My Experience In Lithuania – A Poor Country With Nice People

Let’s talk about my real-life impressions of Lithuania and some of my experiences there.

I started my journey up in Lithuania, and my plan was to apply for a university there, and start in the Spring. There is just one good university that I could apply for there that allows starting a Master’s degree in the Spring semester, but I wasn’t sold on the university, and there were many other reasons.

First of all, Lithuania is very cold in the winter. Cold and dark. Without knowing anyone or the language, I would feel very alone and isolated in a city that is not a major city in a country I am not familiar with in a new culture and a new language, all while also being cold and dark in the middle of winter.

But there are other reasons. Lithuania is a very run-down country. I traveled all over the country. The people are nice, but it is a poor country. Lithuania is now ranked as a world-class economy, but the reality of the situation is that it isn’t true for most Lithuanians. Now, when I was downtown in the heart of Lithuania’s capital Vilnius, there was a Lamborghini Huracan in front of me and a Rolls Royce Ghost behind me, both some of the most expensive cars in the world. I was driving in the downtown square not far from the President’s Palace.

But the reason that is significant is because there seems to be a few very rich people in Lithuania in Vilnius, which makes sense why on average it has a world-class economy. Because the rest of the country, including most of Vilnius, is run-down and poor. And when I say run down, I mean it is kind of ridiculously run-down.

It is common in Lithuania for the buildings to be run-down, old, and falling apart. Yet many times, if you pay a reasonable amount, you will find a fully remodeled apartment inside, which simply does not match the exterior. One beautiful apartment I stayed in was fully updated and modern inside, but outside was an old soviet-style run-down complex, and it was inside a run-down soviet bloc housing structure that was literally falling apart, parking was absolutely ridiculous, and the parking lot was mostly dirt and full of huge holes in the ground.

The entrance had a key card, but the stone steps were broken. There was an elevator, but it was borderline hoping it wasn’t going to shut down and trap you in there. And it the stairwell was old and dirty, what you would expect to see in the Soviet Union. When you arrive on the floor you’re staying, you are greeted by a brand new door that doesn’t match, and enter to a renovated apartment. But this is not unusual for Lithuania. I encountered a similar situation at most of my stays in Lithuania.

Something interesting was that the gym had a wrist strap which you pick up every time you enter and return at the end. This wrist strap looks like a watch except the watch-like circle is an electronic keycard which opens the gym door. But even more intriguing is that all of the lockers are electronic, and the wrist strap locks any of them by tapping it, which is then keyed to that specific locker until you open it again. So that way, no keys and no locks are needed. Very innovative.

But living in Lithuania is a lower standard of living than living in America, by far. Unless you pay the same amount. So it is not a better quality of life – you are paying less and getting less. Availability of simple things that are plentiful in America are scarce in Lithuania, because it’s a small Baltic country. But clothing and shoes cost the same as in America, which is outrageous, because it means that Lithuanians, who typically earn between $300 to $800 per month, cannot afford it.

I bought a pair of shoes for US $150 from a Danish brand, which is the higher end, but it was worth it because I do a lot of walking. And I mean a lot. I went through the whole Akropolis (a huge US-like indoor shopping mall) and bought the most comfortable pair I could find, and I don’t regret it. Jeans can be bought for $30 but you get what you pay for – less quality than $30 jeans in America. You can expect to pay $70 for a pair of average jeans, or twice that for high-end jeans. For a poor country like Lithuania, that is outrageous. I got $70 jeans and they are thin, so they are cold compared to US jeans. I have to double layer in weather below 50. That is, wear two pairs of pants. Sweat pants below and jeans over top.

But these prices are way too high for any average Lithuanian to afford. Food is expensive too, on par with America, although slightly cheaper, but not by a huge margin. And housing is not that much cheaper, but you don’t get heat at many places. No heat. Yes, in a country which gets below freezing half the year, there are places without heat, because the government controls the gas in many city buildings, and the government shut off the gas until the middle of winter, so that the citizens froze. And many Lithuanians are happy to freeze to punish Russia, which is stupid because Russia has not been affected by it.

Which brings me to a big surprise. Lithuanians are extremely westernized. They are very liberal. However, not as bad as the US, and eastern women are more feminine than western women. Yet, Lithuanian women are politically very liberal and feminized. This was a surprise, but others have stated similar.

Living in Lithuania for 2 months was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. As time went on a learned a lot of tricks, but it was extremely challenging. I rented a car for 6 weeks and while expensive, it was worth it because I could travel around the country much easier. Google Lens was a life changer, because for the first time I could read the food labels.

Everything is different. The food is different, the roads are different, the language is different, the way of life is different. Having never before ventured outside of the United States, the culture shock was real, and dramatic. A full day would be spent just going to the grocery store. I would spend hours in there and be completely drained. Just trying to find food I consider acceptably healthy, basic things.

