February 23, 2016

64 Impressions of Estonia – as for a Guy from Singapore

February 23, 2016

Estonia through the eyes of an Asian. And whats your opinion?



Hi everyone.

Now that I’m about to graduate after three long years, I would like to share my thoughts, impressions and opinions of Estonia and her people.

My thoughts are not systematically written neither is it ranked in any significance. It’s random at best.

There will be the good, the bad and the awkward. Obviously, I’m not one who writes bias articles and like to view things as it is. I believe I am the first Southeast Asian and Singaporean writing his impressions of Estonia, thus it should be a little more refreshing than reading the occasional ones written by Americans and other Europeans.

There you go, sixty-four impressions of Estonia:

  1. Potato haven
  2. Forests everywhere!
  3. All of the trees look like Christmas trees to me
  4. Clouds seem to be closer to the ground compared to Singapore
  5. Low-rise buildings
  6. Visible stars
  7. Sparsely distributed buildings
  8. The number of lakes is too damn high
  9. Old towns, castles, and everything medieval rocks!
  10. Favourite museum: Saaremaa museum. It’s a museum in a castle!
  11. Favourite city: Kuressaare, Saaremaa
  12. Favourite drink: kefir with kama
  13. Favourite food: mashed potatoes with grilled herbal sausages
  14. Favourite song: It’s a tie between Metsatöll – Küü and Metsatöll – Külmking
  15. Estonians’ poker faces are legendary. Simply void of any emotions.
  16. Huge respect and admiration for Estonian drivers respecting zebra crossings.
  17. Estonians are tall.
  18. Estonian ladies do walk fast, like really fast. I’m from the country of the world’s fastest walkers so I think my words hold some validity.
  19. Estonians are really physically strong people.
  20. Estonian women are strong as hell. I’ve seen Estonian women lifting 10-15kg of goods without any problems.
  21. Locals look at me in funny and curious ways.
  22. The older generations are more impressed, in comparison to the younger generations, when a foreigner tries to speak in Estonian.
  23. I’ve done cultural sharing presentations in several middle and high schools, and I respect the teachers for being so ever friendly individuals.
  24. Making friends with an Estonian 101: share a similar interest. As for me, mine would be metal music.
  25. Estonian black humour is hilarious. Watch clip 1 (self-explanatory with English subtitles) and clip 2 (Wife was asking husband to pass the bread but it sounds like seppuku…)
  26. If you can’t get an Estonian to talk, buy him or her a drink. Alcohol always works.
  27. The Estonian word ‘sama’ also means ‘same’ in the Malay language.
  28. The Estonian label ‘mats’ is quite similar to how we label the Malay-ethnic individuals of similar characteristics in Singapore.
  29. It is true that quality friendship with an Estonian stays on.
  30. Living with Põlva guys for a semester is really fun and hilarious.
  31. Time passes slower in Estonia.
  32. Quiet and tranquil.
  33. I like the practice of taking off your shoes at the doorstep. Similar practice back home.
  34. A few companies enforce the “take-off-your-shoes” practice, which is great.
  35. I literally believed in the hype of Estonia being an e-country. I thought I would have wifi in the most isolated and darkest corner of the forest. Feelings cheated.
  36. I didn’t know that you have to pay for plastic bags in supermarkets at the beginning (In Singapore, it’s free).
  37. Supermarkets here implemented a brilliant initiative: when an item is reaching its expiry date, it will be offered at a discounted price. Brilliant!
  38. When I got a little better in Estonian, I was literally scared off by the patriotic lyrics in one of the laulupidu (song festival) I’ve attended. We don’t have very patriotic songs in Singapore or at least songs that are laced with that level of patriotism/nationalism, but hey, the history and circumstances that brought Estonia to its independence are very different.
  39. Quite a number of locals thought that Singapore is in China.
  40. Heating and electricity costs are darn expensive.
  41. McDonalds’ here are ridiculously more expensive in relative terms when compared to Singapore.
  42. I initially thought Estonians are really rich people judging by the number of German cars on the road, then I discovered that cars are relatively way cheaper due to geographical and EU taxation reasons. (For example: The approximated costs of the cheapest first-hand Audi A6 is €165,000, excluding road tax (about €50,000) in Singapore.)
  43. I personally think the natural potato hair colour is beautiful.
  44. If you want to get a reaction from Estonians, tell them that sauna sucks. *At your own risk.*
  45. People don’t say ‘excuse me’ when trying to squeeze or glide their way through a crowded area, they just bulldoze their way through bumping and pushing everyone in their way. It’s more amazing when the ladies literally use their boobs to push you away. Surreal.
  46. The Estonian language has no gender and future tense.
  47. Say anything remotely related to the past occupations of Estonia and Estonians will drown you with the misery and remorse the people have suffered.
  48. However, if you have a close Estonian friend and mention the above topic, they will respond along with their black humour gusto, “There’s a reason why we don’t look like inbreds and why we are good looking people.”
  49. Estonian policemen/policewomen look badass!
  50. Waitresses do not smile and instead of politely asking for your orders, they order you to make your orders. Generally speaking.
  51. Online election voting is quite awesome.
  52. Estonia is the least religious country in the world, which is great in my humble opinion.
  53. Estonians are pretty hardcore. Just look at kiiking, their extreme swings!
  54. Kohuke is the best treat for me.
  55. I still chuckle whenever I pass the cake section of a supermarket. Cake is kook in Estonian.
  56. Seriously, everybody knows everybody in Estonia.
  57. I’ve heard a friend’s friend who discovered his crush is his cousin at a relative’s funeral/wedding (can’t remember which event was it.)
  58. Estonians are multi-lingual individuals. It’s quite easy to find people who can speak at least three languages.
  59. Eurovision is horrible but somehow, it’s the perfect excuse to gather your friends for a drinking game.
  60. I don’t get the tanning craze at all.
  61. More Estonians should pick up fencing. With their recent accomplishments on the international stage and Estonians being one of the tallest people in the world, it’s the best sport for them.
  62. I didn’t like must leib (black bread) at the beginning, but now I like it.
  63. Don’t get the obsession of being considered a Nordic country. Estonia can be cool and great just by being herself. No need for labels to determine your qualities.
  64. If Estonian men were to take a little more care and attention to themselves, lay off the booze once in a while, and smile a little more, they would actually be quite good looking men. (Intelligence gathering from foreign girls.) No homo. Eesti mehed, kuulake!


Kuressaare Castle Museum

Before I sign off, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone, which includes the University of Tartu, the lecturers, International Student Ambassadors, both local and foreign friends for making this experience a truly memorable and fun one. Thank you.

Also, Estonians should love one another even more, to work together as a country and not as individuals. This country is bound for greatness when the people accept one another regardless of race and ethnic backgrounds, stop judging, tone down that all-about-me-and-myself-individualism and come together as a united country.

Reason for my optimism? When tiny Singapore said that she will be a developed multi-cultural nation right after gaining independence in 1965, everybody laughed and dismissively said that we will always be that fishing village south of Malaysia. If Singapore can do it, I believe Estonia can reach great heights in 25 years with the right mindset, systems, guidance and love. You guys can do it!

I believe in you!

Signing off.

Warmest and best regards,

Ken Saburi

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