Estonia is quite a well-kept secret, still relatively unknown in many parts of the world. Across the bay from Finland and Sweden, we are a country of only 1.3 million residents living on 45 000 square kilometres. What we lack in numbers, however, we more than make up for in spirit and big ideas! Here are just some of the reasons why we think Estonia is an awesome place:
Almost a third of all Estonians live in the capital city – Tallinn. And yet we never feel overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of city life, because wherever you are in Estonia, untouched wilderness is only 30 minutes away. Over 50% of the country is covered in forests, the air quality is one of the best in the world, and yet you still get the big city feel while walking between the skyscrapers in Tallinn. Usually, those two things don’t go together, but Estonians wouldn’t have it any other way!
You may have heard of a little thing called Skype. You know, the program that lets you call anyone anywhere in the world? Well, that was developed by Estonians. Although Skype may still be our most well-known success-story, Estonians have created several other extremely successful companies in the recent years, such as Transferwise, Bolt and Adcash. Promoting an entrepreneurial mindset is a big thing in Estonian schools, universities and in the wider society – that is why most universities have startup programs for their students and startup entrepreneurship is even being taught as a separate curricula.
Sweating in the sauna
Estonians, similarly to our beloved neighbours the Finns, love a good sauna. For some people, sitting half-naked in a small dark room with sweat dripping from their every pore is not a fun Saturday evening. For Estonians, no summer evening or cold winter day is complete without an invigorating sauna session. Also, believe it or not, some of the most important business deals of Estonians have been made in the sauna. We love the sauna so much, that we’re even hosting the annual European sauna marathon.
Estonians hate unnecessary bureaucracy. Don’t get us wrong, we still occasionally need to fill in some paperwork or stand in a long line at the bank, but most things we can get done online in the comfort of our own homes in just a few minutes. Whether you’re checking your bank balance, applying for a scholarship, declaring your taxes, or voting (yes, even that) – it’s as easy as opening Instagram on your smartphone. We even went as far as to start an e-residency program, which means anyone in the world can become a digital citizen of Estonia.
As Estonia is such a small country, we need to come up with innovative solutions on how to be more efficient and productive. We rely on the new generations to keep improving the Estonian way of life, which is why education is so important. Luckily, we must be doing something right because according to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the knowledge and skills of Estonian 15-year-olds in biology, geography, physics and chemistry are among the best in the world – the first in Europe and third on the global scale. This quality can also be seen in Estonian universities, as more and more international students (over 10% of the total student number) are choosing to start their studies on forward-thinking and innovative Estonian study programmes such as e-governance and cyber security.