“LT Buddies” – creating friendlier cities across Lithuania
Photo: A. Aleksandravičius.
4 out of 5 Lithuanians don’t know foreigners living in their own country. This is one of the statistics that drove the creation of the new initiative “LT Buddies.” The main idea behind it – to make cities across Lithuania friendlier towards newcomers. The platform unites newcomers and long-term residents for shared activities, thus contributing to community-building and speeding up the adaptation of newly arrived people to Lithuania.
According to the founder of the platform Marta Misiulaityte, the name LT Buddies was chosen to reflect the spirit of the initiative – “to not be strangers to each other, to integrate returning Lithuanians and foreigners into the fabric of the city and social activities, in other words – to become buddies to each other and to Lithuania.”
All one has to do to join is to fill out the registration form on www.LTbuddies.com. After indicating your preferred activities, interests and spoken languages, you will get matched with a person with a similar profile. “The main goal is that locals and newcomers spend time together – doesn’t matter if it’s while learning Turkish, jogging, watching a basketball game or learning a new hobby together”.
The impetus for the creation of the platform was a study done by “Kurk Lietuvai” (Create Lithuania) about international students in Lithuania. “It turns out that one of the biggest challenges encountered by foreigners is the lack of social connections with the local Lithuanian community. It’s strange because students spend several years in Lithuania, run into Lithuanians on a daily basis.” – said M. Misiulaityte. “But over the course of our research, we realized that foreigners lacked opportunities not only to meet Lithuanians but also to establish meaningful connections. International students live in separate dorms, attend lectures in a different language from their Lithuanian peers.”
However, according to M. Misiulaityte, the problem can be experienced not only by students, but also by returning Lithuanians, their partners from abroad and other foreigners.
Jesus from Spain moved to Lithuania thanks to a chance meeting with two Lithuanians: “I met two Lithuanian girls that were living in Spain and they told me beautiful things about Lithuania. I became fascinated with the country and one day I got a job offer and moved here”. Smiling, Jesus adds, “Chance encounters can change our lives.”
Although the Spaniard is happy in Lithuania, according to him, apart from colleagues and the girls mentioned above he did not have many local friends. “I love to travel, taste local food, participate in local events, so I think that LT Buddies will give me an opportunity to discover the culture even more closely through locals. I will become even more Lithuanian!” – he adds enthusiastically.
While there are informal groups on social media, where foreigners pose questions about various aspects of life in Lithuania, according to M. Misiulaityte, Lithuanians usually don’t participate there actively. That’s why LT Buddies tries to fill the gap and utilize the potential of local people to become the bridge to local life for newcomers.