And we don’t know this because of issue of victimization, which is as an outcome of patriarchal society in where women is being discriminated.
Writing nice laws?? well, that’s a very good skill, but it doesn’t mean YET that these laws are being IMPLEMENTED correctly.
Lithuanians are onr of the best educated country? could be. But apparently this education doesn’t help to embrace human rights, just it is truly useful for writing laws beautifully.
However, its getting better and better in Lithuania.
and yess… as Lithuanian I really wanna be adopted by Norway, if to be more precisely – by a Norwegian guy, because I have never ever seen more handsome guys anywhere but Norway. Once I have been to Norway for a week or so and I was so so so so scared….I remember myself entering a bar first evening when we just arrived… Everybody looked like models in there. Models in their 20s, models in their 40s… How come? is it a result of human rights and gender equality? I am still afraid to go back ;(
Great article! Thanks for visiting us and liking Lithuania. But I just found out some other article writing about how Norvegians were disgusted after trying some Lithuanian food. Here it is: http://bendraukime.lrytas.lt/man-rupi/i-vilniu-atvyke-norvegai-pasislykstejo-tuo-ka-valgo-lietuviai.htm (in Lithuanian sadly). I hope such occasions are rare enough. But the dish they tried was… well, very traditional 🙂
Easter egg on internet, thanks!
Yey! Nice to read all these good words about my country 🙂
Povilas, that “article” about vėdarai is obvious fake.
A bit on gender equality in Lithuania:
Situation is not perfect, but it is definitely not as bad as in France or UK. And it is getting better. In Lithuania, for the first month after a child is born, BOTH parents get one month off (in Norway it is 6 weeks obligatory for the mother alone). Standard parental leave is either one year with 100% of the wage or 2 years with 70% the first year and 40% the second year. And either father or mother can go on a leave.
It is not required by law like in Norway for a father to take a certain number of weeks. So men going for a walk with their babies are not as common in Lithuania, but they are most definitelly not a rarity.
Of course, the culture does not change in a blink of an eye and it is common to hear from older generation or less educated about men’s obligations and women’s natural inclinations… But Lithuania is on the right track and given time it will turn out to be more Scandinavian than expected (even without being adopted).
On a different topic: Lithuania does have too many actual orphans and Scandinavians willing to adopt a child are very welcome in Lithuania.
Despite everything that was or was not said about LGBT in Lithuania, here is a LGBT president in Lithuania coming to a stage to give an award for best group on a yearly music awards: http://youtu.be/VmZTuEO8xHc
I think that shows a lot 🙁
Lithuania probably has one of the most difficult histories in Europe of the past 200 years.
Having in mind what the nation has been through, how it was almost turned into Russia, how many people were deported and died in the vastness of Siberia and yet we still managed to regain a sovereign country, we don’t need any adoptions whatsoever.
Just let us do our own thing and in the next 20-30 years it will be as good as in Scandinavia or even better.
I come from Poland and after living abroad (currently in Norway) for the last 5 years or so, it’s difficult to get my head around the attitudes towards LGBT of my compatriots in Poland. I think thet mostly stem from ignorance, lack of eduaction. And people fear the unknown/ hidden and develop irrational prejudice towards it. The same may apply to Lithuanians.
As for Lithuania (and the Baltics in general) seeming more Northern than Eastern/Central European, I would agree. The main thing I notice is how much more peaceful and reserved they are compared to Poles/Hungarians etc. Much more nature-oriented as well. And also more honest and upfront than overly polite Scandinavians. I did business in Vilnius and Tallin for a few years and still visit from time to time.
Polish plumber living and working in Norway
I work with Lithuanian engineers (women and men) and they are great people. (However, rumors have it that when they started to work in Norway, they were afraid of asking questions and pretending to understand everything. That’s not a way to gain respect in Norway. — Now, later, they ask questions as any other engineers, and are regarded as “just great, and perhaps a bit better”!)
