Join now
Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Enjoying a Modern Working Life & High Level of Digitization in Estonia

They love the business culture and transportation options in Estonia but struggle to connect with the local residents.

Expats enjoy a modern lifestyle in Estonia: the country ranks first in both the Digital Life and the Admin Topics Subcategories of the Expat Essentials Index (4th). Over nine in ten expats (92%) are satisfied with the availability of administrative/government services online, compared to only 61% globally. Estonia ranks first for this factor, as well as for the unrestricted access to online services. Expats also find it easy to get high-speed internet access at home (6th) and pay without cash (5th).

Dealing with administrative issues is not difficult at all for expats in Estonia. They rank it first for the ease of dealing with local bureaucracy and the authorities: 81% describe it as easy (vs. 40% globally), and 36% even find it very easy (vs. 13% globally). “Services are usually free of bureaucratic difficulties and demand less paperwork,” says an expat from the UK. What is more, it is also easy to start a life as an expat in Estonia: 80% found it easy to get a visa (vs. 56% globally), ranking the country second for this factor. Only the UAE (1st) makes it easier for expats to move there. 

A Great Business Culture

Their working life is another major highlight for expats in Estonia, who rank the country sixth in the Working Abroad Index. Over three in four expats (76%) are satisfied with their working hours, 13 percentage points more than the global average (63%). And they do indeed work fewer hours per week than the average expat (37.6 hours vs. 40.2 hours globally).

Expats love their work environment and rank Estonia first in the Work Culture & Satisfaction Subcategory. The business culture in Estonia is highly regarded by expats, as they report that it encourages creative thinking (84% vs. 51% globally), promotes independent work (82% vs. 45% globally), and supports flexibility (91% vs. 60% globally). Interestingly, however, 12% of expats do not see a purpose in their work, which is slightly above the global average (9%) and causes Estonia to rank among the bottom 10 (44th).

Safe & Easy to Get Around

When it comes to the Quality of Life Index (12th), Estonia performs particularly well in the Safety & Security Subcategory (6th). Close to all expats (95%) feel safe in Estonia (vs. 81% globally), and 64% even feel completely safe (vs. 47% globally). Apart from that, expats are happy with the country’s transportation system, ranking it ninth in the Travel & Transit Subcategory. A Chinese expat notes that there is “free public transportation in the capital area”. And indeed, Estonia does rank second overall for the affordability of public transportation: 97% find public transportation affordable (vs. 70% globally), and 78% find it completely affordable (vs. 39% globally).

Nearly nine in ten expats (88%) are also happy with the availability of public transportation, compared to 73% globally. Additionally, the vast majority of expats (90%) considers it easy and safe to get around on foot and/or by bicycle (vs. 77% globally).

Great Environment, but the Weather Is Lacking

Ranking ninth in the Environment & Climate Subcategory, Estonia performs well for all aspects related to the environment — but not that well for the actual climate and weather: nearly one in four expats (24%) are unhappy with this factor, compared to 19% globally. An expat from Mexico says that the “long and dark winter” is something she struggles with.

However, Estonia makes it into the top 5 for both the urban environment (4th) and the air quality (5th): over nine in ten expats (92%) are happy with the latter, compared to only 65% globally. “There is so much space for everyone. It is not crowded at all,” says an expat from Brazil, and an expat from Kenya points out the “fresh air and nature” as one of her highlights. She is not alone with her opinion: 90% of expats rate the natural environment positively, compared to 83% globally. Expats are also happy with the availability of green goods and services (71% vs. 64% globally), and 70% believe that the government supports policies to protect the environment (vs. 61% globally).

Mixed Views on Leisure Options

Expats are not overly happy with the food offering in Estonia, ranking the culinary variety and dining options 44th out of 52. A Belarusian expat mentions the “the limited choice of food products” as something she dislikes about living in Estonia. On the plus side, most expats (77%) are happy with the opportunities for recreational sports (vs. 75% globally), and over two in three (69%) are satisfied with the culture and nightlife (vs. 67% globally). These factors balance each other out to leave Estonia in an average 32nd place in the Leisure Options Subcategory.

Struggles with the Local Residents

Connecting with the locals is one of the biggest difficulties for expats in Estonia. The country ranks in the bottom 10 in the Local Friendliness Subcategory (46th), as well as for both of its rating factors. Overall, 30% of expats are unhappy with the general friendliness of the local residents, which is about double the global average (17%). Additionally, about one in four (23%) perceive the people as unfriendly towards foreign residents (vs. 18% globally). “People are quite hard to approach,” says an expat from the Philippines, while a British expat explains that “Estonia’s people are introverted, but not hostile”.

Further Reading