Estonians in Finland :)


 Hei, hei

I found some of my thoughts about Estonians in Finland, which were written down 2015. Some things have changed over the years and some things are still the same. The main focus is how are Estonians in Finland presented through media ( in online news, facebook communities, TV serials etc.).

Estonians and Finns have lived next to each other for thousands of years, and their language is so similar that only a little studying is necessary for mutual intelligibility. Their history up to 1939 was also similar. Both countries were under Russian rule but gained independence and statehood for the first time in 1918. But when Stalin began issuing ultimatums to Estonia and Finland after signing a secret pact to divide Europe into spheres of influence, Estonia capitulated while Finland chose to put up a fight. The result was a war in which Finland lost one-fifth of its territory but was one of the few countries in Europe to preserve its independence and democracy during World War II. Estonia on the other hand was forcibly annexed by the Soviet Union and had to endure a half-century-long Russian occupation. While Finland and Estonia were once more or less identical in terms of population and economic strength, Finland is now home to four times as many people as Estonia and Finland is one of the world’s most advanced countries (11th in the UN human development index). The wise and wealthy bigger brother had a positive influence on Estonia already in the Soviet days and has an even greater one now, in the EU, where the borders are open and both countries have the same currency.
According to the Finnish Statistics Board, in recent years, the number of foreigners, whose first language is not one of the two official languages ( Finnish & Swedish), has increased quickly – 54 percent since 2008. Russian speakers are the largest group with 67,000 people, followed by Estonians, whose number is 44,000 – nearly twice as much as in 2008. We can say that  over the years Estonians have changed one of the largest immigration groups in Finland.

The first question is : Why do Estonians go to Finland? Observing different media channels, I created three main categories to answer to a question. 

1 . A higher salary in Finland.
A statement from Estonian doctor X :  “Because the wages are low, and workload is high, I go to work in Finland!" (
Doctor Luik says : "Finland average doctors´ salary is four times higher than in Estonia. Thanks to my work in Finland, my children get a good education and they are able to deal with their hobbies. ( ). Also he adds that he feels respected in his field.
This kind of statements are very common in Estonia from the different job positions. Mostly Estonians who have decided to change their lives and move to Finland, are satisfied and happy: "Well, it is clear that those who have come here, do not go back to Estonia. And talks of  lacking no friends is not true. I've lived in here, and engaged in business for several years and I can say that Finland has a much better and much clearer legal landscape”. (
This statement confirms my own personal experiences in Oulu, where are living approximately 125 Estonians,  I can say from different discussions that Estonians who have moved to here, are not considering to go back to Estonia. They have settled down and feel safe in here. The common saying is “ that only if I can earn as much as in here, I will go back to Estonia”.

Sometimes it seems that Estonians take Finland as “ American Dream”, where they can fulfill their dreams & hopes and have a better life. For some people the real life can be totally different.
Estonian TV serial “ Kalevipojad” describes the challenges and problems ( issues with salary, living conditions, broken promises, challenges with family relationships, loneliness, depression, language & cultural issues and etc.) what people are facing while working in Finland. Kalevipojad are Estonian builders who go to Finland to earn a bread. It is based on peoples real stories and experiences while working in Finland. It is warmhearted and tragicomic drama which is primarily designed for men, but also women are recommended to watch it. The content is nowadays socially important and helps people to understand that even the smallest changes are never easy, and especially in another country. There may be a mismatch between expectations and reality. 

2. No job placement in Estonia.
"I was a whole year unemployed. No one needed my skills and experiences. In May, there was an unexpected opportunity to come to Finland and work. Today, I think I will stay here for more than a year or two. Close people from Finland welcome us very warmly. In here I have never experienced the feeling that I am an unwanted. My children are all grown-ups, and all of them have their own way to go, they are in Estonia. They have no plans to come and live in Finland at the moment."
High unemployment is background for risen interest to emigrate. The unemployment rate registered in late 2011 shows a climb of one percentage point, reaching 14.4%, according to the Estonian State Employment Agency (SEA) data. This is one of the main reasons why Estonians move to Finland. It is easy, because they already know the language and the cultural differences are small. It is also easy to go back to the family during the weekends if it is necessary.
Furthermore, because of the Estonian poor economy many Estonians have started up their business in Finland: “Estonian entrepreneurs' interest is considered to be due to family reasons and the poor economic situation in Estonia.”
In this way they create new job placements, but create also new challenges. One of them is that Estonian companies do not pay according to Finnish contract terms. From one example where two Estonians, who were sent on assignment to work in Finland, should have been paid according to the terms of employment in their field in force in Finland, that is between 10.30 and 11.30 euros an hour. But they were paid only 8 euros per hour - company paid them less than standard Finnish wages and refused to pay them for overtime work. The Estonian Supreme Court’s decision is now expected to have a major impact on pay for Estonians working in Finland. It will also narrow the competitive advantage that Estonian companies have had in Finnish markets, since in practice they will have to pay higher wages.
In October 2011, the Estonian business newspaper Äripäev estimated the number of Estonian construction workers in Finland to be around 30,000. According to Mr. Kalev Liibert from the Finnish Construction Trade Union who says that it is hard to find a construction site in Finland where there are no Estonians at work. This means that trade unions from both sides need to take care of their workers and support their working conditions,especially from Estonian side - that Estonian workers are not cheap labour who can be misused. From Facebook community (Estonians in Finland), can find many warnings about different companies who are misusing their workers (do not pay salary on time, do not provide normal working conditions and etc.)
Example from Mr. X : “Do not go to to work in company (Raja Clean ... I found four people who have already been the basis for the court case to them and lawyer told me that the company is of the bankruptcy process.”
In conclusion I can say that there are two sides to every story, but we need to be aware of them and find the best way which suits for us. And it is wise to listen Harja Halonen words: “ "I say to all the Estonians who have came to Finland : please join the unions! Even if you came for a shorter period of time, come and learn how to work with the unions and our authorities " she also added that it is easy to take advantage of a new people who do not know their rights. 

