Estonians - progressive but traditional

Source: Renee Altrov, Visit Estonia

Estonians - progressive but traditional


Mihkel Raud


Estonians are people full of contradictions. They like to think of themselves as the world’s most progressive people, and sometimes rightly so. On the other hand, Estonians are also contenders for the Most Traditional Beings in the Universe title

A progressive woodsman

Photo by: Mariann Liimal, Visit Estonia

As Estonia became free from the Soviet yoke at the beginning of 1990s, the nation managed to skip one phase of development the rest of the world went through, and that is why fax machines, floppy discs and pagers have never been all too popular in Estonia. Estonians hurtled from the age of parchment straight into the 21st century and have made considerable advancements in the digitisation of their lives indeed. Skype, Mobile-ID, tax declarations that can be filled in the matter of minutes online as well as e-elections are all from Estonia, or at least Estonians like to think that.

To create a company, Estonians don’t even have to move a muscle, if only a few to make some clicks with the mouse. Entrepreneurship is as sacred in Estonia as is Ramadan in Iran or barbeque sauce festivals in the United States and therefore establishing a company could not get easier in Estonia. Everybody can register their own firm in a matter of minutes online and dive straight into business, be it pumping oil or spinning cotton candy, both equally popular fields of business in Estonia (Nb! There is no oil in Estonia).

An Estonian office

Photo by: Renee Altrov, Visit Estonia

While submitting a tax declaration in the rest of the world requires hiring an accountant, Estonians are done in flash. Jump online, log into the web page of the Tax Board, do couple of clicks, press enter and you are all set. This is not a joke—in Estonia, tax declarations practically fill themselves and it never takes more than ten minutes.

So Estonia is a country of the future that is far ahead of the rest of the world and cannot be caught unless a lot of effort is put into it. At the same time, however, Estonians can behave and—what’s even worse—think like real cavemen.

Thereby they worship of all sort of soothsayers, clairvoyants, fortune-tellers, witches and healers. Estonians won’t make any important life decisions unless a man with a pendulum has not examined their energy fields and given his blessing. Although soothsayers are glad to help Estonians out, the purse will get considerably lighter, since not even witches can get without a car lease, unless they ride a broom of course.

An Estonian relaxing in the garden of their summerhouse

Photo by: Renee Altrov, Visit Estonia

The nightstand of every Estonian has all kinds of crystals with fancy names on it. Truth be told: magical stones are the national pride of Estonians and not putting healing crystals under your pillow before going to sleep proves you are probably not an authentic Estonian.

The belief of Estonians in the assistance from the other side is unshakable. No wonder they so often lack the joy of easily available worldly pleasures. Maybe this is why the fads from the rest of the world reach Estonia with a bit of a delay.

When Apple releases a new iPhone, Estonians hear about it in a month. When a world-famous singer arrives to Estonia, their popularity is already starting to fade. And if an Estonian becomes a victim of a trend in fashion, you can be pretty sure the rest of the world has already moved on.

Therefore, Estonians are full of obvious contradictions. But this only makes interaction with them more fun since you can’t ever tell if they’ll turn into a hologram or - conversely - a caveman in mid-conversation. You don’t get bored with them, that’s for sure!

Check out how foreigners experience Estonia: #EstonianWay!

Last updated : 22.04.2021

In category: History & culture