Life at Scoro: Relocating to Estonia From Abroad
Valeriia is a Recruiter and recently joined Scoro’s People Operations team in Tallinn. Originally from Ukraine, little did she know as a master’s student in 2016, that 6 years later, she would call Estonia her home. Today, she’s sharing her experience as an expat and what helped her adapt and fall in love with this country.
“If someone would have told me 5 years ago that I would be living in Estonia, I would’ve never believed it. But hey, here we are, and now, Tallinn is my home. How so? Well, Estonia has this magical quality of growing on you if you accept it “as is” and enjoy the process of adjusting to it.”
My name is Valeriia, and I am a recruiter at Scoro. I also happen to be an expat in Estonia and I would love to share my thoughts on becoming acquainted with the Estonian language, culture, and weather. Who knows, maybe my story will inspire you to move to this wonderful country as well and experience all the perks life here has to offer.
It all started in 2016 when I decided to join a master’s program in Tallinn University of Technology – TalTech. At the time, I really didn’t evaluate any long-term possibilities of staying in Estonia. My goal was to get a European degree (and European work experience) and then move home to Kyiv to be a specialist with international experience. The prospects of staying in Estonia never crossed my mind, and with a light heart, I arrived in Tallinn at the end of August 2016. I fell in love with the lifestyle, country and the people so much that I decided to stay here for a longer time.
Where to live?
I have to admit, it was not love from first sight. It was much colder, it rained almost every day, and everything around me seemed gray and dull. But, I also didn’t make the most strategic choices to fall in love with Tallinn at first glance. I moved to a rather faraway neighborhood with few things to do, and I do not recommend following my path of choosing cheaper accommodation when you first come to Tallinn. Instead, find a vibrant neighborhood with lots of parks and museums. Surround yourself with cool, hip people, and you’ll never feel sad no matter the weather.
Meeting new people
When I came to Estonia, I had no friends or acquaintances. All I had was myself, and I had to start building my social network from scratch. Luckily, it didn’t take too long before I had friends to go out with, even though almost every ex-pat I met in Estonia warned me about the locals’ reluctance to mingle. “Valeriia, it is impossible to make friends with Estonians” or “Valeriia, Estonians are closed and cold people, you will never become truly local”. To all those advisors, I can only tell that I have made so many great friends, not only from the ex-pat community but also from Estonia, that it is absolutely not true! Yes, it takes time to “break the ice” and meet locals. Yes, you have to be proactive and not expect billions of invitations to come your way, but it doesn’t mean you can’t make friends. Once you start settling in, invest time in getting to know people and what they like, what they do, etc. – the friendships will come!
Regarding meeting expats – this is super casual and easy. Be open to saying “yes” to new experiences, parties where you don’t know anyone, tours where you go alone, but as a part of a group. I used to track some fantastic meet-ups on social media or joined hobby groups to get to know like-minded people. People meet people all the time. Estonians or not, if you want to make friends – you will, but be ready to take the first step!
The language barrier
When moving to Estonia, I soon realized that knowing English was more than enough while living in Tallinn. 90% of the people I met could reply in English without any problems! Nevertheless, I knew it was essential to learn the language if I wanted to feel comfortable and integrated into society. I am a naturally curious person, so picking up a new language was a great challenge. In Estonia, the government makes sure you have access to education, and that’s why you can learn Estonian for free! Mind-blowing, right? The Estonian language is quite challenging, and you do have to commit to studying it, but it is also a great way to meet like-minded curious people! For me, it all started from curiosity and grew into more opportunities. I believe that connecting with local people in their native language opens the door for more growth, career, and integration opportunities.
I got introduced to the Estonian labor market first while I was a student. I started getting some part-time jobs to make ends meet. It made me realize how saturated the work market was here. I always say that if you are in Estonia, there’s a very high chance that you will get a job. Maybe you will have to start like me – waitressing tables or working as an administrator in a hostel. Eventually, you will have the opportunity to find something close to your heart How? The answer is simple: a shortage of people. In Estonia, there is a shortage of good specialists. If you really want to develop your career and stand out from the rest – the stage is yours. With a vibrant start-up culture and opportunities for international folks speaking in other foreign languages, you have a great chance to build your career here in Estonia!
