Margus Kastein, CEO of Saku Brewery, writes that the big question facing today’s Estonia is how in the ever-globalising world to keep Estonia’s key to success – the national stubbornness - while remaining open and gaining experience.
Below are abstracts from his opinion article published in Äripäev.
During Sochi Olympics I talked to two Latvian businessmen. Latvia had just won its first Olympic medal in Sochi and our talk soon became all about sports. At one point the Latvian asked me, which country Estonians were most rooting for: Latvians or Finns?
The question surprised me and all I could say was “It depends.” We then started on to discuss how Estonians perceive Latvians and vice versa. Naturally, we got through all the mandatory clichés like Estonians’ slowness, saldejumps, herring thieves, etc. Suddenly my Latvian conversation partner said something that I will probably never forget.
He said: “You, Estonians, often seem cold, slow and soulless people because you are so damned self-conscious. Your self-consciousness is really disturbing and it angers all your neighbours in a way. And this is a quality that has helped you go a long way.”
These words made me think. Is it really this self-consciousness or, in other words, our stubbornness, that has taken us where we are today and hopefully continues to drive us forward also in the future. I have to agree.
Every Estonian who has travelled in the world has almost certainly at one point been involved in a conversation about our language, culture and statehood. Many have undoubtedly felt a little insulted when Estonia is put in the same pot with Latvia and Lithuania, or what’s worse, we are known as part of Russia. This means that we are not known at all or that people who have heard something about us imagine Estonia as a poor, cold and unpleasant county. It’s very hard to break these stereotypes.
In business, Estonia is perhaps known a little better worldwide and Estonians are generally known as hard-working and diligent people. Estonia is known for its achievemets in introducing its own economic and monetary policy, for introducing our own currency, being the first Baltic country to change over to the euro, for our unique taxation system, etc.
We have never wanted to be depedent on anyone and these has made us successful. We have been hard-working and pragmatic, and our economy is therefore doing better than many other. What’s important is that Estonians keep their stubbornness and that the country’s leaders drive forward the Estonian case. We must do everything possible so that Estonia gets more orders and more investments.
We must find the right people for the right job so that they can prove themselves in Estonia and abroad. Especially abroad, because it helps the to build up their networks and, hopefully, they will return, smarter and even bigger patriots.
Our duty is to make Estonia a memorable and trusted place. And we must never forget to be stubborn, even if this does not always make us the best partners.