THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA
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Lifestyle of an American-
LITHUANIAN-AMERICAN ATTORNEY MARIUS JAKULIS JASON
WITH HIS WIFE LIISA LEITZINGER FROM FINLAND
By Liisa Leitzinger
Our family has lives in Finland, US and Lithuania. All these countries are different, Finland organized and safe, USA multicultural and full of opportunities and Lithuania full of charm and change. The best quality for the money in life is in Lithuania, but also in mental level, Lithuania is still the country where individuals can make a change, individual matters and has a voice. Benefits of a small country.
I came to Lithuania from Finland 20 years ago. Raising three boys, freelance work as a Vilnius city guide for Finnish tourists and keeping an eye on little guest house Mano Liza kept me busy at the beginning, later I got Bachelor’s Degree in history from Vilnius University and was a co-founder of Vilnius International School. Little shop Dancemakers for dance clothing and shoes together with my brother was another niche I found in Lithuanian market. As kids got older and businesses established, I got a bit homesick of Finland and started spending time more there studying for Master’s Degree in Helsinki University. I never get tired of comparing my efficient Scandinavian home to my often bohemian adopted country.
I can have two personalities, in Finland I stand out being too talkative and emotional in a “Lithuanian” way; in Lithuania I’m different; being calm, trustworthy and sensible, true Scandinavian way. But, of course, from the US perspective we are all very quiet here in Northern – Eastern Europe.
My American-Lithuanian husband Marius, after successful real estate investments and more than 20 years’ carrier as intellectual property lawyer in Lithuania, wanted to experience USA again though his children, sending the oldest two to high school year and college in Los Angeles, California, USA.
Our American dream
Vilnius is small and for young adults it is good experience to live in a big city where nobody knows who you are and nobody cares how you look and how you dress. Everyone is from someplace else and everyone is American, lot of opportunities and jobs available. Los Angeles has an active Lithuanian community and many young Lithuanian entrepreneurs trying out new ideas. The perspective from Los Angeles has made us appreciate the nature in Lithuania (nature deficit is a real danger for human beings living in big cities!), pay attention to food we eat and pollution we create, all these things have not been so important in Lithuania as they are in over populated and wealthy California. Californians are also very generous, a lot of emphasize in charity and helping poor. In Lithuania, charity is sometimes treated with suspicion and skepticism.
The more we travel, the more we like Vilnius
As Marius owns hotels in Vilnius, his main passion and activity is to promote Lithuania for foreign travellers. Vilnius has so much to offer. I remember a family holiday in Rome, when returning back to Vilnius we all laughed; we have beautiful Baroque churches in Vilnius, all empty, unlike the crowded churches in Rome, we have tasty Italian restaurants owned by real Italian chefs and we can always find a table and pay one third of the prices in Rome, even coffee is just as good as in Italy. The more we travel, the more we like Vilnius.
20 years ago Lithuania was the wild East for us, now it is the hidden secret of quality life. We are not the only foreigners in town, astonished by this human size capital with lots of culture and activities to offer, great restaurants at very affordable prices. Not only the material things, but the soul and feel of Vilnius. Everyone seems to have time for a chat in the street corner.
As a foreigner, life here is constant VIP treatment
I almost thought that those times are over, when foreigners were something special here. Then a couple of days ago I walked into hardware store to look at some carpets. My Lithuanian language pronunciation once again caught the attention of the sales person and he wanted to know where I’m from, why I’m in Lithuania and soon enough, we talked good half an hour about history and politics of the Scandinavian countries.
Lithuanian people have big hearts
They show a lot of emotion in good and bad. Not a single boring day here. It is either heated arguments over nothing or entering someone’s home and being treated like kings and queens. Paperwork and bureaucracy always have human faces. We never had to bribe anyone to push things forward, but many times I noticed that small, blond, Scandinavian genuinely lost gets lots of sympathy and officials go out of their way to help. I’m grateful for so many people walking me through rules and laws, thinking that in Finland or in the US I would never get special treatment. People are also genius in problem solving, whether it is Soviet heritage (to survive unreasonable situations) or Baltic Italian character and all the rules are meant to be overcome or bend. Where Scandinavians will see a wall, Lithuanians will see a way over or under.
Scandinavians do not understand how advanced the Baltic countries already are
Scandinavians often want to treat the Baltic countries like little brothers without noticing, that little brothers have grown up fast and smart. Flexibility and innovations in the Baltics make Scandinavians look stagnated and old. Many parking areas in Vilnius, airport included, already have simple and advanced system, which scans the license plate number when entering the parking area. I haven’t seen that in Finland yet, where even at the airport you have to take out little slip of paper for parking payment.
Unique combination of capitalism and socialism
In a bigger picture, Lithuania has quite unique combination of capitalism and socialism. Let’s take example from the word of education and compare our native countries, US and Finland to Lithuania. US and Finland are almost opposites, where in the US private education has long tradition, private schools and universities are highly valued and desirable despite their high cost. In Finland on the other hand, schools and universities are by law not allowed to charge tuition to make sure, that all citizens have equal access to quality education. Private schools exist, but the government funding makes them tuition free for everyone. Just recently in Finnish newspaper commentary section one mother wrote that their well off family would like to pay for the daycare of their child, as now in recession the government systems means lower salaries for teachers, less teachers and more savings at the kids expense.
Lithuanian system has developed to embrace the best of the both worlds. The main core of the education system, schools and universities, are funded by the government, making free education basis. However, in recognition of lack of government money to cover specific areas of education, like international schools or alternative teaching methods or simply lack of daycare in fast growing areas in Vilnius, the state is supporting private schools in many ways, first by paying substitutes per child to private schools, making requirements of starting private daycare easier, recognizing alternative teaching methods parallel to Lithuanian public school model.
This model of flexibility and ability to change goes from individuals to government level, adding to the quality of the life in private as well as business life.
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