Interesting customs and traditions in Estonia

Hello everyone,

Living outside of our home country requires us to adapt to a new culture and different traditions. What are some of the cultural specifics in Estonia?

What are some of the traditional beliefs and cultural practices that you have encountered in Estonia that are different to your home country?

Tell us a bit more about some of the customs that you’ve found interesting, such as communication style, food, greetings, laws, or festivities.

What were your initial reactions and how did you adapt to them?

Thank you for sharing your experience.


We moved to Estonia from the U.S. and were quickly met with some immediate differences.  Real estate rentals are done through agents (this was in 2008-9) and many of the families were there to greet us when we went to see homes.  This was very awkward for us since in the U.S. people leave their homes when someone comes to see about buying or renting it.

We also quickly learned that it was considered bad parenting to not have our children wear hats as it grew cold.  I’m not sure if this is a Russian cultural tradition or an Estonian one since we only ever approached by well-meaning Russian-Estonians.

I got pulled over once for speeding while going the speed limit (or close to it)...I didn’t know that since it was snowing the speed limit drops.  In the U.S. (or California specifically) going 5 miles or less over the speed limit rarely gets you a ticket in any weather...and if you were to get one you would not apologize for speeding because the culture is that it is better to contest the ticket, if you have the time, to reduce the consequences.  The police officers in Estonia were very courteous, but had me sit in the back of the police car (while my child waited in my car) to fill out the report and they had to specifically ask me to apologize in writing for what I had done.  I did, but it was a shocking experience for me.

The importance still placed on theater and handicrafts was wonderful.  There were excellent puppet shows for the kids and we went to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs that everyone enjoyed. 

Food is quite different.  The bread was much better, but pork anything and beets are nowhere on our shortlist of foods we enjoy lol.  Luckily we did think to import our favorite peanut butter...although we eventually found some.  It was quite challenging to try to read ingredients as they are in several different languages on each package and none of them were English.  Hooray for marzipan!

Most of all I think Estonians celebrate light better than most Americans...maybe because it’s more precious Christmastime in the old town square and with strings of lights up everywhere and with the bonfire celebration.  The lovely candles in so many windows.  In the summer, as the days get long, everyone gets outside and stays outside to enjoy it while they can.

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