The Estonian Cultural Background

Religion
o During Soviet administration religion became a form of silent protest for most Estonians.
o Since independence religious organizations have again begun to appear.
The largest church is the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church.
o In 1989, the largest churches established the Council of Estonian Churches (CEC) with the purpose of uniting the different churches to promote spiritual development for all Estonians

Cultural Traditions
o Estonian culture as an identity is very strong.
o Oral traditions especially have played a key role in preserving traditions, stories and customs during Soviet administration.
o Singing is a very Estonian activity and the Estonians are known to have sung their way to freedom during the “Singing Revolution” of 1989-91.

Meeting and Greeting
o Greetings can come across as rather formal and rather reserved.
o Men should initiate greetings with women and the younger person always greets the older person.
o When meeting someone make sure you are stood up, offer direct eye contact and give a nice firm handshake.
o The most common greeting is “tere” (“hello”).
Titles are very important. “Härra” is for Mr, “Prova” is Mrs and “Preili” is Miss. All should be followed with the surname.
o Only use first names once you have been invited to do so.

Gift Giving Etiquette
o Gifts are usually exchanged for birthdays and at Christmas.
o Gifts need not be expensive as it is more about the thought than monetary worth.
o If you are invited to an Estonian’s house, a decent gift is a bring a box of chocolates or flowers.
o Flowers should be given in odd numbers.
o Gifts are usually opened when received.

Cuisine: Traditional Estonian cuisine has substantially been based on meat and potatoes, and on fish in coastal and lakeside areas, but now bears influence from many other cuisines, including a variety of international foods and dishes, with a number of contributions from the traditions of nearby countries. Scandinavian, German, Russian and other influences have played their part. The most typical foods in Estonia have been rye bread, pork, potatoes and dairy products. Estonian eating habits have historically been closely linked to the seasons. In terms of staples, Estonia belongs firmly to the beer, vodka, rye bread and pork “belt” of Europe.