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).
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).
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Hasty illustrations drawn by Mart Virkus