My name is Alina and I am 26 years old. I moved to Estonia about 1 year ago, after living for more than 6 years as an expat in Denmark and I am originally from Bucharest, Romania.
1. Why did you move abroad?
After I finished my Master’s degrees in Denmark, I worked there for a while, but then decided it’s time for new adventures. My husband is Estonian (we met in Denmark) and I really thought Estonia is a really cosy country, yet constantly developing. I started applying for jobs online, when we were just discussing the idea of moving to Estonia; it all started more like a joke (“let’s see what happens”). But I got an offer really fast, so we decided to give it a go.
2. How do you make a living?
I am currently working in the same company I started working for, when I moved to Estonia and I enjoy it; I am happy to work in an international environment with people from all over the world.
There are lots of opportunities in Estonia in various fields, but especially in the IT sector. Multinational companies don’t require applicants to speak Estonian, so in general I think it is easy to find a job in Estonia if you have higher education and at least 1-3 years of work experience.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I mainly talk to my family via Skype video-calls (thanks Estonia for your role in creating Skype). I also travel back home maybe once a year and my parents visit us here in Estonia, quite often.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Estonia?
Tallinn is a small city and I quite like that everything is close by. Also the old town looks like a fairytale! I simply love it. I enjoy being part of a digitally-oriented society where important things can be quickly solved online. It’s very important for me to be able to sign documents online, pay online everywhere and discuss with official authorities via email. I can’t imagine having to queue in a physical location, to get a piece of paper, necessary for another document, and so on.
5. What do you miss most?
I sometimes feel like my heart is in three different places: one in Romania (my home country), one in Denmark (where I acquired my education and my first work experience) and one here in Estonia. I miss how outgoing and open Romanians are and how happy and worry-free Danes are. I sometimes feel that Estonians are introvert, cold and a little too pessimistic.
6. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I met a lot of people work, both Estonians and internationals. I work with young people from all over the world, some spend quite some time together outside the office hours, too. Also, having an Estonian husband made things easier, as he already has his family and friends here.
7. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
I actually find Estonia has some cultural elements from Denmark and some from Romania. I found it quite easy to adjust, to be honest. For a cultural shock, I have to mention sauna. It’s quite common to have sauna parties with friends, but I didn’t know it is also common to go to sauna... well, naked! (girls and guys, separately though). I felt a little embarrassed as I had a swimming suit on and a towel wrapped around me, while the other girls were very comfortable naked. I blushed, mentioned the sauna was too hot for me, and joined the party outside, hehe. I guess I felt that way because in Romania this is not common at all!
8. What is a myth about your adopted country?
The media says that everyone speaks English in Estonia, but I am sorry to say that it is not true. In 6 years of living in Denmark I haven’t met a single person who didn’t speak English (child or pensioner), but in Estonia I faced
this situation several times already.
9. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
The cost of living is much lower than in Denmark, but so are the salaries. However, it sometimes feels that things are getting really expensive. Yes, it is much cheaper to go out or eat in restaurants compared to Denmark, but I think things are getting more and more expensive in Tallinn, too (see real estate prices for instance).
10. What advice would you give other expats?
Be brave! Being an expat is not easy all the time, but the experience is amazing. You learn so much and you develop some skills I believe you would never have if you weren’t an expat. And most importantly, remember to enjoy every moment in your host country.
11. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog as soon as I arrived in Estonia as a way to document my experience. I really regretted not having a blog while I was an expat in Denmark so I promised not to make the same mistake again. My friends encouraged me to make it public, so here we are!
Alina's blog, Expat in Estonia
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