Friends and Acquaintances

Americans tend to use the word “friend” much more loosely than Lithuanians.  I will s0metimes refer to people as co-workers or fellow students or members of my church or cross-country skiing group. But I pretty much call anyone with whom I am acquainted and with whom I am on good terms a “friend.” It’s a fairly generic term.  I rarely use the term “acquaintance” and I suspect that most American don’t use it very often either.  I would only use it to refer to someone I barely know (e.g., a “passing acquaintance”).

Not so in Lithuania.  There are “friends” and there are “acquaintances.”  This has been an adjustment for me.  Two years ago, I used the word draugas all the time to refer to people I know here and in the U.S.   I also once had my feelings hurt when someone whom I consider a good friend (in the real meaning of the word) introduced me as her acquaintance.

As far as I can tell everyone is an acquaintance unless you’ve known each other for a very long time. So, while I have a lot of English-language “friends” in Lithuania, I have pažistymai [acquaintances] rather than draugai [friends] in Lithuanian.  As I’ve come to understand this cultural difference, I now rarely use the word draugas and instead refer to my friends as pažistymai.   And I don’t take it personally when people whom I consider my “friends” introduce me as their acquaintance. Because whatever they call me, they act like my friends and, in the end, that’s most important.


About amanda

Creating academic and public environments for the humanities to flourish Researching Soviet and Eastern European history Engaging people and ideas as a writer and interviewer Traveling as much as possible View all posts by amanda

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