10 things Estonian expats want you to know,
before coming to Estonia
Let’s say you just got this crazy itch to move to a new country and let’s say you decided this country will be Estonia. You have done your research and already found out all the geographical details your brain craved for. Now all you want to know is, what else should you be aware of?
10 weeks ago we, Tiina Pärtel and Kaisa Holsting, launched a podcast called “Found in Estonia” where we chat with members of the Estonian expat community. One of the questions, that got our guests remarkably excited was: ”What would you want other foreigners to know, before they move to Estonia?” – Now let’s find out, what they answered!
#1 – If there is one thing Rufat from Azerbaijan would like you to know, then it’s: “In Estonia it’s okay to be silent! I would probably add also where it is and that it’s a small country. And it’s always cold and dark.”
#2 – in the second episode you’ll hear how Sandra from Mexico adds: “If you are considering coming to Estonia, try to come in summer so you would love the weather. But if you come in winter, you can get tired really easily, and you will not see the best part right away.”
#3 – Chris from USA shares his thoughts about making friends in Estonia: “There are two types of expats in Estonia. There are the ones that integrate and there are the ones that don’t and it’s very easy to be the one that doesn’t.” His tip for integrating better is to find some day-time and evening activities like dance courses, running or something else. “Keep going in the direction of having these legit interactions with people and keep those, ‘cause that will get you on the road to integration.”
“Also invite yourself – no one’s going to judge you and it’s a lot harder to get invited here…” That’s something Chris learned over the years and especially since inviting yourself might often feel a bit reluctant.
#4 – Rafiki from Spain wants others to know: “it’s important to bring clothes for each season, ‘cause they are very different. You actually have four seasons in Estonia!” Also: “Estonians are not slow! When they are speaking their own language, Estonians are very fast.”
“And be ready to work with computers and to pay with bank cards.” Yeah, that was one of the things that surprised him because in Spain, he says you cannot pay for a bottle of water with card!
#5 – Buluthan moved here from Turkey and mentions that people should be prepared for cultural differences and cultural shock. “That’s because Estonian people are calmer, more distant and keep more to themselves.”
#6 – Avery from Canada lists few very specific recommendations:
- When you’re looking for an apartment, choose outside of Kalamaja. It’s less expensive.
- Ask locals and read those Estonian government sites. When you have a question, the information is there somewhere. And if it isn’t, then there’s at least an email address to write to.
- Getting a personal bank account is difficult. You can also use TransferWise bank account.
- You can’t buy booze after 10pm.
- Age limit for alcohol here is 18.
- Selver seems to be the superior grocery chain.
- Stockmann is a little pricey, but you can get good cuts of meat there. If you got the cash, go to Stockmann, you’ll feel fancy.
- Lunch specials are super common here – so wait until lunchtime to eat.
#7- Before moving to Estonia Shahab lived in Iran, Cyprus and in the UK. He shares: “I think everybody, who wants to go anywhere needs to study a little bit the culture of that place.” And “all foreigners who come to Estonia, should read a little bit about introvertness and understand, that Estonians are not rude if they don’t look at you or if they don’t talk to you – it actually means they respect you a lot.”
#8 – Ada from Ukraine says: “Go for the daily offer and try the foods they have in their cafeteria. It’s actually quite nice.
#9 – Tati from Brazil wants people to get ready for the darkness: “Take vitamine D – it makes a difference.”
“Also just hang in there. The worst part for me was the first quarter, the first three months. At first Estonia is not this dream land, paradise, it lacks this excitement, but it’s so good, it really grows on you.”
#10 – Taavi from Finland keeps it short and sweet: “don’t expect anything and it’s gonna be an amazing trip!” After few thoughts here and there, he added: that everything is really fast-paced: to succeed in Estonia, you have to think fast”