So I’ve been home in Austria for the holidays for a while now. And I can’t tell you how weird it has been. People are so nice here, it’s confusing. It started right when I got on the plane to Frankfurt and some stranger offered to help me and then proceeded to talk to me. This friendliness and openness was already a lot to handle. But when somebody else offered me a chair at Frankfurt airport it was too much. I declined his offer and sat down on the ground right next to said chair. What have you Estonians done to me?
It didn’t stop there, though. Over the course of the last two weeks I caught myself doing two things: waiting at red lights while no cars are in sight and freaking out on the street at night because nobody is wearing a reflector.
Seriously, what happened to me in Estonia? I remember how strange it was to me that literally every single pedestrian stopped at any given red light, no matter how tiny the street was. I mean, it does make sense now, having heard several stories of people being fined by the police for crossing on red. My roommate only got out of paying the ridiculous amount of 40 Euros by crying and telling the police she couldn’t afford Christmas presents if they made her pay. (What a genius she is. Crying does always work, after all.) And since most Estonian drivers are just outright crazy, waiting for your turn in traffic might be a good idea after all.
So I guess that’s why I now enjoy hanging out at traffic lights myself. With all the Estonians (usually). And while they are looking at their shoes, I’m checking out their reflectors. It’s hilarious watching grown people wearing something I used to associate with kindergarteners. I remember how they tried to make us kids use these things in Austria, only to accept the fact that they failed miserably at some point. Not in Estonia, though. To be fair, the fact that wearing reflectors is mandatory by law is a pretty good reason to do it. Not to forget that it is dark pretty much all the time in winter, increasing the chances to be hit by one of those crazy drivers even more.
Come to think, those reflectors are actually a pretty good idea, especially if you don’t feel like dying yet. I still don’t get how anybody is able to see them, given how tiny they usually are, but hey. It works apparently.
So that’s what I’ve learned in the last couple of months. If you don’t want to die in Estonia – or spend all your money on unnecessary tickets – you simply have to follow those two rules: Don’t cross the street on a red light, even if there are no cars in sight – they could come out of nowhere, apparently – and wear a reflector (or more than one, that’s your call).
If following the rules is not your thing, I hope you’ve got your crying-game on and a reliable guardian angel. And just know that you’ll never be part of the Estonian gang. Because you won’t be able to gossip about all the things we experienced at the traffic light and the problems we have walking because our reflectors get in the way.
Do you really want to miss out on that?
By the way: If you are still looking for a very stylish, very Estonian kind of reflector, it’s your lucky day today. Rumor has it EBS Student Council is selling the cutest stick-on bow-tie reflectors you’ve ever seen. Available at room #208.