That's Mister Fred Rogers there, an icon of my and many others' childhood. Each day I would watch his TV program Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and ponder like so many other children why he changed his shoes every time he came inside his house. But this blogpost is not devoted to shoes, it's devoted to neighbors and how you feel about them.
I am interested in learning from Estonians how they feel about four other nations: Swedes, Finns, Latvians, and Russians. These are the four neighbors of the Estonian people. Different Estonians are likely to know more about certain neighbors than others. Estonians from Valga probably know the Latvians well, while those in Jõhvi have a firm understanding of their eastern neighbors, the Russians. Estonians in Tallinn probably know Finns the best, while Estonians from the islands are in a position better than the others to know the Swedes. So tell me your impressions are, what you like and what you don't like, and simply what you know.
For your benefit, I will discuss my neighbors. As a New Yorker I have many neighbors, including people that live in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and, yes, Canada - both Quebecois and from Ontario. Here are my thoughts on each neighbor.
Let's start with New Jersey, perhaps New York's closest relative. People in New York look down on New Jersey as they have usually only seen it from a car window and smelled it from that position as well. The perspective is that Jersey is, in one way or another, dirty. Plus Jersey has no real cities. Its two population centers either commute to New York City or to Philadelphia. And the culture that Jersey does produce is ridiculed in New York. In Jersey Bruce Springsteen is "the boss" and Jon Bon Jovi is a native son that has done good. In New York, both of these guys are tolerated, perhaps privately enjoyed, but publicly mocked. And forget about their marketing schemes. Nobody really believes Jersey is the "Garden State" or wants to sink their teeth into a ripe "Jersey Tomato." Gross!
Beyond New Jersey is Pennsylvania. The line is that "Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between." It could be right. Pennsylvanians to New Yorkers, I think, come across as a bit more folksy and, yes, even Midwestern. Pennsylvanians have their share of all American working class roots, things that New York City dwellers find exotic. I mean, people in PA, as it is called, may have an uncle that worked in the coal mines! And it is hot out there in the Keystone State in the summer! There are so many parks for kids in PA, and so many memories of hot days sucking down sickeningly sweet lemonade. Uh oh, I am getting that gross feeling again ...
Connecticut, on the other hand, is a state I can deal with. Despite their somewhat more elitist attitude and inability to not dress preppie, Connecticutians, as I call them, are generally ok. The only thing is that I feel bad for them because no matter what they produce, it always seems to be less impressive than something from New York. I mean, do you want to listen to New York hip hop or Connecticut hip hop? Do you want to swimming at a sandy New York beach or a rocky Connecticut beach? See what I mean.
To their north are the people of Massachusetts, or Massholes as they are collectively known. Massholes love the Red Sox and hate the Yankees. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they harbor genocidal feelings towards all New Yorkers. You can tell them by their large pushy SUVs making their way back to Braintree with the ubiquitous "Yankees Suck" sticker on the bumper.
North of Mass. is Vermont, Howard Dean's turf.
I like Vermont because it is simultaneously culturally conservative and liberal. You can own as many guns as you want, listen to country music (you'll hear it on many radio stations up here) AND marry your gay partner in a civil ceremony. Traditionally Vermonters have disliked New York (Vermont was a part of New York during the colonial period). Vermont is known for skiing, all sorts of rugged activities, and Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream. Not a bad reputation to have.
As for the Canadians, they are a plodding diplomatic-like people that fear, above all, confrontation. They are so friendly it is scary and will engage in such Good Samaritan behavior as letting you ride the public transit bus, even after your bus ticket has expired! At the same time, they are passive aggressive. I think they secretly also despise Americans and believe that the world would be so much better if Justin Trudeau was king of the world. Truth be told, they could be right.