VilNews

THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA

24 October 2017
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“You foreigners are extremely naïve”

 
Plans to do business in Lithuania? It's like navigating
a boat in shallow water full of reefs.

"What you, who are born in the West, see when you come to Lithuania, are people who look like you, talk like you (those who speak Western languages) and are quite much alike you in many other aspects. But the reality is that we who have grown up in the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe have a totally different mentality than you. Even those Lithuanians who fled to the West during the war do not understand what the Soviet era has done with the mindset of us who were forced to grow up under the yoke of communism."

A Lithuanian friend told me this a few days ago. The talk began after he had expressed some surprise at how naive and gullible we from the West are when we come to Lithuania.

"You think that a word is a word, that a deal is a deal. You think that things here are going straight as in the West. You believe that what you hear is what is said, and you trust that people you meet really want and mean to do what is good, honest and correct.”

“Therefore, it doesn’t take much before you open up your cards and often reveal business secrets and other things that you should never have disclosed without first having secured your situation with contracts and local supporters, i.e. lawyers. We Lithuanians are experts in taking advantage of such situations, and we never cease to wonder how gullible people from the West often are. Even within international companies and organisations I am sometimes surprised to see how unaware western professionals are about what goes on behind their backs when they come here," said my friend.

I asked him if this mentality also means that people here do not care much about their own country, doing good for the society in addition to earning a living for themselves. "Only to a small degree," replied my friend. "It is such a difficult situation for most here that there is no additional capacity or desire to also care about the nation. Even our leading politicians do not. Most of them are much more concerned with their own interests than of the nation, and they are normally bad role models for the rest of us. So why should we do more than them?"


"I was born in this country. I fought for this country. I gave everything I
could, both while I lived here and after I was forced to flee to the United
States. I moved back here when Lithuania was again free, and have since
continued to do my best for this country, including through my years as
President. Yet I must admit that I feel like an outsider in my own country."

The sadness in the voice of former President Valdas Adamkus was
unmistakable as he stood and looked towards the Vilnius city through
the windows of his Presidential Palace.

I cannot fully agree with my friend. Yes, there are differences, but also so many similarities and common grounds to build on. But his statements made me think about a conversation I had with the former Lithuanian President, Valdas Adamkus, a few years ago. He was then well into his second and last presidential term, and we had a long and good conversation at his office in the Presidential Palace in Vilnius. When the conversation was over we went together out into the corridor outside his office, where the windows are facing the Cathedral and the central area of Vilnius. 

My last question to the President, in that corridor, was about how close he felt he had come to the Lithuanian people after he returned from the United States in the early 1990s. This is what he answered: 

"You know, Aage, I was born in this country. I fought for this country. I gave everything I could, both while I lived here and after I was forced to flee to the United States at the end of World War II. I moved back here when Lithuania again was free, and I have since continued to do my best for this nation, including through my years as President. Yet I must admit that I feel like an outsider in my own country."

The sadness in the voice of former President Valdas Adamkus was unmistakable as he stood and looked towards the Vilnius city centre through the windows of his Presidential Palace.

Aage Myhre, Editor-in-Chief
aage.myhre@VilNews.com

Category : Featured black / Lithuania today



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