By Erika Janušauskyt?, AzerNews
Education system in Lithuania may look not good enough for some people but the story is different for some others. Toghrul Sabzaliyev is among the second group. As a student from Azerbaijan, he has just finished his second year of studying in Economics and Business Faculty at Kaunas Technology University.
"Before coming to Lithuania, I only knew that it was a small and green country which used to be one of the past Soviet Union countries. I used to confuse capitals of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia" - Toghrul says. Now he has enough knowledge about Lithuania. He has even learnt some daily Lithuanian words and phrases as a result of his active participation in many various activities.
Social activities - a way to adapt to new culture
It is said and checked in practice, that the more activities we have, the better we manage our time and it would be easier to do more tasks or activities. Toghrul is an active member of some organizations.
Apart from studying, he has some other activities. Sometimes he goes to party with his friends to relieve the stress of studying. For a while, he was a member of AIESEC KTU. He is now a member of ESN (Erasmus Student Network) KTU. He offers voluntary help to foreign students who come to study in KTU and need advices. He is also a member of AYOL (Azerbaijani Youth Organization of Lithuania). "Under AYOL I have joined some activities which are designed to introduce our country and represent our culture to other nations. Visiting orphan`s house on our independence day- 18th October- is one of these activities. More over, we celebrate our national holidays with our Lithuanian and some other friends from different countries. We usually organize some events to increase public awareness of Armenia's aggression against our country. Armenians invaded 20 percent of our lands. Such activities are mainly focused on Khojaly massacre committed by Armenians. It is one of many mass killing acts committed by Armenians," he said.
By participating in various activities, Toghrul had a chance to know Lithuanian culture better and find similarities and differences between Azerbaijan and Lithuania. "There are some differences on cuisine cooking. Unlike Lithuanian cuisine, our cuisine consists of more oily meals. Despite such small differences, I've find out that Lithuanians like our traditional meals, especially dolma and our sweet schekerbura."
Toghrul had even tried to make Lithuanian cold soup named Šaltibarš?iai and, as he says, it was so tasty!
Different politeness, not acceptable in Lithuania
Just after arriving in Lithuania, he came to find out several cultural differences which made him confused. "A surprising thing for me was that here it is not normal to give your seat in a bus or train to young girls, not even the old. During my first days, I got in trouble after giving my seat to a girl in a bus. In my country, men should give their seats to women, regardless of their age. For Lithuanians, my action looked strange," Toghrul added.
But this was not the only cultural difference he faced in Lithuania. "The main cultural difference between my country and Lithuanian is that here the teenagers are more independent. After they reach 18 years old, their parents set them free. They can even live apart from their families. But in Azerbaijan, young men live with their parents even after marriage. In general, Western culture is dominant here which is mainly based on thinking rather than feeling. In contrast, Eastern culture is mainly based on feeling. For us, who come from Eastern culture, Lithuanian`s attitude to guests looks cold. Eastern people are more hospitable," he said.
Differences and similarities of traditions
While talking about festivals and celebrations in both countries, he said despite differences, there are also many similarities between them. "I was deeply surprised about similarities between Lithuanians' celebrations on Christmas Eve and Azerbaijan's rituals during Novruz. I was surprised to see that Lithuanians have same tradition here. One of the main differences that I have noticed about two traditions is in wedding ceremony. Here in wedding ceremonies, this is the groom who should throw a flower at the guests. Each guest catching the flower first would probably go to marry soon but in Azerbaijan this is bride who should throw the flower.
Meanwhile, the whole ceremony of wedding is totally different in these countries. Toghrul explains how is marriage procedure in Azerbaijan to let Lithuanians know it and compare how different their cultures are. "There are some steps before marriage in Azerbaijan. Firstly, one or two women from boy`s side are sent to girl`s house. Their mission is to tell the girl's family about their intention. Next step is meeting elder people of the girls' family. Boy`s father comes to girl`s house accompanied by three to four well-respected people. Each side tries to find out the other side's intention. The girl`s father usually tries to hide his consent with the marriage. He talks with his daughter about the issue and if she remains silent, it is taken for granted that she agrees with the marriage. After that, the two families begin to learn more about each other. Then the girl`s side makes its final decision. If they are not in agreement with the marriage, they would inform boy`s side soon. If they agree, next step will begin. The next step is called "H?" (Yes), when girl`s and boy`s relatives come together at girl`s house for further talks. Next step is engagement which is held at girl`s house. On this day, 25-30 people gather together including the bride's friends and peers. They all sit down around the bride and groom . Then the relatives of the groom come bringing a ring, a kerchief and sweets. Girl`s side gives a ring to the groom as well. The next step is wedding. Some families agree to hold the wedding together but some do it separately. In both ceremonies, people from both sides participate but majority of people in girl`s wedding are her relatives. A few days before the wedding, a ceremony is held at girl`s house called "X?nayaxd?"(Hennaing), attended by only girls and women, from both sides. During this ceremony, all participants take henna to their hands. Finally bride comes to groom`s house after the groom`s ceremony comes to an end," he explained.
Lithuanian education system is cheap and promising
Similarities and differences can be found out only in traditional celebrations but also daily life. For example take the education system. "There are more international students in Lithuania. Unlike my country's education system, here we are given quite enough practical knowledge. Azerbaijan education system is much more theoretical. In Lithuania, apart from classes, we can appoint a consultation time with teachers easily in case we have some questions about some subjects," he said.
"I think the main reason why foreigners come to study here is that it is one of the best and easiest ways to gain European education with cheaper tuition fee and living cost. In my opinion, as Lithuania is already in Schengen zone, you can find a promising future here,"- he said.
New culture's influence on personality
Lithuania helped him not only get good education but also to develop a responsible personality as well. "After finishing secondary school, I decided to continue my education abroad. Before I did not thought first that it would change my whole life so much because I came here only with an aim to gain better education. However, it helped me to understand who really I am, where I really want to go and who I really want to be. After coming here, I broke out of my comfort zone. First, I felt embarrassment to express myself. The education helped me show my creative side more and more and made me more self confident as well. It helped me to have better communication with others. I also learnt how to behave and speak with people of different characters and cultures," he said.
Now, Toghrul has his own future plans and will go back to his country soon to make a new career there. He believes that Lithuania is a good destination for anyone looking for a good education.