To align our expectations about this blog, let me start by telling you what we, Estonians are like.
Then just add to this equation some international relations experience, studying in Spain, multiply it by extensive travelling, being married to a Brazilian and, voila, there you have me!
The person giving voice to this blog will be this very me, trying to make sense of the world through the multicolored lenses that life has given me and travels have helped to shape. So please remember that all my stories come from a place of conscious subjectivity, with a pinch of creativity to spice things up.
So, let us get started. This is how I would sum up an average Estonian:
- No Nonsense
Primarily, we, Estonians are practical and do not have a high tolerance for any nonsense. Rational is always the wiser (and safer) option, as opposed to emotional. This has a direct effect on the way we express ourselves. Less is always more. It is best to be concise, to the point and completely direct.
Speaking in circles or talking one’s ear off is considered not only annoying but also point-blank disrespectful. Everybody knows that time and energy are very limited resources, so we try to use them as efficiently as possible. We can also logically establish here that Estonians are not very good in small talk.
- Silence is Golden
An Estonian will not cut anyone off in a conversation, talk louder, or fight for attention. A polite Estonian waits for silence, a question or simply their turn to talk. If they have something to say, that is.
Whether we have something to say or not is determined by two main factors: the degree of self-consciousness of each individual and whether we believe we will contribute with something essential to what is already being said. If not, it is better to stay quiet. Even old folks knew that “talking is silver, silence is golden” (“rääkimine hõbe, vaikimine kuld”- in Estonian).
Sincerious is a word my husband spontaneously invented one afternoon to describe me. It is a combination of the words sincere and serious.
I guess this goes for most Estonians. We are serious people – hardworking, responsible, rule-obedient, simple and transparent. If we make a promise, we will keep it. No additional conditions apply. The same goes for being on time and showing up for appointments.
Moreover, many things worry us. We even tend to use the verb “to worry” in the meaning of “to obtain”. For example, having (worrying) children, getting (worrying) a job, or buying (worrying) an apartment. All serious stuff, not to be taken lightly.
However, when we do say something to you, we most definitely mean it. This is the sincere part. We might seem cold and rough on the outside but tend to be like a warm, fuzzy puppy, yearning for acceptance on the inside. Therefore, if an emotion or affection gets through, you can bet it is a genuine one and, in many cases, lasts a lifetime.
- Not Religious but Quite Spiritual
Estonia is considered to be one of the least religious countries in the world. One of the reasons is that after having been occupied by so many different nations throughout history, we have developed a certain reluctance to any kind of foreign influence dictating us how to live and what to think.
However, we do have a native faith called Estonian indigenous Paganism, Neopaganism or Maausk. On average, it means we have a very strong connection to the nature and earth. The divine is often identified with nature itself. Rather than the God, Estonians believe in some sort of spirit or life force.
We believe, for example, that hugging trees can give you energy and even heal. We like to stroll in forests and bogs to relax and we use different herbs for curing a cold. We love to eat fresh fruit, vegetables and berries that pour out of our grandparents’ gardens in autumn. That huge dose of vitamins is probably what helps us survive the cold and dark winter. Moreover, we tend to adjust our rhythm of life to each season of the year, as the climate conditions can differ drastically.
- Curious About the World
As a small nation on the verge of Europe, we make a significant effort to let the world know that we exist. We study very hard, speak several foreign languages, travel often and are generally very curious about the world and its cultures.
Of course, I cannot NOT mention here the favorite quote of Estonians by Ernst Hemingway, who seems to have met quite a lot of us on his way: “In every port in the world, at least two Estonians can be found.”
When there is no Hemingway around, we do not get tired of explaining that, yes, Estonia is in the European Union, we are situated between Finland, Sweden, Latvia and Russia; or, no, we do not speak Russian, we speak Estonian, which is similar to Finnish. In addition, you probably do not know that we can vote, park our car, get a doctor’s prescription and sign documents digitally. Moreover, Skype was invented by Estonians!
- Personal Space
Although curious, Estonians need their personal space. Quite a lot of it. We do not speak about personal stuff easily. It is much more convenient to have conversations about the news, weather, politics or world events.
We greet new people with a handshake and this is the closest you are going to get. Friends, family, and situations that include considerable amounts of alcohol are an exception here, of course. Alcohol is an especially interesting case. It seems to turn Estonians into great speechmakers, dancers and very affectionate, sentimental people.
Our home is our fortress. This is the only place in the world where we feel completely safe, relaxed and okay to be our true selves without any expectations or social strings attached. We do not invite other people to our home easily.
Nevertheless, when we finally do, it means they have somehow become very important to us. In that case, you can be sure the visit is preceded by a couple of days of thorough cleaning and cooking. We take hospitality very seriously. Even so seriously, we often become so tired that we have to admit: “Guests are beloved twice: when they come and when they go.”
Think that any essential points are missing here? – Write a comment and let me know! 🙂