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On Lithuanian stereotypes, immigration and… art || Away in UK

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“The British feel the competition and they don’t like it, because it makes them work harder”, observes Rokas, a 20 year old Lithuanian photography student, currently living in London.

This and many more rather bold statements are featured in a short documentary story recently produced by Gerifilmai.com, and available online.

And no, Rokas does not pick strawberries in Kent; he wouldn’t know how to lay bricks, and he certainly feels rather upset by the Lithuania-related stereotypes we all have to shake off.

The video is rather short and slightly too one-dimensional to fully explore the subject of immigration impact on the British economy, or the perception of Lithuanians in the UK, but perhaps the slow pace of the interview is proof that there are decent, normal Lithuanian people out there who don’t have to drink drive or commit murder in order to attract attention.

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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Quotes of the Month: On Fishing and Drink Driving

BBC’s Evan Davis, giving an overview of immigration impact on the British economy:

“If migrants eat 8% of our food, it would be silly to think that in the absence of migrants, the native British would eat 8% more.”

The Guardian’s Andrew Heydon’s review of a dance performance by Lithuanian Lora Juodkaite:

“As far as the British are concerned, Lithuania is virtually interchangeable with Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Estonia – regardless of how offensive, geographically wrong-headed and ignorant that is – right?”

Tim Dowling does more to reveal the common stereotypes of East European migrants than any blog like this could do in years

“Eastern Europeans are sometimes accused of behaving as they would at home on the roads, but Poland has the strictest drink-driving laws in Europe, so perhaps they were just trying to adapt to Scottish custom.”

Tom Hamilton from the Daily Record on what kind of immigrants Scotland needs

“Since the 1950s, more than 800,000 people have left Scotland. With a low birth rate and an ageing population, we desperately need to attract more immigrants to maintain our standards of living.”

Lithuanian migrant worker Tanya Anderson, from Maryport, reveals to Times & Star that:

“The only negative thing was that when I said I was Lithuanian, people thought straight away that I work in the fish factory. We don’t all work in the fish factory.”

Sharp teeth, one leg, lesbian, and Lithuanian; what a picture!

To be honest, I am baffled. I’ve been rummaging through the darkest corners of my memory trying to recall the name of at least one ‘one-legged Lithuanian lesbian’ that would be not only world-famous, but notorious, too. So notorious, in fact, that rumours of such an individual had reached the ears of Mr David Cameron, who was so horrified at the thought that he couldn’t resist using it in what has become the strangest gaffe to make the headlines recently.

Oh dear. And we tried so hard to shake off the international image of being ‘Lithuanians with sharp teeth crawling up the beach with golf clubs to beat your brains out’ (as Mel Gibson famously put it).

However, the “Lithuanian lesbian” slip-up is not just about Lithuanians. It’s a wonderful example of a comment that can upset many more people other than just Lithuanians. What about disabled people? What about the sexual minorities? You don’t have to be Lithuanian to get offended! Continue Reading »