3. Estonian and Finnish language & culture are similar.
“Estonians are among the most popular migrant workers in Finland, because of the similar language and culture. Consequently, it is easier to communicate with, and there will be less problems than, for example, with Lithuanians.(
As mentioned previously, Estonia and Finland share similarities, it makes it easier for us to adapt the culture and learn a language. Therefore we can not forget that making the decision to move another country is never easy.

My second question is: What do Finns think about Estonians and vice versa?
Couple days ago raised an issue from Helsingin Sanomat about the article “ Miten kutsuisimme virolaisia?” where they asked from their readers which nicknames do they use for Estonians. It makes my question even more valuable. I personally do not understand why this topic was even brought up, but I can say that people shared different discussions and opinions about it.  
Mr X from Facebook community: “ I do not take it personally. It is clear that whoever is the author of the text he is suffering from some kind of inferiority complex under what he tried to support for making up the names for us.  Immigrants have always been hated in Finland, and for a very simple reason. Haters know that such a huge step would never be able to handle for themselves -  to leave their comfort zone and walk in to the unknown environment.”
Another comment from Ms. Y from Facebook community, who posted a picture and said :
Estonians at least can make jokes about themselves.”


From the Postimees forum, where people were free to comment I found Ms. W saying: “ Very good nicknames. We should not be offended. It is actually interesting to read how our neighbours are calling  us. A nice initiative from the Finns.”
But not all comments were so optimistic: “ Elks remain elks. It seems that the Finns are uneducated and “madalalaubalised matsid”. Poor nation who make fun of others in this way.”
Mr. C says: “I think it is very inappropriate to invite Estonians varttiryssät or veerandvenelas'teks. It may insult someone…”
And our president (nowadays ex-president) Toomas Hendrik Ilves wrote on Twitter after the Helsingin Sanomat article appeared that “he is speechless”.  Now the article has been removed and journalist has apologized.
The comments were very different, some took it in a positive way (with humor), and some people personally, as an insult.  From my own point of view I think attitude between two countries ( Finland and Estonia) should be friendlier, more caring. We are neighbours who should have caring relationships, because both countries have beautiful and good people, moreover we share many commonalities. It definitely needs more work from both sides, and media has one of the biggest influence on that.      
In conclusion I can say that media from both countries mostly concentrates on bad news, not so much of positive. Mostly Estonians are seen through media as poor neighbours, who are searching a better life from Finland and do whatever it takes to have it. Relations are cordial and genuinely friendly, but not without problems. Also what I strongly felt from Facebook community is that Estonians feel disappointment from both sides - firstly that they can not live and do what they wish in their home country. Secondly, that “Finnish dream” is not happening without facing challenges and problems. As we all know disappointments can lead to depression, and this means that we need to be more aware of these people needs. I truly hope that both sides understand that working collaboratively is the best and the most important way how to solve issues and create a harmonious and friendly atmosphere. Mutual respect is essential in maintaining healthy relationships. To sum up I use Maya Angelou words: “Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.

(Japanese students opinion about my thoughts).

Ken Konishi

As I read Jane’s thoughts, I found some similarities. Relationship between Estonia and Finland
compared to Japan and Korea. In her paper she mentioned ”media from both countries mostly
concentrates on  bad news,not so much of positive” and I thought  this phenomenon apply to some other countries for example, relation between Japan and Korea.  Some people come from
Korea to Japan has same reason as Estonia to Finland, salary, job, though it’s difficult to say both language and culture is similar.
But since media concentrates and focus on bad sides, political issues, historical issues, news of conflict, i guess not only Korean and Japanese people but also people from all over the world have particular assumption towards relationship Japan and Korea.
To think about how to solve issues and create harmonious and friendly atmosphere is important, especially when it comes to neighborhood country,from her paper I think to be aware of nature of media helps to not accept it as true without question.

References: - FinEst- Eestlased Soomes