Even Estonians themselves know, that they are hard to get to know. We hear it all the time. If anyone asks about Estonian stereotypes – we often say- “Estonians seem cold, but once you get to know us, we are your true friends!”
So how the heck can one reach this level and make friends among Estonians?
Let’s hear what guests from podcast Found in Estonia have to say about this one!
John from Colombia totally agrees that “it takes time to make Estonian friends!” and smilingly adds: “once you make them, you won’t get rid of them at all.” He also mentions, he has found most of his friends through work and having a broad field of interests, which connects you to people. He seemed pleased when adding that thanks to that, he can now say he has one Estonian friend for each time of the day.
People in Chile like to smile and Jaime says that’s also his secret sauce – “Smile to them, try to be polite.” and read their body language: “You will know when they want to talk and you will know when they don’t want to talk to you.”
Buluthan from Turkey states that: “Estonian culture is one of those, where it takes much longer time, to get into a circle. But once you are in, you are in, then everything is possible within this circle.”.
A bubbly American guy Chris says that Estonians have this icy front that they usually put on. Other than that getting to know Estonians is not a complicated task, you just have to be aware that Estonians, who have lived their whole life in Estonia have not heard much about the outside world. They’re very cautious and very reserved about it and it’s much harder to kind of get through the first ice.
He adds: “Learning Estonian is a good icebreaker” and about Estonian straight-forwardness: “I think it’s fairly easy to get connected to people. Because the superficialities are skipped. And when they start showing you their emotions – you know you’ve got to know them deeper.”
Azerbaijani guy Rufat points out: “in Estonia, it’s okay to be silent, but in other countries, they are constantly trying to fill in the silence.”
“If people don’t know you here, they’re not going to ask you personal questions, contrary to Spain or Azerbaijan.”
Super social Indian guy Avishek has grown up with an understanding that “Food is for sharing, we rarely ate alone.” So one of his secrets has been: introducing people to Indian food and making Indian food evenings. Though this has proven to have more nuances to it. At first, he had to re-learn how to invite people over “the Estonian way” which means not being too aggressive. Simple things like mentioning he likes to prepare food and likes to have friends over, followed by giving them room to think about it have done the trick. Since it led to people asking for an invitation themselves.
He has also come to realize that at times people are more likely to hang out with their close friends. “Especially on days that are more traditional like Christmas for example. They are with their family.”
Another observation is that “Estonian people will not invite you to their homes in these personal events. But they will invite you to sauna and summerhouses – those things are nice.”
Avery from Canada has learned that, when it comes to cracking the Estonian ice in people, a sauna is another nice way to do that. He points out: “Yeah people are the same, once you know them – no one is really that different.”
In general many of our guests shared how their hobbies have helped to unite them more with locals. And it seems it doesn’t really matter which hobbies. Whether it’s board games, playing badminton, joining a running club, local choir or folks dance group, or even a group of chilly food lovers. There are always options.
As Taavi from our neighboring country Finland puts it: “During parties, they are much more open, they are much more willing to talk about their real-life issues.”
Avishek emphasized “take initiative” at least 7x during his episode. And Mathilde from France stated it as well: “When you come to Estonia, try to go towards Estonians. Don’t play it safe and stay with your own community. Keep pushing and keep going. Don’t be scared. Go out there and no matter how hard it will be in the beginning to break the ice or the coconut shell – it will be worth it.”
“Estonians are not cold – they just might not do the first step.”
If you think it might be easier for other people from former USSR countries, Mihaela from Moldova paints us a good picture: “Estonian take space and leave space. As a foreigner you don’t always understand it, you take it personally and think they don’t like me, they don’t want to be my friend – but now all my friends are Estonians, just because I gave them time and space. Other foreigners came fast and went fast.”
And if you think Lithuanians, are similar to Estonians, hear out a tip from our Baltic guest Vika, who agrees with Mihaela: “Give Estonians time, don’t step on their toes. Don’t rush them.”
What about you? Have you found any Estonian friends and how did you do that? Comment your tips and tricks below!