Tallinn: The “Americanization” of Scandinavia Part 3


This Scandinavian journey has taken us to a very interesting city, which we studied in terms of culture and business practices, Tallinn! The cityscape exudes an “old world” persona, while the citizens simultaneously boast forward thinking technological amenities, and progressive philosophies. In order to better determine how “Americanized” the business and popular culture of Tallinn is, we visited several organizations during the short few days we were fortunate enough to experience.

DSCN6584Our initial organizational visit happened to be with a very impressive presenter discussing concepts that surprised us as a group. e-Estonia presented on the “digitalization” of the information, identification, common practices, and communications of the entire country. It was said several times that the United States is far behind on this topic, and we agree. Of course, the ingenuity and “know how” behind the difficult undertaking of linking all relevant information and communication channels of all citizens is not uniquely monopolized by Estonia. There are many locations worldwide that have similar capabilities, however, the bandwidth of the implementation and the evidence of system-wide success have establish Estonia as a leader in terms of systemic integration. There is a theme of unification and ease-of-use throughout technological and social systems, as described in the presentation. American technological and social systems are very much silo'd, and largely incapable of communicating to one another. Granted, the U.S. is a much larger and widespread nation when compared with Estonia, however, the barriers and roadblocks to creating a more perfect system like that of Estonia are significant. Estonia pushes through these barriers with younger and more energetic politicians. The U.S. is quite “traditional” in our politics, which prevents rapid change to existing systems. In the context of this discussion, Estonia is light-years ahead of America.


Tallinn University of Technology was the next, and last stop of our interaction with Estonian organizations. Firstly, the campus itself was awe-inspiring, and could not have surprised us more. The grounds are well-kept and beautiful. The facilities are modern and easy to navigate. The technological/engineering school possessed many innovative and interesting equipment and amenities for the student body. There is an atmosphere of loose, indirect, and independent learning for students. An American institution tends to be rigid and guidelines / policies are heavily enforced. This usually leads to copy and paste curriculum, which does not allow students much freedom to explore their own education. Tallinn University seems to encourage this freedom by having equipment open and available at any time for personal use, lounges and meeting rooms throughout the technological building, and wonderfully themed and/or decorated rooms. The school requirements for completing specified programs seem to be at least as rigorous, if not more, than what we are accustomed to seeing back home. That being said, there is some similarity to U.S. education in terms of course schedules and requirements to graduate, however, one difference stood out prominently to us. There is a thesis requirement at all levels. Bachelor, Master, and PhD degrees all integrate a concluding thesis in the program. This is starkly in contrast to the direction of many American collegiate institutions which are requiring thesis less and less, and project / final exams more and more. It remains to be seen which is a more effective philosophy, but the difference is surprising nevertheless.

All in all, Tallinn was beautiful. The culture, the landscape, and the atmosphere were, in a word, beautiful. As “Americanization” can be applied to popular culture and daily living, which is very apparently a part of Tallinn society, one could say Tallinn is “Americanized” in some ways. As the term relates to business and philosophies of doing business, Tallinn is far ahead of the U.S. Technologically advanced, forward-thinking and innovative, efficient, and accessible, this city is a collection of intelligent and awe-inspiring people….. and we could not be more pleased with our time spent here in Tallinn. Thus far, Gothenberg, Stockholm, and now Tallinn have provided significant amounts of evidence contradicting the supposition that American culture influences Scandinavian business. Check back in part 4 to see how Helsinki contributes to this topic……

As a quick note, a smallBeFunky Collage group of us decided to stop at the “Museum of Torture” in the old town portion of Tallinn.

These were some of the devices we encountered:

A Rack, a Witches Chair, the Stocks, an Iron Maiden, and several others were displayed in the top floor of an old building in the center of the city. The device uses, results, and graphic representations of them being implemented upon poor souls were posted throughout the creepy venue…. I was not a big fan of the device shown in the middle picture 🙂