Fun and interesting facts about Estonia

Estonia is a country in Northern Europe, surrounded by Latvia, Finland, Sweden and Russia. Its total area is 45,227 km2 (17,462 sq mi) and the population is 1,3 million, being one of the least populous members of the European Union, the Eurozone, the OECD, the Schengen Area, NATO, and the United Nations Security Council. Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, and Tartu are the largest cities and urban areas in the country. The official language is Estonian and most of the residents consider themselves as non-religious.

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Here are some fun and interesting facts about Estonia:

  • Estonia was the first country in the world to allow its citizens to vote online in 2005. With WiFi hotspots all over the country (even in those forests) and all government services available online, e-Estonia is leading the way.
  • Estonia is the first e-government in the world and offers e-residency to people from all over the world. Some of the recipients of Estonian e-residency include Angela Merkel and Barack Obama. It`s a programme to allow non-Estonians and non-EU citizens to gain access into the Estonian e-society, giving them access to the EU single market by allowing them to establish a company in Estonia, by which they would also gain access to banking, payment processing and other business benefits of Estonia, and therefore the European Union.
  • Since 2021, Estonia has both, a female President and a female Prime-Minister
  • Estonia ranks third in having the most startups per capita in Europe.
  • Estonians have the longest paid maternity leave in the OECD – 435 days. Moreover, the amount of the compensation is 100% of the average salary the mother used to earn the year before going on the maternity leave. This, also, applies to paternity leave, if only one parent is on leave.
  • Estonia has 2,222 islands, more than 1400 lakes, numerous fens and bogs and forest land covers 50% of the whole territory. Thanks to that, Estonia boasts some of the cleanest air in the world.
  • The country is flat as a pancake – its highest peak is 318 meters (1,043 ft) above sea level – and it’s also the highest in the Baltic states.
  • Estonia has a population of just 1.3 million but it’s area is larger than Denmark and Holland.
  • Saaremaa, one of Estonian islands is where, according to one measurement, the centre of Europe is located.
  • Estonia is so close to the Arctic circle that it’s shortest day is only six hours long – and that happens around Christmas. Its longest day, on the other hand, is 18 hours and 40 minutes long – around the Midsummer day in June.
  • Estonia’s capital Tallinn is the best-preserved medieval city in Northern Europe and it was the home for the first publicly displayed Christmas tree in 1441.
  • Raeapteek in Tallinn is the oldest town council pharmacy in Europe and the oldest continuously operating medical institution in Estonia.
  • According to the largest ever study of height around the world, Estonian men and women are the third tallest people on Earth.
  • The Song Festival, held every five years in Tallinn, is famous for the highest number of choral singers on stage at once. All together 34,000 people turn up to sing, up to 18,000 people can be on stage at the same time and over 200, 000 people attend the event. That’s nearly 1/6 of the entire population!
  • Estonians have one of the biggest collections of folk songs in the world, with written records of about 133,000 of them.
  • The world’s most performed living composer, Arvo Pärt, is an  Estonian.
  • The sauna culture is believed to have begun 4,000 years ago, but the oldest public sauna in Tallinn was opened in 1310.
  • In Estonia, sauna is a way of life. A way of au naturel life. Many homes have their own sauna which gets used at least once a week. If you’re on the move you can even take a sauna bus or erect a sauna tent. The annual Otepää sauna race, combining orienteering with saunas in the middle of winter, is especially popular.
  • Estonians are world champions in wife carrying, an international sport with a category in the Guinness Book of Records.
  • The Estonian language is one of the hardest to learn for a native English speaker.
  • The first meal consumed in space was prepared in Estonia. A factory in Põltsamaa became the caterer to the Soviet space programme in 1962 and started packaging ready-made food into tin tubes, the only available means at the time.
  • The world’s first underwater draughts tournament was held in January 2011 in Valtu, near the Estonian town of Rapla. The event was attended by 52 Estonian divers and made it into the Guinness Book of Records.
  • Estonia is Europe’s largest exporter of wooden houses.
  • Estonian word “kuulilennuteetunneliluuk” (the hatch a bullet flies out of when exiting a tunnel) is an impressive 24-letter length word and it’s a palindrome – it can be read from both ends and it looks exactly the same. Estonia loses out to Finnish though, which has two 25-letter palindromes in its arsenal, and Dutch, with a whopping 33-letter monster.

The most important words in Estonian:

  • Hello! – Tere!
  • Good morning! – Tere hommikust!
  • Good evening! – Tere õhtust!
  • Good night! – Head ööd!
  • Bye – Head aega!
  • Yes – jah
  • No – ei
  • Thank you – aitäh
  • Please – palun
  • Excuse me – vabandust
  • My name is… – Minu nimi on…
  • Where is…? – Kus on…?
  • Terviseks! – Cheers!

And some tongue twisters:

  • Öö – night (pronounced like i in girl)
  • Tööõnnetus – Employment accident
  • Öötöö – night job
  • Töö-öö – working night
  • Jää-äär – edge of the ice (ä is pronounced like a in man)
  • Kuu-uurija – moon explorer (u pronounced like o in moon)
  • Kuu-uurijad töö-ööl jää-äärel – lunar researchers at work on the edge of the ice during the night
  • Veo-autojuht – lorry driver
  • Habemeajaja – barber
  • Asjaajaja – clerk, secretary
  • Anna õlu üle Ülo õe õla – hand the beer over Ülo’s sister’s shoulder
  • Uusaastaöövastuvõtuhommikuidüll – New Year’s Eve morning`s idyll
  • Jalalaba – Foot
  • Lumememm – Snowman
  • Emme – Mommy
  • Issi – Daddy
  • Vastassuunavöönd – Opposite roadway