Hello, I am Risa Teshigahara. こんにちは、‘欧州連合ロシア研究’修士課程に在籍している勅使河原梨沙と申します。I am from Japan and am currently studying in the MA programme ‘EU-Russia Studies’. Today, I would like to show you how similar Japan and Estonia are based on my own experiences.
Frankly speaking, I firstly felt that it is difficult to settle down in Estonia. So many things are different from where I am from and even where I lived before. However, at the same time, the more I live in here, the more I find similarities between my country and Estonia.
For instance, I used to live in the UK for a while and there were many Asian people there. So I had never stood out as an Asian in the UK, except for some very special occasions. On the contrary there are only few Asian people in Estonia and it was really difficult to get used to people’s staring at me in pretty much everywhere. Especially small children are quite tricky. Whenever I walk down the street, they usually look at me as if I am an ‘alien’ or a predator! One day, one small girl even said to me; ‘ah, you are a really strange woman!’ in Estonian at a supermarket. Interestingly, when I told my friend who has visited Japan before about the whole story of what happened to me in Estonia, he said that that was exactly what happened to him as a foreigner in Japan. Thus, in a sense, I could count those ‘unique’ experiences as a foreigner as a similarity between Japan and Estonia.
In addition, many Estonian people told me that ‘Estonian people are really shy’, but Japanese people are 100 times more shy, I would have to say. From my perspective, Estonian people are really open-minded, nice and friendly. Also people who I met here said to me that ‘Estonian people do not have so many facial expression’, which is quite true. I reckon that it is also similarity between us – only difference is Estonian people seldom smile to keep their straight face and Japanese people always smiles as if it is the only facial expression they have.
Moreover, There are similarities in our languages as well. Although Japanese luckily does not have 14 cases, we a put suffix after words instead of using prepositions like Estonian. Of course we use very different letters (like this: 私は現在エストニアに住んでいます。), but somehow pronunciation is quite similar between Estonian and Japanese. Therefore, as abeginner learner of Estonian, speaking is not too difficult for me, grammatical rules are quite complicated though.
I admit that this analysis is somewhat overly generalized, but I am hoping that now you are more interested in Estonia and Japan. Do you believe me that Japan and Estonia have so many similarities, although we are far apart across the globe? If not, come and study in Estonia to discover your own story! If you need more information about studying and living in Estonia as a student of the University of Tartu, please contact me. (firstname.lastname@example.org) Thank you 🙂
Author: Risa Teshigahara, Japan, EU-Russia Studies