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Out and About: An email from Riga, Latvia

Jan 20, 2022

In Out and About we chat with people who are currently living abroad or have lived there before. This week we chat to Marelize Vermeulen, who are living in Riga, Latvia.

Where do you live and for how long have you been living there?

I live in Riga, Latvia, since August 2019 – about a year and a half now. 

What is the most interesting thing that you have eaten in Riga?

It is a difficult question … The food here is mostly like the food we have in South Africa: bread, meat and potatoes and a lot of titbits. Riga also boasts the largest market (according to surface) in Europe, so there is always a new bread, pie or cookie to try out.

On the list of weird foods I would include:

  • Black bread – This is their traditional garlic bread that you eat like you would eat biltong in South Africa. It is pitch black and is toasted and served hot, normally with a white dipping sauce.
  • Black beer – It goes well with the black bread. It is a dark lager brewed by Valmeimuižas Alus. It has the colour of brandy and coke, tastes light just like a lager and has a fruity aftertaste.  
  • Karums – These are sweets made of cottage cheese with many a flavour mixed in. It looks like an Italian kiss, but instead of the chocolate inside, the karum has cottage cheese. It is what I would call an acquired taste, but it is tasty and the children here eat it like hot cake. I have to add, however, that cottage cheese can be found in almost every dish here.  
  • Smoked fish – to pick and choose from.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to study in Riga?

I think once’s study options in Riga are limited, unfortunately. But they do boast unbelievable medical, dental and engineering faculties. I study at the Riga Strandins University (RSU) in Riga and would recommend it to anyone who wants to study dentistry or medicine.   

My favourite benefits are:

  • You obtain a EU qualification.
  • The classes are small (maximum 12 students per class, on average eight students) with practical training. 
  • You can study in English.
  • The city is cosmopolitan with a large international community.
  • They offer top medical training technology.
  • Most lecturers (even at preclinics) are doctors themselves.

The only drawback currently is that no bursaries are available to South Africans, which is a bit of a frustration.  

Latvia has a little bit of everything. It is small, beautiful and inexpensive, and you get all the benefits of the European way of life. Moreover, Latvia is just a bus, train or cheap air ticket away from all the other European countries. 

The most important thing to remember is to follow your dreams. If these lead to Latvia, then so be it. Just ensure that you do your homework beforehand. I would choose the RSU time and time again.  

What is considered a luxury in Latvia that is quite affordable in South Africa?

Affordable is the important word here … The first thing that came to mind is safety. On a lighter note, though, it is definitely the travelling. The bug got me quite hard. It is easy, quick and cheap to get on a train, bus, airplane or ferry like a true student, eat street food and sleep in inexpensive hostels. This allows me to explore the world often, mostly on my own. 

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