Thursday, November 24, 2011

Moving Abroad: Life in Estonia

To compare life in different places there must be something, some base to compare against it. For me such a base is Estonia. And I'm a Java developer. I don't know enough details about other people life. Please just keep in mind, it's all about Java developers. Situation of other people can be completely different at least in some parts.


I don't know any source for Java developer salary in Estonia. The only data I have are from a small local survey. According to that survey median net monthly salary of experienced (2 years or more) Java developer is €1,800. "Median salary" means a half (50%) of experienced Java developers have net salary €1,800 or less a month, while other half of them have €1,800 or more a month.

Here is a small table. It shows what part of Java developers in Estonia have the specified below salary or less. For example, 90% of them have salary €2,100 or less. That also means just 10% have salary €2,100 or more. Please note there are net monthly salaries.


When discussing salary it's sometimes assumed to be net salary, and sometimes to be gross salary. So, it's worth asking. But in employment contract it's always monthly gross salary.


I found a very good tax calculator for Estonia. It's absolutely precise.

Usually gross salary data are available and tax calculators are used to estimated net salary. But this time we go the other way.

net monthly salary€1,300€1,600€1,800€1,900€2,100
gross monthly salary€1,670€2,065€2,330€2,460€2,725


Traditionally in Estonia people prefer to buy a place to live if they can afford it. It explains why number of offers to buy apartments and houses is about 10 times more comparing to number of rent offers.

City24 is a good source of the current real estate prices.

Below are starting prices for more or less acceptable apartments in Estonian capital Tallinn. Monthly loan expenses (in case of 30 year load with 20% self-financing and 3% interest) are in brackets.

1 room (30+ m²)2 rooms (45+ m²)3 rooms (60+ m²)
in old building€22,500 (€75)€28,000 (€95)€34,000 (€115)
in new building€38,000 (€130)€54,000 (€180)€65,000 (€220)

Utility expenses are extra. For 3-room apartments they can vary from €100 to €300 a month, and about twice as cheap for 1-room apartments.

Now starting monthly rent. Also with no utility expenses included.

1 room (30+ m²)2 rooms (45+ m²)3 rooms (60+ m²)
in old building€150€150€200
in new building€250€300€400


Inexpensive lunch is usually about €5, it's approximately €100 a month. Expenses on food depends quite much on your preferences, but in practice for a working adult €150 a month can be enough to buy food and some small house stuff from store, while non-working one probably spends about €200.

The current prices for some food can be found here (in Estonian). Food prices are going up quite rapidly.


Public transportation in Estonia is still cheap. The most expensive 30-day card for all kinds of public transportation in Tallinn costs just €20 for a registered Tallinn inhabitant. Other prices are here.


State kindergarten costs around €40 a month including meals. But there are big shortage of them. Application to kindergarten should be complete right after the birth of a child.

Private kindergarten can costs somewhere from €200 a month.

What is Left

Let's calculate how much money is left after the required expenses. As an example we take an average Java developer, married, with no children, living in 3-room apartments in a new building.

After taxes an average Java developer has about €1,800 in hands every month. He spends €400 for renting 3-room apartments in a new building (or to pay loan for about the same apartments) and €200 in average for utilities. Food for one working and one not working adults costs about €450 a month (€100 + €150 + €200). And €40 more for public transportation for two.

€1800 - €400 - €200 - €450 - €40 ≈ €700

Those remained €700 a month can be spent for cloth, entertainment, vacation, savings… whatever.


Minimum vacation in Estonia is 4 weeks. (28 calendar days including Saturdays and Sundays.)


Tallinn is located almost at 60 degrees North latitude on shore of Baltic Sea.

Here is a good source of climate information. Average monthly temperature varies from -6°C in February to +16°C in July. From December to March average temperature is below zero. From June to September temperature is above +10°C.

Estonian weather is wet. Amount of annual precipitation of 568 mm is not high, but number of wet days per month from 12 (from March to June) to 17 (from October to January) is quite many. Monthly average relative humidity is also high all over the year from 74% in May to 87% in November and December.

Also it's windy in Tallinn. Average wind speed over the year is from 3 to 8 m/s.

Amount of daily average sunny hours is from just 0.5 in December to 9.6 in June mostly because of long summer days.


Tallinn population is 415 thousands. (On November 1, 2001.) According to the official Statistical Yearbook of Tallinn 52% of population are Estonians and 38% are Russians.

Estonian is the only official language in Estonia. Also Russian is widely spoken in Tallinn and in North-Eastern part of Estonia bordering Russia. Significant part of population also can speak English in Tallinn and other big cities.


Estonian Health Insurance Fund provides obligatory state medical insurance. Employer pays 13% of gross employee salary as a part of social tax to that fund.

In case of illness employee doesn't receive any compensation for up to 3 first days of sick leave. Then the next 5 days are compensated by employer at 70% level, and after that the state medical insurance compensates up to half a year at the same 70% level. In most cases family doctor gets you back to work in those 8 days, so state medical insurance doesn't have to pay for your illness.

In order to get free or discounted treatment from doctors, first you have to go to your personal family doctor. If the family doctor decides you need some other doctor treatment, he gives you a written direction. If you go to other than your family doctor directly, you have to pay extra.

Usually appointments to family doctor are available in a few days or a week. But to get to other doctors takes weeks or months. Literally you can die waiting for a visit to a doctor. And that will make your and medical insurance lives easier.

In most cases you can pay some extra to be in a shorter queue. Or you can go to a private clinic and pay even more there. Unfortunately, some rare doctors are not available faster even for money.


State pension system in Estonia consists of two parts.

Employer pays 20% of gross employee salary as a part of social tax to state pension fund. 16% are distributed by the fund to those who receive pensions now. In 2009 it was about €300 a month in average.

Remained 4% of gross salary paid by employer plus 2% of gross salary paid by employee are saved in mandatory funded pension bank account managed by selected insurance company. Amount of monthly pension from that account will depend on actual money available when you are entitled to receive pension.

By 2016 residents of Estonia paid social tax for at least 15 years and are 63 year old or older are entitled to receive both pensions.

According to widely known statistics about half of men in Estonia do not live long enough to reach state pension.


  1. This post answers exactly what kind of info I was looking for. I have 11 years programming experience, little in Java, but am thinking about taking on Java. I'd really like to chat with you. tuleteras at

  2. Thank you on this info.
    It is very useful.

  3. very useful post you explain it in details which are very easy to understand .i wish to read more of your post .

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