Taiwanese consumers have been going on a buying spree for Lithuanian-produced chocolate and beer since Tuesday, when Lithuania’s government announced a donation of 20,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine to Taiwan.

Lithuanian chocolate brand Rūta has seen its orders grow more than tenfold in Taiwan on the day of the announcement. The brand’s retailer in Taiwan said it will ask for a fresh stock of confectionery products from its home base soon.

Taiwanese netizens have also proposed thanking Lithuania’s gesture of support by buying the beer brewed by Volfas Engelman, a Lithuanian alcoholic beverages manufacturer, in convenience stores and supermarkets. “Let’s eliminate the beers with New Taiwan Dollars!” a user of PTT, Taiwan’s Reddit-like bulletin, urged.

What did Lithuania do?

Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis announced on Twitter Tuesday that the Lithuanian government had approved a donation of 20,000 vaccine doses to Taiwan.

“I am proud that we can, albeit in a small way, to show solidarity with the Taiwanese people in combatting the COVID-19,” he tweeted. “Freedom-loving people should look out for each other!”

In a Facebook post, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen expressed gratitude to the Lithuanian prime minister Ingrida Šimonytė and her government for the donation.

“Like Taiwan, Lithuania, by the Baltic Sea, has been through great difficulties fighting for freedom and democracy,” she said. “They share similar values, beliefs and are able to show a special empathy to Taiwan.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs called Lithuania’s pledged donation a “demonstration of friendship through concrete action,” noting that Baltic nation is the first EU member state to help Taiwan with its vaccine needs.

Taiwan gave Lithuania 100,000 medical-grade masks last April when Covid-19 was spreading across Europe, the ministry said.

Lithuania made the pledge of aid after a request a week ago from Taipei’s mission in neighboring Latvia, which represents Taiwan’s government in the three Baltic states. They will be delivered by the end of September, Reuters reported.

In March, Aušrinė Armonaitė, Minister of the Economy and Innovation of Lithuania, said the government has approved a plan to establish a representative office in Taiwan. Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it remains “positive” about the development of bilateral relations.

How did the Taiwanese respond?

As netizens flooded Landsbergis’s tweet with comments of gratitude, the donation of vaccines has stirred a series of discussions on Taiwanese social media about how to respond to the unexpected offer.

On PTT, some users suggested pairing Lithuanian beer with Taiwanese popcorn chicken, while others said they will start to root for Lithuanian national sports teams in the future. Several Taiwanese students have shared their experiences living and studying in Lithuania.

Many Facebook users have posted a picture of Rūta’s chocolate products they have purchased or a screenshot of their orders under a post by the shop’s fan page in response to the donation. Rūta told The News Lens that many customers have left remarks like “Thank you, Lithuania” to their online orders.

On June 22, the word “Lithuania” was searched on Google for more than 200,000 times in Taiwan, making it one of the most popular keywords this week.

The phrase “Lithuania travel” has trended in searches over the past few days, as Taiwanese netizens discuss tourist attractions in Lithuania that they can visit after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Taiwanese food company I-MEI Foods will send a batch of chocolate puff, one of its most popular products, to Lithuania in return for the kindness, CEO Luis Ko said, adding that one of the members of the Lithuanian parliament who proposed the donation visited the firm’s factory two years ago.

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TNL Editors: Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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