Who enjoys life in Estonia, expat impressions
Estonia brings together people from various countries, different ethnicities and professions. This beautiful Baltic state is one of the world’s most innovative and digitised nations. The innovative economy, low cost of living and amazing nature attract immigrants from all over the world. Why? Let’s find out.
Say no to bureaucracy, say yes to your career
We should start with the fact that Estonia has no bureaucracy. Many immigrants can attest to that, and this holds true not only for the people coming from post-Soviet republics—after all, residents of Spain, Greece and Italy have their fair share of experiences of dealing with the authorities too.
Estonia employs an advanced model of e-government, which significantly simplifies many administrative procedures. All inquiries are sent out electronically and issues can be resolved online and relatively quickly. Interactions between government organs, as well as government institutions and the people are completely digital (e-Estonia), which has eliminated bureaucratic chains and elevated the work of all government organs to a new level of quality. You can read more here.
The absence of bureaucracy is a characteristic reflection of some aspects of Estonian culture, which is defined by a relatively small distance from power; this allows for a quick career path. Estonia always has a place for bold ideas, which are always much more important than personal connections or hierarchies—there is simply no other way of doing business.
Some people think that Estonia is Europe’s best country for job seekers. This is confirmed by data from Glassdoor, according to which it is very easy to find a job here. Estonia has received excellent marks in three categories: temporary employment, the temporary employment of young people and involuntary part-time employment.
Long story short, if you are looking for a job in Estonia, we are glad to help you in your searches and be your first friends in a new country.
Freedom and stability
According to the Human Freedom Index by The Cato Institute, an American analytical centre, as at 2020, Estonia was one of the freest countries in the world, gaining 7 positions in a single year and ranking 8th among 162 countries. The list is topped by New Zealand, whereas the UK and US share 17th place, and Russia is listed as number 115.
In addition, the centre for humanitarian initiatives, Freedom House, an organization rating the level of political and civil liberties, gives Estonia high marks: 94 out of 100.
8th ranking (out of 169) in the International Index of Economic Freedom by Heritage Foundation in 2021 is also worth mentioning. In addition, as at 2021, Estonia’s international credit rating is listed as AA-/stable (Fitch Ratings) and AA-/positive ((Standard & Poor’s).
The development of financial literacy is taken very seriously in this country. In May of 2020, the results of the international PISA 2018 financial literacy assessment were published. The youth of Estonia ranked first among the representatives of 20 countries that participated in this test.
In spite of the fact that the entire population of Estonia is about 1.3 million, and only about 425,000 people live in the capital, the country is experiencing a true IT sector and technological start-up boom. The number of such “unicorns” per capita in Estonia is higher than in any other European country. According to the data provided by Start-up Estonia, the capital of seven Estonian start-ups exceeded 1 billion USD. This list includes Skype projects, the gambling platform Playtech; Bolt that is constantly extending its range of services; the money transfer system Wise; Pipedrive, a developer of CRM-solutions; the technology company ID.me, and Zego, a smart vehicle insurance service.
On the list of countries most favourable to start-ups compiled by Index Venture 2021, Estonia ranks second. The local start-up-environment boasts a large number of professional meet-ups and parties. Little Tallinn is in no way inferior to large metropolises when it comes to this. They probably played a part in why Tallinn got the title of the most intelligent community in 2020 from The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF).
The presence of a large number of international companies in Estonia has brought numerous immigrants to the country. There are parts of Tallinn where you will more likely hear English instead of Estonian. Many immigrants live here, but locals also have a great grasp of English, so this language is enough for communication and leading everyday life. In addition, most Estonian companies offer free Estonian courses.
Life is also fairly comfortable here for Russian speakers—lately, Estonian companies have begun actively importing IT specialists from former USSR countries, so finding friends that share your background will not be hard.
This is the Top 5 of countries whose citizens received a temporary residence permit in Estonia in 2020:
Source: Police and Border Guard Board of the Republic of Estonia
Comfort and security
According to the majority of Russian-speaking immigrants who have lived in Estonia for some time already, the jokes about Estonians being slow are unfounded, whereas the pace of life of those moving to Tallinn or Tartu from a large city slows down in a pleasant manner. Tallinn’s size allows one to reach any part of the city in about twenty minutes. This can be done by using the free public transport system, a currently popular electric scooter, hopping on a bike or simply walking. However, if you prefer cars, you won’t need to fret behind the wheel—there simply aren’t traffic jams on Estonian roads. Even the airport is located near the city centre, and is accessible by tram.
