100 ways to know that you are from Estonia

Every nation has its characteristics. Some time ago, a few Tallinn-based expats compiled a tongue-in-cheek list that distinguishes Estonians. Estonian World republishes the list in a slightly modified form.

You know you are from Estonian when…

1. You use the word “normal” if something is OK.
2. When visiting friends abroad you bring along a box of Kalev chocolate.
3. You attended a song festival at least once either as a performer or as a spectator.
4. You know that going to the sauna is 80% about networking and 20% about washing.
5. You are nationalistic about Skype (it was actually set up in Estonia).
6. Kohuke (Estonian curd snack) belongs to your menu.
kohuke
7. You declare your taxes on the internet like all modern people.
8. You actually believed for a while that Latvians had six toes per foot when you heard that as a child.
9. You are convinced that Estonia is very strategically located.
10. You spent at least one midsummer in Saaremaa or Hiiumaa, or in one of the smaller islands.
11. You can quote films like “Viimne reliikvia” and “Siin me oleme”.
Viimne Reliikvia
12. You spit three times around your left shoulder for good luck.
13. Words like “veoauto”, “täieõiguslik” or “jää-äär” sound perfectly pronounceable to you.
14. You have been at least once in your life at Pärnu beach.
15. There can never be too much sarcasm.
16. Buildings taller than 20 floors are sightseeing items where you bring visitors.
Tallinn at sunset
17. You are disappointed that Jaan Kross never got the Nobel prize in literature.
18. It would not be surprising for English-speakers to find your name naughty (Peep, Tiit, Andres [sounds like undress]) or hippy (Rein, Rain).
19. You have been to Finland.
20. You say ‘Noh’ (sounds like NO) even when you speak English, just to confuse people.
21. You know the lyrics to “Mutionu” and “Rongisõit”.

22. You are used to customer servants looking at you as if they wanted to give you a good slap.
23. You would agree that wife-carrying is a real sport (at least as long as Estonians are winning).
24. Your best friend’s girlfriend is your English teacher’s daughter and they live next door to your grandparents, who were colleagues with your advisor, who is friends with your…
25. You think any beverage below 20% is non-alcoholic.
26. You think working 35 hours per week is like being on a holiday.
27. You look in both directions before crossing the road, even if it’s a one-way street.
28. You grin very mysteriously when people ask about your national food.
29. Even if you find the music by Veljo Tormis and Arvo Pärt not exactly easy-listening, you think they are great messengers for the country.

30. Your five-year-old child knows how to code.
31. You cheated on your wife/husband at least ten times but you still think you’re in a good marriage.
32. When someone ask you “where is Estonia?” you quickly reply that it’s located in Northern Europe close to Finland…
33. You think that people who smile too much and are too friendly, must be high on something.
34. Sour cream tastes good with everything.
35. A foreigner speaks to you in broken horrible Estonian and you go on and on about how wonderful their Estonian is compared to “the Russians”.
36. You have ever worn or seen anyone wear “karupüksid”.

37. You have heard the phrase “Estonians are slow” at least once.
38. Sa saad aru, mis siia kirjutatud on.
39. You find yourself continually ignoring the gender in other languages.
40. You say kuratas at least every second word.
41. You consider running to the shop at 21:50 on Friday evening to buy some booze a sport.
42. You don’t go on strike or protest when the government screws you.
43. When someone says “Estonians are so beautiful” you answer almost without emotions “I know”.
44. You have tried to explain people that “kauboi” is actually a word in Estonian.
45. You don’t think that “terviSEKS” is a funny word.
46. You don’t find the Estonian equivalent to the expressions “twelve months”, “1002” and “12 buses” remotely funny or rude.
47. Even though you never met Toots, Teele and Kiir you know exact what they are like (literary characters from Oskar Luts’s books).
Suvi
48. You grin when someone you know says that they bought a BMW.
49. You know how to end the sentence “Kui Arno isaga koolimajja jõudis…” (from Oskar Luts’s book “Kevade”).
50. Verivorst (blood sausage) tastes great (at least once a year at Christmas time).
51. You want truth and justice (tõde ja õigus) to rule the world.
52. You think that the combination blue-black-white is cheerful.
53. You think that Estonian women are the most beautiful in the world.
Photo by Sigrid Osa
54. For you it is totally normal to eat food gone sour (hapupiim, hapukurk, hapukapsas, hapukoor).
55. A language should have at least 14 cases.
56. You know the moves to the song Põdra maja“.
57. You consider “Õllepruulija” an unofficial national anthem.
58. Everyone in your family has pictures from funerals.
59. You are so proud of every Estonian that you correct foreigners who say that the population is one million, not 1.3 million as it actually is.
Song Festival Grounds I
60. You know the moves to kaerajaan (folk dance).
61. “Ühesõnaga” (“To sum it up in one word”) means a really long explanation is coming.
62. A mention of a town with a population of a million or more causes you to panic slightly.
63. The phrase “go south, get some sun” can feasibly mean Latvia or Lithuania. The phrase “go north” is semantically null.
64. It’s been years since you’ve seen your paper passport and paper bus pass.
65. And weeks since you’ve seen cash money.
66. And you barely remember that there are other forms of payment except electronic ones.
67. When you come to a city that has a subway, you are prepared to spend a day just riding it.
68. You presume that all other countries also have ubiquitous internet access.

