10 reasons why a Spanish Erasmus student loves Estonia

Isabel Fernández Felipe, an Erasmus student from Spain, who took psychology lessons in Tallinn University last year, fell in love with Tallinn and Estonia.

In the beginning I thought Tallinn wouldn’t be the best place to live because of the weather and the different culture that might seem distant. But now, as I am finishing my Erasmus exchange studies, I can fortunately admit I was wrong. To be honest, I fell in love with this city from the beginning. So, ¿por qué? Miks? 

1. A small but a caring nation

Estonian population is a little more than one million and the culture is the main vehicle for the Estonian identity. They have a lot of respect for it; their identity is something very special to them. I’ll always remember the Independence Day celebrations in Toompea Hill, where a lot of people were singing the national song while crying and smiling. So many emotions, flags and beauty! Next to that I was really surprised at the national anthem’s lyrics: they are so beautiful that made me want to sing it fluently myself!

Song Festival

But it is not all about beauty. Estonians have suffered a lot under various occupations. History made Estonians fight, good people have died and people now shed tears just to enjoy their freedom. For a person whose country has enjoyed freedom over centuries, it’s very exciting to sense how important it is for Estonians to be united. I will miss them singing all together, singing so gracefully, just to defend their country and make it proud.

2. No more stereotypes with Estonians, please!

Before coming to Estonia, I was reading that they have a cold personality, they’re serious, they aren’t passionate and they are stressed all the time. Well, it’s true that the first impression can correspond to that stereotype, but I’ve realised that in a broader view, Estonians are not like that.

51hePJ5FkYL._SX385_I think it is just a matter of sun. Estonians are publicly polite and silent because they have to save energy due to the lack of vitamins from the sun. Estonians have energy only for few people and at home. If they have saved enough energy, they are energetic, funny and talkative – as long as you are not together with 100 people and alcohol is involved! They like to have fun and they know how to do it!

I don’t think Estonians are boring. For me, they are adventurous, challenging and they like to do random things at random places. For example, I was at a crazy party inside a Soviet-era prison, where many years ago people were tortured or left dead. I went to see jellyfish in a restricted area of the port. I saw how Estonians can drink at 10 am inside a supermarket. Even if considered shy in one moment, they can wear animal costumes in the university or party 24 hours in an abandoned factory the other. I think Estonians are weird – in a good way!

3. Landscape in Estonia is so plush!

The colours and tastes are impressive here. Almost all of the Estonian land is covered by forests and Estonians are more attached to nature than other nationalities. You can do a lot of activities in the nature like visit wild bogs, go cross-country skiing, pick mushrooms and berries.

Landscape in a room of landscape II

Also, there are beautiful villages and towns in Estonia. Viljandi, Pärnu and Tartu are perfect examples of places where you can discover cute places to relax, handicraft shops and historical places to visit. But if you want to enjoy the nature, you should go to Jägala waterfall, Lahemaa National Park or Saaremaa. Or maybe take a stroll at Rakvere Castle.

4. Good public transport

First of all, in Tallinn, public transport is free for people who are registered to live in the city. Secondly, there are lot of buses and trams running during the day. You don’t have to wait for more than 10 minutes (usually less) if you want to go to the city centre. Less cars, eco-friendly, we all breathe fresher air!

Special tram (originating from 1953) Photo by Terje Lepp

5. Estonia is in a geostrategically important area

Finland’s capital Helsinki is only 88 kilometres away, but Estonia also has good connections with Oslo, Stockholm, Riga, Vilnius and St. Petersburg. So, if you are coming to Estonia, be ready with your backpack and start travelling!

Estonia

6. Ask Estonian about their national food!

It is true that “Estonian food” is not the strongest asset of this country because if you ask about it, people will tell you that the most important Estonian food are potatoes (what the heck?!).

kohuke

But – there are some snacks that I really learned to love in Estonia! Cheesecake kohuke is my favourite candy from Estonia. It’s like a sweet snack made from curd cheese and chocolate. I also love Kalev chocolate, made by the local confectionery maker by the same name. There are lot of types of chocolate: with strawberries, orange, nuts, mint, raspberries and so on. You are obliged to try it if you are coming here!

7. Estonia is one of the least religious countries in the world

Only the 14% of the population declare themselves religious. It is a country where religion has never played an important role on the political or ideological battlefield. I respect all of the religions, but I think is important to separate religion from politics and education in order to feel and think free in what you want to believe or what you want to follow without the pressure of the highest authorities. Instead believing in God, Estonians believe more in a natural phenomenon that makes it more fascinating for me – they celebrate the “Tree hugging day”, for example!

