- -  Day # 37  + +

EU > Estonia > Tartu

Meeting the Estonians

Tartu, EE (View on map)

Estonians are not known for being very talkative. I did not want to take that for a fact and tried to get them to reveal their favourite topics of conversations. And the subjects they want to avoid at all cost.

Maarja (21):

`On average, Estonians are introverted and they do not show much emotion`
My experience here is that it`s not very difficult to speak to people. People are helpful and they answer my questions very carefully, no matter how strange they seem. Taking photos is a bit more difficult, since people seem not really confident to pose. Maarja (21, photo) is helping me out with that, and she tells me that Estonians are introverts who are not used to expression their personal emotions a lot. They talk about the weather, work and studies - about what they do, have done or will do, but not so much about what their ideas. Men speak about cars and sports, women about clothes and shopping. Complaints are for sharing, while happiness is likely to be kept indoors.

Mart (20) says that Estonians will avoid questions when those too personal. They will smile and talk away from the question. An example of that would be to ask a business partner about his family - it is not a very common thing to do. Also, it`s hard to talk to strangers. People will think that you want something from them. That`s where the chicken-egg story comes in: the only reason Estonians see to talk to strangers is... whenever they need something from them.

Helena (20) confirms my guess that Estonians like Germany a lot. German is a popular language here and people appreciate the German way of organising things. Many students leave for Germany on exchanges and, Helena herself being a law student, she explains me that also the legal systems of Estonia and Germany are alike. She does add that corruption is still a lot more wide-spread in Estonia than in Germany. In some recent cases, judges accepted bribes and it is also still common to pay doctors.

Beside Germans, Italians are also liked. Probably because their expressive manners make such a big contrast with the Estonians. This behaviour is not appreciated when shown without warning or without Italian nationality associated with it. Estonians are rather shy and according to Maarja (22), they will smile and think you are an idiot. Bragging is not appreciate and will make you look stupid instead of admirable. Talking about yourself is allowed, but only about problems, not about achievements. No talking at is better for most occasions. She does not know why her compatriots prefer to watch TV or have a drink. `Maybe the weather makes them feel bad, maybe it`s because of Soviet times, maybe it`s just a matter of genes.`

Apart from special events or close friends, an Estonian is most helped by being alone, free of public affection or social settings. But when approached in an honest way, they will be most helpful, friendly and social - provided that you can convince them that you have a valid excuse to interfere with their chosen solitude.

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