Exploring Estonia With Joshua Lim

Exploring Estonia With Joshua Lim


 You might know him as Noah from Channel 5’s Code of Law, or Lasso in the telemovie Two Boys and A Mermaid. We managed to CATCH Joshua Lim who recently went to Estonia to film an episode of Channel NewsAsia’s Why It Matters

Story, photography, and illustrations: Angelia Lim   |   Additional photos: Joshua Lim

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When Joshua Lim, 32, actor and host, first discovered that he had to travel to Estonia for a new television programme, he did not even know where the country was.

“Half of me felt that it was in some very ulu European country or that is in a very ulu African country,” he said. He had very little expectations of the country, until his producer informed him that they were going there to find out why Estonia is so technologically advanced. 

“I was like ‘Huh?’ This doesn’t even make sense. I have never heard of this country and then suddenly you are telling me that it is technologically advanced?”

When you think of technology, you might think of Silicon Valley or Japan, few people will think of Estonia. Through the filming assignment for Channel NewsAsia’s Why It Matters, he’s learnt so much more about the country.

Joshua made his on-screen debut in MediaCorp Channel 5’s Christmas special Happy Holidays (2010). You might have seen him on screen as Noah, in the second season of Code Of Law, or Lasso in the telemovie Two Boys And A Mermaid. Currently, he is the host for Channel NewsAsia’s Why It Matters

Besides acting and hosting, he also does an array of theatre productions, including some with his rich baritone voice. He played the lead roles in Honk! (2009) and Just So (2010). He was also part of the ensemble in Fried Rice Paradise (Singapore Repertory Theatre, 2010). 

Other theatre credits include Army Daze The Musical (Simpy Works, 2012 and 2013), Ah Boys To Men The Musical (Running Into The Sun, 2014), and Monkey Goes West (Wild Rice, 2014). He is also an apprentice with one of Singapore’s leading theatre companies, The Finger Players, which he performed in Starring Hitler As Jekyll And Hyde, a production that plays with split personalities.

Last year, he was nominated for M1-The Straits Times Life Theatre Awards as Best Actor in Starring Hitler As Jekyll And Hyde (The Finger Players, 2016).


Getting Curious

Before he left for Estonia, Joshua did research to know more about this futuristic country. On the surface, it evokes an ancient European vibe, but beneath that, the people have a very modern mindset. Further, it has been an independent country for only 25 years, and yet, Estonians have a very strong startup culture.

He asked: “Did you know that Skype came from Estonia?” He continued: “Yes, Estonians basically created the technology behind Skype, and it took over the world from the help of Americans and Swedish to market the product.” Besides Skype, Estonians also developed the code behind Kazaa, an early file-sharing network. Lately, Domino’s Pizza partnered with Estonia-based startup, Starship Technologies, to use robot technology to deliver pizzas in Germany. Impressive? We think so too.


Arriving at Estonia

When Joshua arrived at Estonia, the first thing he noticed was that Internet access was very cheap. “I could buy a five-gigabyte SIM card under four euros, so that’s Singapore maybe, not even six bucks”, he said as he calculated. 

Estonia is the first country in the world to make Internet access a human right, this means that it is a basic human right for a person to have access to the Internet. He added: “So I thought then that this country is quite interesting, like making Internet access a basic human right. Who would have thought of that?” 

Other than cheap Internet access that works fast, Estonians have what they call, EID, which is an acronym for Electronic Identification. It is like Singapore's identification card system but with a chip in it. You can slot it into a card reader and access all sorts of services online. You can sign documents and open bank accounts at home without going down to the bank, and so on. Basically, you can have access to a plethora of stuff from home if you have Internet access, and your EID card. 

Education in Estonia

While filming in Estonia, Joshua had a glimpse of the education system. He had the opportunity to visit a primary school, which is the equivalent of Singapore’s primary education. He attended a class where eight year-old students played with Lego as part of the curriculum.


Play is part of learning

The students get to fix the Lego robotics together, and learnt to use the iPad to control the robots. “From a young age, they already learn how to do these things. They will probably be very technologically advanced and innovative when they reach 21 years old,” he said. For Estonians, play is part of learning. Joshua said that the students choose the activities that they want to do in class at their own discretion. 

“But it is not unproductive you know, like ‘Oh, I want to sleep, so I just sleep.’ They still do something productive that interests them. So it can be if you want to paint, you just paint, you want to start fixing a robot, just start fixing a robot. Those were the interesting classes that I saw,” he shared enthusiastically. 

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Staying in a foreign country for quite some time, one would pick up some foreign words to communicate with the locals. “I’ve learnt how to say ‘cheers’ when proposing a toast. It’s ‘terviseks’, and it sounds like terrible sex. Yeah, that was my impression of it,” he shared with a laugh. “And some words were actually quite similar to the Malay language. For example, restaurant is restoran, and same is sama,” he added. 

Where to next?

As an adventurous person, Joshua will be seeking out a new destination. “I might end up in South America or Africa, as I have never been to those places.” 

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