Expats love Estonia for its welcoming people, lower cost of living, beautiful cities and affordable cultural activities. If you're moving to Estonia, bring lots of warm clothes for the long winters. Also, know that many locals and expats experience some level of seasonal affective disorder. Little known fact: you'll need to buy special clothing with reflectors to wear after dark (it's the law). On August 1, 2020 Estonia introduced their new Digital Nomad Visa which allows you to work remotely from Estonia for up to a 12 months.
1. Living in Estonia
"Life here is family oriented up to a point, but many marriages are broken. Young people go out frequently to bars and clubs where English is generally well spoken. Foreigners are received in a friendly and welcome manner. In fact, they are plesantly surprised to see you here. Do not be shy about opening conversations," commented one expat.
"Come here first and meet the people, and see how you like it. For winter, bring heaps of extremely warm clothes. Culturally it is a dream, with the concert hall and opera house performing 9 mos of the year, and best seats at only 11 dollars. Dining out at fine restaurants is no bargain. Bring Seasoning Salt in abundance, and boxes of seasoned stuffing if you like roast chook (or you'll have to make your own). You can join the Academic Library and check out books in English and many other languages," advised one expat.
2. Healthcare in Estonia
"Although medical care in Estonia still falls short of Western standards, Estonia's medical care is generally good, especially in Tallinn, and in some other cities such as Tartu and Pärnu. Estonia has many highly-trained medical professionals, but some hospitals and clinics still suffer from a lack of equipment and resources. You may find that some hospital staff and nurses, including those who work in emergency rooms, speak only limited English," wrote the US Embassy in Estonia.
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Expat Health Insurance in Estonia
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3. Law Requires You to Wear Reflectors on Your Clothing at Night
"In Estonia, everyone is required by law to wear small reflectors on clothing when it is dark outside. Fines for refusing to wear the reflectors range from $50 to $500 USD," wrote the US State Department.
4. Are people in Estonia accepting of different religions and races?
"About 35% are of Russian ancestry, and that is their usual language. They like going to Karaoki bars and paying a little to sing their hearts out. Many businesses function as much in Russian as in Estonian. It is hard to tell Estonians from Russian ancestry people unless you listen to them speaking with each other. Religion is not strong here. I do not think black people would find problems here like they do in Russia, but I haven't direct experience on this subject in this 100% white nation. I know there is no prejudice against Hispanic peoples," wrote one expat in Tallinn.
5. Are gay people accepted in Estonia?
"The population is pretty broad minded in a Scandinavian manner in terms of sexual mores, which anyone will find out quickly if they get cable TV, as after midnight anything is shown. They think of sex as a completely norman bodily function, like eating breakfast, and they are not prudes. There is also a high level of gay tolerance, with as many clubs here in this city of only 500,000 as are found in Moscow with its 15m," said one expat.
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6. Post-Soviet Tensions in Estonia
"My culture shock mostly came from after being here for awhile where I experienced some of the old Russian and Estonian tension from the Post-Soviet Era. But anyone who comes here for a period of time will experience that," reported one member.
7. Long Winters in Estonia Can Be Difficult
"Long winters will turn you introverted, because they are dark and last 8 months. I haven't gotten it yet, but they call it seasonal anxiety disorder. Its easy to get here," cautioned an expat.
8. Why People Like Living in Estonia
When we asked ,"What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?," one expat replied, "Their song festivals, beautiful native language, love of nature, long lived history, story of survival of a culture."
9. Working in Estonia
"I landed a job here and obtain my residency permit for employment. I expected to land a management position and I did. I got in with a company with an interesting product and a potential growth opportunity. My expectations were well met in the beginning, as I was working for a start-up venture. The biggest difference in my expectations is the culture shock I received as an employee here in Estonia. The culture shock was not a country specific 'culture shock,' but more like a shock to understanding the business atmosphere here, which is very different than in the United States. I find my days at work very relaxed, without much emphasis on getting any specific job done. It is very strange because I find that a number of businesses here have a very unstructured approach to capitalism," explained one expat in Tartu.
Interested in spending a year working remotely from Estonia? Estonia launched their Digital Nomad Visa on August 1, 2020 -- inviting digital nomads to spend up to 12 months in Estonia. If you are not allowed to travel to Estonia, wait to apply until you are able or your application will be denied. Current travel restrictions are listed on this page. You will need to have a monthly income of at least €3504. You'll find more information about Estonia's Digital Nomad Visa here.
10. Don't Drink & Drive in Estonia
"Driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. In Estonia, the legal system takes a zero tolerance approach, and even one drink can lead to a DUI arrest. Your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution," wrote the US State Department.