Why I Left the U.K to Live in Lithuania
By Milly Hailstone
If you’ve been reading my blog for the past month, you’ll know why I left England. But, now I’m telling the other half of the story. My boyfriend Zil and I moved to this Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania on May 4th, 2017.
Aside from the reasons I listed in my previous article, there were some others instances that made me want to pack up my life and start again in a brand new place. Most of my friends back in Brighton aren’t English and hearing amazing stories of their upbringings and their lives ‘back home’ awakened a sense of adventure in me. I wished to have the experience of adjusting to life in a new country, and living among the locals is the only way to do so.
The first time I visited Lithuania, more than a year ago, it was -20c, and there was snow almost up to my knees. Growing up in the country of rain, I’d never seen anything more beautiful. Yes, England occasionally gets a whisper of snow, but nothing compared to the magic of this new place. We visited a beautiful forest, the snow was completely untouched - it was like something out of a fairytale, or a film set. The combination of heavy snow, beautiful landscape and an up and coming European city was enough to lure me in.
So I Guess I’m an Immigrant Now?
It’s funny to be a ‘foreigner’. I don’t really feel like one, though I’m nothing like Lithuanians. I mean, my hair and eyes are far too dark, thanks to my Spanish roots. But, all the Lithuanians I’ve met so far have been nothing but accepting and amazingly kind to me.
I mean, the ladies at the Post Office actually smile here. Sorry Royal Mail, but your staff hate their jobs.
Everyone Speaks English in Vilnius
Seriously, everyone under 30 speaks amazing English. This isn’t something I was expecting and it really came as a pleasant surprise.
It turns out, Lithuanian’s of my generation learn to speak English from childhood. Before the country gained freedom from the USSR in 1992, I guess everyone had to learn Russian. But, this new generation who have only ever lived in a free Lithuania all speak great English.
So, now you’re probably thinking if I’ve managed to learn to speak Lithuanian? Um. As everyone already speaks fantastic English, I have to admit I am a bit lazy and I haven’t learned as much as I’d hoped. It’s funny actually, even when I do speak Lithuanian when I’m ordering a cup of tea, for example, the server somehow always knows I’m English, even when I speak Lithuanian they just naturally reply in English. HOW DO THEY KNOW? I’m baffled.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve got ‘British Tourist’ written across my forehead…
On a more serious note, I’m slowly discovering why this small country calls out to my rebel heart.
As I just mentioned, Lithuania only became its own country in 1992. It’s so shocking for me to grasp that my boyfriend was actually born under Soviet rule in 1989 - though he was far too young to remember anything.
A few days ago I watched a documentary called The Other Dream Team. At face value, it looks like a basketball documentary, but it actually tells the story of Lithuania’s revolution.
Growing up in England I was so sheltered. War and tragedy were as far away as my grandparent’s generation. It really opened my eyes to see Lithuania under Soviet rule in the documentary, food was rationed and children didn’t play in streets as their mother’s feared for their safety. Families were torn apart, sent away to Siberia. I just can’t grasp that this all happened less than 30 years ago.
But, this small country overcame it, they beat Russia- the largest country in the world. Lithuania is truly an example of how the underdog can triumph. Whether you are connected to Lithuania in any way or not, it’s a great watch.
Vilnius Is the Next Berlin?
In the documentary, the millennial generation is the called ‘the children of freedom’. And, quite frankly, it’s amazing to see what’s happening in Vilnius right now. It’s becoming more multi-cultural and is growing quickly into a great European city.
I even read somewhere that Vilnius is going to be the next Berlin. I mean, everybody does love techno here…