It's So Same But Different

After living in Vilnius for over a week, thought I'd write about my experiences. As I was here for three weeks a year ago, the area and some things aren't new to me, but I'll try to gather some comparisons to my life in Finland.

Shops

In Finland shops can't be open however they want. They're regulated and it took ages to get permissions to have shops open on Sundays, at least part of the year. Nowadays small shops can be open 24/7 if they like, bigger are regulated. But we basically have shops open every day in Helsinki, some even 24/7 (but those usually aren't open on holidays, others are).

In Vilnius, shops are open every day, and they're open the whole day. There are two hypermarkets near me: Rimi and Maxima. Maxima is open 24/7, HyperRimi from 8 to 23. Every day. I don't know about Christmas or other holidays, but normal days. This is totally unheard of in Finland. And I love it. It's not like I need to go to the store at 8 or 22:30 on Sundays, but it's nice to know that I can. And in Akropolis shopping center even the banks were open on a Sunday evening! Whoa!

The hypermarkets have a huge selection, including alcohol. In Finland only drinks up to 5% are allowed to be sold in foodstores, stronger ones only in the state-owned Alko. And they're not open that late, except some in bigger cities. And you can only sell alcohol in stores between 9 and 21. Here the selling times are longer and you can buy whatever you like.

The selections for store-made foods are huge in these hypermarkets. In Finland there are some, but not this much. Also, have a desire for fresh fish? I mean, really fresh? They have tanks where there are live carps and some other fish. Doesn't get much fresher than that.

Price for chicken fillets: around 5€/kg. Finland: 10-13. Minced meat is 2-4€/kg, in Finland 6-10. Milk is a bit more expensive here and they don't seem to have skimmed milk. I did find one brand that has 0.5% milk, but locals usually drink 2.5% or over. Bread is cheap, you can get a bit store-baked bread for less than two euros and that'll do breakfast for you for a few days.

Vegetables etc are many times just picked up and weighed at the cashiers. But do note that sometimes they will ask what it is you got. And it might be in plain Lithuanian. In Finland people usually weigh things themselves and get stickers on the bags. Of course you can go to the Finnish Prisma in Vilnius too to get this experience ;)

Water

Water quality is high, according to officials. Vilnius (and I guess the rest of the country too) gets its water from groundwater, not from lakes or other over-ground sources (which is usually true for Finland). The water tastes a bit different, but in a couple of days you get used to it. The water is hard, meaning it will stain your water heaters, taps etc very quickly. It also affects laundry etc. There is water available in the stores, but it's basically the same stuff, unless you buy mineral/sparkling water. Also, beware the Vytautas brand: it's salted. For some reason some people like salty mineral water. And it's really salty. Some guys say it's great for hangovers, but I have no idea since I don't do hangovers.

Water pressure varies. In some places it's good, in other places it might not be. So showers aren't always as nice as in Finland. Also water is many times heated in every house, so there may be a delay until you get hot water.

Toilets

Toilets are mostly modern, but plumbing might not be. Some places don't allow you to put toilet paper into the bowl. There may be bidets around. There may not be a washing basin in the toilet to wash your hands. Public toilets are usually ok and there is someone to take your payment and looking after them.

Apartments

Apartments are very varying also. Many rentals have been renovated in the recent years and usually have loads of random furniture. Looks like most people prefer flats with furniture, which is very nice for people moving from other countries or cities. No need to haul any heavy things with you.

Rent is usually paid monthly and in Finland you'd pay to the owner's bank account. In Vilnius it might even be paid in cash. In Finland usually rent includes everything except electricity (or gas, but that's very rare). In Lithuania you pay for what you use: cold and hot water, electricity, heating, gas, possibly internet and other costs. These are not included in the rent. So if you find a nice apartment for a good rent value, make sure to check the heating costs. You might get a 400Lt surcharge during the winter months, which really affects the average rent.

Houses may seem old and not being in the best shape from outside, but inside they are usually modern. If you haven't cooked with gas, that might be something to get used to since only the newest buildings have electric cookers. Also, many apartments might not have an oven, so no baking or frozen pizzas.

Traffic

The traffic is very different to Finland. In Finland people mostly drive very nice, but in Lithuania it's "keep looking after number one." So do expect to be overtaken in the highways and keep to the right. Preferably over the white line in the rightmost side. In the city, look around. People won't drive through you, but they do switch lanes whenever and don't necessarily stop where you'd expect them to stop. Some crossings don't have traffic lights for turning left, so you may have to just drive to the center of the road and wait to get through.

Also note that some intersections have a green arrow to the right next to the traffic lights. This means that you can run the red light when turning right, if there's no traffic coming on that lane. So be careful since people do drive through red lights almost to your way sometimes and then break right before crashing. But it's not that usual.

Public transport

Buses, trolleybuses, taxis. The first two use a single-use ticket, which can be bought from the driver, or ahead of time. Remember to stamp it, otherwise you'll get a fine! There is no switching to another bus, you have to have another ticket for that. In Helsinki you can switch freely between trams, buses or the metro (there is a special tram ticket that doesn't allow switching) for 60-90 minutes.

There are also day/monthly tickets and electronic tickets etc, but I haven't yet used those.

Note that you can hop in to the bus from any door, many drivers might not even open the front door. In Helsinki you go in through the front door and out from the others. You can still go to the driver to buy the ticket. But I'd suggest getting tickets beforehand, since the driver will be driving while getting you the ticket, change etc. So it's not the safest thing for anyone.

Students get 50% off of the single tickets (do have ISIC card or local university card though) and monthly tickets are cheapest.

If you need a taxi, call and order one. If you see one going past, just take the phone number and call and tell where you are. If you hail a cab, they'll charge you more.

Language

Many younger people speak English, but don't assume you'll get service in English in all restaurants, shops etc. Many people do speak other languages, but it might be German, Russian or Polish. The language is very different from most others, so you might not understand anything. There are also strange characters, like ščžąįųū.

What do you think these are: viešbutis, parduotuvė, vištiena, pica, alus, pienas, duona, šaldytuvas? Nautrally they're hotel, shop, chicken, pizza, beer, milk, bread and refridgerator.

I have studied the language for two courses (16 ECTS credits) and should be on the A2 level, but vocabulary is very lacking. I do get by in the shops ok, can order a pizza or tea. But if they ask for something more difficult, I'll have to ask them to speak English, if they can. And people speak Lithuanian very fast and quietly, so it's not easy to understand.

Clubs

Clubs usually have "face control", meaning they'll check you out and not let you in if you're not suitable. It might be due to being drunk, dressed wrong or some other things. I haven't been to that many places, so don't know how the bouncers act, but I wouldn't suggest mouthing off to them. And there are other clubs around to choose from.

People are usually friendly, but some might not like foreigners, but that's not uncommon anywhere. People might not speak your language, or speak it badly. People also don't usually come up to strangers, I've heard. Also from what I've heard, guys better not go chat up any random girls. They might have a boyfriend around and some of them aren't that friendly if you even talk to their girl.

Music is loud. Very loud. I'd use ear plugs. Or rather get the clubs to turn it down and not just a bit. But some people like it and don't care about their hearing. Also don't expect to be able to talk near the dancefloor and some places even have speakers in other areas too blaring.

 

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