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Is Estonia Nordic?

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Politicians in Estonia have stepped up debates in recent years as to whether to join the Nordic Council, and proposals for a new Nordic cross flag are being floated. That it will become Nordic is unlikely, but Estonia certainly has much in common with her Nordic neighbours…


The Local‘s Creative Team

According to recent surveys, 55 per cent of Estonians identify as Nordic. Situated just south of Finland, it’s bordered by Russia to the east and Latvia to the south. To the west is the Baltic Sea that separates it from Scandinavia.

The nation’s largest airport is in the capital city of Tallinn, where you can hop on a flight to any of 27 different destinations, the vast majority of which are major European cities. It was declared the best small airport in all of Europe by Airport Council International and business is absolutely booming. In fact, Estonia has actually become one of the most digitally advanced countries in the world. This is because nearly everything can be done online, from voting, to registering births and deaths. Estonians conduct 99 per cent of their government interactions online, which is incredibly easy to do on the go when nearly all of the country’s public spaces offer free wifi. In 2016, Barack Obama joked that he should have called the Estonians when setting up his health care website.

If you work in IT, Estonia is the place to be. It has the most start-ups in Europe per capita and its workplaces’ lack of organisational hierarchy makes it easy to reach your career goals as fast as your talent and ambition will take you. Estonians have long embraced and understood technology. They created the software behind Skype and Kazaa, two global companies that absolutely revolutionized communications and peer-to-peer sharing. TransferWise, which changed the way the world does international money transfers, was also developed in Estonia, as was the cloud-based startup GrabCAD, which allows engineers to manage and share CAD files and build products faster. Then there’s Estonia’s innovative e-Residency programme, a first-of-its-kind scheme that allows entrepreneurs, freelancers and digital nomads to start and register a company online from anywhere in the world with the backing and support of the Estonian state.

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Estonia has the most start-ups in Europe per capita


Estonians are so proud of their country’s working environment as frontrunners in technology that the country has launched its ‘Career Hunt’ promotion. The top twenty three applicants from fifteen countries are invited to spend an all-inclusive five day trip to Tallinn where they will meet the country’s brightest IT stars, enjoy the sauna culture and skip the queue straight to final rounds of job interviews with top tech companies.

The Nordics may be synonymous with generous parental leave schemes, but Estonia is truly one of the best places in the world for new parents. Embracing the work-life balance of its Nordic neighbours, Estonia offers seven types of parental leave that total as much as eighty seven weeks off. Women are entitled to 140 days maternity leave, while new fathers are given two weeks prior to birth and two months paid leave after birth. On top of that, parents are then given an additional 435 days off to share until the child turns three.


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The proposed Nordic version of the Estonian tricolore


You’d be hard-pressed to find a tech hub with lower living costs than Tallinn. Salaries in the tech sector are competing with global salary levels in the information technology sector and increasing each year while the median rent of a medium-sized apartment is €620 per month. That’s less than a third of what you’d pay in London or Amsterdam and half of what a similar dwelling costs in Copenhagen or Stockholm. What’s more, it has food and drink prices that would make Scandinavians weep with envy. A pint of beer will only set you back €3 (£2.57) and a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant only costs €38 (£32.52) (the country is also home to half the top sixty restaurants in the Baltic). Groceries are equally as affordable. A loaf of bread and a dozen eggs costs only €2 (£1.71), while a liter of petrol goes for about €1.23 (£1.05).

Residents of the Estonian capital were the first in the EU to be treated to free public transport. Since 2013, they’ve been able to hop on the city’s buses, trams, trains and trolleys at no cost. Tallinn’s free transport was an experiment that caught the attention of urban planners the world over, and it’s worked. In fact, it’s been so successful that the Estonian government decided to take it national.


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“Tallinn’s free transport was an experiment that caught the attention of urban planners the world over, and it’s worked. In fact, it’s been so successful that the Estonian government decided to take it national”.


Estonia has a 20 per cent income tax, which is not only well below the rate of the Nordic countries but also much simpler than the progressive tax scales favoured there.  Businesses too can benefit from lower taxes with a 0 per cent corporate income tax on retained and reinvested profit. VAT is also lower in Estonia than in the Nordics, at 20 per cent for most goods and services and a reduced rate of 9 per cent for certain products such as books.

Workers in Estonia receive twenty eight days of paid vacation and an additional ten public holidays per year, leaving plenty of time to enjoy the country’s beautiful nature. And there is no shortage of that. A full 50 per cent of Estonia is forest and there are nearly 3,800 kilometres of coastline to explore. If you fancy yourself more of an urban explorer, you’ll find plenty to your liking in the heart of Tallinn. The city’s Old Town is such an exceptionally complete and well-preserved medieval city that it’s been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Temperatures reach between twenty and thirty degrees in summer but Estonia can freezing in winter. It’s not unusual for temperatures to drop down to -20C but, like their Nordic neighbours, the locals hardly let that stand in the way of a good time. Estonians embrace the winter through a thriving sauna culture and outdoor activities like husky sledding and ice skating on some of the country’s 1,400-plus lakes. The thick blanket of snow also adds a whole new element to Estonia’s natural and manmade beauty, giving you another reason to go out exploring. After all, you’ll probably have some remaining days off and extra money in your pocket.


Article written by The Local‘s Creative Team.


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