Hey again, my dear readers. Often i do wonder how many people read this. So encouraging to hear feedback from people, so leave me comments or if you see this on Facebook, comment there or press that like button. And also, if you think someone you know might love reading my blog, share then :)
Anyway, the title might make you think oh this might be competition. Nope, not in any way am i gonna be able to make two wonderful countries compete. Same way it is not a comparison. Well not entirely. It's more like me and my keen observing eyes and what has been seen through my eyes over the last couple of months and also at Christmas time when i was here.
In no particular order, i want to tell you things i have noticed that are different here. It's often when we travel we don't think about a lot of things, but once you move to a new continent, new country, new town, is when you really get to see that "oh, so that's how it is here".
PS! For my Aussie friends, yes i will occasionally argue how things are done, just because i am a stubborn Estonian, often set in my ways. Forgive me and have grace and patience. :D
I come from a country that has Christmas in WINTER. Meaning we most likely are wearing layers. And layers. And layers of clothes. I mean you put on leggings or stockings and then pants or even ski pants on top. And tank top+ long sleeve shirt+ sweater + scarf+hat+ gloves/mittens or maybe two pairs of those + winter jacket and boots. So having Christmas in the middle of summer, is rather... emm odd. Unusual. Not feeling like Christmas, when you get a sunburn and can go swimming in the ocean to cool off. I missed real Christmas tree smells, snow and cosyness of a warm room. Sure it was warm, but outside :) Australia has a lot of things exact opposite to us. Besides the fact that they are in the opposite side of the Earth, they also have summer while Estonia has cold winter. Well due to climate changes, not sure how much we can call it cold any more.
And ALSO, Christmas is their school break. I mean like we have in the summer. It's their summer, so school is out. And they sell school supplies here in January for people starting next school year. How odd is that? For my Aussie friends, Estonia has summer break in our summer. School ends usually by the end of may or beginning of june. And starts again in september. So school supplies appear in stores around august.
Heat is big thing here. If you don't have air conditioning at your home, you might not be very comfortable. But it is somehow manageable.
Sun is so strong that 50+ SPF sunscreen must be applied around every 2h. Surely, i got a sunburn first day here. :P
In Estonia you can drive across the ENTIRE country more or less 3-4h. Here... well. If you use this site: http://overlapmaps.com/index.php and put Estonia on top of Australia you see what i mean. We live currently in Sawtell, and driving to say Sydney would take about 6h or so. That's just one big town "close by". Not really close. Everything is far. YET!!! they have fun sayings...
"Just down the road" - might mean 5 min, 5 hours or several days road trip. Ask clarification. Same with just around the corner. Me as an Estonian would in that case walk if it's "just down the road" or "just around the corner". I take that literally.
I have learned to ask for time - "how long would it take to get there" (meaning does the hungry me needs to pack food and water with us :D ). Or ask to show on a map how many kilometers is it away from us.
Also, in Estonia, it's very often that you have relatives somewhere in another place. Say you live in Tallinn and you have relatives on an island. You go see them in the summer usually. Here, sadly i hear that people haven't seen each other for years and years. It's somehow sad to hear. I mean, i understand that there is great distances, and that is usually the main reason for not going. Or that it is far and travel is expensive, time consuming and rather exhausting. So live close to your family and friends and you will be alright :)
As i recently had a birthday (on saturday - feel free to ask for my address to send gifts or cards :P if you want :D ), then i also know what are differences between our countries.
Most Estonians i know don't particularly enjoy birthdays. You are expected to, as a birthday kid, to throw a party. That means inviting everyone important, early enough so that they'd know to plan for it, to your place for a party. You clean, cook and throw a party for your friends and family. Often separately, because friends and family don't mix. So twice. They come to your party, most likely (hopefully) with gifts and you feel that it might pay off a bit. But sometimes just flowers and chocolate and you feed them and that's about it. A lot of Estonians are also friendly with alcohol and sadly that means that you need to buy drinks too. I am not sharing this to shame Estonia, but this is hard reality of our country.
In Australia, as i have learned, the birthday kid gets to have a day off kind of. Your friends or family (or both?) throw you a party. You just need to show up and be nice. And most likely you get gifts too. :D I really moved to a nice place huh?
But since we recently had a wedding, i wanted to let people chill a bit and threw my new family Estonian birthday. I cleaned and cooked (with my charming husband helping me a lot!), and they had potato salad and three layered sponge cake (all homemade from scratch) for my party. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. We also had a quiz about me for our guests, and they enjoyed that too!
Those who were here, don't answer, but for other readers, for example one questions was:
What was Mirjam doing when he was stopped by a police officer....
Funny answers i had. But yes, leave your answer in the comments if you'd like.
Also, not very common to bring people flowers. Not for birthdays nor weddings for that matter.
In Estonia you get flowers on anniversaries, birthdays, weddings and all sorts of occasions. Speaking of which...
- Flower shops.
Such a small thing, but yes, not much times where people would bring flowers to you. So in Estonia you go to a florist and ask for specific flower or color you like. Then they show you what they have and how much you want. They can then make it into a bouquet or sell it as is. Say you want three roses. Or 5 daffodils. And that's all. They charge you and wrap it for you.
Here, you go to a flower store and wonder where are the flowers. Because all you see are mostly all ready made bouquets. And me going like "oh?!". Asked dear husband if there's any other stores that would sell individual flowers. We found a place for wedding. Went to two different stores actually. Because if you go and ask for a wedding bouquet, they charge you hefty fee. Saved quite a few dollars getting separate flowers from two shops and some leaves from the nature and made my own bouquet for the wedding.
