Relationships in Estonia are tricky. As much as I love the country that was my home for more than four years, that’s the conclusion I’ve reached. And I’m going to tell you why. So, if you’re looking for a subjective approach, questionable stats, a dodgy interpretation, and lots of stereotypes, you’ve landed on the right place.
Let’s get started.
1) Guys don’t stay for the ride
If you’re hoping to find the man of your dreams (or just a man) you’re in for a long wait. I don’t want to sound discouraging, but none of my Estonian girl friends were happy with their marriage/partner. I say “were” because ALL of them are divorced, separeted and pursuing new relationships with more hot-blooded nationalities.
But what’s wrong with these guys, you might ask? Well, they’re just too slow (a word you’ll hear very often when talking about Estonians.) Too slow to do or feel anything. How come? We can only assume it has to do with the fact that there aren’t enough men in Estonia.
An interesting stat says there are 119 women for every 100 men and that number is rising to 130 women in the capital city, Tallinn. For men, It’s almost like going to the supermarket and getting promotions for everything they want, because the market needs to stay competitive.
Ok, maybe it’s a bit of an exaggeration, still, it makes sense. Guys don’t bother to make “the perfect purchase”. They grab the discounted offer and if that doesn’t work out they throw it away for another.
2) There’s no family culture
At least not in the traditional way. Research links the rising number of unofficial marriages and high divorce rates to the countries where societies have not been traditionally religious. This is where Estonia ticks the box.
In this little country, the divorce rate is one of the highest in Europe. Marriage is not a value, it’s a failure.
3) There’s no successful family model
Let’s get teary. Do you still remember how great it was when you were a kid? All those lovely Christmas holidays where all family gathers together. My mom and dad always take one week in advance to prepare all delicious foods while everyone around them gets excited.
If you have a similar picture in your mind then you’re lucky. In Estonia, kids grow up in mono-parental families and likely go through one divorce, at least. In fact, figures show that in Tallinn alone 80% of high school students are living in single parent families. Their experience with the concept of “family” is likely very different than mine.
One in five Estonian families is made up of a single mother and her children. This means kids grow up surrounded by friends that come from single-parent families. Many have witnessed fights and carry on their parents’ grief, buried somewhere inside. Many carry it all the way through their life.
Ok, I might be a little overdramatic here, but you get my point. From what I’ve seen in my 4+ years of living in Estonia, they’re not the best at “familying.”
4) People give in easily
Now let’s go back to my favorite topic. Religion. This is a tricky word. I’m not sure if this is because Estonians are scared of it or simply because they don’t give a hack. In every Estonian’s head “religion” means “manipulation,” definitely not sexy. Given their history with Religion who’s going to blame them (I am!)
As someone growing up in an orthodox society, I feel the lack of spirituality in the Estonian mentality. I grew up with priests teaching us funny prayers everyone loved (like My Little Angel). Our local priest, also our class teacher, would invite us to church and we’d (10-year-olds) leave him notes on pieces of paper, scattered all over the church.
We were curious and imaginative and he never discouraged this behavior. Instead, he’d build our trust in ourselves and prepared our minds to explore different possibilities: a hidden universe with magical angelic beings (and some sad stories of people being the subject of multiple injustices aka the Bible.)
Upon analyzing my thought process as an adult, I can’t help thinking what a great defense mechanism this has been for me. It taught me that no matter the situation, or how bad life hits you, there’s always a place of hope that never fails you.
That’s why we don’t quit, we don’t get shattered to pieces (as hard as others), that’s why we recover from hard times. That’s why we stay in a relationship and not hit the door, that’s why we fix our toys instead of throwing them away.
I just can’t imagine how other people do it! That’s right, they declare themselves as “the least religious country in the world”, they drink the pain away and say bye-bye to life (Estonia stands out for the high number of alcohol-related deaths: 21.4 percent of all casualties.) They change the people who can’t fix their problems for them (Estonia made it on top 10 most divorced nations.)
Welcome to Estonia, where the strong-minded live!