If you have a look on the Baltic map you can find Walk, right on the border between Latvia and Estonia. It‘s a splitted town – Valga as Estonian part and Valka as Latvian part. The border is going through the city and if there weren‘t black-white poles, you wouldn‘t realize so fast that you just changed the country.
I am living in Valga, so Estonia and I am coming from Germany. In the beginning I haven‘t seen many differences between Estonian and German culture. Estonians are eating loads of potatoes, they have black bread and it‘s quite important to be punctual.
But as longer as I lived here, I realized more and more differences to my home culture.
Firstly, the people: Many Estonians need a big comfort zone and it‘s hard for them to come out of it. It‘s not that they are unfriendly or annoyed, it‘s more a question of respect. They don‘t really do small Talk to strangers, they rather have a deep talk to close friends.
I guess, Germans are maybe not always open-minded and extremely friendly, but they usually like small talk and conversations, also with strangers.
Secondly, traditions: Estonians are very proud of their culture. They are called „dancers and singers“ and they really deserve to be called like that. They have several festivals and parties for singing, traditional clothes and a diversity of dances. Also, you can find loads of Estonian Flags and decoration in their colours. In time of occupation, they were not allowed to show the flag or to speak their language. So nowadays you can see and feel that Estonia enjoys being independent and living this free life.
In Germany it is very unusual to show a black-red-yellow flag in your garden or to have a paper flower in this colours in your window. Besides, German culture includes not so much dancing and singing, but art, literature and music.
Thirdly, the language. It‘s not true that all the balticum‘s languages are the same origin. Estonian comes with its 14 cases from finno-hungarian origin and it is completely different from Latvian. Compared to German, the grammar is really hard to learn. In addition there are no articles and no gender. Another aspect is that many people, especially the older generation, only learned Russian in school. In Tallinn people usually speak English, but on country side of Estonia many people prefer to speak Russian than English. Same in Lativia. That‘s why Latvian and Estonian people are mainly communicating in Russian, not in English. (Nevertheless, the young generation does speak English.)
At last, I‘d like to write about sauna. Saunas are everywhere, in private gardens, in public swimming halls and in every spa. Traditionally you can use birch- or oak branches to beat yourself a bit when the body is warmed up. Some people even use honey and coffee grounds to make a refreshing skin peeling. Usually saunas are around 80 degrees hot, but some people even enjoy 100 degrees hotness. For being healthy and stimulate the circulation, Estonians love jumping into a lake after sauna – in winter also in an ice hole.
In Germany you can sometimes find saunas – but they are definitely not as popular as here in the north.
To live for such a long time in another country enriches myself in many ways: I learned about a new culture such detailed and I also have a new view on my home‘s culture. In general my cultural understanding developed a lot. Every single country is uique and has its own history, traditions and mentally. But we are one peerless world, so we need to keep a net of connection, collaboration and solidarity. We are several individual coutries, but we are one world!