Riga really is very practical or in other words organized city. Post offices are open late and mainly very friendly. Same for the grocery stores and some other shopes that you see being closed only at 8pm or even later. For someone that is busy all day at work and gets out of his or her office after 6pm or 7pm or even later it is in fact a real relief to know that even after 10pm you will find bread and milk and anything else.
I don’t know ir Rīdzinieki (inhabitants of Riga in Latvian) realize what a luxury it is to live in such a town compared to other places in Europe where buying a toothbrush after 6pm becomes a mission impossible.
Another thing that is impressive – number of shops. Of course there are some that are closing down and after crisis you see more empty windows than before. However it brings a certain dinamic in the picture because new places open after a while and therefore the scenary of the streets change pretty fast.
Sometimes it is difficult for someone like me with habits I used to have 2, 3 or even 6 years ago when I try to find places that don’t exist anymore. But it is very exciting to discover my town every day as a new place and almost feel like a foreigner here when I happen to fix a meeting in a cofe shope or restaurant and have to ask directions how to find it.
But one thing is sure – Riga is very busy – just try to walk down Kr.Barona street around Lacplesa, Blaumana or even closer to the Old Town aroun 5pm and you will see people rushing back home or to the next job or into the stores. I have never noticed the same activity during the day or even during the lunchbreak. On the contrary that is very common in Brussels and always surprised me – how come shops and streets are full with people and traffic in the middle of the day and early afternoons or around 11am, but I guess Brussels simply has more tourists and also much higher unemployment allowances, so mainly young people that are using social support system can also afford to shop and sit in the cafes enjoying life.
Unfortunately things are not the same in Latvia – in order to survive with unemployment support one has to find ways how to generate extra money specially after the changes in the Law adopted as of 1st of January when allowance is stricly limited to 11.50LVL per day and only gives the right to half of your real income calculation as addition for first two month. Sad reality of things. However it might have a positive side – people are really forced to be innovative and find ways how to survive. The sad thing is that in most of the cases the solution is to leave Latvia.
Call me crazy but I want to live in Riga and contribute to Latvia’s development the best I can. But the truth is – no matter how I try – it seems to be impossible. Well, I am used to impossible missions that I had to accomplish while being Latvian Science Attache in Brussels, so I guess I will try to stick around for a as long as I have a little bread, some coffee, smokes (yes sorry to say that), internet and money for books and printing paper.
Lots of good wishes,