Instructors working in the programme Settle in Estonia share their experiences

In their work, the instructors working in the programme Settle in Estonia meet foreign nationals who have relocated to Estonia almost every day. Over the years, they have gathered a number of interesting stories and obtained a good overview of the immigrants.

Martin Lään, one of the founders of Expat Relocation Estonia OÜ, used to teach training courses himself, but now he mainly deals with the management of the company and provides consultation to individual private clients. Before Martin started a company for consulting new immigrants, he had been a diplomat for year and had obtained an MBA degree in Switzerland. Over the course of his career, he had been networking with foreign nationals a lot and would often offer help and advice to those who relocated to Estonia. At one point, Martin arrived at the conclusion that there was no adaptation counselling service in Estonia although there seemed to be a demand for it, and this was what inspired him to establish the firm Expat Relocation Estonia OÜ.

Within the scope of the programme over the years, Martin has generally met very well-disposed people who had sincere intention to integrate into Estonian society and wanted to understand its systems and cultural peculiarities. A number of the people who had participated in in the courses within the programme have become Martin’s or his colleagues’ good friends or partners.

One Example Martin mentions is Vitali from Ukraine, who attended the language course of the programme to obtain level A1 Estonian language skills. After this, Vitali was Expat Relocation Estonia OÜ’s partner in the creation of a number of interactive study aids for the programme. Martin says that Vitali has adapted very well in Estonia; he is enterprising, open to change and can notice new opportunities. Because of all of this, Vitaly has also acquired a broad circle of friends and acquaintances in Estonia. He has recently founded a new radio station in Estonia called Relax FM.

Another nice example Martin tells us about is Oksana, who had also initially taken part in the programme as a student. Oksana was fascinated by the programme and soon became Martin’s partner and assistant responsible for translations and editing texts in Russian.

Another participant of the programme whom Martin remembers vividly and still meets from time to time to exchange experiences was Hamid from Iran. Hamid is an IT entrepreneur whom Martin supported in adaptation in Estonia. He was a very enthusiastic student taking great interest in the language. Even before Hamid started attending the A1 language course, he used to listen to Estonian radio stations and watch local TV channels, picking up interesting phrases which would create a lot of excitement during the language course. These days, Hamid manages to communicate in Estonian quite nicely albeit on the beginner’s level, and he copes with living here well, together with his wife and daughter.

The part of the basic module of the programme Settle in Estonia on Estonian culture and traditions also generates a lot of excitement. Martin remembers one participant from the US who considered the typical American extroversion and always asking “How are you?” to be superficial and was greatly enjoying the Estonian communication culture, which is far from being that obtrusive or superficial.

As far as Christmas is concerned, Martin remembers the foreigners’ puzzlement at the fact that Estonians would not invite the foreign friends they had just met to spend Christmas Eve at their place although they knew foreigners might feel pretty lonely during the holidays. Martin has had to repeatedly explain that Estonians regard Christmas as the period to be spent in the privacy of one’s family without organising a huge celebration. One solution for the expats may be getting together to celebrate Christmas in a larger group.

Martin says Estonia’s small size is often a source of confusion for foreigners, and they find the exactly opposite perception of the country by Estonians especially befuddling. Expats from megapolises of the world are surprised to hear Estonians complain about long distances or traffic jams because, in fact, everything is nearby in Estonia. A person from Delhi, London or Rio De Janeiro will think nothing of a two-hour trip from Tallinn to Tartu whereas an average Estonian regards it as a nuisance of a long ride. It is seeing Estonia through the eyes of foreigners which is one of the most fascinating aspects of his job, Martin says.

Settle in Estonia Instructors

Veiko Värk has been a member of the Expat Relocation Estonia’s team since the beginning of the programme, and his daily job is teaching the foreign nationals.

Veiko says that every course is an opportunity to meet new people with fascinating backgrounds and notes their desire to adapt better in Estonia and feel at home here is what unites all of them. The expats whom Veiko teaches mainly have a sincere wish to better understand Estonian culture and society. He is often asked for tips and advice on how to start a conversation with Estonians, what to talk about and which topics to avoid, which is something that demonstrates sincere interest to interacting more with locals.

Veiko feels his job has given him plenty of opportunities to see Estonian and Estonians through the eyes of foreigners, which has enriched his own perception.   For instance, the fact that there are four completely different seasons of the year in Estonia does not surprise us at all but is fascinating for a person who comes from somewhere near the equator and is used to only two seasons. Another example is that expats from major cities are often pleasantly surprised to discover Estonia is so safe that primary school students can be allowed to move around by themselves, going to school and back home, to a sport session or for a walk with friends. Because of the crime level, this is out of the question in many major cities. Veiko says that every course gives him reasons to feel pride and joy about Estonia.

Expat Relocation Estonia OÜ is a company founded in 2013 and specialising in offering various support services to expat specialists upon their arrival in Estonia. The list of the services provided to the foreign nationals arriving in Estonia is a long one and includes counselling before relocation, organisation of the relocation and solving various legal and everyday issues in Estonia. Expat Relocation Estonia OÜ the main organiser of the courses within the programme Settle in Estonia.