Archive for the Category ‘Opinion’

It’s not just the winters that are cold

It’s not just the winters that are cold

Much has been made of Estonian customer service skills or lack thereof. My encounter with the receptionist at the polyclinic the other day could be seen as a typical one of my daily adventures. To set the stage, I am a bit of an odd bird. I am a foreigner who is mostly functional in […]

Laar and the dilemma of monetarism

Laar and the dilemma of monetarism

A lot of people who don’t know much about Estonia have strong opinions about Mart Laar. A countryman of mine who I am sure has never heard of Kalevipoeg, A.H. Tammsaare or Tõnis Mägi called him: “one of the greatest men alive.” An anonymous poster on the Laar’s own blog recently called him: “a right […]

And now for something completely similar

And now for something completely similar

The timing of the Latvian general election on Oct. 2 is a godsend for TV executives. It means that throughout the long summer silly season when nothing much happens (other than dozens of people drowning every weekend) they can pad out their schedules with lengthy and cheap to produce debates on the topical issues of […]

The Estonian folk festival experience

The Estonian folk festival experience

Who knew Estonia had so many “dirty hippies?” At least that’s what my curmudgeonly punk-rocking friends would call them. From some unknown well in the mists of Estonia’s bogs spurted forth this month enough natty dreads and nose rings to fill a small city. And of all Estonian cities they chose this one, Viljandi, in […]

Latvia: you got to see it to believe it

Latvia: you got to see it to believe it

A few years ago the Latvian Tourism Development Agency ran a promotional campaign called “You Won’t Believe it Until You See It!” which talked about such things as blue cows, flying people and extraordinary singers. If that campaign were still up and running today, the number one topic would no doubt be the turn-around of […]

How to do business with Americans

How to do business with Americans

A lot is written about how Americans should deal with other cultures. I thought it would be interesting to look at how you should deal with Americans. And for Americans reading this, this is a good look at yourself. This is part of a talk I give frequently in Eastern Europe. I thought I would […]

Comparing the Baltic states

Comparing the Baltic states

At 10 p.m. on Friday night, I finally got the chance to explore Kaunas. Lithuania’s second largest city — its onetime capital in the 1920s and 30s — left a bad first impression. I walked to my hotel across a city that seemed underpopulated. There were so many buildings and so few people. Where could […]

The table manners of Latvia’s ruling class

The table manners of Latvia’s ruling class

If the sunlit terraces are any indication, Latvia’s ruling classes have little to worry about. During the summer you can see the great and the not-so-good lounging outside the cafes that circle the parliament building, luring deputies in between strenuous sessions. Sipping coffee and nibbling cakes, the deputies can often be observed holding court in […]

I think I’m fluent enough… or not

I think I’m fluent enough… or not

“He is having an operation in your leg,” said Andrei’s wife in English. She was explaining why Andrei hadn’t been by to pick up the New Yorker magazines which I save for him. She spoke a mix of Russian and English, and I tried to respond by doing the same. “Potom kogda ja dayu zhurnali […]

My vision of Latvia in 10 years

My vision of Latvia in 10 years

Starting with Latvia’s 90th anniversary two years ago, the Latvian Institute asked young people in Latvia to tell us what kind of Latvia they wanted to see in 10 years. We have received over 500 responses from some very bright girls and boys. While talking about the project with a journalist recently, he asked me […]

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