For a nation of around 1.3 million inhabitants, Estonia has made a real impression on the world stage since regaining its independence less than two decades ago. In the mid-1980s, it was known, if at all, as a Soviet backwater, but the collapse of Communism saw the emergence of a republic determined to make up for lost time and establish itself as a forward-thinking Western state.
For all their love of entrepreneurship, the digital age and all it has to offer, Estonians are quiet and reserved, hardworking, fiercely jealous of their privacy, and lovers of nature. They can seem distant, almost rude on first meeting, but if you make the effort to get to know them, their sincerity and self-deprecating humor shine through. As one businessman who works in Tallinn observed, “an Estonian friend is a friend for life.”
Culture Smart! Estonia is for any visitor—whether businessperson, student, or tourist—who wants to understand Estonian society and be culturally prepared for a visit. We trace the country’s turbulent history and try to see how the past has shaped the collective and personal values of today’s Estonians. We look at the Estonian people at work, at play, and at home, and offer tips to help you get along with Estonian colleagues and acquaintances—without any awkward silences!
Estonians don’t engage in much small talk. Plain, direct speech and saying what you mean are what is valued. To follow a greeting with “How are you?” may be seen as a personal question that requires an honest, in-depth answer.