We all know that we don’t pat the back of a colleague in Korea to thank them for a “job well done”. Or eat with your left hand in India, or sip vodka in Russia. In many countries, these actions are harmless. But in others, they can give a wrong impression or cause offense.

In fact, whatever culture you’re from, it’s likely that you routinely do something that could cause offense somewhere else in the world. So here is:

A primer on how to avoid mistakes in Estonia


Photo by jimg944

In general, Estonians are reserved but efficient. Don’t expect them to deliver too many social niceties or small talk, they only say what`s seasonable. Once the ice is broken, you will find them open and candid. Estonians respect physical distance. The most common greeting is a handshake. Hugs are exchanged between family members and close friends. Always deliver a simple apology even for being a few minutes late to an appointment. Punctuality is a norm and is much appreciated. Do not raise your voice in a conversation. A decent silent conversation is the Estonian way of doing business. If you are invited to an Estonian home, always remove your shoes.

Bringing a small gift such as pastry, wine, or flowers to the host is appreciated. Contemporary history and politics may become a sensitive subject because the country suffered greatly for the effects of WWII and its aftermath. However, Estonians are usually open to share the experience if asked. Around a quarter of Estonia’s population is Russian speaking with high concentration in the capital, Tallinn, and in North-East of Estonia. Make sure who you are addressing. A foreigner, starting a conversation in Russian in the first place is seen as extremely rude by Estonians.

With this, you had the primer on key facts about Estonia, and key facts on culture and customs. Another important part of the culture is the local food and the local drinks. Make sure you read our posts on Estonia food and drinks:

Local food you should try in Estonia and No miss drinks in Estonia.

Other tips that you’d like to share on mistakes to avoid in Estonia? Please comment below.