10 ways to know you've met an Estonian by Kerli

Source: Renee Altrov

10 ways to know you've met an Estonian by Kerli

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Ernest Hemingway once said "In every port in the world, at least two Estonians can be found". But how to pinpoint them? Here's how. 

Excellent poker face 
With an Estonian person, you never know if we're happy or sad. Or angry. Or excited. Most Estonians hide their emotions extremely well and throughout time it's been encouraged to hold it all in, as laughing and crying too excessively is a sign of bad manners. I believe this characteristic was a side effect of the not so expressive communist mindset, and thankfully the younger generations who are born in the free country are much more worldly and open. 

"Do you know Estonians invented Skype?"
Oh, Skype. This is something we're soooo proud of and we believe talking about it serves as a great conversation starter. We're kind of obsessed with Skype. But you would be too if your country created it.

We put sour cream on everything 
Made soup? Put some sour cream in it. Potatoes? Let's put some sour cream on them. Some really delicious desserts can be made with sour cream too. Sun burns? Sour cream as a remedy totally works. Anyway, you get it.

Less talk, more action
I recently shot a music video in Estonia and while location scouting I swear no words were exchanged for like three hours and it was totally cool. Estonians don't really talk unless they have something important to say. Small talk is considered unnecessary and it took me years of travelling the world to get used to it. Before that, people abroad considered me quite rude when in fact, I wasn't being rude, I was just being Estonian.

Is there a sauna?
This question will inevitably pop up sooner or later cause we simply can not live without going to a sauna. Thanks to a large Korean population in Los Angeles, my Estonian friends often have get togethers at a Korean spa since the Koreans also seem to love their sauna. So there we sit, a hundred little old Korean ladies and five blonde Estonians.

The whole Eastern-European/ Scandinavian thing
Estonians have a pretty distinct look going on due to many occupations and mixed blood. Most of us are tall and very blonde with some Eastern European facial features. It's always confusing to people to guess where we're from and to this day, we're not sure if we're part of Scandinavia or if we're part of Eastern Europe.

Multifaceted heritage 

Due to it's strategic location, Estonia has historical ties to Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Germany, Russia, Finland and other countries.

Photo by: Stina Kase/ Estonian kids fashion design brand UkaUKa

We mix up "he" and "she" while speaking English
That is because there is no gender in our language, which by the way is called "Estonian." I have lived in Los Angeles for almost 9 years and I still mess it up sometimes. Our language, by the way, is considered one of the hardest languages in the world to learn, not only because of a lot of weird letters, but also because there can be up to 14 ways of twisting one word, depending on the sentence. There are a bunch of rules when learning the language but in the end, it all comes down to the gut feeling as there are a lot of irregular words.

Nudity is totally cool, talking to strangers is not
Because of our sauna culture, nudity is really not a big deal. It's normal that during a sauna day, all men go together and all women go together, even if there are people who are meeting each other for the first time. Sauna in that case is used as a place for bonding over some good talks and good beers. Therefore we don't really have much shame about nudity and it's not censored in the media either. It's a whole different story with approaching a stranger on the street to talk to them. Never do that. People are gonna think you're completely insane.

Proper sports wear is worn while working out
My mom made me change socks last time I was in Estonia because I wasn't wearing "running socks", which apparently have a totally different design than the regular ones. Just wearing some random sweatpants wasn't even an option, as she had several pairs of proper running pants and some shirts that absorb sweat, or something like that. You won't see an Estonian just casually riding their bike either - they are wearing high end bike-riding gear from head to toe, usually bright neon colors perfectly matched. It's really funny. I love watching my Estonian girlfriends working out here in Los Angeles - with their perfect little tops and pants and weights and matching hair ties. I am completely puzzled about why Estonians have this thing with their workout clothes.

Sporty in style  

Look out for athletes well coordinated in their moves and their outfits. 

Photo by: Magnus Heinmets

If something needs to be built or fixed, we can do it with no fuss
Here's where I give credit to my people, as Estonians can handle any situation with hardly any drama. If a house needs to be built, we build it. If something breaks, we fix it. If we've got nothing to eat, we grow it. I think it's because of all the occupations and hardships that the country has been through that the people are so crafty and focused more on the solutions than the problems. We even have a famous saying "kus viga näed laita, seal tule ja aita", which basically means that if you see something wrong with, just go and improve it.

Last updated : 22.04.2021

In category: History & culture