Unlocking Estonia’s Thriving Business Culture: 3 Cross-Cultural Tips

Unlocking Estonia’s Thriving Business Culture: 3 Cross-Cultural Tips

Few people might expect the small Baltic nation of Estonia to become an international leader in technological and start-up sectors, but this northern European powerhouse has led the continent in tech development over the last decade. Not only does it have one of the highest ranked business environments (ranked 12th in the world by World Bank), Estonia had GDP growth over 4% in the first quarter of 2017, with high growth in export-driven sectors and wages rising up to 5%. Investment in telecommunications and the accessibility of cutting-edge technology has allowed economic growth to accelerate, and facilitated the transition to free market economies as part of its integration into the EU. While Estonian culture has evolved significantly since its independence from the Soviet Union, certain social nuances remain important for business travelers to remember. If your next business trip takes you to this technological powerhouse, keep these tips in mind for a successful journey.

  1. Changing Times: Considered an international tech industry leader, Estonia is well-known as an innovative society, readily adapting to shifting economic conditions and new opportunities. Indeed, Estonia scores 82 on Geert Hofstede’s long-term orientation scale, characterizing it as pragmatic culture that demonstrate thriftiness, perseverance, and a propensity for investment. For business professionals, this means zoning in on new opportunities, conducting thorough market research and competitive analysis, and collaborating with marketing, accounting, and technical departments to ensure that your project is economically sound.
  2. Eliminate Ambiguity: According to analysis by the Hofstede Centre, Estonian work culture demonstrates high uncertainty avoidance, which goes for everything from contract terms to brand recognition. Jose Maria Rodriguez Clemente, director of a consultancy firm for investment and trade in the Baltics, affirms that even products well-known in other European countries “won’t be easily sold in Estonia if they’re completely unknown.” He advises developing a collaborative marketing strategy with local partners to help launch a product or service, and increase recognition. Likewise, when developing terms and conditions of a partnership or contract, aim for clear and direct communication that eliminates ambiguity and assures mutual understanding of the proposal.
  3. Better, Faster, Stronger: With high government investment in technological infrastructure and some of the most successful tech companies (Skype, Transferwise, and Lingvist all call Estonia home), it’s no secret that Estonian culture values efficiency, innovation, and ingenuity. In the business world, this translates to a hardworking disposition that emphasizes punctuality, deadlines, and quality. Match your Estonian associates’ ambition and drive by arriving early, presenting well-researched data and proposals, and offering a new angle on fresh ideas. As authors of the region’s startup success stories will tell you, the extra elbow grease will be rewarded.

For investors and tech companies looking to internationalize, Estonia is becoming a business hub that offers diverse opportunities and potential growth. Remember keep a determined, forward-thinking mindset, and you’ll be on the way to global success!


Sharon Schweitzer and Amanda Alden co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business,  Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards and the 2017 New York City Big Book Award for Multicultural Nonfiction.

Amanda Alden is an intercultural research assistant with Access to Culture. She graduated with honors from St. Edward’s University with a major in Global Studies and a minor in French, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Intercultural Mediations at l’Université de Lille III. Feel free to connect with Amanda at on LinkedIn.

Photo: Pxhere

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