Living In Estonia As An Expat part 2 – Part one is here.
Pros and Cons of Living in Estonia
Estonia is a controversial country. Many people will tell you that it’s among the best countries to live in, or they’ll say otherwise. Even though I have been living here for more than ten years now, no two days are ever the same. And although some things can be annoying at times, I don’t think anyone could ever claim to be bored in Estonia. Without further ado, below are the pros and cons of living here as an expat.
People Are Very Direct
Firstly, this country is small, and everyone knows everyone, so if you think you can cause havoc without anyone finding out about it, you can forget it! Paide – where I used to live – had about 7 500 inhabitants when I moved here ten years ago.
It may not seem like much, but now I know at least seven people in Paide who can ruin your day if they choose to. Also, if you are considering dating someone Estonian, then be aware that the first time you go out with each other will almost certainly result in them telling you their life story.
However, they might complete it with every detail of the awful thing they have ever done and how it’s led them to where they are now. And not just the really bad stuff, but also those little things that we all do now and then – but which can be quite shocking if they’re not expecting you to feel that way.
The situation is similar when you move here as a foreigner. You’ll be introduced to just about every person who is essential in your new community. Not only is that, but you’ll quickly learn that it’s not polite to ignore someone when they say hello. And yes, people actually say ‘hello’ here – even to strangers.
You’ll Never Be Bored in Estonia
As long as you’re not spending your time complaining about the bureaucracy, then there are plenty of things to do around here – and most of them are free! With vast forests, picturesque lakes, rivers full of sea fish, and plenty of other wildlife to enjoy, it’s easy to see why Estonia is often called the ‘Land of Forests.’ There are also plenty of cultural events happening all year round, and almost every town has its own annual festival.
Estonians Love Their Saunas
Saunas are an important part of Estonian culture, and it’s not unusual for people to have one in their own homes. I’ve often joked that it should be an official requirement because you’ll need to go into one at least three times a week just to get through the winter! Saunas are not just for relaxing either – they’re also used to treat health problems like asthma and arthritis.
The Public Transport Is Excellent
Compared to some other European countries, the public transport in Estonia is excellent. In fact, it’s often said that the infrastructure here is more developed than in some of the bigger cities. Buses and trains are running everywhere, and even though the tickets can be a little bit expensive sometimes, it’s still cheaper than owning a car.
The Food Is Really Good
Estonians are known for their love of good food, and there are plenty of great restaurants around the country. My personal favorites are the grill restaurants, where you can get a delicious meal for fewer than 10 euros. And if you’re not into meat, then don’t worry – there are plenty of vegetarian options, and some of the chefs are actually vegetarian themselves.
The Nightlife is great
If you like partying, then Estonia will keep you more than happy. There are plenty of places for house music lovers in Tallinn – usually starting around 11 pm and going all night long. If that’s not your thing, then you can join the pub crawls – but be prepared for a lot of walking! Besides, you’ll enjoy living in Estonia as an expat.
Everyone Is Really Friendly
Even though there are some things that foreigners might find strange about Estonia, people are universally helpful and friendly. Most Estonians speak English reasonably well, so it’s easy to get by without learning any Estonian. Even if you do speak some Estonian, don’t be afraid to use it – people will appreciate the effort!
The Seasons Change All Year Round
Even though Estonia is known as the ‘Land of Autumn,’ there are lots of changes regardless of the season. There’s plenty of snow in winter, and during summer, it can get up to 30 degrees in the middle of the day. As long as you’re prepared for anything, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Sports Are Important Here
Even though Estonians aren’t quite as crazy about football as some other countries are, they are still pretty passionate about their sports in general. You’ll see people playing all sorts of sports in the parks and forests, and there are plenty of competitions happening all year round. In fact, the country is doing so well in international competitions that they’ve even been given the nickname ‘The Vikings of the North.
1. Long winters, Short Summers
Estonia gets a lot of snow during the winter – which isn’t so bad if you enjoy skiing or snowboarding! But the summers are short – during the peak of summer, you can expect around 19 hours of light per day (which is nice), but until early June and after mid-August, it’s dark almost all the time. As someone who doesn’t like the cold, it isn’t easy to get out of bed in winter!
2. Expensive Housing & High Taxes
Housing in Estonia is unfortunately quite expensive, especially in the larger cities. If you’re looking for a place to live, be prepared to spend a lot of your monthly salary on rent or a mortgage. Taxes in Estonia are also relatively high when compared to other European countries. This can be a pro or a con depending on your perspective, but it’s definitely worth knowing about if you’re considering moving to Estonia.
