Clash of Cultures... Not so Much

Some people critique wines, some movies, I seem to have developed a habit of critiquing countries. The difference is that for me that critiquing affects my actual life quite a lot. If a country gets a negative review from me, I’m not going to be comfortable living there, obviously.

Cultural differences, those little everyday things that drive you crazy, make you appreciate all the little things you have back at home and make you realize all the things that prove the fact that grass really is greener on the other side of the fence. Those are the things I base my critiques on and obviously as a Finn I look at things quite differently than somebody from India or Brazil, for example.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

The only culture shocks that I have experienced have been all those times that I moved back to Finland. Noticing how nothing had changed, nothing had moved forwards, rather backwards and how the coldness and darkness really do affect your and everybody else’s mental well-being. My review of Finland could be summarized to one word: tasteless. Yes, I do mean it in its literal meaning, Finns are not among the leaders of people who know how to dress stylishly, they prefer earthy colours and materials and want to make sure that they do not stick out from the crowd with their clothes. 

But I also mean it in the sense how Finns go about their lives; nobody wants to make noise, nobody wants to be noticed, if you’re sad don’t show it, if you’re happy don’t show it. I stuck out like a fly in milk in that place! Finland could be so much but this attitude problem that "lets keep quiet and the problems will go away" is really hindering it. They should stop wallowing in the self-pity that Nokia left behind when it was brought down and get its shit together (which means admitting the things that they are good at). Unfortunately we just voted for the greediest, most tasteless government since I don't know when.

Parliament of Estonia (PINK !!!)

Slovakia, my darling sunny paradise, I would review as a rebellious teenager with all the opportunities in the world in front of it. It’s a country with huge potential but it refuses to recognize them and take advantage of all the opportunities they provide. Instead it wallows in self-pity because the Soviet Union treated it badly for decades and now it doesn’t know where it belongs, what it should think, who it should rely on. Slovakia’s history is short and they have many things to figure out, one of the most current issues being whether they want to go back to Nazism or accept the fact that the world is full of people who don’t think the way they do and just live with it.

And then there’s my newest conquest, Estonia. OK, I’m not saying that I am in possession of all the facts after only a month, but it’s familiar ground to me and I can already see a lot of interesting cultural aspects here. For example, Slovakia and Estonia have pretty much the same sort of history. Very small countries that have been under huge empires’ control for hundreds of years. But from the day Independence was declared these two countries have chosen completely different paths, and I find that soo interesting! 

Estonia has been building, developing and learning from the day it declared its Independence. It has developed a virtual reality where everything can be done online, it has made it very clear that it is not interested in fraternizing with its former occupier country but it wants to make its very own path in the world. Estonians are very proud and quite patriotic (which I have never found beneficial anywhere). Its big advantage in being able to evolve so fast is its size. Estonia has only 1,3 million people so implementing e-services for everything is much easier than for a country of even five million people. But it’s such a brilliant example and in some sick way I love the way it makes Finland look like a developing country right next to it! :D

But even Estonia is not a dreamland. I don’t think I even need to mention it but I will: the climate. We wish and we pray and we live in hope that the summer will be lovely because the autumn, winter and most of the spring never are. I can tell you, those prayers are too rarely answered. But when they are I can guarantee there is no better place for summer relaxation than the Northern countries! In addition to the climate Estonia has become quite expensive comparing to how things were before they took Euro as their currency. Unfortunately salaries have not risen at all although prices for everything have gone up. Apparently it is a custom here to start a relationship with pretty much anyone just to be able to afford to live and then just continue “going around the town”. 

Last weekend I was asked whether I prefer Slovakia or Estonia. I don't really know, both have good and bad sides of course. But I do know that Tallinn is much cleaner a city than Bratislava and life is much easier for me here because everybody speak English. But there are things that Estonia will never have that I really loved in Slovakia: mountains and the warmest and kindest people I have ever met, just to name few.  


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