Estonians are a reserved lot, quietly working away on internet start ups in a constant effort to follow up on Skype’s success. But we are not oblivious to the fact that we share the planet with other humans.
Tallinn attracts a lot of foreigners and for better and for worse, Estonians are forced to engage with them. Below is a list of a few different types of people you might come across in Tallinn. Yeah, we know – these are stereotypes. But without stereotypes we’d have to accept that the humans are diverse species of deeply individual beings, each as unique as the next. And that’s just crazy talk.
1. The Cruise Ship Crusader
Found in: Old Town exclusively, between 10am-4pm
People go on cruises for different reasons – some are genuinely interested in the travel destinations, others simply want to enjoy a good time with their family and friends. The Crusader, however, has only one goal in mind. After disembarking they head to the absolute nearest church and photograph it to death. They may or may not be aware of which country they are currently in and will insist on greeting everybody in Russian. The crusader will leave Tallinn believing that 30 Euros for a schnitzel is normal.
2. The Backpacker
Found in: the shadows
The polar opposite of the Crusader, the backpacker will steer clear of anything touristy. They come to Tallinn in search of the post socialist niche and are surprised when they see that the local prices are not only listed in Euros, but that they are also surprisingly high.
A true backpacker looks like a Jedi knight (or a homeless person). They tend to maintain a low profile, having acquired impressive stealth skills from travelling around conflict zones. If you call them a tourist they will react like a vampire would to holy water by hissing loudly, and hastily retreating to the nearest dive bar.
3. The Independent
Found in: all over the place
The Independent is essentially a backpacker plus money. They yearn for alternative entertainment and have a flair for the unorthodox, but prefer hotels to dorms. They can be found both within and outside the Old Town, as well as in the countryside on a quest to find the elusive giant moose.
The Independent is often curious about all aspects of Estonian life and is usually surprisingly well informed, given that most people couldn’t find Estonia on the map even if we pointed it out. Because we’re tiny. Haha.
4. The Domesticated Australian
Found in: hostels and bars, working or drinking (or both)
The Australian moved to Europe and decided to settle down in Estonia based on a first impression from an unusually warm summer. Despite having lived here for years, still refuses to accept that shorts are not proper winter attire. Facial hair and/or tattoos are a must.
Over time, Estonians have come to accept the Australians as their own, despite their easy going nature and positive outlook on life. Their accent is still sometimes puzzling, but we have learned that sentences must always end with “mate”. Likewise, Australians have learned that in Estonia, sometimes sentences don’t start at all. But they are used to locals being on the quiet side, and still try to teach them that physical contact with other humans is OK.
5. The Finn
Found in: ferries (or near ferries)
Finland is just across the water from Estonia and many Finns come to Tallinn to enjoy the city’s cultural life, museums and gaze at its sights. Just kidding – they’re here for the cheap booze. Alcohol sales to Finns are pretty much the driving force behind the tiny Estonian economy. Though we must admit, if alcohol was as expensive here as it is in Finland, there would be no army big enough to stop Estonians from swarming across the Russian border.
Estonians might not always admit it, but the Finns are quite close to their hearts, as both nations share an appreciation for the subtle art of short conversations.
6. The Exchange Student
Found in: Anywhere, except the university
Being a foreign exchange student constitutes an experiment in human alcohol tolerance, disguised as a cultural learning experience. Exchange students take pride in blending in with the local Estonians, though their language skills are normally limited to a small selection of pleasantries and profanities. Instead of “cheers”, they say “terviseks” and insist that it means “healthy sex” in Estonian (it does not).
The exchange student living in Estonia has only two goals – to attend a Song Festival, and to make an Estonian smile. May be encountered studying in a library, though not very often.
7. The Stag
Found in: strip clubs at night, invisible during the day
If you see a grown man dressed as a bunny rabbit and it’s not Easter, they’re probably here for a stag party. A stag party is a rite of passage for soon-to-be-married men, during which their friends take them to a foreign country to be humiliated in all kinds of more or less creative ways.
The Stags are horribly drunk at their worst, and badly hung over at best. Despite this, they are relatively harmless, if somewhat annoying. And apparently, popped collars are a thing (are they?).
8. The Football Fan
Found in: any Irish bar, head towards the noise
The football fans always travel in a pack. They appear when another country’s team has come to Tallinn to beat the Estonians at soccer. This is not a difficult feat and once the match is over, the fans usually stick around for a couple of days to gloat. On rare occasions, when Estonia does manage to win, they will vanish from sight almost instantaneously.
The football fans are rarely sober, and are always shadowed by unmarked police vehicles.
9. The Russian
Found in: behind tinted glass, never too far from the Old Town
Estonia has a sizable native Russian population, so distinguishing a Russian tourist from an Estonian Russian can be difficult. The only giveaway is their Mercedes SUV’s (local Russians prefer BMW’s), sporting Russian license plates. They tend to have a taste for the finer things in life and seem to be very fond of money clips. They never pay with anything smaller than a 100-Euro note.
10. The Accidental
Found in: ferry terminal, trying to convince spouse to stay
The Accidental had never heard of Estonia until they decided to take a day trip to Tallinn from Helsinki. Upon arrival, they immediately regret their previous itinerary as they realize that the money they spent travelling in Scandinavia could’ve bought them a house here. They are mesmerized by everything they encounter and quickly grow attached to the city. The Accidental is reluctant to leave and always vows to return in the future.
11. The Latvian
<Image not available, as there is little evidence of Latvians ever coming to Tallinn.>
What the hell, Latvians? Every time we drink together in Riga you say you’ll come, but never do. Maybe you’re really good at blending in? Whatever the case, the invitation is still outstanding. Buses leave every hour – be quick (we love you).
