Kerli's favourite Estonian sayings

Source: Marek Metslaid

Kerli's favourite Estonian sayings

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These are some of Estonia's best old-time sayings. Some are amusing, others are bleak, and the rest downright puzzling. 

"Pill tuleb pika ilu peale"

This used to be my grandmother's favourite quote when we were little and got too naughty. It basically means "don't have too much fun, there will be tears later." I'm not sure as an adult if I should laugh or cry, because as much as it's funny now, it's quite depressing to think there was a time when being overcome with joy was a taboo.

"Söögiajal ei räägita!"

"No talking while eating!" used to be a popular one while I was growing up. I've pondered this statement a lot in my life. Was it because daylight was short and once the man came to break for lunch after plowing the fields, he wanted to eat quickly because he had to get back to work? And talking to his kids and wife would have wasted his important field-plowing time? Or was this something that was made up solely by my kindergarten teachers to keep the kids under control?

At 28 years old, I'm still totally puzzled by this.

Table manners

Should a good meal be accompanied by conversation or silence? Some Estonians think the latter. 

Photo by: Danel Rinaldo

"Laps räägib siis kui kana pissib"

"Kids speak when hens pee". And hens don't pee. You get it.

"Jumal hoiab lolle ja joodikuid"

"God cares for idiots and drunks". Mostly everyone in Estonia has a colourful family with a good percentage of people who really love to drink. So I understand this saying because I remember times when I was little and the whole family was looking for some relative who was so drunk that they had slipped into the roadside ditch with their bike and fallen asleep, in the winter, wearing a t-shirt. In the morning they would return home, happily riding their bike.

"Ära hõiska enne õhtut"

This one is a true gem, warning you to not get too happy before the night is over, because everything might still go totally wrong. Celebration is definitely something a person should have in extremely small doses, if ever. Like during Midsummer eve, "Jaanipäev", which is a day when every Estonian is really, really happy (and super drunk.)

"Rääkimine hõbe, vaikimine kuld"

"Talking is silver, silence is golden". Another one from Estonians where they tell you that expressing yourself is basically useless. I think we have at least ten different quotes which are about shutting the heck up.

Silence is golden

Estonians know that sometimes words aren't necessary to express happiness. 

Photo by: Mart Vares

"Parem varblane peos ku tuvi katusel"

You would never hear an American using this quote as it's the opposite of the "bigger, better, faster" mindset of the modern world. The point of this quote is to have less, but to have it for real, with the exact translation stating, "It's better to have a sparrow in your palm than a dove on your rooftop".

"Üks loll võib rohkem küsida kui seitse tarka vastata"

"One idiot can ask more questions than seven wise men can answer". So don't ask any questions. Thank God for Google.

Last updated : 22.04.2021

In category: West Estonia, History & culture