69. Four-digit bus route numbers cause your brain to shut down.
70. You feel that the University of Tartu is among the top five best/largest/oldest universities in the world, and if you’ve graduated from it, all paths in life are open for you.
71. Swimming in +18°C water is a perfectly normal summer activity for you.
72. Although when summer does come around, you tend to be working that day.
73. You will die before finding out if anyone actually does buy all those black and white hand-knit sweaters in the Tallinn Old Town.
74. You can name from memory all the really big musical acts that have performed in Estonia.
Michael Jackson in Estonia
75. You don’t give a damn about religion, but get lost in a spiritual section of a bookshop for hours.
76. You know the names of all three black people living in Estonia.
77. You think €1,000 per month counts as a decent salary.
78. A person who speaks three languages isn’t the slightest bit impressive.
79. Your biological clock senses with perfect accuracy the 15 minutes since you’ve parked your car in the centre of town.
80. You wait for a green light at a pedestrian crossing even when there is no traffic to be seen.
81. You like “kiluvõileib” (sprat sandwich).
Kaarel Mikkin
82. If it takes more than 10 minutes to drive somewhere within the city, you are mildly annoyed because it is too far.
83. You know who Carmen Kass is.
84. Your doctor prescribes a visit to a tanning salon.
85. You take it as inevitable that you will need to go abroad for some things: clothes, footwear, books, theme parks…
86. First-graders with mobile phones no longer surprise you.
87. People who type slowly and carefully using only their index fingers are subconsciously considered to be foreigners.
88. The most difficult subjects you learned at school were Estonian history, Estonian geography and Estonian literature. And Russian.
89. You can speak with pride of Estonia’s tallest mountain (Mountain Suur Munamägi – 318 m).

90. You can at times drink hot tea to hot food.
91. You use a mobile phone to pay for your car parking.
92. On 23 June, you feel the irresistible urge to drink beer, eat barbeque meat, light a bonfire and stay up all night (it is “Jaanipäev” or St John’s Eve).
Kurat
93. When you hear “Kristina”, you think of Shmigun, not Aguilera.
94. Every year you believe, deep in your heart, that Estonia will once again win the Eurovision Song Contest.
95. Potato to you is the same as rice to a Japanese.
96. You consider summer to consist of three weeks of bad skiing weather.
97. You can’t imagine your life without “Kalev” chocolate and “Viru Valge” vodka.
98. You’re proud that Ernst Hemingway wrote that you can find at least one Estonian in every harbour in the world.
99. Ten months of the year it is too dark to be up and two months it is too light to go to bed.
100. It is yours to fill up…

I

Cover: Performers at a song festival (photo by Kaarel Mikkin.)

Enjoyed this article?
Please consider becoming a supporter.


About the author: Estonian World

Estonian World is a global independent online magazine, founded in London in 2012 and headquartered in Tallinn, Estonia. The magazine has editorial representations in London, New York, Toronto and Tallinn, and contributors all over the world, on every continent. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

  • Viivi

    ‘You think any beverage below 20% is non-alcoholic’ – love it!

