Sandra Carrillo Casbas, a Spanish singer who has been living in Lithuania for six years now, says that although it was not easy to settle down in a new country, and because of the long and dark Lithuanian winters, she still longs for the Spanish sunshine, she feels that she has found her home here.
As the young woman explains, the first year in Lithuania was like going through rose-tinted glasses – everything was new and, therefore, charming in its own way.
“I immediately liked the Lithuanian people, the Lithuanian food, the nature, the forests. It was like falling in love. The only thing I didn’t like was the weather – I still don’t, you have very long winters. In Spain, I was used to seeing the sun every day, but here it’s dark for almost half the year,” laughs Carrillo.
Like most people who change their place of residence, she says, getting used to a new place led to a routine, and some things became less enjoyable.
“I think it’s a natural process – after the admiration phase; you start to question why it’s this way and not that way, why we don’t understand everything the same way. It’s not only the countries and their environment that are different but also the culture. As a Spaniard, I think and appreciate certain things differently. I have had to learn tolerance and accept that we are all different, and that’s a good thing,” says Ms Carrillo.
She cites love as an example: although this feeling seems universal, how we express it to others is different: Lithuanians are much more reserved and colder than Spaniards. However, this did not stop her from finding her soulmate in Lithuania – in early October, Sandra married the man of her heart.
She is currently enjoying life in Lithuania, playing music with a band, and teaching Spanish and culture to Lithuanians. I have a lot of activities, and my free time is mainly spent with my husband and me or with friends. We go for walks, and I go to a dance studio. In the summer, it’s especially fun to spend time at the Green Lakes.”
Enjoys living in Vilnius
Sandra Carrillo started her acquaintance with Lithuania by volunteering at the seaside. She still associates the Lithuanian seaside with tranquillity and holidays to this day.
“The seaside may be more fun in the summer, but I prefer living in Vilnius – there are more restaurants, entertainment and concerts, and always something to do. It was also easier to make new friends in Vilnius because there are more foreigners living here, and the city itself is more open to different cultures and people,” she shares.
When she arrived in Lithuania, she was surprised that she could not speak English fluently, especially with older people.
“When I came here six years ago and had to fill in all the necessary paperwork, nobody spoke English in the migration office in one of the Lithuanian cities. That time, it was only with the help of my friends that I got the paperwork done. A year ago, when I needed to renew my residence permit in Lithuania, I did it in Vilnius, and the process was much easier,” says Sandra.
She advises those preparing to come and live in Lithuania to be patient, as it can take years to integrate into a new country.
“It is important to understand that you will have to learn many new things and adapt to, accept and tolerate a different culture. Therefore, I would advise everyone to try to learn Lithuanian. Start with ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’, just two words, then you will learn more, but people will welcome you more immediately,” says Sandra Carrillo.