Do you know these metaphors
describing living in Estonia?

Based on podcast interviews

As much as there are people, there are opinions. When people come from totally different cultural spaces – is it even possible, that they end up using similar metaphors and descriptions about Estonia and Estonians? Throughout our interviews in the podcast Found in Estonia, some of the guests have a really clear understanding and description of Estonians. Others struggle to put their thoughts into words. 

Most of our guests in the podcast mentioned sooner or later, that Estonians are this kind of people, who have a shell – you need to take your time, give Estonians time and stay consistent. And once you break the shell.. “once you are in, you are in!”.

  • Mathilde from France sums it up really nicely: “Estonians are like coconuts – really hard to break, really soft inside.”
  • Another expression we heard was: “Estonians are like ketchup – first you have to work hard to get anything out and once it starts to come out, it’s everywhere!”
  • When talking about typical Christmas foods, one of the guests had a lightbulb moment, when she said: “Estonians are like cabbage and beer – you have to give it time” – meaning that’s exactly how one can prepare Estonian specialty: beer sauerkraut.
  • “a secret gem” or “the sweet spot” With frequent comments like these, some foreigners just know how to melt Estonian’s hearts. Some adding: “..because it’s so cool how digital systems work”, others: “..because I feel so productive in Estonia, I didn’t feel that productive anywhere else.”
  • One aspect that many expats mentioned was the Estonian weather. Few were pleased and really liked it and most others said it’s the worst thing about Estonia. Rufat from Azerbaijan shared a really colorful metaphor about it: “Estonian weather is like Kinder Surprise – you don’t know, what is going to pop up.”
  • Being Estonian myself I’m so used to having light “potato-blond” hair (the way most Estonians describe their hair color) and I had to laugh hard when I heard first impressions being: “Jesus, what level of blondness is that?” from our South American friends.
  • Whenever I hear comments like: “You never speak with strangers in here.”, “Estonians are cold, they don’t want to talk to strangers” I tend to feel slightly embarrassed about it – harsh reality check. But then again hearing: “Estonians are going to be the last ones to talk, but they’re going to be interesting.” has a way of bringing out the silver lining from those first two honest opinions. 
  • Did you have a chance to visit New York before it was world-famous? Mean either, but hearing “I always had that feeling, that Estonia feels like New York before it was built” still brings a smile to my face. I’m always glad to hear, when foreigners choose Estonia as their new permanent home, simply because they see so much potential in it.
  • Sometimes it seems, you can’t describe a country without describing its people. So I’ll add some of the comments and impressions that stood out when talking with foreigners living in Estonia. “Usual Estonian is put together, concentrates more inwards than outside.”, “Slower, calmer, really quiet people, who like to do everything alone.”, “Hard-working, kind, helpful, speaks probably 3 or more languages, usually well educated.”, “People are really respectful with others and punctual.”, “In terms of size, it’s not really convenient, but in terms of the culture, education, Estonia is simply great!”

Do you have an impression or metaphor that you usually use when describing Estonia and Estonians? Please share it with us in the comments and who knows, maybe we’ll hear it soon from our podcast guests as well! 

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3 thoughts on “Do you know these metaphors describing living in Estonia?”

    1. Hi Katerina! Thanks for sharing your article. Seems that coconut metaphor describes Estonians really well, I noticed you even used the same metaphor yourself: “It felt like a coconut with a thick and hard shell that I had to break in order to get to the soft and creamy core. Once their “shell” is broken, Estonians tend to become loyal friends who will accept you as family, will remember everything about you and help you whenever you are in need.”

      Tiina

      1. Katerina Chantzi

        Thank you Tiina 🙂 It was a positive surprise reading the title of the newsletter, so I felt that I had to share my article 🙂

        Warm wishes,
        Katerina

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