3. Limited Career opportunities
Some people love that there aren’t huge differences between jobs in Estonia, while others find that this limits their career opportunities significantly. The lack of hierarchy also means hiring managers to pass over qualified candidates in favor of friends with someone at the company.
5. Limited entertainment options
Compared to other places in Europe (or even in Estonia’s neighboring countries), there aren’t a lot of entertainment options in smaller towns and villages. This can be frustrating if you don’t have your own way of entertaining yourself.
6 Places to Live In Estonia as a Foreigner
Estonian people love to hate on themselves. “The worst country in the world,” they say, “worst language,” adds some guy at a party who probably took one semester of Estonian in the University of Tartu back in 1991.
Well, we can tell you firsthand that they are wrong! There is so much beauty and good living to be had in Estonia that it’s difficult to find a reason not to go. If you’re considering moving here, below, you’ll find the six places where I would recommend living.
Tallinn is the most easily accessible city from Western Europe and has the largest expat community of any Estonian town. The city is clean, modern and it makes for an excellent epicenter to the rest of the country. Tallinn is also home to many international companies who have settled here due to its proximity to Western Europe, Russia & Scandinavia.
Pärnu – The “Summer Capital”
If Tallinn is the hectic and urban big brother, Pärnu is the chilled-out and coastal little sister. Located on the west coast, Pärnu is Estonia’s summer capital – and when Estonians talk about summer, they’re not just talking about that beautiful time of year when the sun doesn’t set till 10 pm.
Estonians primarily reside in Tallinn during winter because it can get really cold here (the average January temperature hovers around -5 degrees), but flock to Pärnu and other coastal towns as soon as the weather warms up the spring. So if you’re looking for a place where you can actually wear shorts in winter, Pärnu is your best bet.
Tartu – Estonia’s Student City
Tartu is Estonia’s oldest city and second-largest, after Tallinn. The city is home to Estonia’s oldest and most prestigious university, Tartu University, which is also known as the student city. Aside from the students, Tartu is a great place to live thanks to its buzzing nightlife, excellent restaurants, and beautiful surroundings. If you’re looking for a place with a bit of everything, Tartu is the perfect destination.
Saaremaa – Estonia’s “Island Of Happiness”
Saaremaa is Estonia’s largest and most populated island, known as the “island of happiness.” The island has everything you could want from a holiday destination, including beautiful views, friendly locals, and lots of space to enjoy yourself. The island’s capital, Kuressaare, offers everything you could wish for in a small town – from art galleries to concerts by the seaside.
Põlva – The Small Town with Big City Amenities
Põlva is another great place to live in Estonia if you’re looking for a small-town feel with all the amenities of a big city. The town is home to a number of excellent schools, several hospitals and plenty of sports and cultural venues. The locals are friendly and welcoming, and there’s always something going on in Põlva.
Lahemaa National Park
Lahemaa National Park is a beautiful forested area on Estonia’s east coast, perfect for nature lovers. The park is home to a number of excellent hiking trails, as well as picturesque villages, sandy beaches, and dramatic cliffs. If you’re looking for a peaceful getaway, head to Lahemaa.
Frequently Asked Questions about Estonia
What is Estonia known for?
It is a good question to start with, as it would be the first thing I would think of if somebody asked me what Estonia was known for. Estonia is probably best known for (in the eyes of foreigners) is Skype, which was created in Estonia in 2003.
However, Estonia is also known for its contributions to the digital world, one of the first countries to enable online voting and e-government services. Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is also one of the most well-preserved medieval cities in Europe.
What language is spoken in Estonia?
The official language in Estonia is Estonian. However, many people also speak Russian as a second language due to many Russians who have made Estonia their home in recent years. English is also increasingly common, so most people will understand you if you do not know any Estonian.
How do I get to Estonia?
There are many options for getting to Estonia, depending on your budget and how quickly you would like to arrive at your destination. There are often deals on flights from London Heathrow with Estonian Air, which departs daily around 2 pm and arrives in Tallinn around 4 hours later. There are also ferries from Helsinki, Finland, and Stockholm, Sweden, which take 3-4 hours.
What time zone is Estonia in?
Estonia is in the Eastern European Time Zone, Greenwich Mean Time minus two hours. This means that during the winter months (from October to March), it is the same time as GMT, and during the summer months (from April to September), it is one hour ahead of GMT.
Living in Estonia is one of the best things you should consider today. It can be a fun and exciting experience for people from all around the world. Nonetheless, there are plenty of job opportunities natively and through outsourcing, meaning you won’t have to worry about finding a job in Estonia.