As well prepared as you are for your semester abroad, there are still some things you won’t know about until you arrive in Lithuania and experience them first hand. Such things have led to some pretty comedic moments for our Spring 2016 cohort, so we wanted to share a few of our favorites!
- The light switches for the bathrooms are almost always on the outside. The first week of classes we all locked ourselves in the dark numerous times before we finally remembered. It feels a little silly to go into a public bathroom and lock the door just to reopen it, make eye contact with the next person in line, and push the light switch and quickly shut the door again. And, just when we got that part down, we realized they’re timed lights…so just as you start to put shampoo in your hair the lights go out and you’re in the dark again.
- You pay for water in most restaurants, and no matter how many people at the table order it the waiter still gives you a look like you have three heads. You also sometimes pay to use the bathroom–the first experience with this was a struggle because we didn’t understand the concept OR the Lithuanian used to explain it to us!
- Instant foods are frowned upon, so get ready for some weird looks if you find the Lithuanian equivalent to Ramen noodles and make that every day for lunch. Eastern Europeans like to have big, fresh lunches and dinner. My roommates have been horrified by some of the things I eat (PB&J is an odd lunch to them), so they have offered me some of their food on a couple of occasions so I don’t “wither away.” And, if you microwave anything (literally, my roommates even think left overs should be reheated in the oven) they worry about your health! It takes some getting used to, but I’ve gotta say, their food always looks so good!
- They don’t have Cheez-Its. At all. There are other things that are hard to find or different than the American version (peanut butter is different, but it’s similar enough that it’s still my favorite snack!) but the closest thing to Cheez-Its here are Pringles. And that doesn’t cut it sometimes. So if you’re like me and can’t live without Cheez-Its, bring some in your suitcase. No joke–I brought 2 jars of Jiff peanut butter but no one told me about the Cheez-Its withdrawal I’d have.
- All students at LCC are at least bilingual, so sometimes those of us who only know one language feel inadequate. However, on the first day of your Lithuanian class, don’t tell the professor you speak English and whatever language you took for a few years in high school because chances are she’s fluent in that one as well and will spew sentences out at you in Spanish faster than you can process “hola.” Not that any of us know from experience or anything…
- Ordering hot chocolate when you go out to eat will get you a cup of straight melted chocolate. If you want hot cocoa, you have to order ‘kakava.’ Although, there are definitely worse mistakes to make than ending up with melted chocolate. 🙂
As easy as it is to make these mistakes, and as often as it feels discouraging, it’s all part of the study abroad experience and we wouldn’t change any of it! As we continue to explore what it means to be a traveler rather than a tourist, we are realizing tourists will try to adapt as much of the culture as they can to themselves–travelers will adapt their habits and behaviors to match the culture and appreciate it more. So, even though we will probably continue to make silly mistakes (especially in public), we’re slowing learning that we can laugh about them later and learn something about Lithuania from them all!
Lithuanian word of the week: Skanaus — bon appétit, enjoy your meal
Here are some photos of how breathtaking Lithuania is when you take the time to get out and explore, we’ve all fallen in love with its natural beauty!