    • Mi-chan

      Is it not true?? I saw Kali had a sign that said 5%, that is like nothing right?

  • Viivi

    ‘Every year you believe, deep in your heart, that Estonia will once again win the Eurovision Song Contest’ – So true! Still waiting!

  • Rix

    When there are no English translation to a word “Ei viitsi”

    • Eliise

      Hahaa, true!

    • Shy Guy

      Ei viitsi is “I can’t be bothered”. (Or he/she/you can’t be bothered.)

      • Eeva Aasa

        I can’t be bothered ei ole otseselt “ei viitsi”, vaid pigem “ma ei vaevu”.

        • Shy Guy

          Otsetõlkes küll. Aga olukorras kus eestlane ütleb “ei viitsi”, inglane ütleks “I can’t be bothered”, ja mõlemal oleks sama mõte peas.

          http://www.eki.ee/dict/ies/index.cgi?Q=viitsi&F=V&C06=et

          • Helen

            Bitches please, inglise keelt kõnelev inimene ütleks i’m too lazy … või i’m too tired… . Britid võibolla tõesti vaevuks ütlema “I can’t be bothered”.. but still, pole kuulnud vestluse käigus sellist väljendit.

          • Shy Guy

            Olengi britt. Mitte keegi ei ütleks “I’m too lazy”. “I’m too tired” küll, aga see on hoopis põhjendus. “I can’t be bothered” olen kuulnud kogu aeg.

            “Bothered” on siiski kõige viisakam variant. Kasutatakse palju ropemaid ka.

          • Kriket Kriket

            Ma pole ka kuulnud, et keegi ‘I’m too lazy’ ütleks. Ikka ‘can’t be bothered’ või ‘can’t be arsed/asked’.

          • Kriket Kriket

            Kus sa siis inglise keelt kuulnud oled, et seda väljendit ette pole tulnud? Oma kodus? Inglismaal ilmselt mitte…

          • dogpoo

            Ytlevad, Cant be asked.

  • Mver

    You should add a translation to “ühesõnaga”.

    • aari

      it’s like “To sum it up”

      • Mver

        Yes, I know, I’m Estonian, but since the list is in English, I’m guessing it’s made so that foreigners could enjoy it too. But with no translation to “ühesõnaga” the joke is completely lost.

        • Kaja Rüütel

          “Ühesõnaga” – “in a nutshell”.

      • enn jurgenson

        or more correctly….’so, finally in a word……

        • ly

          Aaahahaha ei ole ju yldse korrektsem, keegi ei r22gi nii, v6iks ikka keele selgeks 6ppida enne kui targutama hakata 🙂

    • Ketutar Jensen

      I’m Finnish, and I can’t speak Estonian, but I would guess “with one word”. And I think this list is mainly for Estonians… Half of it is lost with me. I find the things funny I identify myself in as a Finn. Karhupöksyt was funny, though,

  • Estonian

    Number 8 is arrogant, embarrasing, rude and none of my normal Estonian friends have heard about it.

    • Britta

      Really? I’ve always thought it is rather sweet. What is so bad about a completely random joke that bears no relation to real life and makes Latvians appear as fantasy creatures? I remember ‘believing’ it as a child (it was wonder and disbelief more than belief tbh) and have Estonian friends who have recounted a similar memory. I consider myself and these friends rather normal and polite…

    • eestlanna

      How to distinguish the Latvian and Lithuanian car license plates (LV vs. LT)? LV stands for “lisa varvas” (meaning additional toe) and hence the plate number is Latvian.
      And I personally don’t know anybody who hasn’t heard of that joke. It’s the same that Latvians make weird jokes about us saying that we are slow thinkers.

      • Mi-chan

        Its funny how Latvians think that, we can slow down after having thought about 99% of everything else and 1% of what the conversation was about.

    • I think it’s rather rare to find an estonian who hasn’t heard about this kind of joke. Also I don’t find it rude – it’s much more rude to call a finnish person “põder” (moose) in my opinion.

      • Eve

        You mean: PORO?

    • aari

      really? i thought that 6 toe thing about Latvians has always been a thing in Estonia, and that every Estonian knows the joke

    • Viivi

      Most Estonians know this. It’s old.