Tree hugging

8. Children mature faster

I was very surprised when I saw really small children in the tram or walking around totally alone. Also, I couldn’t understand why six-year-old children have mobile phones. Well, I was reading about it and I think the education parents give to their kids is really good in terms that they feel independent more early compared with children in other countries.

programming-for-kids

It seems it allows the kids to mature much faster. Also, I think it makes them less anxious and stiffens them up. It’s important for us to know how to live on our own.

9. If you are a music lover, Estonia is your country

There are always lots of music events everywhere and you can choose what is better for your interests. From electronic, disco, pop, rock, rap to salsa, folk, reggae and jazz – you name it.

Also, music festivals are great here. The most common are the Tallinn Music Week Festival, where you can enjoy concerts all the day, everywhere, during a week, and the Viljandi Folk Festival, inspired by traditional elements played by original composers.

Eesti ETNO (Mikk Mihkel Vaabel)

Do not forget to check out the world famous composer, Arvo Pärt, or an indie band like Ewert and the Two Dragons. Maria Minerva can also blow your mind.

10. There is only one thing that sounds better than the rain: the Estonian language

When you listen Estonians talking to each other you may think they are singing. The language is pretty soft, melodic and it has very beautiful sounds. There are some tongue twisters that can make you crazy: “Võib võid võtta või ei või võid võtta?” (May I take some butter or may I not?), for example; or also some weird and funny words as “töööö” or “jäääär”. I tried to learn the language but it’s so difficult (14 cases!), so I would have to try another time because I really love it!

Photo by Ilmar Saabas for Maaleht

I spent 10 months in Estonia and I declare myself an Estonian lover, so I will come back for sure.

Estonia, we will meet again! Nägemist, kullakesed.

I

This article was originally published by Erasmus Love website. The cover photo is illustrative: winter walk in Otepää (photo by Jarek Jõepera/courtesy of VisitEstonia).

Enjoyed this article?
Please consider becoming a supporter.


About the author: Isabel Fernández Felipe

Isabel Fernández Felipe was Erasmus student in 2014/2015 academic year in Tallinn University where she took psychology lessons.

  • Hillar Pähn

    Yes,it might be true,that only 14% are religious.It is because of the 50 years of Soviet occupation. Before the II world war,Estonia was very religious.

    • Mare Britton

      Maybe they were church goers, but “very” religious? No. None of the Estonian emigre went to church, except for a few old people, regularly. It was as it is for many Canadians and Americans — church is for funerals, weddings etc. Estonians also celebrate ancient wedding rites

    • Anna Jeemin

      You cannot explain that with Soviet occupation because of Lithuania: “As per the 2011 census, 77.2% of Lithuanians belonged to the Roman Catholic Church.” [wikipedia]
      Estonians tend to be spiritual (“tree huggers”); but not religious.

      • kiku

        It’s true but saying that ” It is a country where religion has never played an important role on the political or ideological battlefield” is totally wrong. Just go back to the 13.century and the crusades.

        • Anna Jeemin

          Hey, this boy was exchange student from Spain. He describes imagination what he got during his stay. And when talking about current Estonia, aka “second Estonian republic”, aka history for about last 25 years, then he’s absolutely correct: religion hasn’t any role in this country. Perhaps it’s so because medieval crusaders used too much torture, swords and torches, and modern Estonians have still not forgiven that.

          • kiku

            Yes, religion doesn’t have a big role in nowadays Estonia but saying it has no influence whatsoever is not quite right. Don’t get me wrong, i’m not religious, just these very simplified and definitive historical concepts are disturbing. But apart from that it is a very lovely article! Thank You!

          • Point

            Just to clarify that the author is a woman, not man 🙂

      • Eliise Peelo

        Lithuania was teamed up with Poland for a couple of centuries, though, so that’s where the difference lies (partly, anyway).

        I agree with us Estonians being spiritual… It’s also interesting that it’s still quite common for us to go to healers (“witches”), sensitives etc. But in general, I think we could use a bit of knowledge about different religions and the way they actually mostly talk about the same core values…

  • m0r5k

    Heheee! Nice article you’ve got there. The stereotypes are from ages ago. New generations of estonians are far more western cultural and WICKED! So these stereotypes are long gone. Although some are true, but it’s the little glass protection that needs to be shattered with earning some trust from the estonian to get to know the real person behind it.

  • scythian

    Lets just hope Estonia doesn’t take in any muzzies. Otherwise it will turn to crap like western Europe.

  • A2er

    I wonder if Isabel realized that Estonian vowels are very similar to Spanish vowels. In fact (disclosure: I speak Spanish and have a degree in it), there are some verbs in Estonian that are close to Spanish. Like the Spanish verb ‘amar’ – to love. Think about that word in Estonian. And ‘poner’ – to put or place and again in Estonian.