- Slang and expressions. Well without further information, check out video below.... :D
Got that? Nope? Neither do i sometimes. So i ask then.
So if i say "having brekky with hubby, i had avos on my toast" it makes sense to me now. :D
Besides that, as mentioned above, they have distance things. :D Round the corner, down the road - not quite what you expect. "wanna have morning tea" or "afternoon tea" might have nothing to do with tea. It's more like snack break.
Also, as a lot of foreigners (that means people outside my native country), here it's also customary to ask "hey how you going" or "how you doing?". BUT without expecting an answer they might go on talking. Or you know it's just an expression and just say good or okay or fine and they go "good good". And continue to say whatever they wanted to say to you. :) I am really tempted to say to "how you going" - "forward". But haven't. Or when asked "how you doing?" i really want to tell them that for example right now my back hurts and i woke up at 4am and i really feel tired, but it's really okay and really distracted this morning.... and so on. But they'd probably be scared off by that. Especially if that is a shop keeper, customer service, or a random sales person on the phone. So yes, you say okay or good and let them say what they wanted. :)
They say it's winter and i walk around with shorts and t-shirt as it's 20-25C during the day. Nights are cold. Sometimes in this area has been around 6-8C when i wake up. But gets warm during the day. So put away winter jackets and boots, but do bring sweaters and things that you can take off easily if you come. There are areas in Australia that might get snow (mountains), or might get even colder. But yeah, depends where you are.
Besides warmness and mostly nice weather, there's OCEAN!!!! A person who lived close to the seaside most her life, well ocean is something much different. Estonian person who has seen sea has no idea what to expect when entering water here. I had a panic attack. Waves and waves are different. In Estonia you go in and firstly, most likely you are cold. But you handle it, because it's probably summer. Coldest i've been swimming in Estonian summer was 13C. But that's slightly extreme. Here, it's warm, when it's summer. Really, like you aren't scared off by the temperature. BUT be aware of the waves. I was in knee high water when my first ocean wave came. Small one, very small one, and it comes on the top towards you, but on the bottom, at your feet, it pulls away from the shore. Very strange and tricky. I had trouble standing, as the pulling of water at my feet was strong. It will take time to get used to it.
Oh and don't forget sunscreen as mentioned above.
You can imagine that there are a lot of surfers here too. We currently live about 100m from the ocean (or as i still say - seaside) and i see surfers often. I don't think there has been a day where i have been to the beach that i haven't seen any.
Besides lovely ocean, there's other weather related things.
There might be flooding. Living close to the ocean has also down sides. With storms, and rain, there can be damage. If it rains heavily for long period of time, there can be flooding. But most people take it rather calmly as far as i've heard. I have not experienced that yet, so if that or something else strange and new happens, you will hear :D
Besides the fact that you get used to a whole set of new foods, shop opening hours are different. Shopping center in Estonia means small shops are also open late. Meaning usually until 9pm or something. Grocery stores/ supermarkets in Estonia are open usually until 11pm or so. And most open from 8 or something. Some even at 7am. Here, stores are open in a shopping center i think until 5-6pm. And grocery stores maybe 9-10pm.
In Estonia you pay for plastic bags. Or bring your own, plastic or paper or whatever. Here, if you don't have a bag of your own, you get some plastic ones. AND most stores pack stuff for you!!! imagine that! That was so new for me. I think i've seen one store here that doesn't. Aldi. Others accept your bags (either fabric or whatever), and then they pack everything to your bags, or their own. How awesome is that!
- Public toilets
In Estonia you carry coins with you to pee. Yes our toilets most likely cost. In shopping centers or out on the streets, parks and so on, toilets often ask you for coins to get in. We know it's ridiculous, but we have no say in it. Often you try to hold it until you see a cafe or a restaurant and then ask nicely "can i please use your toilet?" and make a nice face to them. Because a lot of times they have signs "Only for customers". Girls have it easier i think. I mean after all we have period and all that, we need to take care of, so if someone were to argue, we'd probably bring that as an excuse. But guys, i feel for you.
In Australia, i have not seen a toilet that charges you money. I think. Well at least at this time i can't remember any. Shopping centers, airports, etc, all free toilets. What joy! And regardless of that they are free, they are also clean! In Estonia, a lot of public toilets outside (parks and such) are hideous. Even if you have to pay for it. So i do like those free toilets! :D
So yes, life is different around here. Or as a lot of people say "down under". This is not to say Estonia isn't good. Not at all. My family is there, some friends. Amazing nature. People who are friends, will be loyal forever. Fun language that is unique. Great singing and dancing traditions. There's a lot of treasures there. Go visit sometime if you haven't.
But that is me saying, i notice things. With different set of eyes than locals. And i am blessed. I have ocean close by, there's so many mountains to admire and maybe one day explore. There's fun nature (but don't touch everything). There's wonderful food (guess where Pavlova was invented?). I am blessed. God has given me such gifts. My dear handsome charming prince (husband), this beautiful country with amazing weather, home that i feel at home in. Life is good if you see the blessings and good things.
That said, surely, i do miss my family. I miss the talks at kitchen table. The noise the family makes when we all are gathered and eat together. Kiddos in our family (i'm an auntie). Even family dog. Or amazingly cozy cafes in Tallinn. Cobble stone old town walks and long summer nights. But it's alright, one day i'll come visit. But now, i have been set here. With kangaroos and bush turkeys. With ocean views and mountains. And with birds that make monkey sounds. With the love of my life. <3
Until next time, be blessed and see blessings around you.