Estonia – it sounds like a land of stones. That would be my first guess.
Well, we do have a lot of stones. But not only. I think it’s time to tell you more about my country and its people.
Estonians tend to be sarcastic, even gloomy. Every time someone comes back from a vacation in a sunny and warm country they can’t stop talking about how happy and friendly people were there. And I think – why can’t we do that? Why are we not a happy-shiny nation?
I think the answer lies on the map. Just look it up! We live in a cold Northern country. The sun is rare as gold.
We have a saying: “Yeah, I remember there was summer, but I was at work that day.” And we say that we have bad skiing weather all year round. (Well, this year we’ve had proper cold and lots of snow.)
I even think that if people from warm sunny countries would come to live here they’d become as depressed as we are.
Estonians like to be by themselves. We are quite private people and think that everyone should mind their own business. Why is that so?
Let’s take a closer look at the map again. To this day about half of the country is covered with forest. Estonians are used to living in their house in the middle of the woods and the closest neighbour can be kilometers away. So you become quite selfish living by yourself and you think that you can only rely on yourself.
We even have black in our national flag. And we don’t think that’s gloomy. Black is the colour of our soil. The ground that feeds us.
So now I’ve told you all these dark things about Estonians. But guess what? This is how we see ourselves. People who come here from other countries say that Estonians are very friendly and caring and hospitable! Go figure…
We do have our own language (people often don’t know that). The Estonian language which is related to Finnish (Finland is even more North!).
I grew up knowing that Estonian is the second beautiful language after Italian. I have no idea where that came from.
Here’s a word in Estonian:
It means “the edge of ice”. We even have a band by that name.
We get our education in Estonian, even at the university.
Despite of the cool summers or maybe because of that Estonians love to swim. We have a lot of lakes and natural pools (and we have the sea of course) and we take every opportunity to swim in them. We say that Estonians swim in every puddle there is.
I personally am no exception. I love to swim and I love to do it outside in summer.
It can get as warm as 30C (86F) here in summer but rarely, though. Last summer I went swimming when the water was merely 18C (64.4F) most of the time. I just have to get into water (and it has to be outside!)! It just makes me feel happy.
How do we cope with the cold weather? We have the sauna. Nowadays it can even be in an apartment but often a sauna is a separate house beside the house where you live. You heat it up real nice. 100C (212F) generally. Then you sit there in the heat and sweat. And then you wash yourself. And then you feel alive.
As it’s so hot in the sauna you sometimes want to cool down real quick. A lot of people have natural pools by the sauna. So you just jump into the pool. Some people do it in winter, too! Of course you have to make a hole in the ice beforehand.
You can also just roll yourself in the snow in winter and then run back to the sauna.
See, this is how the Estonians have fun.
The thing that amuses foreigners is that Estonians go to the sauna naked. That’s how it’s always been and I think it makes total – how else are you gonna wash yourself!
By the way, the famous writer Ernst Hemingway has said: “In every port in the world, at least two Estonians can be found.” Isn’t that amazing considering that there are only about one million Estonians in the world.