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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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?!).
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.