True Lithuania

Personal and family relations in Lithuania

The basis of Lithuanian nation is the nuclear family. The number of kids has been decreasing recently; today a family of four (two parents and two children) is the social norm. It is now acceptable for couples to forego marriage (see: marriage traditions).

Lithuanian language has a multitude of words to describe obscure family relations (e.g. "kaliboba" - 4th husband, "dieveris" - husband's brother, "laigonas" - wife's brother). This signifies the importance a wider family once had but today these words are largely forgotten. Under the Soviet occupation, it was common to relocate people - therefore now relatives rarely live nearby and meet only on special occasions if at all.

Housing shortage under the Soviet occupation meant that three generations typically had to share the same apartment. This changed now and adult children usually move out (although may still be supported financially) largely breaking free from parental control.

Husband and wife usually share the income with the wife spending more. Student children are given limited allowances on family money. A richer family may also give money to parents and a few other relatives in dire straits.

Lithuanian parenting styles and values vary greatly from family to family, and libertarian laws respect this. Any state intervention into child-rearing (which is common in the West) is generally frowned upon.

While a part of youth has a dissenting opinion, having sex is commonly held to be an important commitment and faithfulness is valued. The average number of lifetime sexual partners is less than 3. Teen pregnancy, abortion and STD rates in Lithuania are all considerably lower than those of the two other Baltic States.

Some urban Lithuanian keep cats and dogs which they treat as a "junior family member". Villagers, on the other hand, more often regard their pets more like farm animals limiting their time inside homes and expecting utility rather than cuteness (i.e. mice-eating cats and security dogs).

After the family, an average Lithuanian spends much of his remaining free time with friends. "Friends" include select relatives, select workmates, a few (former) classmates and (former) university mates. Friendships are generally within the same age group and more-often-than-not the same gender.

Male friends tend to limit touching each other to handshakes while for female friends hugs and kisses are acceptable. Younger people treat seniors (older by 10+ years) more formally than otherwise expected, whereas older people treat younger ones less formally.

Social differences do not preclude friendships but boss-employee or teacher-student friendships are rare as hierarchy prevails in most institutions. Deliberations have now become more fashionable but it is still usually up to the leader to individually decide whether to take the advice of his/her subordinates. This decision-making hierarchy, however, does not mean inequality of working conditions.

Lithuanians almost never talk to strangers, except for "designated areas" such as nightclubs and internet forums. They keep a high degree of formality towards acquaintances (e.g. co-workers who are not friends) and service personnel. It may be considered untactful to display emotions or (to a lesser extent) political-philosophical opinions to anyone but one's friends.

In Lithuanian villages, the "everybody knows everybody else" tenet still holds true. In cities, however, the neighbor relations essentially have been destroyed by the centrally-planned Soviet urbanization (when very different people used to be moved into the same neighborhoods). Average urban Lithuanian knows very little about those who live next door even for years. Not saying "hello" to one's neighbor is not considered rude. This is somewhat changing in post-independence housing developments where more similar people (in age, salary, education) acquire apartments.

Typical large Soviet residentials in Klaipėda. Nearly every such building houses both rich businessmen and poor pensioners, Lithuanians and Russians, hard workers and alcohol-addicted social security recipients. At one time even the acting Prime Minister lived in such apartment. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

On the other hand, many keep relations with people far away as a massive emigration led to virtually everybody having some relatives and childhood friends abroad (until 2004, mostly in the USA but now mostly in the Western Europe). They come back for holidays and cheaper medicine and may send remittances. Some locals see emigrants as traitors, however, believing them to have sacrificed the needs of their small nation and families for personal material gain. Such views are usually held about the ones who assimilate into the foreign cultures and have no plans to return or perpetuate Lituanity abroad.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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  1. Pls tell me
    did In Lithuania English language speak people?


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