Social Etiquette In Lithuania
Learning the basic social customs anywhere you go is important in making a good first impression – and more importantly – helps to avoid making bad first impressions. Some of these are fairly common in the western world, but it’s worth going over them. So let’s get started!
#1: Showing up on time
So first off, showing up at the agreed-upon time is important. Did the host tell you to come at 6pm? Then show up at 6pm! There is an expectation that the agreed-upon time is when everything will be ready so guests can arrive.
I know in other parts of the world, there is a larger variation. For some, it means that you show up “fashionably late” – perhaps at 6:15, and for other cultures, it means you should start to get ready at that time (and perhaps the host might also be starting to prepare at that time too!). But in Lithuania, show up exactly at the time you’re told – or as close to it as possible! Some would even be okay if you showed up a little early!
#2: Don’t show up empty-handed
On the topic of house gatherings, if you’re invited to visit someone’s home, then there is an expectation to at least bring something small – such as a snack, some fruit, or a bottle of wine. It’s of course not unique to Lithuania and is fairly common in many other parts of the world too.
#3: Flower numbers matter
If you’re giving somebody flowers outside of a funeral setting, make sure it’s an uneven (odd) amount of flowers. That’s because giving an even amount of flowers is reserved for funerals.
For very large bouquets of flowers, it’s not something you really have to worry about.
#4: Hosting guests and visitors at home
On the host side, there’s an expectation that you’ll offer and provide some food and refreshments. This can be as little as biscuits and small sandwiches or tea, but most people say that older generations tend to put out a lot of food for guests.
The custom of offering food to guests might even extend to strangers who come into your home to perform housework or repairs. It might not be offered for someone making a quick repair – but if someone is around for a few hours, something should be offered!
#5: Shoes off!
When you actually step into the home- pretty much every Lithuanian asked notes that visitors should take their shoes off. It’s strange how in some parts of the world, you leave your shoes on… but yeah -Lithuania: Shoes off!
When you greet someone, the general protocol goes like this:
- Men shake each other’s right hand.
- Women give each other hugs and/or kisses on the cheek;
- And, a greeting between a man and woman (who don’t know each other) might consist of awkward nodding and uncertainty!
#7: Politely declining an offer
I like to call this bit somewhat of a dance – just because it feels like a performance where both people may not actually say what they truly feel or want. Here’s what I’m talking about:
When being offered a snack or a drink, it’s common to politely decline the first time. But it’s also common for the host to insist and offer things a second time! Then, if you really want whatever is being offered, you can accept after that second offer. But if you really don’t want anything, perhaps at least settle for a cup of tea or coffee.
This sort of protocol might be fading with younger generations, who are more accustomed to saying what they mean and meaning what they say.
#8: Alcohol protocol
When it comes to alcohol, you never pour a drink to yourself first; you wait for someone else to do it for you – or, you pour drinks for other people, and then for yourself.
And then- In English culture, when you’re ready to take that first drink, you may clink glasses and say “cheers”, in German it’s “Prost!” And in Lithuanian, it’s “isveikata!” So, when this happens in Lithuania, make sure you look the other person in the eye. I think the eye contact thing is found in a few other cultures as well.
Superstitions vs. customs…
There are other practices that I would put more in the superstitious category; although going against these practices may produce some awkwardness.
One common one is shaking hands across a threshold (doorframe). Sitting at the corner of a table (if you’re unmarried) is also something that tends to be avoided for fear of bad luck.
Were you surprised by any of these? Is your own culture and upbringing different? Let us know by leaving a comment down below!