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Festivities at the Lithuanian Country Club in Hampshire || Events

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It’s that time of year for Lithuanians in the UK – the celebration of Sekmines. Perhaps one of the main annual events within the community, this get-together traditionally takes place at the Lithuanian Headley Park Country Club ‘Sodyba’ in Sleaford near Bordon, Hampshire.

This long-living tradition of celebrating Sekmines (Pentecost, also called Whitsun) is probably better known among Lithuanians in the UK as the ‘second bank holiday weekend in May’, and provides an excellent chance of reconnecting with our roots, so to speak. If the weather happens to be glorious, the Lithuanian homestead in Hampshire can easily accommodate over 500 guests, enjoying their picnics on its beautiful surroundings.

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If a Lithuanian invites you to dinner… || Survival tips

I’ve read on numerous occasions that people from Eastern Europe are best described as generous and extremely hospitable. So generous, in fact, that the majority of them would pull out their heart and give it to a, well, a good friend, a relative or even a foreigner. This hospitality can seem pushy and intrusive, especially when it comes down to drinking and eating habits, but they mean well.

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I took my non-Lithuanian fiancé to Lithuania several times, but one particular incident still pops up whenever he is asked to share his views on cultural differences.

While in Vilnius, we were both invited to visit my friend’s parent’s house for some lunch. The couple was very friendly and excited to see us both, as they also had a daughter who had moved to the UK a while ago and is now living with her English husband. So they instantly felt this bond – as if I was their immigrant daughter – and put on a show with three course meal.

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Twelve dishes and no booze; a Lithuanian Christmas

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Growing up in Soviet era, I used to celebrate Christmas Eve at my grandmother’s farm in a small village near Prienai. Called Kūčios in Lithuanian (pronounced as koo-chios), the 24th of December is more important than Christmas day, and is the time best suited for bidding farewell to the year that has passed. It is also an exceptionally family-orientated celebration, with a long standing tradition that encourages inviting a lonely neighbor to join in with the diners.

Being an elderly lady who took care of a self-sufficient little farm, my grandmother made sure everyone obeyed the Christmas Eve rules. She’d bring a small stack of hay and spread it on the table, covering it with a crisp, white tablecloth, and the day would be spent preparing the food, and cleaning.

There are no starters, main courses or puddings, as it is customary to prepare a total of twelve dishes, each symbolising one of Jesus’ apostles. All the food must be prepared with local produce, and any exotic ingredients should be avoided. The most popular Christmas Eve dishes include fish, herring, pulses, vegetables, mushrooms, sauerkraut, dried fruit, small bread biscuits with poppy seed milk, and bread.

The main, traditional dish of the night, called Kūčia (koo-cha) is made from poppy seeds, grains, pulses, and hemp seeds mixed with nuts, honey and water. No meat is allowed on the menu. During the evening, everyone can help themselves to any meal they want in any particular order, but they must have at least some of each.

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Why is there hatred towards Eastern Europeans in Britain?

As the famous advert goes, ‘Can hate be good? Can hate be great? Can hate be something we don’t hate?’ I’m not so sure anymore. These two stories happened to me in the last half of a year, in both cases while travelling on South West Trains.

On the first occasion, I took a late night train from Guildford to get home. The carriage was rather empty, but at the very end of it I could hear a group of local youngsters ‘messing about’. Their mobiles were blasting with music tunes, the boys were joking around, and the girls were laughing as loud as they could. The ticket collector approached the group and asked politely to remove their feet from the seats and to keep the noise levels to a minimum; otherwise, he would have to ask them to leave the train. Oh dear, the man had his best intentions, but not the best ones for me.

So, the whole group moved down the carriage where I sat. Even though there was plenty of space for as far as you could see, they specifically chose to land onto the seats next to mine.

One boy, not older than 13, asked me a question which I didn’t catch.

‘Pardon me?’ – I asked. I shouldn’t have, I know that now because they heard my accent.

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My Unofficial Oath of Immigration || 35 Things I Do to Integrate

1. I can speak English. I also understand English, and quite a few of the accents, although getting the jokes is sometimes tricky. So, I use subtitles while watching ‘Have I got news for you’ or ‘Mock the week’.

2. I show interest in sports. I can’t call myself a footie gal, but I do watch snooker, and find curling rather amusing.

3. I love pets or animals in general. I would report anyone hurting or kicking their dog to RSPCA without a doubt. I adore watching birds, squirrels and even slugs which seem to be in plentiful number this year.

4. I love a good laugh. I don’t get upset being called ‘sneaky f***g Russian’ as a joke like Boris the Blade from Snatch, even though I am Lithuanian.

5. I absolutely love walks in the countryside.

6. I don’t despise tea with milk, and I always look forward to the occasional full English breakfast. I’ve even come to love custard and Yorkshire pudding. Marmite is still in the pipeline though.

7. I celebrate Easter, Christmas, Mother’s and Valentine’s Day, and of course it’s hard to complain about general Bank Holidays (except that there are not enough of them). I also post tens of Christmas cards, and I sign them all personally. I even send RSVPs to event/function organisers if I am asked to.

8. I remember to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, and will send out ‘Thank You’ cards / emails / letters as appropriate after attending a meeting, an event, a reception or a dinner party. I will even send ‘Thank you’ cards to estate agents and solicitors if they did a good job. I try to give feedback and testimonials to the companies who performed well, and give feedback (or complain) if they didn’t.

9. I will wait in queues at the Post Office. I will even let someone go ahead of me if they are merely getting one letter sent, and I have a pile of packages of various sizes. I gave up the queue jumping technique a long time ago.

10. I say ‘sorry’ if someone bumps into me.

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