Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn, Estonia

Living in Estonia Guide

By Betsy Burlingame

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Summary: Estonia has a lower cost of living, welcoming locals and rich traditions. As of August 1, 2020, they're also making it easier for global nomads to spend up to a year working remotely from Estonia. What to pack? Bring your warm, reflective clothing to prepare for the long winter.

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.

Our Healthcare in Estonia guide covers:

Expat Health Insurance in Estonia

Expats interested in expat health insurance should take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA.

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.

Expats living in Estonia interested in expat health insurance should take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA. Get a Quote

Expats living in Estonia interested in expat health insurance should take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Some of Betsy's more popular articles include 6 Best Places to Live in Costa Rica, 12 Things to Know Before Moving to The Dominican Republic and 7 Tips for Obtaining Residence in Italy. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.


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Living in Estonia GuideLiving in Estonia Guide

Estonia has a lower cost of living, welcoming locals and rich traditions. As of August 1, 2020, they're also making it easier for global nomads to spend up to a year working remotely from Estonia.

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Join our Estonia forum to meet other expats and talk about living in Estonia.

Contribute to Estonia Network Contribute
Help other expats and newcomers by answering questions about the challenges and adventures of living in Estonia.

Healthcare in EstoniaHealthcare in Estonia

Medical care in Estonia is not up to Western standards, but is best in Tallinn, Tartu and Parnu. Our Estonia Healthcare Guide covers health insurance, finding an English-speaking doctor, best hospitals and more.

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Cigna Expat Health InsuranceExpatriate Health Insurance

Get a quote for expat health insurance from our partner, Cigna Global Health.
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Countries-Introduce-Global-Nomad-Visas-During-PandemicCountries Introduce Global Nomad Visas During Pandemic

Many people are escaping their routines and temporarily moving overseas during the pandemic. These countries are welcoming them with open arms by making it easy for visitors to stay and work remotely for months or even a year. The most recent addition to the list is Croatia - they've just launched online applications for their digital nomad visa.

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Tallinn, Estonia
Cigna Expat Health InsuranceExpatriate Health Insurance

Get a quote for expat health insurance from our partner, Cigna Global Health.
Get a Quote

Living in Estonia GuideLiving in Estonia Guide

Estonia has a lower cost of living, welcoming locals and rich traditions. As of August 1, 2020, they're also making it easier for global nomads to spend up to a year working remotely from Estonia.

Estonia Forum Estonia Forum
Meet other expats and talk about living in Estonia.

Healthcare in EstoniaHealthcare in Estonia

Medical care in Estonia is not up to Western standards, but is best in Tallinn, Tartu and Parnu. Our Estonia Healthcare Guide covers health insurance, finding an English-speaking doctor, best hospitals and more.

Real Estate in EstoniaReal Estate in Estonia

Real estate listings in popular cities and towns in Estonia.

Retiring in EstoniaRetiring in Estonia

Advice for people retiring in Estonia.

Contribute to Estonia Network Contribute
Help other expats and newcomers by answering questions about the challenges and adventures of living in Estonia.

Estonias-Digital-Nomad-VisaEstonia's Digital Nomad Visa

Launched on August 1, 2020, Estonia's digital nomad visa allows people to live and work remotely in Estonia for up to 12 months. You'll need to apply at your Estonian Embassy or Consulate and the process takes 15-30 days.

Countries-Introduce-Global-Nomad-Visas-During-PandemicCountries Introduce Global Nomad Visas During Pandemic

Many people are escaping their routines and temporarily moving overseas during the pandemic. These countries are welcoming them with open arms by making it easy for visitors to stay and work remotely for months or even a year. The most recent addition to the list is Croatia - they've just launched online applications for their digital nomad visa.

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