Some people are shocked to see elementary schoolers returning from school on their own by tram or bus in Estonia. Estonia is a very safe country, both when it comes to the level of crime, and driving culture, which is why parents allow their children to go to the playground on their own without a thought. Legends are told of clickbait news that crossed the local news threshold. Those interested in articles about police officers breaking up fighting hares (of the forest variety) or a rescue crew coming to the aid of a stuck baby squirrel often convene in this Facebook group (in Russian).
Quality of life
For many former megapolis residents, now freed from commuting, the workday evening becomes a revelation—there is time to partake in sports activities, see a movie in the cinema or have dinner in a restaurant, and finish the day off with a walk in the Old Town or by the seaside.
Work-life balance is extremely important in Estonian society. The people are hard-working, but value the opportunity and motivation (their own as well as that of others) to spend time with one’s family and friends, get to know the world in various ways, and leave time for personal interests. It is easy to find a hobby that suits you, anything from currently popular yachting classes or kitesurfing to dancing or playing beach tennis. And most importantly, you now have time for everything!
Ecology and nature
According to the crowdsourcing resource Numbeo, Estonia ranked 12th in the world in terms of quality of life in 2021. The rating is made up of purchasing power, safety, healthcare, cost of living, real estate prices compared to people’s income, commuting time to work, levels of pollution and comfort of climate.
Estonia has low population density and clean nature—three-quarters of Estonia are covered by woods and wetlands. Estonians are rooted in nature, they draw their strength from it, so no wonder that they try to get out of town the moment they have some free time. This country has no mountains, but plenty of fens and raised bogs. Estonians even have a saying: All roads in Estonia lead to a swamp. This is true! The latter is a sort of training camp for those convinced that 10,000 steps are no limit—after all, you can easily spend hours in the bogs. Here you can find special boardwalks that are even accessible with baby strollers. Why? The bogs are rather picturesque. Estonian bogs are a far cry from what you are probably picturing. These are no mires, but rare and valuable works of nature, which could be up to 10 millennia old.
The water in the bogs is exceptionally clean as it contains small quantities of minerals and a lot of organic matter, and in summers you can even go for a swim in one of the small pools. Here you can see a wide range of wildlife: foxes, hares, elks, deer, wolves, badgers and a number of birds. A number of posts with QR-coded signs that allow you to read interesting facts about local flora and fauna have been erected alongside boardwalks.
Almost all forest parks and forests have special health trails, hiking trails that are extremely popular among the country’s residents. People drive to the woods, leave their car at a designated parking lot and continue either on foot, by bicycle or on roller skates. The trails may be three, seven, ten kilometers long or longer depending on the level of difficulty.
The clean environment in Estonia is known to many—the woods are full of berries and mushrooms, and foxes, hares and roe deer may easily cross your path in a town. Even the capital is occasionally visited by an elk, or even a bear. Away from the hustle and bustle of big cities, some lucky people can even catch a glimpse of the elusive lynx right in their own backyard.
On a more serious note though, the environment is a very important matter to Estonia, where drinking tap water has long since become the norm, and some beaches fly the blue flag in summers. In 2021, the council of the Environmental Investment Centre approved over 700 projects, ranging from the protection of the marine environment to improving environmental literacy in kindergartens and schools, as part of a national environmental programme. The European Commission recently proclaimed Tallinn the European Green Capital of 2023 by awarding it high marks in twelve categories ranging from air quality to eco-innovations, which also speaks volumes.
If you have read this far, chances are that you are already somewhat interested in the possibility of moving to the beautiful, free, ecologically clean and promising Estonia. No doubt you still have many questions. Trust us when we say that you can get thorough answers to all of them quickly, easily and free of charge. You can begin gathering information here. Welcome!
To see just how multicultural Estonia is, take a look at the list of people in the expats’ Facebook group.