Useful facts about Estonian culture?
What would you like to know about Estonian culture? One might think that the culture of such a small nation cannot be anything special, but, in fact, it is the other way around: culture in Estonia, where folk dancing and singing as well as good local food and crafts enjoy equal respect, is truly diverse. In addition, there is a number of clearly different and distinctive cultures, i.e., ethnic subgroups within our small country, for example, the people of Võru region, islands Kihnu and Saaremaa, Mulgi region (in Viljandi County), Setos, people of Hiiumaa Island, etc.
Let us have a closer look at what Estonians are like and which traditions and national culture they consider important.
An overview of the Estonian nation, country and culture is provided by the giant Estonian National Museum, which is the national museum and the best one at interpreting the essence of being Estonian.
What are Estonians like?
As the notion of culture also comprises people’s customs, beliefs, values and much more, the first question to ask is “What are Estonians like?”.
In general, Estonians are rather reserved and cautious people. Of course, there are various personality types among Estonians, – lively ones and those who prefer to blend with the background, – but an average Estonian still tends to hide their feelings because laughing out loud or crying in public does not seem to be exactly proper.
Estonians do not like empty talk: they speak when they have something important to say. So, many Estonians are not that good at small talk. In addition, we have a saying “work first, play later”, which shows that Estonians are hard-working and conscientious people. Sometimes too much…
However, when Estonians need to unite for a serious cause or celebrate something properly, we are normally pretty good at it.
E-nation and its love of nature
To bystanders, Estonians can often seem inconsistent. On the one hand, Estonians love nature dearly; on the other, they worship the conveniences of the digital world. Can both these personalities exist in one person? Yes, they can.
Although the area of Estonia is rather small, there are many beautiful untouched natural spots here. Anyone can draw strength from nature because there is enough space for everyone for going on a walk in the woods to clear one’s head, have a good time or forage for berries and mushrooms.
Still, a true Estonian nature fan will be using digital solutions at the same time. Thanks to high-speed mobile data connection available nearly everywhere, you can pay your taxes while looking for mushrooms in the forest. Estonians have not forgotten old traditions, but they admire anything new and high-tech too.
Old folk culture and traditions are becoming more and more important
Estonians are very proud of their folk culture and old customs. One illustration is the Song and Dance Celebration, for which thousands of participants gather every time it is held. Folk dancing skills are held in high esteem; dances are taught to children in schools, and traditions are preserved with pride. Multi-coloured patterns of folk costumes, which have been used for centuries, are not likely to be forgotten any time soon. Quite the opposite, they are smartly reused over and over and are considered trendy these days.
Estonians mostly do not wear folk costumes in everyday life though; these are rather reserved for cultural events and celebrations as well as various festivals.
Another point that cannot be overlooked is that we have distinctive locations where folk costumes are worn daily; for instance, it is quite common on Kihnu island and in Setomaa. Folk costumes have become a habitual part of daily life.
In the end, all of the above gives us reason to say that old traditions, beliefs and even folklore of Estonians have not disappeared: folk culture is in its prime. Although it is a small people, Estonians are immensely proud of their beautiful language and anything associated with local culture. In addition, Estonians enjoy the fact that the country became a part of the Western world to be reckoned with after regaining independence. What makes Estonia especially noticeable is its digital development, which is remarkable and could be set as an example for others. Still, despite all the modern advancements, Estonians never forget their national traditions.
Photo: Aivar Pihelgas, Brand Estonia