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080: Adam Rang – British Estonian entrepreneur, sauna enthusiast and former chief evangelist of the e-Residency programme
„The more people that can find Estonia on the map, the less likely we are to be wiped out off the map again. I think it’s so important for our security that people just know about Estonia, connect with Estonia, so if we find ourselves in extreme difficulties that enough people around the world know about us, to care about us.“
Adam Rang is a third generation Estonian born in the UK. Since moving to Estonia in 2016, Adam helped develop Estonia’s E-Residency programme as its Chief Evangelist and has since worked for the Estonian government to help promote Estonia internationally in English, including for the Office of the President.
He also started his own company to help develop Estonia’s sauna industry, by exporting Estonian sauna design and technology, as well as traditions. Since the start of Russia’s full scale war in Ukraine, Adam has pivoted more towards counterpropaganda for Estonia, including as a member of Kaitseliit’s cyber unit.
He started his career in South Africa in journalism before switching to PR and working in the British defense industry. Adam has graduated from the University of Cape Town in the field of Social Sciences, Politics and Gender Studies in South Africa.
In this episode, you’ll hear us discuss:
Adam’s early engagements with Estonia
University years in Cape Town
How did he become the chief evangelist for the e-residency programme?
How did he fall in love with saunas and where is the best sauna in Estonia
Getting the Estonian word leil into English
A secret of the best sauna
„When Baltic refugees arrived in Britain they were encouraged not to teach their language to their children, because they thought it would confuse them, which is crazy – now we know speaking multiple languages is so good for children. But back then they thought it was a bad thing.“
„We used to go on holiday to Latvia and Estonia. Spent a lot more time in Latvia, and it’s kind of interesting – I’ve got similar connections to Estonia and Latvia, which are kind of similar countries, so it’s a bit like an A/B test – which one are you going to reconnect with. It would have made more sense to reconnect with Latvia, because that was where I had much stronger connections, but it was Estonia that chewed me in.“
„We drove up to the Estonian border, driving up to Tallinn. And I remember when we got to the border my dad got out of the car, for him it was very emotional, and he asked the border guard ’Is this Estonia?’, because he wanted to know is the ground we are standing on right now is Estonia.“
„Väliseestlane is a bit of an outdated term, like ’a foreign Estonian’, but people don’t use it anymore. The väliseestlased are mostly considered the people who fled in 1944 and their descendants, I really loved being väliseestlane – that was our family story. For me the story of Estonia was the story of families fleeing as refugees. I really identified with väliseestlased community.“
„After the university I really wanted to get back into journalism. So when I moved to South Africa I was really hopeful about the future of South Africa, which is interesting when you are comparing it to the Baltic states because also in 1991, that’s when they gained their democracy, it became a new country again, and obviously Nelson Mandela, who was a really respected leader. When I went there were a lots of problems bubbling, lots of things not being fixed, especially when it comes to corruption, massive issues. Then, at the time when I lived there, I kind of lost a bit of confidence about the future of the country. “
„Estonian companies don’t hide the fact that they are Estonian, like they used to. Now, like you go to London, like Bolt did a big advertising campaign with teaching people Estonian. So if you take the London Underground you can see Bolt, you can see e-Residency advertising people start your company in Estonia. So many people, you mention Estonia to them, they know it’s this high-tech country where so many great companies come from.“
„Some e-residency companies pay their taxes to Estonia, and that brings in a lot of money, but actually far more money flows in from just by the e-residence companies doing business with other Estonians.“
„The more people that can find Estonia on the map, the less likely we are to be wiped out off the map again. I think it’s so important for our security that people just know about Estonia, connect to Estonia, so if we find ourselves in extreme difficulties that enough people around the world know about us, to care about us.“
„E-residency is the new normal – we cannot not have the e-residency. If our country is going to have relations with citizens from other countries abroad, then we want them to have a digital ID-card, because it makes it so much easier for them to engage with our country in any way.“
„I’ve always thought about joining Kaitseliit, but then I thought there will be language barriers, I’m getting old, I’m not particularly fit. But then, after the war started I thought this seriously, and told them about my background in PR and marketing, and they wanted me to get involved in counter-propaganda.“
„So many people around the world think that sauna is a Finnish thing, or they think it's like a Scandinavian thing. And it takes a lot of explaining that ’no, saunas are as old in Estonian history as they are in Finnish history’. And the Fins managed to get the word sauna into English, so it’s time that the Estonians got the word leil into English.“
„Being uncomfortable in a sauna doesn’t correlate with health benefits, so we’re trying to teach people how to use them properly, it’s actually much more enjoyable. Vihad, the branches don't hurt as much as it looks.“
„When people know of Estonia as a sauna-nation, whether they want to buy a sauna or whether they want to come and visit saunas here, they are putting money right around the country. That’s a priority of the Estonian state, to get more money into regions, especially to South-Estonia. And that’s where sauna-tourists are going, they are going down to Võrumaa, because they are fascinated about the smoke saunas.“
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This episode was recorded on August 12th 2022 in Paide, at the Opinion Festival.