Lithuanians are not just reliable partners in business, art, and culture. We’re also a fun bunch to co-create with, as we whole-heartedly embrace our weirdness, funkiness, and kookiness. And we like being upfront about it, so here are just some of the things that make this country and its people special.
1. So where exactly is Lithuania? Is it in Northern Europe? Central Europe? Maybe somewhere in between? We like to think of ourselves as Northern Europeans, but we’re also one of the (at least) eight nations laying claim to the title of the centre of Europe. And we have scientific backing – in 1989 the National Geographic Institute of France estimated that the exact geographic midpoint of the continent is the village of Purnuškės, just north of the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.
2. The party never stops. Lithuanians love to party. And that’s why we made sure that we have more public holidays than anywhere else in Europe. We also have many occasions to celebrate – we’ve got Midsummer, then the Spring and Autumn equinoxes, and then there’s not one but two independence days, and much more besides.
3. Size means everything. Lithuania is a small country with a big past – in the 15th century we were the largest state in Europe. And this obsession with size has never left us. In Lithuania, every large hill is called a mountain. And contrary to its title, Gediminas Castle is actually a defensive tower.
4. Kooky Constitution. We Lithuanians are proud to let our freak flag fly. That’s why there’s a place in Lithuania where a dog’s right to be a dog is granted by a Constitution. And that place is the Republic of Užupis, which is located slap bang in the centre of Vilnius. We’re not sure how much weight this document holds legally, but it’s chock full of nuggets like “Everyone has the right to understand nothing.”
5. Anti-art artists. Two of our most famous artists of the 20th century have the unlikely distinction of becoming famous in artistic circles for rebelling against everything that the art world represents. The fact that the Lithuanian public is proud that works by Jurgis Mačiūnas and Jonas Mekas are now exhibited in MoMa and Tate would have given these two old rebels a bit of a giggle.
6. Sandboxes for grownups. Some Lithuanians can’t seem to grow up. We like to play and get into all kinds of mischief. That’s why we are quick to embrace new (and sometimes untested) technology. But we are not completely reckless – we love our sandboxes. We already have them for blockchain, RegTech, and other cutting-edge fields.
7. The heaviest food with the lightest name. We Lithuanians are proud of our cuisine. Especially our bright pink soup and our grey cepelinai, or Zeppelins. These slightly glutinous potato dumplings could not have been named more poorly. Instead of their namesake aircraft, which inspires images of lightness and flight, they will weigh on your stomach for at least a day and take twice that time to be digested.
8. The six degrees of a Lithuanian. Even if the relation is only a third cousin on your mother’s side 14 times removed, Lithuanians will claim that person as full Lithuanian. This rings especially true if the individual in question is a celebrity. Bob Dylan – he’s ours, Robert Zemeckis – ours as well, P!INK, she’s one of us too. And we can keep on going.
9. We can throw, but not kick. Lithuanians like to throw things with panache. Basketball, discus – if the sport requires some chucking, we’re there. But when it comes to kicking, we’re not so hot. In fact, if you give us a goalpost, there’s a good chance we’ll miss it by a mile. So, although we’ve medalled in numerous basketball championships, we’ll not be winning the World Cup anytime soon.
10. Funky superstitions. Lithuanians are usually quite rational people but they still knock on wood, just in case. Other funky superstitions include not passing sharp objects from one hand to another (this might lead to a quarrel). And speaking of sharp objects, if you drop a fork or a spoon at the dinner table, it means someone’s going to come and visit you that day (fork means it’s a man and spoon means a lady)!
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