Things to know

Living in Europe | Access to the culture of the host country/language courses | Estonia


The life-style of Estonians is directly linked to the character of Estonians, the weather and different seasons. In winter Estonians tend to be more home- and work-centred, while summer is a time for active open-air activities and vacations in the countryside. Estonia has an excellent infrastructure of cultural, social and sporting facilities. Throughout the year there is a wide range of activities and events striving to meet and even exceed expectations of local inhabitants and their international guests.

Greeting and kissing

On first encounter, foreigners may be surprised to find that approaching Estonians with warm hugs and kisses has just the opposite effect from creating an open and friendly atmosphere. Most of them at that awkward moment think – just a hand-shake would have been enough…Estonians do not tend to go to extremes with emotionality and sentimentality: opening up and trusting others on a personal level takes longer than with some other nationalities. But foreigners are advised to be patient in order to find an easy-going and fun conversation partner, a generous host and a faithful friend, who will give his or her warm hug only to special people at special moments.

Shoes off rule

It is considered polite in Estonia to take your shoes off when entering somebody’s home. This rule should be ignored only if you are clearly said to leave your shoes on. This has mostly a practical reason as the streets are either muddy, wet or covered with snow for at least half of the year. Walking around in your muddy or wet shoes would make the floor quite dirty. Taking outdoor shoes off when going inside is also more hygienic during summer. Changing your footwear inside is obligatory in many day-care centres and schools. At the office this is rarely the case, but changing your shoes might still be more comfortable in winter, as winter boots might be too warm for a whole day inside.