Estonia

Thanks to efficient economic reforms in the past two decades, Estonia is now one of the world’s most digitally advanced countries and Europe’s second freest economy.

Estonia, a tiny country of about 1.3 million citizens, is many things: a former Soviet republic, a Baltic country and a member of the European Union — the one with the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio. The birthplace of Skype, it’s also one of the most digitally advanced countries in the world.

When it regained independence in 1991, Estonia had a chance to build new systems — everything from banking to government — from scratch and it used best practices from western nations while dispensing with those it saw as outdated.

The Index of Economic Freedom
, an annual guide published by The Wall Street Journal and US think-tank The Heritage Foundation, ranked Estonia’s economy as the eighth freest in the world (out of 178) and second in Europe in 2015. Its efficient reforms from 1991 onward and its openness to foreign capital have been behind its economic success.

FACTS FOR INVESTORS

1. Tallinn is the capital and the financial centre.
2. Estonia ranks 16th out of 189 countries on the World Bank’s 2015 Ease of Doing Business index.
3. Estonia ranked 22nd out of 146 countries surveyed in Forbes’ Best Countries for Business list.
4. The e-Residency program offers a government-issued digital ID card to foreigners who want to do business with an Estonian-registered company. You can digitally sign and encrypt documents, conduct e-business, access online payment service providers and pay your taxes online.

BUSINESS ETIQUETTE

1. Get the look. Dress the way you would for business in Canada. Suits for men, dresses and suits for women.
2. Tame your greeting. More reserved than Canadians on first meeting, Estonians will shake hands and simply say “tere,” which means “hello.” They may come across as cold but eventually they’ll warm up.
3. Meeting eats. Lunch will be provided for long meetings. Estonian cuisine is exceptional, with many modern takes on traditional fare, such as herring tartare with pickled beetroot and cloudberry crème brûlée.
4. Ticktock. Estonians are extremely punctual. Arrive on time — not two minutes late or two minutes early.
5. Device vices. Mobile phones are kept off during meetings unless there are exceptional circumstances.

TRAVEL TIPS

1. Weather. The country has warm, dry summers and cold winters. July is the warmest month; summer temperatures are typically about 20 C, while January and February are the coldest, with temperatures below 0 C, occasionally dipping to -20 C. Spring and fall can be rainy.
2. Wi-Fi. After decades of oppression, free Wi-Fi is considered a basic human right; the law states that all must have free access to it. Pubs, restaurants and corner stores provide access to those in their vicinities.
3. Languages. The official language is Estonian. Although Russian is the first language for about 30% of the population, English is widely spoken by younger people and in urban areas.
4. Tipping. It’s common practice to tip 10% to 15% in restaurants.
5. Getting around.
Direct flights are available from Tallinn to many other European cities, such as Helsinki. A bus ride to Latvia’s capital, Riga, takes only four-and-a-half hours, while the train to St. Petersburg takes about seven-and-a-half hours.

 

About the Author

Jennifer Campbell


Jennifer Campbell is a freelance writer based in Ottawa.

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