Moving to Latvia: Giulia’s story

Giulia is Italian and moved to Latvia for a particular reason – to improve her Russian language skills at Durbe Russian Language Academy and through using the language in everyday situations. She’s lived in Riga for four months and feels that that’s enough time to get to know a country, its people and their habits. We caught up to speak about her experiences here in Latvia and her observations about the local way of life.

Did you know much about Latvia before moving here? Had you heard of any stereotypes characterising the country and its people?
Frankly no, I didn’t know a lot about Latvia before moving here. I knew that Riga is very beautiful but nothing more and also for this reason I have always wanted to visit the Baltic States. When I first saw a picture of Riga I fell in love with the city because it seemed to be full of colours.

In what ways has Latvia surprised you? 
Latvia surprised me from the very first moment. It’s really beautiful, people are kind with everyone and despite being small there are a lot of things to do. Moreover, you can actually speak Russian with everyone! Before coming here I thought you had to go to Russia to learn it.

Did you find it easy to adapt to living here? 
Although the cold and windy weather can be frustrating sometimes, I had no problems at all adapting to life in Riga. It is a very small, cheap and safe city and you can have fun until dawn right in the Old Town. It’s perfect for students!

What are the differences between life in Riga and life back home in Italy?
Italy and Latvia are very different countries. Riga is a very small city compared to Milan where I’m from. This can be an advantage because I can easily go everywhere without having to drive. It’s a very safe place, not crowded with people, it’s also a very relaxing city, people aren’t stressed or in a hurry like in Italy. Also, Latvian beer is very good and it’s much cheaper than beer in Italy.

Was it easy for you to find a place to live in Riga? How did you do it? 
I had no problem in finding a place to live in Riga. Rents aren’t high and I could afford a small apartment in the Old Town. It’s amazing because I have everything nearby. I booked the apartment on Airbnb.

What do you think of Latvians?
The Latvian people I’ve met are very nice, kind and gentle. They are not cold people at all! Every week I love to go to the Central Market to buy fresh produce and vegetables because there are old women there, always willing to talk to you, to help you if you want to say something in Russian and to listen to your story. It’s something I’ll really miss about Latvia.

Is there anything that annoys you about living here?
The weather is the only thing I don’t really like about Latvia but there’s not so much we can do about that! I certainly learned to deal with it and to enjoy every single sunny day as if it was a present.

Have you spent time outside Riga while you’ve been here?
I’ve been to Jūrmala and Skulte where I was hosted by Latvian friends at their dāča (summer cottage) for the weekend. I can say that Riga is a unique place in Latvia. Other cities and towns in Latvia are wilder, more surrounded by nature and not yet spoilt, for this reason they are beautiful and special in their own way. People visiting Latvia should visit other towns to understand and see with their own eyes what this country can offer.

What would be the best piece of practical advice that you could give someone who is thinking of moving to Latvia?
To learn Latvian or Russian! Latvians speak English but if you knew Latvian or Russian it would be easier for you to get used to this new country and to meet new people.

Thanks to Giulia for sharing her story! If you’d like to share yours, get in touch.

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