Think we’re funny and awesome, come work for us this summer!
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Hasty illustrations drawn by Mart Virkus
That was hilarious. It motivates me to come and move in. Cheers from France
Nice to see and read good, subtle, and kind-hearted Estonian humor on Facebook. The rest of the posts I read tend to be about a large orange man with a bad haircut. Somebody told me he was one of our public servants. Joudu!
You will soon add a middle-aged southern-european couple searching for something completely different! 🙂
One is missing…the expat male who moved here for an Estonian lady and hasn’t left for many of the same reasons! 😀
“the subtle art of short conversations” – This video is private. Sorry about that.
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I am very impressed about Tallinn, Estonians or long time residents, history, culture. I will visit again soon. By the way, I’m a Brazilian photographer.
“Over time, Estonians have come to accept the Australians as their own, despite their easy going nature and positive outlook on life.”
This is hilarious!!
Looking forward to finding fellow Australians and quizzing them on life in Estonia.
WHoahhh. Forgot about the Mormon Missionaries
Actually most Finnish tourists go to Russia for alcohol because vodka in Russia is much less expensive than anything in the EU.
Where did you get that info from? Alcohol is cheaper in Russia, but nobody will bother with getting a visa and sitting on the bus for hours if you can jump on a ferry with your id card at any time
I think there are more Finns that go to Estonia, but quite a lot of them come to Russia as well. You don’t need a visa here if you come by ferry for up to 3 days.
Well I’ll be damned ! A sense of humor? I always joked & laughed & my Mom who ran away in ’41 thought I was a problem. Maybe I take after my Dad who is who?Coming in May with an Esti passport (67 yrs. old) to find my family. Hope they like Rap & Hip Hop.LOL
Very nice! One of those great-grandmothers you mention – 3 generations of my offspring speak Estonian – and are trying to improve on it, besides reading the Estonian news on the Internet.
You have forgotten Belarussians: speak Russian, look stressed, little money, modest cars, found in Old Town and wholesale supermarkets; are unerroneously identified by the 2 most common phrases uttered with the characteristic accent “Let’s not go there – it surely is not safe” (to the partner) and “Stay here until I am back and don’ t touch anything” ( to the kid(s)).
Greetings from Minsk:)
This was nice and to the point. But I am disappointed that the reindeer picture was for number 3 and not 5. You know, normally reindeer are the ones that live in North and go on four legs.
Is that a drinking joke? Technically everything that lives in the North walks on four legs, including Estonians.
Hahahaha! That’s funny and pretty much applicable to Latvia as well. BTW, I am one of those Latvians, who loves Tallinn and with it quite often. Might be the case, I blend with local Russians (though I don’t have BMW)
Latvians are spreading fast all over Tartu. They must have a nest somewhere there.
What? No entry for välis eestlased? They look like Estonians, except with better hair and teeth (at least as far as guys are concerned), but they speak Estonian like your great grandmother would have, often with an accent.
Fun fact – in Finland, a shaved head is called “an Estonian haircut”. True story.
Funny and TRUE!!! But I wish they had included Väliseestlased. We are not really foreigners since many of us still consider Estonia our homeland, but I would have liked to have seen what they wrote about us. Perhaps: Väliseestlased can be spotted carrying bunches of rukkililled (blue corn floweres) and shopping at stores that have the Eesti Käsitöö logo. They love to lunch at Komeet – Anni Arros’s cafe/restaurant in Solaris where they meet up with long lost relatives) The younger ones are known to gather at Hell Hunt ( a bar on Pikk Street). They’re favourite spots to visit are family homesteads, cemeteries, and manor houses.
Mille kategooria all mahuvad Estofiilid ära? 😀
Väliseestlaste alla? 😀
Tere, unbelievable about Latvians- I as a Latvian was in Tallinn last weekend for three days with my wife, airBaltic aircraft leave every two hours.
Estonians would never go over the Russian boarder to get Alcohol, the quality is shit and it takes too much time on th eboarder 😀 so that’s fake! I’d rather go to Czechoslovakia to get a fine beer, !
Everything else perfect! Well done!!!
You know Czechoslovakia is not a country, right?
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This was funny Mart and quite on point, but I agree you missed the foreigners (mainly from Italy, UK, Spain and we arrived in that order) who came here out of curiosity and married a local girl. These tourists still come here in droves in search of love. You might call them sex tourists, but I don’t think thats fair since we were looking for love. Some of them are still searching 😉 Nice illustrations BTW.
You missed one! The Foreigners married to Estonians. We do exist 😛
Nope, you’re one of us now. Care for a “Kohuke”? (We know you do!)
Oh, so this is how we are notified we’ve been accepted. Vaga hea!
Mmmh. Kohuke! Unfortunately I was one of the foreigners who came out of curiosity who didn’t quite make it (after fours years). I still miss leib and kohuke… although maybe not kefir.
“keefir” = satan’s milk. Terrible stuff.
väga lahedad illustratsioonid (ka)!
I’m going to visit Tallinn on May. Now I’m afraid to blend in, probably will wear Latvian hockey team jersey 🙂
Ha Ha 😀 Very good!!! I’m Latvian and Ma armastan Tallin!!! So I visit pretty often. Probably I’m blending in, as I have a lot of Eesti friends.
This is what all our Latvian friends said after reading this, I guess it was just Mart’s attempt to get more Latvians to visit.
It is. Perhaps I am secretly working for the Estonian Tourism Board?
Bullshit! I know plenty of people who live in Latvia and come to Estonia every now and then 🙂
Come to Latvia, let’s drink ourselves to shit (we love you too)!
“The Independent is essentially a backpacker plus money.”
aka “flashbacking” or “poshbacking”