One peculiarity among the people of this country is what I call "workguilt" or work-associated or work-related guilt. This is the idea that we must all be working, working very hard, and slackers/shirkers are scorned by the all-seeing village eye [An Estonian's dream is that he dies while working, says my friend Ain]. // When you are walking down the street in Estonia, and you see someone doing some form of manual labor -- the most respected kind! -- you are obligated to bellow out a buoyant "jõudu!" (which means "strength"), to which the sweaty snow shoveler or wood chopper or brush clearer grunts "tarvis!" ("needed") in a bassy, work-worn, air-gasping voice. // The other day the femme and I were walking down the street here in Viljandi and chanced upon several very industrious neighbors who were building a basilica-sized igloo. So taken with the size of their ambition, we forgot to speak up. No big deal. But a geyserburst of workguilt erupted up up a little farther down the road. // "I should have yelled out 'jõudu'," my femme lamented after we passed the iglooists. "Why don't you go back and say it," I offered. "No," she sulked and shook her head and whimpered on. "The moment has already passed."
Read more about workguilt in my column, "Golden Hands," here. It's part of a new collection that will be published this month by AK called Misjonäripoos, or "The Missionary Position."