Lithuanian food is bland and tasteless, but that’s how Lithuanians like it. Even the spices are rare in Lithuania, and the ones you can find are in tiny packets. Not like the USA where you can find huge containers of almost any spice imaginable in Sam’s Club. Some spices are nonexistent in Lithuania, they are simply not available.

I gave Lithuanian food a shot. The first place I tried an “Italian” restaurant which was recommended by local Lithuanians. To be safe, I ordered a simple pasta with meat sauce. It was completely bland and tasteless. Worst and most boring pasta in my life. I grew up on homemade Italian food, so I know what Italian food is supposed to taste like. This was not it.

I thought it might have been a one-off bad experience, so I tried another restaurant, this time it was a funny but very well-rated restaurants that was American-themed, with weird combinations like pizza with peanut butter and jelly and other funny combinations. I ordered a burger. I liked the nice staff, and the food was ok, but again, rather bland and boring. No taste. Ok, so I tried another. A little better, but still generally bland. By the time I tried another place and it, too, had no taste, I realized the truth. It wasn’t just me, and it wasn’t bad luck. All Lithuanian food is bland and tasteless.

This was confirmed when the host of an Airbnb I was staying at cooked some food. No taste. I taught her how to make pasta sauce the Italian way. I had learned how and found enough spices by that point I was making my own pasta sauce from scratch. There are no measuring spoons in Lithuania (another really weird and shocking thing, I couldn’t find any anywhere), and no one in Lithuania has them, nowhere I stayed anyway, so I have to guess and taste it whenever I would make pasta sauce.

Anyway, I tasted it, and it didn’t have enough seasonings, so I was going to add more, but my host wanted to try it. I had tried and I said it’s very bland, I need to add double. She tasted and told me “wow, it’s perfect!” I looked at her with a smile and added twice as much, and tasted it. It was perfect. She tried it. “Way too strong!” she said. And then I knew for sure: Lithuanians have no taste buds. I’m kidding, but only kind of.

Lithuanian people are healthy looking and thin. No wonder, besides being very poor, their food has no taste. Of course they aren’t going to overeat. That said, the quality of the food is much higher than at US restaurants. I left after eating a burger and fries feeling good and energetic. I have never in my life felt that good after eating a big meal at any US restaurant. So their food is healthy and bland. A perfect combination for a people who are fit and healthy.

So Lithuania is not all bad. But the roads are atrocious. Pot holes everywhere, very poor care. Dirty, uncared for. The buildings are all run down dumps, in the cities and in the country. Everywhere in the whole country. Low standards. Lithuanian people have no standards relative to Western people. It is like they have no respect for themselves. That must be the result of a post-communist society – because everywhere in Eastern Europe is like this. The Baltics and the Balkans. Run down dirty dumps. I was only in Poland briefly, but I will be going there again soon. I only visited Warsaw for a couple days.

I’m sorry, and I’m not trying to be insulting, it is simply a fact. Why can’t they clean their streets and their buildings? I entered more than one building with a towel on the ground in the entryway? When the building itself was absolutely filthy inside and outside? Like instead of a welcome mat, so people could wipe off their feet on some random towel.

Just a towel as a sort of makeshift mat for the whole building which was both commercial and residential? With 1 inch thick dirt on the windows, and thick cobwebs on all the railings, why even bother to put a towel as a mat to wipe off your feet when you enter? And no one bothered to wash the windows in the last 50 years? Not even the businesses that have shops there? Have they no respect for their own business? How can your standards be so low? This is just one of many examples. I am not picking out the worst thing, this is daily life for most Lithuanians.

That’s my honest impression coming from nice places in America. Filthy, poor, and poorly maintained. Falling apart and old. The remnants of Soviet tyranny. A travesty. Places that looked like one day long ago people had built nice things but the feeling that it was a century ago – because it was a century ago, and no one has bother to fix it back up since they were freed from the Soviet Union 30 years ago.

It’s weird, something I could not find that is so simple, is a top sheet. They only have the fitted sheet and then a blanket, or a duvet with a duvet cover. Very weird. But when you add up this, and the fact there is no inner shower curtain – why the need? Well there is a need, but it seems like in such a poor country, top sheets, inner shower curtains, measuring cups, these are all luxuries that most Lithuanians cannot afford.

They are poor. They are barely making ends meet, and the cost of living is skyrocketing. The prices of rents in Vilnius have doubled in the last few years, based on what people in Vilnius have told me. The cost of food is skyrocketing, and the cost of energy is astronomical due to sanctions on Russia. The government is doing this to their own people. It is the government’s fault. All to try to punish Russia, and it isn’t even hurting Russia, just their own people. A tragedy.

Anyway, that’s all for today, there are a lot more experiences, and I have a lot more to write about, both good and bad, the honest truth; but today was a long day. I just got my residency here in Croatia, which was my backup plan if I didn’t get residency in Lithuania soon enough. I’ll write about that soon.

Take care!


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