Estonians and their neighbours

Source: Jaanus Ree, Visit Estonia

Estonians and their neighbours


Mihkel RaudWriter

“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours and laugh at them in our turn?” asked the British novelist Jane Austen. When searching for a nation who would match this description the best, Estonians would be clear favourites.

Although Estonians actually have a lot of respect for their neighbours. Thanks to the Finns, Estonians were able to get a few “real” treats during the Soviet occupation – when Finnish friends visited, they brought along chewing gum, Coca-Cola, jeans and other wonders of the free world, which Estonians had only heard of.

But Estonians can also be a little bit envious of the Finns. This is because our northern neighbours have always had better luck than the Estonians – they didn’t have to put up with Russian occupation or anything. While Estonians where stuck serving overseers from the Kremlin, Finns were free to enjoy capitalism and economic growth. Prior to the World War II, Estonian economy had been in better state than that of Finland, or at least that’s what Estonians like reiterating at every chance they get, but Russians took hold of Estonia and did everything in their power to rid the locals of their industriousness. At the same time the Finns, however, were doing better than ever. This is likely the main reason why Estonians – especially after a few drinks – love to talk smack about the Finns behind their back; they wouldn’t dare to say anything to their face though. After all, we are brother nations.

Estonians at sea

Photo by: Stina Kase 

Luckily there is another nation in Europe, with whom both Estonians and the Finns have a bone to pick and who makes for a great object of gossip when the two nations meet. Naturally, we’re speaking of the Swedes, who are doing even better than the Finns and therefore turn Estonians especially green with envy.

Distrustful Estonian

Photo by: Rasmus Jurkatam, Visit Estonia

What infuriates Estonians the most here is of course that fact that all the large banks operating in Estonia are owned by the Swedes. Swedish bankers require the payment of obrok for every little thing: paying for bread at the store – cling!, the riches of Swedish bankers grow by a few cents without them having to lift a finger. Sending alimony to your ex – cling!, a Swedish banker smiles an even wider smile. Paying up a traffic fine – cling!, you’ve delighted another Swedish banker. Swedish bankers get their small yet unavoidable share even when you’re just buying a lolly for your child.

However, during critical moments, Estonians maintain solidarity with their neighbours. For example, during the Eurovision Song Contest, which is loved by many here, Estonians always give their maximum points to the Swedes, Finns, Latvians or even Russians. It’s not a problem to gossip about neighbours as an innocent past time, as Estonians actually love their neighbours. They love everyone else as well, regardless of not being the best at showing this love.

Friends taking a walk

Photo by: Rasmus Jurkatam, Visit Estonia

Last updated : 31.03.2020

In category: History & culture