As promised, I am asking to international travellers and people living and working in a foreign country to share their life stories with me to know why they decided to leave families and friends behind to explore new realities and meet new cultures!
Are you curious about how they managed to adapt and settle in their new countries? Then follow my expat interviews categorised by country! Are you an expat wanting to share your tips and experience with the rest of the world and be a source of inspiration? Then fill in the expat interview form: I would love to hearing from you!
“Travelling—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” Iba Battuta
Let’s meet Anima: an entrepreneur expat now living in Tallinn
Introduce yourself briefly. Tell us who you are!
Hello! My name is Alexandra Nima (Anima). I run a German copywriting and outreach agency in Tallinn, as well as the Tallinn for Entrepreneurs Walking Tours on Airbnb– because being a foreigner in Estonia can get pretty lonely.
I used to be a performance artist, and quite active in media, but some years ago, I developed a rare autoimmune disease, that put a halt to my singing (and startup) ambitions.
My business in Tallinn is an attempt to get back to normal financially and save enough money to be able to work on my music tech start-up full time.”
Why did you move to your current country?
I originally came across Estonia when researching potential candidates for an Erasmus+ Exchange for Entrepreneurs. I was specifically researching countries that would make it easier (and cheaper) to start a business than my home country, Austria. It also needed to be a place with a high level of culture, and technology, because I had hopes to found my own (music) tech company. I was also aware of the possibility of Estonian E-Residency, but decided to go all-in instead.
What do you do for a living? How was the job hunting?
I have my own start-up providing copywriting services/outreach, and organise walking tours for business tourists.
I was, however, working for an e-commerce Russian company as German Amazon channel manager before, which was fairly easy to find. I had no clue what selling on Amazon was like, so there was a lot to learn.
I would say Estonians in the city are as open as Americans as to what a person can learn or do: it is a start-up country after all. Unfortunately, the pay isn’t great, unless you speak Russian and Estonian and are willing to put in insane hours. (which for me it wasn’t possible due to my autoimmune illness).
How is the social life in your city, is it easy to make friends?
Life in Estonia as a foreigner can be pretty hard. Being a newbie in a highly competitive and fairly “cold” landscape is especially painful if the person comes from a more emotional, altruistic, and social environment.
To generate a more “human” connection away from my digital marketing job (and make friends), I eventually decided to take on German and English Lokafy tours in 2019.
This soon branched out in my own format- Tallinn Business Walks for Entrepreneurs– on AirBnb. This way, I was able to generate new friends and survive the cold on the in and the outside.
I do not recommend you to move to Tallinn if you’re an empath, and used to have a broad, loving social circle.
Why should people move there? Why did you fall in love with this place?
You should move to Estonia to start a business cheaply and efficiently. You could also be a digital nomad, and register for e-residency, which I consider the best option these days.
Stay in Tallinn in the summer months 6 months and a day for tax reasons and pleasure, and live abroad for 5 months and 29 days. I have seen many pensioners doing exactly that.
I fell in love with the beautiful local nature, and the freedom self-employment can give you.
What do you want to say to people looking to move there?
Book a tour with me– I provide people with a 7-page long list of links that cover all eventualities. To get started, the International House of Estonia provides useful workshops and tours for foreigners.
My top advice: you won’t get much real help from the Estonians when looking for a flat, or a job- at least not at the beginning. Try to network with foreigners (and some Russians) who have lived in the place for a while.
How is the health system? Is it a safe place to live in?
You can feel safe walking alone in the streets at night. It is a fairly safe town- so no worries if you’re a (single) woman, or belong to a more vulnerable minority. (Please note though that the country is quote conservative, so if you’re LGBTIQ+, I would try to blend in as much humanly as possible.)
The health system isn’t as bad as in the UK, but not much better either. It can be a chore for foreigners to find and get accepted by a family doctor (basically your GP)- it took me months to find one that would speak sufficient English and willing to accept a foreigner.
Plus: If you have special needs, don’t expect any of the local GP to even know what you’re talking about. Unless, of course, you’re rich- then it all becomes very doable very fast. “
How is the general cost of living, what is the average rent?
Talking about the cost of living: 800-1000 Euros, the average rent for a room is 250-300€, for foreigners it is 400-500€.
A small flat costs 400-500€ with amenities, but those are hard to get for foreigners, or too tiny.
Public transport is free with city card (if you’re a resident), or a monthly ticket costs 20€.
As for food, it depends: organic food is as costly as in DACH, normal food is a little cheaper than in Austria or Germany. I noticed that carrots, onions and apples are INCREDIBLY cheap, (30-70 cents) per kilogram.
Tell us something you don’t like about where you live and the difficulties you came across when settling in.
The lack of emotional connection, resulting in the broad lack of deep (aka true, wholistic) creativity and the mass of people with a lot of money (not even talking about money laundering) who flock to Estonia.
As a foreigner, you will pay double rent, and miss being around with friends.
Tell me an unmissable thing to do in your city over a weekend
You ask a tourist guide, really? 🙂 Well, everyone does an old town tour first- which is spectacular, and full of creepy and beautiful fairy-tale-like castles, and places.
I would personally visit the Energy museum and Lennusadam museum, for huge Tesla spools in action, and original submarines and planes to check out.
If you have a little time, in summer, leave the city to visit Lake Rummu. An unforgettable, very special place- a submerged limestone quarry, covered by a lake one can do multiple types of water sports on. Or travel to see Palmse Manor and Lahemaa National Park. As I said… the nature here is quite beautiful.
Did you find Alexandra’s experience useful? Then check out the other upcoming expat interviews in other cities!