Tallinn, Estonia Report of what it's like to live there - 10/06/12
Personal Experiences from Tallinn, Estonia
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
(The contributor is affiliated with the U.S. Embassy and has been living in Tallinn for ten months, a first expat experience.)
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
In-town apartments (easy commuting), duplexes a bit further from town, and single-family homes in the suburbs (30 minute commute in rush hour).
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Availability is great and the cost is similar to the US.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Fast food is not prevalent, but the ones that do exist are very affordable. Other restaurants are prolific and delicious, and there are some that aren't too expensive.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitoes in June and July.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Via the Embassy, although other Americans here use Fed Ex and UPS mostly.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
A little cheaper than in the US (about the equivalent of $70 per 8 hour day).
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Credit cards are hard to use here, as they're not used to having people sign receipts. Almost everything is done by debit card (with PIN code) and via electronic funds transfer.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes, Non-Denominational, Lutheran, Catholic.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
No English-language newspapers.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Very little, as most people speak English. But knowing grocery items is helpful in the grocery stores.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
A lot of difficulty. Ramps are few and far between, as are handicap-equippedrestrooms.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
A 4-wheel drive vehicle is best for icy and snowy winters, but people have managed with minivans and smaller cars as long as they have studded tires.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, and it's rather inexpensive.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Use EMT as a service provider. They sell phones here, or bring an "unlocked" version from the US.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Not really. You'd have to learn Estonian to get a job here, unless you teach English as a second language or substitute teach at one of the English-instruction schools.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Professional and classy.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Acceptable. And, Helsinki is a 2-hour ferry ride away.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Four seasons, but very cold and dark in the winter. Summer is light-filled and gorgeous.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
International School of Estonia should be avoided if you have elementary-school children. The second-grade teacher should be avoided at all costs. The curriculum is slow and up to US standards. Of the families currently here, most people are homeschooling due to ISE's inadequacies. There is another option called English College (and the Estonian Public Schools). They instruct in English in grades 1 and 2 (as of 2012/2013 school year), and each year they'll ramp it up to the next grade. So, within a few years, they'll have English instruction for all elementary-school levels. There, your children will get a great education, although it doesn't have a playground.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
There are none, which is a big problem.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
There are several Russian-speaking and Estonian-speaking preschoosl / daycares. ISE (International School of Estonia) has English-speaking classes for these age groups, but it's extremely expensive and a bit chaotic.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Not in English, but if they're willing to try Estonian or Russian, there are several.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Moderate to small.
2. Morale among expats:
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Lots to do culturally!
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Touring, sight-seeing, Baltic Sea, nice people, the summers.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Old Town and the Islands.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Wool and Linen items, wood handicrafts, ironwork.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Estonia is a beautiful country with four seasons, it is clean and safe, not too big, great for touring, and not too expensive.
11. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, but only if I had children the right age to avoid the International School of Estonia for elementary school.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your: