Tallinn, Estonia Report of what it's like to live there - 01/28/13
Personal Experiences from Tallinn, Estonia
1. Your reason for living this city (e.g. corporate, government, military, student, educator, retiree, etc.):
2. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
3. 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?
Tennessee, USA. I usually connect through Amsterdam and Atlanta - it takes about 19 -22 hours.
4. How long have you lived here?
(The contributor is affiliated with the U.S. Consulate and has been living in Toronto for 18 months, a fourth expat experience.)
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Tallinn is a small city. Traffic backs up on occasion, but you can get most places in less than 20 minutes.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are widely available. Selection improves frequently.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Seems that one can get almost whatever one needs in the shops here or on the Internet.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
McDonald's is here, as well as the Finnish equivalent, Hesburger. Prices are similar to the U.S.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitos in the summer.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Eesti Post is very efficient.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Widely available and not too expensive.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Many paid gyms are all over town. They all open late, though (after 7:00 a.m.).
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?
ATMs are no problem. If you are living here, it is best to get a local bank account. Everything is done electronically here - it is actually much easier.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes, but don't know the denominations.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Baltic Times is weekly newspaper. There are several online Estonian news sources in English. Most TV shows are in the original language with Estonian subtitles. There are lots of American shows on TV here.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Almost none. Most people speak English.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
The city is not very accessible, but it gets better every day. Every new building is made to EU standards. It's much better than it was years ago.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
All are very safe and very affordable. Residents of Tallinn get public transport for free!
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?
Front-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle. With snow tires, the winters are no problem. Parts and accessories are easily available. I personally think it is better to buy a car here than ship one, due to EU regulations.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Easily available and cheap (and fast).
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Get account locally. I recommend EMT.
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?
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Estonians dress well.
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?
Medical care, in my experience, has been excellent.
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?
Summers are cool. Spring and fall are beautiful. The winter is cold and dark.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There is only one international school in Tallinn, the International School of Estonia (ISE). Previous posts were correct in that the facilities are a bit old, but they are constantly improving. I am not sure what the previous posters' problems were, but my son has been in the elementary school for 3 years. He will have the second-grade teacher next year, and I'm looking forward to it. The elementary school in general has a great program and a very caring staff. The program is rigorous and challenging to the students. I have talked to other Americans that have returned to the U.S. after being at ISE, and their children are thriving (and missing ISE). I've heard horror stories about English College - first graders in rows doing nothing but worksheets, everyone speaking Estonian, and no playground! ISE is the only option in my opinion.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
ISE has a special needs program. The school is small and each child gets what they need.
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?
Preschools are widely available. ISE has a good preschool program (my son went through it). It is more academic than most.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Lots available, but mainly in Russian and/or Estonian. I have known lots of Englis- speakers that do it, though. Someone always speaks English.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
Very good. Americans from the embassy are very insular.
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 of possibilities.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It is a good city for all of them.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
It's not bad from what I hear. The gay community is active.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Some problems with Estonian-Russian relations, but that is all I have ever seen.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Visiting the islands and exploring the natural wonders (there are many).
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Linens, woodwork, ironwork, and sweaters. Art is good here too.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Estonia is quite culturally unique. Weather is not bad, but the winter is a reason NOT to live in Estonia.
11. Can you save money?
This depends on your fiscal behavior.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?