5 Tips to Survive the Estonian Winter

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Riin Rehemaa
Social Media & Community Manager

Estonian winters are known for their stark beauty, however, beneath this picturesque facade lies a challenging reality, especially for expats who are still acclimatizing to this new environment. As temperatures drop, the days shorten, and the sun becomes a rare guest, maintaining good health requires not just warm clothing but also a strategic approach.

Navigating an Estonian winter isn’t just about battling the cold; it’s about understanding how the dramatic shift in weather can impact your physical and mental well-being. The cold can be more biting than what many expats might be used to, and the diminished sunlight can affect mood and energy levels.

Whether it’s your first winter here or you’re a seasoned expat, these five essential tips are designed to help you not just survive but truly thrive during the Estonian winter.

1. Embrace the Estonian Diet for Immunity Boosting

Estonian cuisine offers an array of foods that can help bolster your immune system during winter.

  • Hearty Soups: Traditional Estonian soups such as cabbage soup (Kapsasupp) and pea soup (Hernesupp) are not only comforting but also packed with nutrients.
  • Local Superfoods: Incorporate local berries, like lingonberries and sea buckthorn, known for their high vitamin content.
  • Fermented Foods: Sauerkraut and other fermented foods are great for gut health, which is linked to stronger immunity.

2. Stay Active Despite the Cold

Keeping physically active is key to maintaining your health during winter.

  • Indoor Activities: Consider gym memberships, yoga classes, or swimming in heated pools.
  • Winter Sports: If you’re up for it, try skiing or ice skating, which are popular winter activities in Estonia.
  • Regular Walks: Even short daily walks can significantly boost your mood and physical well-being.

3. Master the Art of Layering

In Estonia, where winter temperatures can be unforgiving, mastering the art of layering is crucial for comfort and health. It’s not just about piling on clothes; it’s about strategic dressing to combat the cold effectively.

  • Layer Up: Begin with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep sweat away from your skin, an essential step in staying warm. The next layer should be insulating, such as fleece or wool, to retain body heat. Finally, top it off with a waterproof and windproof outer layer.
  • Protect Extremities: Don’t forget hats, gloves, and waterproof boots to protect your hands, feet, and head.

4. Understand Local Healthcare Resources

Familiarize yourself with healthcare options.

  • Pharmacies and Clinics: Know the location of nearby pharmacies and clinics. Estonia’s pharmacies are well-equipped and staffed with knowledgeable pharmacists who can provide advice on over-the-counter medications.
  • Salu’s Online Platform: Our digital platform offers a convenient and efficient way to seek medical advice. Through Salu, you can access health consultations, manage sick leave, and have prescriptions filled, all from the warmth and safety of your home.

5. Pay Attention to Your Mental Health

The shorter days in Estonia can significantly impact your mental health, potentially leading to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or general feelings of gloom.

  • Light Therapy: Light therapy lamps, which simulate sunlight, can be effective in combating the symptoms of SAD.
  • Stay Social: Maintaining a regular social schedule is crucial. Engaging with friends, joining clubs, or participating in community events can help combat feelings of isolation.
  • Mental Health Support: For times when you need additional support, Estonia offers several helplines:

Life Line: For emotional support, dial 655 8088. Available daily from 19:00 until 7:00.

Crisis Psychological Help: Available on weekdays from 9:00 until 20:00 at 631 4300.

Remember, Salu is also here for an initial assessment and can guide you to the appropriate resources or treatments for your mental health needs.

Stay warm, stay healthy!

Surviving and enjoying an Estonian winter is all about preparation and adapting to the local way of life. By following these tips, you can maintain your health and well-being throughout the season.

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