Lithuanians are a Baltic nation, yet tourists sometimes incorrectly believe they are related to Russians.
Lithuanians are a separate Baltic ethnic group with their own language (Lithuanian), which is one of the earliest Indo-European languages and belongs to the Baltic branch of Indo-European languages (not the Slavic). Although there is a modest degree of profound linguistic resemblance between the Baltic and Slavic groups, this would only make the Lithuanian language as close to Russian as the Italian language is to English (some old Latin semblance). As a result, any attempt to relate to the Lithuanian language through Slavic languages will clearly fail, and any attempt to do so repeatedly may become both irritating to Lithuanians and humiliating to you. For example, saying “sposibo” (“thank you” in Russian) to a Lithuanian sounds as random as saying “grazie” (“thank you” in Italian) to an English speaker.
Although it is a notoriously difficult language to acquire, knowing how to welcome residents in their native language may be quite beneficial. They will appreciate your Lithuanian efforts.
From the conclusion of WWII until 1990, Lithuania was a member of the Soviet Union. You should also keep in mind that the capital of Lithuania is Vilnius, not Riga, which is the capital of Latvia, a typical blunder made by visitors and a source of irritation for residents.
Conversations on territorial disputes with neighboring countries are not a good idea for individuals who are not from the region because of wartime occupations by Tsarist Russia in the 19th century, the Soviet Union in the 20th century, and territory disputes with Poland in the early 20th century. When discussing Lithuania in the context of the former Soviet Union, be cautious. The Lithuanians are unlikely to understand or appreciate any praise of Soviet policies. Many Lithuanians have strong feelings about World War II and the Holocaust.
Lithuanians may look patriotic at times; yet, they are a proud nation for a reason: they have struggled to retain their cultural identity through difficult times, and this has made them a distinct and friendly and fascinating people. Although the majority of Lithuanians are nominally Catholics, traditional (pagan) Lithuanian religion lives on through customs, ethnoculture, festivals, music, and other forms of expression.
Because Lithuanians might look melancholy, depressed (the country’s suicide rate is among the highest in the world), a little impolite, and suspicious, boasting about your excellent health, money, and happiness can be misinterpreted. If you smile at a Lithuanian on the street, they are unlikely to reciprocate with compassion. Smile at a stranger and they’ll either believe you’re making fun of them and something is wrong with their clothes or hairdo, or they’ll think you’re an idiot. Furthermore, a robotic Western grin is generally considered dishonest.
Women have always been treated with the highest respect throughout the former Soviet Union. When their Lithuanian male friends pay their bills at restaurants, open every door in front of them, offer their hand to help them climb down that small step, or help them carry anything heavier than a handbag, female travelers should not be surprised or indignant – this is not sexual harassment or being condescending to the weaker sex. Male travelers should be aware that most Lithuanian girls and women will expect the same from them.