The Baltic states – comprised of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – are all located in the central northern part of Europe, sandwiched between Scandinavia and Russia.
These intriguing and beautiful countries are often skipped over by would-be expats, but it really is only a matter of time before they become recognised for their extraordinary potential of being a great place to live.
The three countries were occupied by the Soviet Union from 1940 until 1991, but they have since become passionate about being integrated into the European Union, and are now members of the Eurozone with fully modernised economies while retaining many of their traditional ways of life.
You can expect to find a combination of culture, beautiful landscapes and the increasingly cosmopolitan capital cities of Riga (Latvia), Vilnius (Lithuania) and Tallinn (Estonia). These cities are not just beautiful, with a wealth of classical architecture on display, but they are also among the most affordable places to live in Europe.
We have put together this short introduction to provide you with a glimpse into these three wonderful – and understated – Baltic gems.
Estonia is one of the most welcoming countries in Europe, and it has plenty of admirers in high places. Referring to the role technology takes in democratic decision making there, former US President Barack Obama even said about Estonia:
“You’ve become a model for how citizens can interact with their government in the 21st century.”
And it’s true – Estonia is a fast-growing tech-hub with excellent employment opportunities in the services and IT sectors.
It is also one of the most spacious countries in Europe (similar in size to the Netherlands) as it is home to just 1.3 million people – there’s certainly no issue of overcrowding! Furthermore, according to the World Health Organisation it also has the best overall air-quality in the world.
Lakes and forests abound, and you’re never more than 30 minutes’ drive away from one, with nearly 50% of the country being forested.
Tallinn boasts being one of the most well-preserved medieval cities in Europe, according to UNESCO World Heritage.
However, Estonia is also distinctly modern; networking with the world faster than any other nation since its independence in 1991.
As a result of its remarkable growth and the development of its tech industries, Estonia is quickly becoming one of the most favoured places to live in Europe.
Lithuania was the first state to declare its independence from the USSR, and it has now become an exemplar of the Baltic spirit – a combination of leisure and creativity that is balanced by seriousness and conservatism.
Sport is one of Lithuania’s primary passions; basketball is their equivalent of the British love of football.
Many world-class basketball players are Lithuanian, and they are fearsomely competitive, giving them that extra-edge in world-championships.
Like Estonia, Lithuania has a gorgeous landscapes of rolling hills, rivers, forests and parks. There is also the added perk of plenty of castles, with one being in the centre of Vilnius (Gediminas’ Castle Tower).
One of the most popular things to do in Lithuania is navigate the lakes, which are filled with islets featuring restaurants, cafes, and places to sunbathe in the very hot summers. And with all the castles, there is something undeniably fantastical about it; rather like a scene out of The Lord of the Rings movies.
But be prepared to love potatoes though – they’re a staple part of the Lithuanian diet. Whether it is potato pancakes, or a potato bake (kugelis) or potato dumplings (cepelinai), you’ll soon learn to love them – especially when they are served up with the popular dill sauce.
As an expat, one of the major benefits of living and working in Lithuania is that there is a flat rate of income tax. This means that whatever you earn you will be taxed at the same rate regardless. This provides stability and predictability – two Lithuanian qualities.
With it being a relatively cheap, stable and beautiful place to live, being an expat in Lithuania gets a definite ‘thumbs up’ from us!
Latvia has retained its traditional roots and it boasts the strongest national character out of the three Baltic states. Like the other two countries, the modern sits comfortably right alongside the old – its culture positively saturated in both its past and its sense of future.
There are two sides to Latvia: the savvy, modernised city-dwellers living in the capital of Riga; and the countryside folk who live an old-fashioned and natural lifestyle. Many British expats will quickly notice these contrasts in Latvia, and this forms part of its unique charm.
Whether it’s moving to Riga to embracing its opportunities, or wandering in the countryside and tasting the traditional and wholesome food (which shares many things with Lithuanian cuisine) – there is a whole new spectrum of experiences to be had in Latvia.
Riga is packed with stunning architecture that reflects its long, and sometimes turbulent, history. There are German knights, Swedish kings and Soviet commissars all jostling for space in the pantheon of Latvia’s movers and shakers.
Riga is, without a doubt, one of the crossroads of Europe.
However, in summer Riga really opens up.
Many of its restaurants having open patios, with cocktails, lagers, and the true Latvian spirit, Riga Black Balsam, all being available. And before you know it, you’ll be integrated into the Latvian way of life, with their people known for their friendliness.
These three marvellous countries offer boundless opportunities to the adventurous expat, and with their relatively low-prices, burgeoning modern economies, and bright future ahead – it would be amiss to pass up the opportunity of walking alongside the confident youth and new-found freedom of the Baltic states!
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