What is it like to live in Tallinn, Estonia? Having been here for over a month, I'll share six quick observations:
Estonians are very, very nice people. Wherever you engage with them, they treat you with respect, patience, calmness, and dedication to helping you if they can. When something is wrong, they immediately try to solve it and they want to know that you are not having a bad experience. They are also relatively quiet; I haven't seen or heard a single person yell or even raise their voice since I've been here. Even the city is extremely quiet; I still haven't heard a car honk or brake. For us loudmouth latinos, that's a nice change of pace.
The not-so-bright side of Estonians is that they are "reactively hospitable"; they will help you immensely when they know you have a problem (reminds me of arabs, another culture that shines for its hospitality). However, as most cultures that have been marked by long term isolation, they struggle with proactive hospitality: going out of their way to try to provide you the best experience possible.
A good travel experience is not marked only by the efficiency of a city's systems, but also (and more importantly) by the amount and intensity of its emotional moments. Estonians seem to be very inward-focused and protective of their routines and ways of doing things. This can be a positive thing for them because it allows them to devote themselves to things they care about , but it's tough for the outsider because you have to do all the social heavy-lifting yourself. This can be exhausting. There's no need to hide the fact that I've felt lonelier here than in any other place I visited.
It's important to put things into context: having this sort of proactive hospitality is tough to do or even consider when you are a city that doesn't have too much cultural diversity, or year-long tourism activity. Medellín had a similar problem, where your best chance to engage with the local culture was at bars or clubs (horrible contexts for deep human connection). Here is where I believe Brazilians, Americans, Australians and Argentinians excel: ensuring you go back raving about how it FEELS to visit them.
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