Sunday, 2 August 2020

Estonia: A country of good traits and good genes

If you ever wondered what makes Estonia such a great country, the answer is simple - its people!

Much praise has been given to Estonia over the years. Success in the digital sphere stemmed from the country's need to reinvent itself after independence was restored in 1991. Forward thinking leadership saw the benefit of pursuing a path in digital innovation and now Estonia is regarded as one of the most digitally advanced countries in the world. The strong Estonian work ethic, thinking outside of the box, grit and perseverence has enabled Estonia to survive and thrive.

With a land mass of 45,339 (km2) Estonia has often been referred to as a tiny European country yet Estonia is geographically larger than Denmark (44,493), Switzerland  (41,290) and Belgium (30,510). Estonia has a relative small population of 1.3 million people and those residents are spread thinly throughout the country. Estonians like their space and consider a good neighbour to be one whose chimney smoke can just barely be seen in the distance!

Estonians stand out from their European peers, not just because they're tech savvy preferring to vote, lodge their tax returns and pay for everything online, but because physically they have some unique characteristics.

Estonians are among the tallest people in the world. They are ranked third with an average height of 175.13cm (5 feet 8.94 inches) behind Latvia and The Netherlands. Research conducted by scientists at Imperial College London and published in the journal eLife found that humans get taller as nations become richer and the quality of life improves. In 1914, Estonian women had an average height of 157cm, while in 2014 it was 169cm. The average height of Estonian men was 167cm a hundred years ago compared to 180cm in 2014. Estonians are also very fast walkers. This may be due to height or simply because they like to reach places quickly.  Either way, don't be surprised if an Estonian gets annoyed if you walk too slowly in front of them. They're sure to overtake you!

Estonia has the highest concentration of blue-eyed people in the world with over 90% of ethnic Estonians having blue eyes. The degree of the blue does vary however, some Estonians have startling deep blue eyes while many others have a pale shade of blue. Estonian women have also been complimented on their beauty, no doubt their blue eyes have been found to be alluring!

A country deeply in tune with nature, Estonians value history and culture and go to great lengths to preserve it. The Estonian Song Festival is a much cherished event that dates back to 1869 and takes place every five years. Estonians from around the world return to the homeland to attend and it is a tremendously enriching and unifying experience. When you ask an Estonian what are some of their favourites pastimes, they invariably would say - a walk or trek in the forest, picking wild mushrooms or berries or something related to handicrafts. Many Estonians keep ancient traditions alive by passing down techniques they learnt from their grandparents.

One of the best traits that people admire about Estonians is their punctuality. If you write to a government department, you will receive a prompt reply, if you post an Estonian a Christmas card, expect one in return shortly after and if you plan to meet-up with an Estonian they will always be on time. In fact it is quite common for an Estonian to arrive at the appointed meeting point 10-15 minutes early but if you arrive at the designated time they will consider you late!

In some regards Estonians have been shaped by their experience of recent history but it is the gems from the more distance past that makes Estonia unique.