*Before I start, I wish to clarify that whereas Estonia is considered an Eastern European country, our culture and mentality are different. We have much more in common with the Scandinavians. However, some traits of an average Estonian are similar to those of Eastern Europeans.
I was sitting on the bus the other day and overheard a conversation between two suitably tacky looking Eastern European girls. They were discussing the trials and tribulations of getting a well-paid job in London. They were blaming the society for being xenophobic and the main reason for them not succeeding.
Let’s admit, Eastern Europeans do not have the best reputation in the UK. I agree that the British can be very xenophobic and often misinformed about “those pesky Eastern Europeans”. However, it really depends on the type of folk you socialise with. I had the pleasure of living in Bermondsey some years ago. Those traditionally white and poorly educated communities are very narrow-minded and they really struggle to accept you as one of them (to be honest why would anyone want to succeed in that?). They’ve been living in their bubble all their lives and it has clearly altered their outlook on the bigger picture. It was cringeworthy to witness inbred tracksuit-wearing men blanantly making racist jokes when a black guy walked into a pub. Or people who think anyone with a peculiar accent must be from either Russia or Poland. They clearly have no idea that there are more that two countries in Eastern Europe.
I blame the ignorance of the British but I mostly blame the foreigners themselves. You move here, make no effort to be integrate, act exactly the way you would back home, live with a mentality that the only job an Eastern European can get is something that the locals don’t want to do.
I believe there are two key factors why Eastern Europeans don’t seem to really succeed here:
Well the first flaw in the plan is that when they move here they mostly socialise with people of the same nationality. For example the average Estonian does not like to talk with people they don’t know. Crazy, right? Most of them are completely unable to do any small talk. Estonians love to say: pfft, I don't care for pointless chatter, it’s fake and I’d rather spend time with someone i actually know. How on earth are you ever suppose to meet new people when you’re completely unable to carry a conversation? Estonians like living in their comfort zone and meeting new people is clearly a scary prospect. That way it’s impossible for them to make friends with British people and therefore they never fully manage to integrate into the society. I don’t know how many times I have witnessed my British friends trying to have a chat with my Estonian friends. It’s a very painful process. Obviously after some drinking Estonians manage to put a sentence together that doesn’t solely consist of one syllable words.
Second problem is that Eastern Europeans are not well known for their smiley and friendly nature. One thing that the British say about Eastern Europeans is that they always look so serious and have no sense of humour. Nobody will even attempt to strike a conversation with them because they come across very cold and unapproachable. To be honest no wonder they look so serious all the time. If I had to wear that much blusher and have a fashion sense from hell, I’d be pretty pissed off too.
Now banter is another thing. If you don’t have it, you don’t have it. Nothing you can do about it. I personally think Estonians have a wicked sense of humour. Very dry and sarcastic, best kind of humour there is. However, it seems that some countries were completely skipped by the Gods of Banter. The sour face and borderline cretinous jokes are hardly a heart-winning combo.
Thankfully I grew up on classic BBC comedy programs such as Blackadder and I consider myself as an experienced sarcasm aficionado. I mean if the British tell you that you‘re more sarcastic than them, you know you’ve gained some serious street cred. You will be known as someone who is quick witted and funny and not "that (seriously hot) blond Eastern European chick".
If you move to a foreign country, it is essential that you are open to new acquaintances and new experiences, respect the people who have been living there all their lives, immerse yourself in their culture and always accept the fact that you are in their country. Only with that kind of attitude a foreigner can really integrate into the society and live a financially and emotionally satisfying life.