5 things to do before traveling to Estonia by Isadaddy

Source: Tõnu Tunnel

5 things to do before traveling to Estonia by Isadaddy

Jason Stinson is a Canadian writer and video editor living in Estonia with his wife and young daughter. His blog, Isadaddy (a combination of the Estonian and English words for 'dad'), documents his journey of rearing a family between two cultures. Here are a selection of his five tips for preparing for a trip to Estonia: 

Ever since the birth of my daughter, I have spent a lot of time in Tallinn and have come to think of Estonia as a second home. The people and the culture are unique and interesting, the history of the land is fascinating and for someone from Canada, places like Old Town are just mind-blowing. I actually find Tallinn to be quite similar to Vancouver in many ways. The climate is comparable and both cities are right on the water. The hipster parts of each town are practically identical.

If you are planning to travel to Estonia, there are many differences you should prepare yourself for, however. The following guide will help you to arrive informed and aware, ready to blend in like a native.

​Begin Sauna Training. Early.

Can you stand the heat?

An Estonian smoke sauna is a traditional treat.

Photo by: Martin Mark

In Estonia, if you don't go to sauna, you are castigated, reviled, ridiculed and berated without mercy or pity. Oh no, wait, I'm thinking of what happens to people in Canada who say they're not hockey fans. If you don't partake of an offered sauna in Estonia, you will feel the very mild touch of indifferent confusion. Estonians love sauna. And that's how you say it, as well - just "sauna." Not "I want to have a sauna," or "I want to go to a sauna." Just "sauna."

"Do you want to go to sauna?"

"We are doing sauna this evening."

"Huh? Why don't you want to do sauna? What's wrong with you?"

So if you want to feel included and enjoy a more authentic Estonian experience, well then, going to sauna is a must...

Begin Cake Training. Early.

Sweet tooth

A cake topped with fresh berries. 

Photo by: Visit Estonia

As with sauna, if you want to be sociable in Estonia you better like cake. Lots of cake. Pastries and chocolate too. Estonians are extremely hospitable and always concerned with the comfort of their guests. If you get invited into the home of an Estonian, you will first be offered water, coffee, tea, wine, cider or beer. DO NOT just pull the Canadian polite thing and say "whatever is easier." Estonians will look at you like you've just sprouted a second head. Make a choice and pick something. I've been in many 'sit-com" situations where Canadian politeness and Estonian hospitality collide to create a gravitational black hole of comic misunderstanding.

Learn Some Key Phrases


Learning a few phrases will give you mealtime conversation starters. 

Photo by: Mariann Liimal

The Estonian language isn't easy to learn, but they sure appreciate it if you try! Why not learn some important and useful phrases to make your visit easier?

Jah, ma sooviksin küll veel üht koogitükki. Tänan.
("Why yes, I'd love another piece of cake, thank you.")

Ma tahaksin küll sauna minna, aga mul on lõhkemata granaat jala sees ja kuumus võib selle plahvatama panna. Pikk jutt, ärge küsige...
("I'd love to go to sauna, but I have an unexploded grenade imbedded in my leg and the heat could make it go off. Long story, don't ask...")

Kas täna õhtul on "Su nägu kõlab tuttavalt?
("Is the "Face show" on tonight?")

Tänan, aga ma tõesti peaksin piirduma 3 koogitükiga.
("Thanks, but I really should stop at three pieces of cake.")

Ma ei taha kedagi solvata, aga ma tahaksin oma püksid saunas jalga jätta. Ja võib-olla ka selle hommikumantli.
("I don't mean to offend, but I'd like to keep my shorts on for sauna. Oh, and maybe this robe.")

Kas päike tuleb veel kunagi välja?
("Will the sun ever come out again?")

Palun, jumala pärast, laske mind siit saunast välja!
("Please, for the love of God - let me out of this sauna!")

Aaaaaayiiiiiiiiieeeee!!! Ettevaatust, auto!
("Aaaaaayiiiiiiiiieeeee!!! Look out for that car!")

Tänan, ei. Ma ei soovi rohkem kooki, aitäh.
("No thanks, I've had enough cake, thank you.")

Want to read the full article? Visit Jason Stinson's blog Isadaddy

Last updated : 16.04.2018