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Estonia - Business Culture

Estonian business culture is quite formal and it is important to follow established protocol when doing business there.

You should always make appointments in advance, and send an agenda for the meeting. Although many Estonians can speak English, it will be appreciated if you translate your correspondence and materials into Estonian.

Normal business attire consists of good quality, smart but conservative clothing.

The usual form of greeting is a firm handshake with good eye contact. Business cards are usually exchanged on meeting. You should always use titles and surnames when addressing your Estonian contacts, first names are not generally used in business here. You should be especially respectful and deferential to those in senior positions, as this is a status-conscious society.

There are many women in Estonian business, and mildly flirtatious behaviour between men and women in business settings is commonplace and inoffensive here.

Business meetings are usually formal, especially in the early stages of a working relationship, and there is relatively little small talk. The most senior person present usually gives an introductory speech.

Estonians tend to be reserved and formal in meetings, and rarely show emotion. Their communication styles are direct and straightforward, although they will be tactful to avoid embarrassing someone or damaging a relationship. Although they may sometimes appear stubborn, you should remember that self-restraint is highly valued here, and try not to become angry or impatient.

Your business presentations should be straightforward and accurate, but avoiding high-pressure sales tactics. Ensure that you are able to deliver anything you commit to, as this will be important in securing the trust of your Estonian contacts.

It is not unusual for several meetings to be required before business decisions are made, due to the hierarchical nature of Estonian business which makes it necessary to consult senior colleagues.

Outside the workplace, you are likely to find the Estonians much more informal and very hospitable.

It is acceptable to give small business gifts to the organisation you are visiting, such as pens or other stationery. If visiting an Estonian home, you should bring a small gift such as flowers, wine or sweets.

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