The official language of the country is Estonian. Additionally, English and Russian are widespread.
Why to learn Estonian
When considering whether and how much to study Estonian, you might want to take following aspects into consideration.
If you are an IT-specialist or work at university or in an international company, you might not need Estonian at work that much. However, most other jobs require the ability to speak Estonian.
It is obviously worth an effort if you intend to stay in Estonia for long time, but often it is worthwhile to study Estonian even if you are here for just a shorter time.
Generally, Estonians will speak English or Russian to an extent that you´ll manage the most important things. However, the older generations or people in rural areas might be reluctant to use other languages because they think they are not speaking good enough. So you will be much more independent in your discovery of Estonia outside of main cities (and we strongly suggest you to do that!).
The main trick with Estonian language is: do not get too much worked up in grammar (Estonians would tell you with pride that the language is one of the most difficult in the world, but it is just because we want to be proud of something – not because it really is so difficult). Language is extremely important to Estonians and constitutes such a big share of identity, then even saying few words will already make Estonians appreciate it. So you will feel much, much more welcome if you make a bit of effort and try to master the basic stuff.
When you speak the language, you will become acclimatised more easily and will be more at home in Estonia. It will be easier to attend to your affairs with authorities, keep yourself updated with the news, get to know people and make friends.
Where to study Estonian?
There are a number of ways. If you are a student, you´ll most likely have options at the university. If not and if you arrived not more than 5 years ago, and want to build up the basis – have a look at the Welcoming program (it´s free!). If you are an independent learner, sign up for Esonian language program online – Keeleklikk (it´s also free). There are also a number of private schools. But the best way to learn a language is to take every opportunity to speak it. If you feel like practicing in an supported and safe environment, try out Language cafés. But generally, try it out as much as you can: asking for the coffee, buying a ticket, asking for time or directions. Just remember: you don’t always have to understand every word, it is enough to understand the most important things – that´s the gateway to any language.
However, the contracts are often in Estonian only (which confuses some foreigners, but it is due to the fact that …).
Food shops and eating out
There are several supermarket chains. Almost all of them have some kind of loyalty programs (client cards that give some discounts and/or collect so-called bonuses)
Specialized ethnic food is relatively hard to find. Umami might be one of the choices for spices.
Eating out and buying groceries is generally cheaper than in most other Western European cities, but imported items, especially specialized products, will be much more expensive.
How to find a plumber? How to fix your clothes?
News in English
If you want to keep yourself posted about what is happening in Estonia , you´ve got following options
Estonian Public Broadcasting http://news.err.ee/
Online daily newspaper Postimees http://news.postimees.ee/
Estonian World http://estonianworld.com/ is an online magazine that aims to cover Estonia’s global successes in technology, business and the arts and writes about cosmopolitan Estonians and their views, ideas and achievements.
Phone, TV, Internet
For mobile phones, there are three main providers to choose from – Telia, Elisa and Tele2.