Name, surname: John Kalniņš 

 Born, raised: USA, Minnesota, Western Coast 

 Profession: renovator of yachts 

 Hobbies: kitesurfing, surfing, cycling 

 Currently: „cures” yachts and kites in Latvia  


Humor helps

John and Linda Kalnini with their two little girls arrived in Latvia during Christmas, 2012 when there was an extreme freeze below 20 centigrade. The American`s wife Linda is Latvian who has lived in the USA for ten years.  Now they are living in Riga near the sea.  

“I want to raise children in Latvia because it is better to do it here and not in America,” thinks Linda. This precondition was also one of the incentives for the family to move to live in Latvia. For the present they think they will stay here.

However, more and more they feel that to survive here you have to be very strong and with humor.  The everyday life with two small children differs here a lot from America. And now – not in a good sense of that.

So far the family has spent careless, warm Latvian summer holidays that undeniably differs from everyday reality in Latvia.

Renovating yachts and the job in Latvia 

John is a renovator of yachts and already before arriving to Latvia he had a guaranteed job in his profession and also an adequate remuneration. Though speaking about the last, the wage was just a promise. Linda admits: „At the moment our little girl is the “main breadwinner” in the family as the child benefit per month for small daughter exceeds the eight hours` long work by my husband”.

Realizing that the wage is not even close to the promised one, not comparing to the remuneration in America, John is currently looking for the most perspective work and free time spends as usual - kiting (also during winter!) together with his family. 

Celebration of festivities and cultural differences 

”Now I miss the Mexican food most of all, Chicago's deep dish pizza and burritos. I have also accepted the Latvian national festivities as my own, for example, Līgo. Definitely we will celebrate the Halloween that is my oldest daughter`s favorite festivity”.  

Speaking about cultural differences John says: „In Latvia I miss human delicacy, smile and positive attitude. If you have accidentally stepped on somebody`s foot or unintentionally pushed - people in America smile or say “excuse me” even if it is not sincere. 

Though I am shocked here about one thing – to see drunk people in the morning before 9 a.m. – you cannot even imagine something like that in America”.  

Friendly Latvians and stereotypes 

Three myths or stereotypes you had heard about Latvia, Latvian people before you arrived to live in Latvia? Is it worth to believe in that?

 “I have noticed that Latvians love nature, they are natural children. And Latvians also love to dance. My oldest daughter who is four years old last year participated at Latvian Song and Dance Festival in Wisconsin, US. However, it takes a while for Latvians to open up. But once you get to know them they are very friendly people! I have met here the loveliest people in my life. 

When I met my wife, I researched Latvia on the internet and found out that woods in Latvia are full with bears. Though I have never come across one yet! ☺

However, I have some stereotypes as well. I stopped telling people I was from Chicago because I was tired of the Al Capone reference and then stopped using California because of the Mexican mob reference. It is hard to tell people were you are from because each state in the US is so different from one another and I do not want to be put myself in one single “box” because I have lived in multiple parts of the US.”

Some recommendations to other country nationals before arriving or immediately after arriving?

“Taste Laima chocolate, the Black Balsam and be patient. Good things happen when you expect it!” 

Have you thought about learning of Latvian language?   

“Yes, I am trying. I thought I would learn the language with my daughter, but she still interprets for me. The hardest for me are the endings of the words. I have not attended the language courses, but I plan to learn with the help of my family and friends”. 


This publication has been produced with the support by the European Fund for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals. Funding has been allocated from European Fund for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals (75%) and Latvian state budget (25%). The responsibility for the content of this publication lies with the Society Integration Foundation.

June 25, 2013
by NGO Latvia
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„Society Integration Foundation has established the e-platform in the framework of the project „TOGETHER. UNITED. ACTIVE.” (contract No. IF/2011/1.a./16) funded by the European Fund for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals (75%) and Latvian state budget (25%). The responsibility for the content of this publication lies with the Society Integration Foundation, as well as information posted is each user`s own responsibility.”

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