Latvia is a unique blend of Baltic and Slavic cultures. Riga, the 805-year-old capital, is full of distinctive modern and historic architecture. Situated at a trading crossroads, Latvia has long served as a bridge between Western Europe and Russia.
Latvian family life relies on strong bonds that span three generations. In most families where both parents work, it is the grandmother who assumes the main responsibility for maintaining the household and looking after the children. Latvian families like to spend a lot of time together.
In general, parents are protective of their children and expect them to help with the housework and to keep them informed about when they are going out and where they are going.
School is the center of student social life in Latvia. Extracurricular activities include swimming, dancing, basketball, Tae Kwon Do, track and other sports. Local community organizations also offer activities including music, crafts and drama. Latvia is well-known for its choral singing and folk dances.
In winter, it is very popular to engage in sports such as downhill skiing, snowboarding, skating and ice-hockey. In spring and summer, when the weather is nice, teens like to engage in different outdoor activities, including skateboarding, football and volleyball.
Meat and potatoes are a major part of the diet. Other popular foods are: fried meat cutlets and pastries, as well as smoked fish (flounder, eel, herring, and pilchards), dairy products, eggs, and grains. Soups and sausages are also popular. In summer and autumn, fresh berry pies and tarts are abundant. Fresh vegetables tend to be eaten in season only, although cabbage is a year-round staple.A typical meal might consist of zirni (brown peas served with a sauce made from ham) and karbonade (fried pork with mashed potatoes). Other favorites include pancakes filled with fruit or biezpiens (similar to cottage cheese) and soljanka (a hearty soup made with meat and red beets).
In Latvian families it is very important to sit together for a meal.
Latvian is the official language of Latvia, Russian and Lithuanian are also spoken. Ethnic Latvians are predominantly Roman Catholic or Lutheran. Ethnic Russians are predominantly Russian Orthodox.