About Latvia


Lithuanian cuisine has been influenced by many cultures. Traditional specialties include smoked sausage, various cheeses, cepelinai (meat cooked inside a ball of potato dough, served with a special sauce), and vedarai (cooked potatoes and sausage stuffed into pig intestines). Soup is usually served with the main meal. Lithuania produces a range of dairy products as well as fruits (apples, pears, plums, strawberries) and vegetables (carrots, cabbage, peas, beets). Tea, milk, and coffee are the most common drinks.

Lithuanians eat with the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right. People usually eat three meals each day. Breakfast is between 7 and 9 AM, the main meal between 1 and 3 PM, and a lighter meal between 6 and 8 PM. In rural areas, meals are eaten earlier than in urban areas. For the midday meal most people either go home or eat in cafeterias at work. Toasts are often made during meals, whether guests are present or not.


It is customary when greeting for men to shake hands, but women are less likely to do so. A handshake is nearly always used in professional contacts. When introducing a man, one uses Ponas (“Mr.”) before the last name; for a woman, the term is Ponia (“Mrs.”) or Panele (“Miss”). A person’s professional title is also used before the last name when applicable. Good friends may kiss cheeks. Adults do not use first names with each other until invited to do so, but young people are called by their first names. The most common terms for greeting are Labas diena (“Good day”), Labas rytas (“Good morning”), Labas vakaras (“Good evening”), Labas (“Hello”), and Sveikas or Sveiki (both mean “How do you do?” but “Sveiki” is more casual).

Much socializing in Lithuania takes place in the home. Punctuality is expected, and it is customary to bring an odd number of fresh flowers for even a brief visit; the flowers should be unwrapped before being presented. Dinner guests often bring flowers and wine. Impromptu visits, even between friends and neighbors, are not very common, although unexpected visitors are usually made welcome. When invited for a meal, it is impolite to leave food on the plate because it may suggest that one has not enjoyed one’s meal.


Popular sports include basketball, soccer, rowing boats, volleyball, cycling, tennis, and skiing. Families enjoy camping, and those who live near the coast enjoy going to the beach. Other popular leisure activities include watching television, visiting, and gardening. Cultural events are usually well attended, especially ones involving national dance and song.


A new constitution went into effect in 1992. The president, who is directly elected for a five-year term, is head of state. A prime minister heads the unicameral legislature, called the Seimas, which consists of 141 members, 71 of whom are directly elected. The rest are allocated based on the various parties' standings in the polls.

Recent Decades

During World War II, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) lost possession of Lithuania for a short time, but by 1944 it had reestablished firm control. Thousands of armed partisan fighters, known as the “Forest Brothers,” continued their fight for national sovereignty, but during Stalin’s regime Lithuania suffered repression and mass deportations. Relations were less confrontational after the 1950s, but Lithuanians never gave up their goal of independence. In 1990 the country was one of the first republics to declare independence from the USSR. Independence was officially recognized in 1991.

The Lithuanian government, led by members of a political coalition called Sajûdis, embarked on a radical program to reform the economy and other social structures, but progress was slow and painful. In national elections held in 1992, voters rejected the Sajûdis leadership in favor of former Communists, who had formed a new political party advocating slower reform and closer ties with neighboring countries, especially Russia. All remaining Russian troops withdrew from Lithuania in August 1993. In November 1996 voters, blaming the ruling party for economic difficulties, corruption, and crime, ousted the former Communists from their parliamentary majority. Gediminas Vagnorius, who had launched reforms as prime minister from 1991 to 1992, became prime minister once again and formed a new government. Lithuania seeks membership in the European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

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