    • Grieta

      Even Latvians joke about Estonians joking about this thing.
      And as a nation whose humor-webpages tend to have separate chapter called “Jokes about Estonians” think we can survive this one. 😉

  • user

    All Estonians know ice-cream in Latvian is saldejums.

  • Kaspar Semm

    Sa tead, et oled Eestlane kui kõigepealt proovid asja ise valmis ehitada ja kui sellest midagi välja ei tule, alles siis lähed sa seda ostma.

  • Kaspar

    Every estonian knows that “Jalgpall on parem kui seks!”

  • Mariel

    #61 made me crack up

  • Great list–Suurepärane!

  • Meelis Rosenberg

    Decent list, was entertaining to read it. Yes, there were some points I don’t agree on, but abstracts just are like that. Though bear in mind that “life without Viru Valge” is totally acceptable for at least 60% of our people. We’re not Russians. I like to think of us more like Germans – beer people.

  • Cristina Holm

    Excellent – haruldane! I loved number 58!

  • William Cerveza

    hahahaa, really funny and absolutely true list! 😀

  • John Henry Eden

    Most of these are true for Latvians as well 😀

  • Bill Rebane

    I must have been a genius Estonian until I was 10. Now I am just a regular
    nationalistic one.

  • Liis

    My favourite was #61. “Aga ühesõnaga: Bla bla bla bla bla…..” So true.

    Also when I saw #93, first person I thought about at once was Kristiina Ehin. Awesome woman.

  • Peter

    “12. You spit three times around your left shoulder for good luck.” That’s not completely correct. You do it in order to avoid “tempting fate” after making a favorable observation (compare with knocking on wood three times).

  • Evi Kaasik

    ahh, ma vihkan tra kiluvõileib.. i think all estonians love must leib though 🙂

  • Ilse

    3 “best of world”: estonian seaman, sweden steel and german prostitutes. (My old man philosophy).

  • Tony Docherty

    As a Scotsman living with my Estonian Fiancee I found this hilarious. Tears running down my face.

  • Tuuli Reinsoo

    add as 100. Nobody bothers to use any correct punctuation, commas and stuff, but mostly they all speak english instead of estonian, cause they are too dimwitted to see the beauty of their own language

    • Mi-chan

      That is actually quite true, its kind of weird that my sister, my friend and her friend all talk in english while I answer them in estonian.

  • Maret Lokotar

    What is difficult in veoauto (13) 😀

  • Juha

    This was so good, but toooo long. Na jah, estlane ma ei siis ole, aga estlastele hea naaber ma küll tahan olla 🙂

  • Mi-chan

    Swimming in +18°C water is a perfectly normal summer activity for you
    Where do you find water with that high of a temperature?
    77. You think €1,000 per month counts as a decent salary
    Its a great salary
    80. You wait for a green light at a pedestrian crossing even when there is no traffic to be seen
    Maybe police or ambulance is near and is going to come?
    88. The most difficult subjects you learned at school were Estonian history, Estonian geography and Estonian literature. And Russian.
    Oh yes, the worlds geography is easier than Estonian because you only have to learn Oceans, bigger and more popular lakes and rivers and higher places around the world.
    90. You can at times drink hot tea to hot food
    Its nice to do it in the summer, in winter you will most likely eat a sandwich you just made by putting cheese and butter on a bread.
    . 92. On 23 June, you feel the irresistible urge to drink beer, eat barbeque meat, light a bonfire and stay up all night (it is “Jaanipäev” or St John’s Eve)
    It is only natural
    94. Every year you believe, deep in your heart, that Estonia will once again win the Eurovision Song Contest
    David Benton we need you again! You sing so well…
    97. You can’t imagine your life without “Kalev” chocolate and “Viru Valge” vodka
    Kalev company is the greatest company ever
    98. You’re proud that Ernst Hemingway wrote that you can find at least one Estonian in every harbour in the world
    Of course, your best friend might be an Estonian in fact, YOU might be Estonian
    99. Ten months of the year it is too dark to be up and two months it is too light to go to bed
    Those months were July and August
    100. You remember when most of the Stores in your city close and open, you can speak at least 2 languages, and are learning more saying its clearly not enough to survive in the world.