Tallinn, Estonia Report of what it's like to live there - 06/16/17
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?
Yes, it was my first time living abroad.
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?
I am from Brazil. The trip lasts about one day, departing from Brasilia to Rio or SÃ£o Paulo, then to either Frankfurt, Amsterdam or Paris and then to Tallinn.
3. How long have you lived here?
5 and a half years, from 2011 to 2017.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
My house is quite nice. Tallinn houses and apartments are affordable, and it is possible to rent a 100 sq meter apartment in the city center for less than a thousand euros per month. The websites city24.ee and kv.ee are the main place to look for housing.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Grocery variety is a bit limited, household supplies are easy to find. There are plenty of supermarkets spread through the town.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Guava and other fruits.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Local food relies heavily on fish, pork and cabbage. There are a variety of international restaurants, and there are delivery services such as Wolt. The variety has been increasing, and vegetarian options are starting to become available.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Through the local post. They are adequate, but packages need to be recovered from a post office, not delivered to the door.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
It is possible to have a cleaning person or a babysitter for about 10 euros per hour or less.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are many gyms in Tallinn, and they are not expensive. They can be paid per visit or monthly.
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?
Debit cards are more common, but I don't think credit card would be a problem. ATMs exist everywhere in Tallinn. Yes they are safe to use.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Taxi drivers and doctors don't speak English; everybody else does - the waiters, hairdressers, tailors, shop assistants, all speak English, plus everybody you meet around, given they are not taxi drivers or doctors. The Estonian language is very complicated, with some 15 variations for each word depending on the preposition that matches with the nouns and adjectives. Tutors are available and affordable, in case you decide to give it a try, but no one expects a foreign to really speak it beyond "good morning".
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Maybe, as many building date from Soviet times and don't have an elevator.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes. Public transportation is free for residents in Tallinn, and of good quality. Trams and buses are available, but there is no metro. Taxis are easy, safe and available, but usually a bit old and there maybe a communication problem if you don't speak Estonian or Russian.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
It is very much available, even at the beach. Actually, Estonia declared internet access a human right, and there is good quality service everywhere. I have lived in two different houses in Tallinn, and both had it already installed when I moved in.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I use a local provider. I never had a problem with mobile phones, and my bills are around 6 euros per month. :)
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?
Local salaries tend to be low compared to other cities in Europe (tops for a young person with a college degree would be around 1500 euros) and local jobs require Estonian or Russian languages--except for IT, where English is the norm.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
It is not formal, but people are well-dressed.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Not at all. Tallinn is a very safe city.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is of good quality, especially in the public hospitals.
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?
Yes, it has a positive impact. The air quality is one of the purest in the world.
4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Winter blues is a possibility, indeed, as the winter lasts about 6 months, with very long nights.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
During winter it can get as low as -30 C during the night. There is a lot of snow, but skiing is not very doable, as the country is flat. Temperatures go below zero from November to May.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
I don't know any of them, but I know this list here:
- International School of Estonia (ISE) http://www.ise.edu.ee.
- Tallin English College www.tik.edu.ee.
- Audentes Private School http://www.audentes.ee/ib/school-house.
- Tallinn European School. http://www.est.edu.ee/en.
- Tallinn German Gymnasium http://www.saksa.tln.edu.ee/.
- International Preschool of Estonia http://www.ise.edu.ee.
- International Kindergarten http://www.kindergarten.ee/.
2. 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 available, but as the paid parental leave in Estonia lasts for one and a half years, day cares don't take kids under that age, usually.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
There is a big expatriate community, and they generally enjoy living here.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
There are several expatriate groups that connect through Facebook, such as "Foreigners living in Tallinn," and they have occasional meetings. Tallinn has a great night and cultural life, so it is not hard to meet either expatriates or locals.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It is a good city for anyone, except, perhaps, gay people (see next question).
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Well, I had a colleague that left the city earlier because he felt it was not gay-friendly, but, unfortunately, that is all I know on the topic.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Great nightlife in Tallinn, great anytime in Tallinn's gorgeous Old Town, trips to Saaremaa.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Tallin's Old Town. It is not hidden, but it is very vibrant, with many interesting performances, concerts and shows going around, at any time, surrounded by the medieval looks. Amazing place.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
The country is one of the cheapest in Europe, so people usually feel astonished by how low the prices are.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Well-educated people, safety, low prices, beautiful nature.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How happy I would be living in Tallinn. It was better than I expected.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Fear of bureaucracy. Things tend to get solved quite fast at public institutions.
4. But don't forget your:
Umbrella. It rains quite often.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
"My Estonia," by Justin Petrone
6. Do you have any other comments?
The only real problem here is the cold, the rest is either excellent, good or manageable. Well, actually, the cold is manageable too.