• Matthew Waters

Sticking two fingers up to the Baltic Stereotype

I’m going to be honest when I booked a trip to the Baltics I didn’t know what I was

going to get, I imagined; meat stew, USSR buildings and a gritty vibe. But what I found in Estonia was completely different.

If this is all you can be bothered to read because you find me dull and boring, don’t worry I get it, I will summarise what I am going to say in a nutshell. Estonians have basically gone, “Eurgh Latvia and Lithuania I don’t want to be part of your little group, I want to be more like Finland, they are cool, modern and sophisticated. Finland you’re so dreamy.” It’s kind of like when your best mate for years gets a partner and you never see them anymore because they change and like salad and walking. That’s basically what I make of the Estonian relationship with the baltic stereotype.

Having also been to Norway I could make comparisons almost as soon as I stepped into the airport. I know it is cliche to say this about Nordic countries but shops and public buildings genuinely do feel a bit IKEA, with the bold primary colours and simplistic furniture, without the big blue warehouse, of course. Tallinn airport had this very same IKEA feeling, simple, bright, kids play area and a food kiosk that sold suspicious looking meat. So there we go comparison number one, a nice cliche IKEA reference.

Comparison number two, both Tallinn and the Nordic countries are mad clean. As stupid as it sounds, the emphasis on cleanliness in Tallinn did make the city feel more Nordic to me. The Nordic cities feel crisp and fresh, and Tallinn follows this. This differs from Riga and Vilnius which have a bit more grit and edge. I’m not saying Riga and Vilnius are dirty swamps where you can see Shrek mud bathing and singing ‘All Star’ by Smash Mouth but genuinely, think of the cleanest city you have been to in the UK. Well places like Tallinn, Helsinki and Bergen will make it look like a landfill.

My final reason for believing Estonians would rather be considered Nordic, is there complete ass out, fingers up disregard to any aspects of the USSR. In Tallinn it is difficult to see any obvious remnants of Soviet architecture, apart from a few big breeze block apartments on the outskirts that are still used for housing. Instead of keeping elements of their Soviet past, they have knocked them down and replaced them with Western style skyscrapers, responsible for housing Estonia’s new capitalist heart. This is not like the other Baltic states which have kept clear evidence of their Soviet history. This might make the Estonians want to get away from there affiliation with the Baltics so they can completely lose their Soviet past. No the Latvians and Lithuanians aren’t Red Flag waving commies wanting to hang every Boris Johnson lookalike they see, they are both modern capitalist cities, but they do seem more outgoing with their Soviet history than the Estonians.

Okay so Estonians aren’t as aggressive towards the Baltic stereotype as my title suggests, but I needed to get you to read this and can’t think of a better way to do it than some over exaggeration, The Sun and Daily Mail do it, so why can’t I? In truth there is probably just as much that ties Estonia to the Baltics. They have very similar history, food and lifestyles, but there’s something that just makes me feel Estonians want to hang out with their new mysterious girlfriend, Finland, rather than hangout with their long time friends Latvia and Lithuania... for now. But who knows Finland could sack off Estonia for a different country, maybe a younger, fresher model like Kosovo or Slovakia and then who will Estonia run too? That’s right Latvia and Lithuania their oldest friends.

Okay that’s it, thank you for reading.

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