Before we start, do you know which the two remaining Baltic languages in the world are? You guessed it, Latvian and Lithuanian. “But there are three Baltic states!” you might shout (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia). Well, here’s the thing: the Estonian language is considered a Finno-Ugric language. So, admiring Lithuania for its cultural perseverance and values is only natural – and without further ado, we are going to examine the top five things to know before going there.
1. Language barriers:
Since we have already introduced the language subject, it was only fitting for us to kick off the list with the exact statistics pertaining to Lithuania. Being under a Soviet occupation before 1990, Lithuania has a lot of “Russophone” speakers (languages that resemble Russian to some degree) and fewer English speakers. Only 30% of the total population speaks English in the country but that contains more than 80% of the younger generation. What this means is that you will be able to ask most youngsters for help. If you wish to address older people, you might want to ask in Russian or Polish for your luck might multiply thus. Oh, and know that the largest minority in Lithuania is not Russian but Polish (in spite of the Soviet occupation). Tourist-areas such as Vilnius (the capital) harbour far more English speakers than the rural areas so there is no perceptible language barrier right after you land.
Lithuania is a country where tipping has primarily been introduced by visitors. It wasn’t a custom during the Soviet times but after 1990, things have changed dramatically. While it is considered polite to tip restaurant staff with a 5-15% extra, it will only be necessary if it is not already included in the bill. Of course, even if it is included, extra will be accepted wholeheartedly (wink). Bartenders do not expect you to tip when you have to pay for each drink individually for it would be quite a hassle to winnow the tip out of the full price each time. Consequently, you might find these small tip-boxes where you can leave some generosity-coins (just kidding). Hotel staff should be tipped if one wishes to receive great service but cabs are in the no-tip zone (they are simply not used to it and it is completely unnecessary). Keep all that in mind and stay on the polite side of the coin.
First and foremost, if you are planning on visiting Lithuania, you have to understand how things work in Northern Europe. Adhering to Northern Hemisphere standards, the coldest month is January whilst the warmest one is July. Temperature fluctuations are based on the time of the year and they range between -42 degrees Celsius and 37. Winter clothes are a must from October onwards (sometimes even from September) and you can only safely put them away in the middle of May. Summers are particularly warm but the breezes coming from the Baltic Sea often provide alleviation for those who do not particularly enjoy them. Oh, and do pack an umbrella for Lithuania is notorious for its frequent and hectic rain (no matter when you might visit)!
4. The bus controversy:
Alright, so this is something that not many countries practice but Lithuania is one of them. Technically, you can ride a bus without paying for a ticket but you might run into people who call themselves Bus Police. These officials will stop the buses between stations, embark and control people’s tickets. If you do not have one (because you gave into your temptation), you are going to be charged with a nasty fine. Of course, these things do not happen every day and there are plenty of people who get away with not paying. What we recommend tourists to do, however, is to always buy tickets from local kiosks or from the drivers themselves. Better safe than sorry.
If you are a lady, you probably know how irritating whistling can get when all you want to do is go to the local shop for some chips in your home clothes. Well, apparently Lithuanians think the same as whistling is considered extremely rude and it will almost always attract frowns. Also, it is customarily believed that whistling calls the spirits of the dead – not something that you might want to be doing in the middle of Vilnius at 2pm (just saying). Oh, and never whistle after women, guys – it will NEVER get you a date and ALWAYS cause frustration (this rule of thumb applies no matter where you might tread)!
Did you enjoy our list? What experiences have you had in Lithuania and how have they shaped your trip? Tell us all about it in the comment section below and be sure to check back for some exciting updates! Safe travels!