Arriving at the hotel in Vilnius, Lithuania, the feeling of jet lag was weighing down my excitement of finally being abroad. Even though the nice clean bed had seemed inviting during our flights, I instead decided to tour the city with a few friends. Taking in all the sites and surrounding myself in the culture was going to be my main focus. Though we walked around like American tourists, speaking loud and taking pictures of anything and everything, it turned out to be an enjoyable brief stroll down the city of Vilnius. Walking back to the hotel there had been a champagne cellar that was quite intriguing from the outside. Heading down the steep steps trying not to hit my head on the rough ceiling, we were warmly greeted by a young Lithuanian woman. She spoke well enough english for us to understand and asked us where we were from. After telling her we came from Pennsylvania in the U.S., she laughed and said they (meaning her and her mother) knew the U.S. better than we knew Europe. We laughed and further discussed the reason we had been in country and our goal to learn more about the people of the culture. This is when the young lady’s mother spoke up and explained that Lithuania had recently, within the past 25 years earned their independence. She mentioned how most people had the preconceived notion that Lithuania was part of Russia. In her opinion, this belief was degrading since Russians are thought to be intense and harsh in general. Previously having these negative connotations and now hearing it from a local Lithuanian, I didn’t know what to think. Our visit to Moscow in a week should hopefully shed more light on my real-life perceptions of the Russian culture. The mother then went on to describe the innovative culture of Lithuania and how many locals aspired to be entrepreneurial and start their own businesses. The main issue is that young people felt that the “younger” culture had been lacking and therefore gave them the only option of looking elsewhere to live. Talking with the two local Lithuanian women was a great way to gain first-hand inside look at what common folk felt about their country.
1.) Touring with newly made friends in an unknown city is always fun.
2.) Get out of your comfort zone and talk to the locals!
I chuckle a bit when I include take aways on the first night. My thought in doing this is to bring a broader perspective of what I learned that day—whether it’s trying something new or things I would do differently. Finally, I want to mention the fact that I have decided to make a few of these posts more in-depth for myself. When looking back and discussing the trip with friends and family, hopefully I can recollect these memories more easily if they are written in greater length.
Hope you enjoy!