Student Blog

How to become friends with Estonians

Our international student Elian, who studies Crossmedia in Film and Television, is here to give you some insight on how to become friends with Estonians. It's a known superstition that Estonians are not the easiest to approach and not too keen on making small talk, but there are definitely many perks that Estonians do have!

Elian with NatA

In today's society the way we meet people and make new friends has become more challenging. As a matter of fact, this might make your life harder but that’s not the end of the world, as I presume you came to this article to find out how to make this process easier.

It is still possible to make friends despite challenging circumstances. Keep in mind that what you’re reading here is my own personal experience and this might vary depending on the generation you are from, the people you meet throughout your journey in Estonia, and most importantly who you are as a person.

Firstly, what defines an Estonian- is it the passport or rather which nationality are their parents? 

We must talk about history. Estonia has a long history of being invaded by other nations, the most recent one was the Soviet Union, which means that many Russian speakers were born here as well. The question is - are they Estonians or Russians? I would say that there is a division here. The Estonians that have Estonian descendancy (who we will refer to as EE to make your life easier) and the Estonians that have Russian (who we will refer to as RE) descendancy, because each of them have different personality traits and the way you interact with them is different. 

Now that we know the two different kinds of Estonians, we will go through the different subtopics. 

Who are you?

Depending on which country you came from and what kind of life experience you had, this will affect the way you perceive Estonians which means that for some people, making Estonian friends will be easier than for others.

Who are they?

Estonians are good people who value (highly) personal space and privacy, and to be completely honest, making friends with them will probably take more time than it would take for making friends for example in Spain or France. The biggest contrast here is that once you gain their TRUST you are in good hands. Estonians are people who want to take time before having a connection. Imagine a spaceship construction that takes a lot of effort and time to build but once it is built, you have a freaking spaceship that may go ANYWHERE. Deep trust is the thing I value the most in a friendship. Taking time and having patience are the key factors for a true friendship.  

What are the main differences between Estonians with Estonian descendancy (EE) and Estonians with Russian descendancy (RE)?

To be honest, there are many, despite the language barrier that some still have (Either Estonians who do not speak Russian or Russians who do not speak Estonian) the society is divided and the union of both globes is a goal that would make Estonia even a better and friendlier country. Among my coursemates, for example, Estonians and Estonian-Russians speak to each other in English. My best friend (EE) is good friends with an Estonian-Russian person, which is great, although it is not the most common situation. EE tends to be more reserved while the REs are more easy-going. I have wondered what has caused such a difference, so I asked my Estonian (EE) friend and he once told me that this is a historical pre-built personality trait that made Estonians sort of “afraid” and made them more cautious of making new friends ever since everyone who came here to invade never let them speak or say their thoughts. Thus this trait still remains in some Estonians, in a lower perspective but it is still there. 

How can I be their friend?

It seems complicated, yes, but nothing is impossible. If any of the things that I’ve told you mean anything to you and you sympathize with these personality traits, you will surely enjoy having conversations with Estonian (EE and RE) people. Drinking beer might help you, but do not be surprised if they do not talk to you the next day even though you both had an amazing evening together the day before. It takes time for them to trust you and talking is not the only way to communicate either, body language and energy that each of you exhale also counts, and I can tell you that Estonians have amazing energy.

If I cannot meet them, how can I be their friend?

The Internet works like a chain reaction. First you communicate on Instagram or Facebook, then you go to Discord or Skype and you will find yourself in the middle of some deep conversations about the meaning of life at 5 am on a Monday morning. Once the current situation (covid... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯) gets better, you can go to a pub together. Or to a cafe, maybe even sledding or skiing (wintertime is the golden time for these), or just wandering around together. 

In conclusion, I gotta tell you that this article is not applicable for all Estonians (EE and RE) who live here and you might face a totally different experience from mine. 

Thank you for reading, stay safe!