Estonians most probably are like waterproof boots.
“Two months and a half has already passed of my expedition named “Who are Estonians?” Let me share my thoughts.
I’ve felt that sometimes Estonians feel the lack of the sun. In Belarus we have hot summers and cold winters, so we grasp sun energy from summers and put it in winters. But in Estonia it doesn’t work like that. I see that Estonian people have adapted to rainy weather. They can resist it. They breathe fresh air and fight the rain by umbrellas and laughing on it. Estonians most probably are like waterproof boots.
The same thing is about openness. Someone said to me that Estonians don’t like to smile. Yes, I came across this sometimes. I even had thoughts that it’s forbidden to smile in Estonia by law. 😉 But, generally, it’s only on the streets. But it’s not a tragedy. It’s not a secret that all of us love personal space and sharing emotions is also rather personal. You know, I have the theory that Estonians just don’t waste their energy (smiles, hugs and etc.) with others because the source of energy (sun) is limited. Once my Belarusian friend Petra, who moved from my native town to Tallinn for studies, said: “Sofiya, if you find an Estonian friend, please, don’t let him go, this is a real treasure”. She was right, indeed.
To my mind, Estonian people are really hard-working, but they know how to relax well. There are entertainments of all kinds to fit any taste. So, they keep a good balance between working and relaxing.
Now I work in Youth Centre Kesklinna Noortekeskus. Sincerely, it’s really difficult to explain my Belarusian friends where do I work. In Belarus we have hobby circles, facultative lessons, sport clubs and etc. We also have „Youth Centre“ in Grodno, my native town, but this is the name of the club… Like Estonian “Hollywood”…
So, the concept of “Youth Centre” is new for Belarusians. That’s why I consider that this is the thing that Estonians can proud of: youth work environment! Due to this system Estonia provides diverse development of young personalities!
Once I was the spectator of Lego Competition in my centre. The task for children (approximately 8 – 13 y.o.) was to build a construction with the first letter “K”! Could you imagine my surprise when I saw how Sponge Bob, medieval tournament, churches grew out of construction set! These things begin with “K” in Estonian, don’t they? I was impressed how children easily created these different images so fastly and so detailed. And then they talked about the history
of creating their buildings. In English! I was delighted and confused at the same time: some of the meanings of English words I didn’t know!
Languages. People say that I speak Estonian with a really cute accent (maybe they just don’t want to offend me;)) Frankly speaking, I was surprised that language barrier doesn’t exist in Estonia for me. A lot of children speak good English. Adults know Russian, so I always feel comfortable. You just learn the phrase in Estonian: “Ma räägin inglise keelt, vene keelt ja valgevene keelt” and everything goes on wheels.
Sometimes my colleagues speak in Estonian but this is also the plus for me: I don’t overload my head with unnecessary information. 😉
Once there was one kid in the centre, who doesn’t speak nor Russian nor English. However, we used nonverbal communication and I was reading the book in Estonian to her. I was often mumbling complicated words, showing that I didn’t know how to pronounce them and she corrected me willingly. Then I realized that it’s so important to allow children to teach you and be closer to them. “All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince)
Everything originates from childhood. I believe that Estonian children have a huge potential of accomplishing feats.
By the way, I continue keeping contacts with my Belarusian organization “New Faces” and share experience how Estonian social mechanisms work.
So, I have plenty of time before me, so, what does the future hold in store?”
By Sofiya Haurylenka