Pavadot kādā sabiedrībā ilgāku laiku, pierodam pie šo cilvēku dzīvesveida. Taču vienmēr ir lietas, kas ārzemniekam šķitīs dīvainas neatkarīgi no svešajā zemē pavadītā laika. Domāju, Latvijā vairāk nekā 15 pavadītie mēneši ir gana ilgs laiks, lai varētu runāt par to, ko joprojām šeit īsti neesmu sapratis.
Atceros pirmo reizi, kad tēvs zvanīja man uz Latviju. Klausuli pacēla manas viesģimenes tētis un teica «hallo». Mans tēvs to uzsvēra kā zīmi, ka sarunbiedrs spēj runāt angliski, kas, protams, tā nebija. Savukārt viesģimenes tētis, dzirdot, ka otrā galā runā angliski, uztvēra to par izjokošanu un nolika klausuli. Mani joprojām izbrīna, ka latvieši uz telefona zvaniem atbild ar anglisko sveicienu «hallo». Ne mazāk interesants ir sarunas noslēgums, kurā tiek lietot vārdi vismaz četrās valodās – OK, labi, davai, čau! Kāds draugs nesen teica, ka latvieši droši vien ir pasaulē vienīgie, kas tā dara, un man nākas vien piekrist. Nākamais, ko esmu iemācījies, ir, ka, sasveicinoties ar vīriešu dzimuma draugiem un paziņām, nepietiek ar vienkāršu «labdien» vai «sveiks» un galvas pamāšanu. Trenējot regbija komandu, trīs reizes nedēļā pēc ierašanās treniņā paspiest līdz pat 30 roku – tas ir diezgan smags darbs. Katrā ziņā mana sarokošanās māka Latvijā ir ievērojami uzlabojusies.Latvieši nešķērso ielas neatļautās vietās. Reti redzams, ka iedzīvotāji dotos pāri ielai, pirms luksoforā iedegusies zaļā gaisma, vienalga, kurā diennakts laikā tas notiek un vai tuvumā ir automašīnas. Tā varētu būt uzteicama rīcība, un, ja vien es nezinātu, kā ir īstenībā, uztvertu to par apzinīgu likumpaklausību. Tā man šķita savāda, līdz pagājušā mēneša laikā pašam divas reizes nācās skaidroties ar policistiem par nepareizu ielas šķērsošanu. Pirmo reizi vietā, kur nav gājēju pārejas, otro – pie luksofora sarkanās gaismas. Manis teiktais, ka 200 metru attālumā nav nevienas automašīnas, policistiem nešķita pietiekams iemesls. Esmu pa pusei pārliecināts, ka otrajā gadījumā policisti mani apturēja tāpēc, ka viņu auto bija iestidzis sniegā un vajadzēja palīdzību to izstumt. Lai negarlaikotos, viņi lika man taisnoties par to, ko esmu izdarījis.Manī nav ilūziju, ka šādu īpatnību nav arī Jaunzēlandē. Galu galā, labas vai sliktas, tās padara mūs atšķirīgus no pārējām tautām un kultūrām.Curiosities about LatviansAfter living in any society for a considerable amount of time, you begin to get more accustomed to their way of life. But for however long you are in a society for, there are certain things you still happen to find curious about their culture. So to speak, this is my second tour of duty in Latvia, and having now lived in the country for a combined total of over fifteen months, I feel this deems me immersed enough in the local culture to comment on the curiosities of life here that I have not fully got a grasp of yet. Some I am going to list I am sure are not unique to Latvia but I will still mention nonetheless. I still recall the first time my maternal father rang me here in Latvia and my host father picked up the phone with a simple, ‘Hullo?’ My maternal father took this as a sign that the recipient of the call could speak English, which could not have been further from the truth. As soon as my maternal father started speaking English my host father took it as a prank call and hung up. It still to this day amuses me when people here pick up the phone with an English welcome. The end of the phone call is no less amusing, with up to four languages employed in hanging up, typically going something along the lines of ‘OK, labi, davai, cau’. A friend of mine recently commented that Latvians must be the only people in the world who use four languages to hang up the phone, something I have to agree with. The next thing I have learnt here on greeting male companions is that a simple hello and perhaps a nod of the head to acknowledge their presence do not suffice. To do anything less than approach them and shake their hands is considered to be something of an insult. Coaching a rugby team, this can be something of a laborious task, having to shake up to 30 hands three times a week upon arrival at training. Needless to say, my handshaking skills have improved immensely in Latvia. Latvians do not jay-walk. Almost never do you see a Latvian crossing the road until the light is green, regardless of the time of the day or when it is obvious that no traffic is approaching. This is something that I suppose you should be commended on and if I were not to know better I would take it as a sign of upstanding law-abiding citizens. Latvians will 99% of the time wait until the light is green, something I did find particularly curious until twice in the last month I became subjected to police interrogation for crossing the street where there was no pedestrian crossing and for crossing the road on a red light. My simple argument that their were no cars within 200m of me did not seem to be reason enough for them. It does make me wonder if there are not more pressing crime issues to be dealt with in Latvia. I am half convinced that on the second occasion the police simply pulled me over because their car was stuck in snow and needed someone to push them out. To put me through the interrogation process was simply a way to stave off boredom. Milk. New Zealand is renowned for being one of the largest milk producing countries in the world, so naturally I am something of a fan of milk. I also thought that in New Zealand, if there was a way to consume milk, we had it covered. Not so. This is a country obsessed with milk based products. While most other people turn their nose up at milk curds, Latvians seek out ways to make sure it is a part of their daily diet. I have learnt some things sound a lot more enticing and tastier when not translated so I do not ask questions but rather eat. When this subject is encroached with Latvian colleagues they love to tell the story about how popular American television show Fear Factor forced competitors to drink Kefirs, something that is almost handed the status of being a ‘delicacy’ here in Latvia. This obsession for milk based products only slightly lessons when discussing bread. Needless to say my taste buds are still not warmed to Kvass. I am under no such illusion that New Zealand does not have its own unique curiosities. At the end of the day, for good or bad, it is what helps us stand apart from other cultures.