Survey: Estonians living abroad want to contribute to their native country’s development

According to a survey, conducted by the Estonian foreign ministry among Estonians living abroad, over three quarters of them are keen to contribute to their native country’s development.

The Estonian foreign ministry conducted a survey among Estonians living abroad to find out how prominent a place their land of origin holds in their everyday lives. Another aim was to get an overview of their expectations for the state, so that they would be more interested in helping achieve Estonia’s objectives for the future, the foreign ministry said.

Between 18 October and 28 November last year, nearly 2,000 Estonians from more than 70 countries took part in the survey. The most active respondents were aged 26-45. More than a half of respondents had been away from Estonia for more than 10 years.

“A large share (76%) of respondents were interested in contributing to the development of Estonia and happy with their inclusion,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. “The results of the survey confirmed the diaspora would like to have a strong bond with the Estonian state, and would like to help raise our profile and support our foreign policy goals. When presenting Estonia, they would like to talk about us as an open, tolerant country eager to develop.”

Return to Estonia depends on the society’s tolerance

Estonians living abroad relate to Estonian identity mainly through their native language. Even the younger generation of Estonians born abroad identifies itself through Estonian culture and heritage. Respondents noted that living abroad has given them a keener appreciation of the value of their mother tongue and culture, the ministry noted.

Expat Estonians celebrating Jaanipäev, one of the most important summer holidays in the Estonian folk calendar, near London, UK. Photo by the London Estonian Society.

Estonians living abroad expect embassies to update them on their activities. They are also ready to participate in the events embassies are organising to promote Estonia.

“The majority (69%) of Estonians living abroad are happy with the consular services on offer. They would like to see more flexible and contemporary solutions in the provision of consular services, for example, when applying for a passport or an ID card.”

According to respondents, their decision to return to Estonia is based on such considerations as the working and living environment, as well as Estonia’s reputation and tolerance in society in general. When returning to their native country, they are worried about difficulties related to everyday life, as well as a negative attitude towards those returning.

Cover: Two Amsterdam-based Estonian women wearing traditional folk costumes, while celebrating their country’s folk culture with fellow Estonian expats. The image is illustrative. Photo by Maarten Laupman.

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