Weather, Northern Lights and other fun stuff
One of the most challenging things people bring up in their conversations about Estonia is the weather. “Oh, it is too rainy, gloomy, and windy”. Then it is too hot, too sunny, etc. For me personally, the weather is not an issue when you have a sound support system that includes a fantastic job, hobbies or things to do after work, and people to do them with.
Estonia is very much a northern country when it comes to climate, and the sun won’t shine every day of the week. If you struggle with cold weather like I do, invest in good thermal underwear and you’ll be able to enjoy being outdoors without freezing.
However, there are many unique experiences you are bound to have when moving to Estonia! In the beginning of my journey, one of my favorite activities was Aurora hunting. You can follow various groups and apps that allow you to predict when you can see the northern lights and go check it out!
White nights are also one amazing thing to get used to. You feel like you have a million hours in a day, and you can do so many different things within one day. I often find myself thinking that it’s 6 PM because it’s just so light outside while in fact, it can easily be close to midnight. How cool is that?!
Things to do in your free time
When I first started exploring my new home, I began with the most iconic tourist places. I tried all kinds of tourist cafes, bars, museums, landmarks, and exhibitions. It really helped me learn more about the culture, history, and people. However, there comes the time when you exhaust all the touristy options and need new things to do.
I started looking into events and places I hadn’t visited yet. My goal was to see all kinds of different places and have a good comparison model. I also started investing more time in my hobbies – movies, books, sports and painting. I found a lot of interesting events to attend and places to visit online and suddenly, life began to fill up with activities and people to enjoy the with.
Next on my list was to explore more places outside Tallinn. I visited Tartu, Haapsalu, Rakvere, Lahemaa National Park, various bogs, and smaller islands. Nature is a huge thing here, so hikes in the forest, bog walks, and outdoor activities are worth checking out. Coming from a busy megapolis, the nature experience really humbled me and I started to feel more and more relaxed with each passing day.
Feeling stress-free and relaxed
Coming from Kyiv, a city with a population of over 4 million, I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of people on the streets. I can’t even begin to describe my excitement when I got on the bus for the first time, and people were not squeezing to sit close to one another. There were no crowds in the mall, no lines to the stores or at the check-out counters. I felt so easy and stress-free!
One more stressor I got to say goodbye to was the commute. At home, I remember staying in traffic for 2-3 hours, planning 40-50 minute subway trips and constantly struggling with timetables. I felt the weight lifting when I moved to Tallinn – everything is so close and you can forget the pain of planning trips or meetings. Plus, public transportation is almost always on time. For an obsessive planner like myself, I couldn’t ask for anything better! It felt like I got my life back, and I could invest my “traffic” hours into something more productive again.
A paper-free life
If you have ever felt like getting your documents/permits/licenses fixed is a deliberate nightmare and a colossal waste of time – Estonia is your safe haven. Once I got my ID card, I started feeling the positive impact of having e-services. Back home, you had to stand in long lines and fill out paper after paper.
“Here, I can do almost all of my paperwork online. Taxes? Piece of cake. Register for courses? No problem. Pay bills, start a company, buy a car? Everything online. And fast! Just log in with your ID card, and boom – you have completed all of your admin while sitting on the couch.”
Looking back at my time here
Being an ex-pat in Estonia was not always easy. While the hi-tech startup culture is thriving, you can feel lonely sometimes. And while there are amazingly long summer days, there are also very long winter nights. While there are many great places to visit, there are always more rainy days to spoil your trip plans. But at the end of the day, it’s all about what you decide to focus on – the new experiences, amazing people you meet and the memories you get to make will surely make it worth moving here.
Estonia has so much to offer to those who are not afraid to work for their dreams and goals. I am forever grateful that I took the leap to move here and feel happy where I am now.
Have you also been thinking about working in Estonia? Scoro supports new team members joining from abroad to settle in and adjust to cultural changes as well as get used to their new workplace. So what do we offer?
- Travel and moving costs
- One month of housing in Tallinn (organized by Scoro)
- Support with local state documentation (including visa and work permit) and processes
- Social Buddy Program and dedicated social buddy to support with cultural acclimatization
If you would like to join Scoro’s awesome team, check our Careers Page and send your application!