But for Lithuanians and the Balts in general to get respect in Norway, there is not obstacle you probably hasn’t heard of in Oslo: We demand respect …for our winter roads. — Until Baltic trailer drivers thoroughly respect our winter roads, then that will be our major association with Lithuania. — Perhaps one of the two obstacles to be respected is — wait for it — in use of high quality winter tires on all Baltic driven trailers. — Sorry: It’s a cruel, stereotypical world ;-(
I love norwau
This blog has an interesting heading. “Does Norway want to adopt Lituania?”
The last months there has been wild accusations in Lituanian (and other East-European countries) media about the Norwegian Child Protection Service (Barnevernet) “stealing” Lituanian children and giving them to Norwegian couples. The reason for this, Lituanian media claims, is that Norway has such a low fertility rate and high number of birth defects, due to inbreed, that we need to get some fresh blood. This is just nonsense.
As a born and bred Norwegian I am deeply insulted by these accusations! I am married to a Norwegian woman and I hope our three children will choose Norwegian spouses.
The Child Protection Service acts to protect children in cases where one suspect that they are suffering from domestic violence, drug abusing parents or sexual abuse. Of course, the CPS might make poor decisions at times, but there are Courts that handle these matters and the CPS might be overruled if their claims doesn’t hold up.
Why in Gods name would we want to refresh our genepool from a country where Our common misconseption is that People are lazy alcoholic violent criminals. Note; I wrote misconception, but on the serious side, a quick comparison between Lituania and Norway of vital statistics show clearly that there is nothing to desire in the Lituanian genes.
I am happy to welcome foreigners to live and prosper in Norway, but you need to abide With Our laws and respect Our culture.
So returning to the question that heads this blog: “Does Norway want to adopt Lituania?” To me that question is easy to answer: a big loud NO!
Wow, thanks, we have bad genes aparently. Oh well…I’ll go watch TV while drinking vodka and beating my wife.
Was all of that really necessary? Really? You could not have approached this topic in a more knowledgeable and intellectual manner?
Now, returning to the question at hand — have you ever heard of satire? And by the way thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for welcoming foreigners to Norway. Here is a Norwegian concept for you, Janteloven. You need to get over yourself.
Oh, and good luck with trying to influence who your children will fall in love with and marry… yes, let’s keep that pure gene pool going. Oh not! There is no such thing in this day and age. Goggle The Human Genome Project.
Your post is a horrible reprensentation of a not perfect, but beauitful country and the beauitful hearts of the people of Norway.
What a xenophobe from a formerly very poor Swedish province…. at the time when Lithuania was the greatest power of Europe.
I’ve heard a similar story before. The last time I heard it it was Russian families staying in Norway that were robbed of their children, to stop Norway’s population decline. It’s just some more disgusting disinformation from Soviet Russia. That’s how they promote hate between countries, do not fall victim to it. Us Baltics are one of major targets for them. Lithuania arrested a few Russian collaborators that were getting paid by them to demonise our partisan heroes, etc. Absolutely disgusting, they haven’t changed a bit, beware.
We don’t think ill of Scandinavian countries, only maybe a little jelly of them. I, for one, love visiting Norway’s fiord-lands for hiking lol.
How very patronizing,like those American TV shows where a rich white family adopts a precocious down on his luck black child.Lithuanians just be Lithuania and stop making fold of yourselves,as it seems the country is depopulating and imploding,as neighbors like Poland soar ,despite all odds and never give time to such patronizing nonsense.
P.S….No offense intended,just a historical note,not so long ago,Norway was a pimple on Sweden’s poverty stricken butt,when Lithuania ruled from the Baltic to the Black sea!
Exactly! Lithuania will be back and Noraway-Sweatden will be our vassals!
I am Lithuanian and I want Sweden to keep OUT!
To that crazy Lithuanian lady who thinks vedarai are disgusting, and living in Norway,eating Norwegian food makes her better,…I hope she eats a spoiled batch of fish soap gelatin,i,e, LUTEFISK this holiday,idiot
P.s.There is nothing more beautiful than a Lithuanian kucios,no animal products on the table,symbolizing our love,respect and union with nature.Linksmu Kaleda to all!
Thank you, an interesting article, I was just looking for any information on Lithuania, history, culture, economics.