Latvia Shmatvia

Since Peter O'Toole lay on Peter Sellers psychiatric couch in What's New Pussycat, Latvia has been the punchline in popular culture's joke. "Can I tell you what I once did in a Latvian brothel?" asks Dr Fritz Fassbender.

Being only partially Latvian, I take very little offence to the nation's position in pop culture. Latvia is a relatively obscure country, sandwiched between two other obscure-ish countries. It only regained independence 1990. I know this for a few reasons. First: It was 1992 that my dad began traveling there for "work”. Secondly: my globe and atlas -- circa 1965 -- includes Latvia in the Soviet Union. Lastly: I have the internet.


As someone with a name as little known as the country it hails from, I inevitably get asked it's origin, while simultaneously, phonetically deconstructing it's pronunciation. For years I'd answer Latvia, and in return receive a familiar blank stare. However, more recently, the look of bewilderment has been replaced with vague recognition. I have popular culture to thank for that.

See below:

Seinfeld: Certainly one of the most loathsome characters in television, George Costanza spends an entire episode trying to convert to Latvian Orthodox. Why? To get laid. That's why.

Community: "What the hell is this?" asks Jeff. "Latvian Independence Parade" says Troy. Both guys are in an already ridiculous situation involving a chase through a college-wide blanket fort. Throw in a reference to an obscure Baltic country and it's even more ludicrous.

New Girl: Adorable Zooey Deschanel is learning about her new roommate and asks "Winston went pro?" Schmidt answers sarcastically "In Latvia. He went pro in Latvia. It's a big difference. Well, The team logo is a fig. Just one single fig." This is just one example from New Girl. This a show who uses Latvia as a running joke. This is also a show I love with every part of my half Latvian being.

Way to go Latvia. 20+ years after literally putting yourself back on the map, you're doing a bang up job of cementing yourself into pop culture's vernacular.