Una guarita en proceso de estonización

Archive for the ‘Estonia’ Category

Mejor explicación, imposible.


Less than a week! 5 days to be exact. That is the time that went by between the day I applied for a long term residence permit and the approval day. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. Let me share the news:


The fact that it was so quick makes it more exciting, ironically, as there was no time to build momentum. Well, actually, there was plenty! About 4 years between the moment I decided to get it and the moment I met the living period required to opt for it.

For those who are not familiar with being an immigrant from a third world country in a EU country, let me give you some context:

Being from Venezuela (this varies from country to country), I require my employer to agree to provide the necessary paper work (and if they really want you also paying for the state fee) so that you can apply. As an employer, in order to apply, you have to justify that you are hiring a person from another country, like me, because you have not found, after X period of hunting, the right candidate in the local market. That means that you cannot get just about any job.

I have never had issues with that, but knowing what that means, theoretically, it’s always been nerve-wracking, because it means: no employer = no papers = no right to stay (though there’s a period of grace. I believe is ~3 months). So if you were to find yourself unemployed, not only are you worried about income, but about the fact that you can get kicked out of the country soon! The chances of that happening to an educated person, in her late 20s, and with experience are low. But I  must confess, I am paranoid.

This paranoia could only be resolved by getting a long term permit. For that, I needed (among other things) to have:

– A certificate of Estonian language of, at least, level B1.
– Lived in the country for at least 5 years with a valid temporary permit for working/living (plus other conditions withing this period).

The longest wait, though, was the one for the language examination results: they said 30 days and 30 days it took. I expected them every day and every day I was left without news. Until December 17 2013, exactly 30 days after taking the examination, I got the news:

However, instead of going straight to the police office, I invested my energy of that month (just as every year) spending time with friends using the holidays as an excuse, but after getting tired of the celebrations, and setting the tone for the new year, on January 3, 2014, I went to the police office to submit the so long expected application for the long term residence permit.

Before that, on January 2nd, I had to trash 3 applaction forms which I filled in wrongly. Then I struggled a bit with eesti.ee site structure trying to get a paper copy of my language certificate because, just like everything in Estonia, I only had a digital copy (magic!). I brought 6 copies of my payslip as proof of income and I got my passport.

Once at the police station, they didn’t need any of that, except for the passport, because everything is online! I signed, had my fingerprints scanned, paid and left not without checking in on Foursquare first! (my most popular check-in ever, btw :)).


And 5 days later I got the great news! I now have:

– Left paranoia behind.
– The right to vote in local elections.
– The right to buy a place if I wanted to.

Isn’t it great?! I think it’s awesome!

Today took place a Job fair at the Tallinn University of Technology. This had, to my understanding, two main goals:

1. Show foreign students in Estonia what are the job opportunities for them in the market and encourage them to stay and work in Estonia when finishing their studies.

2. A seminar for employers to see the opportunities and challenges faced when it comes to attracting foreign talent.


As an immigrant myself, I have always been fascinated by this topic so I was super happy when I was invited by one of the organizers to talk in the seminar for employers and share my experience as an expat working and living in Estonia. I was not expecting it to be of so much interest, but since it happened to be so I decided to share what I presented in the seminar here in my blog too and perhaps fill your curiosity or exchange points of view.

Being my personal experience, everything I share here is nothing but subjective. So please, do not take my views as a final statement. Feel free to spit out your own thoughts or even questions in the comments’ section below.

A Venezuelan working and living in Estonia
(you can see the slides I used here)

Part zero: Clarification

I have lived in Estonia for 5 years and half now. I am not:
– Married or dating an Estonian (my husband is also Venezuelan).
– An IT Professional (although one thing lead to another and I am now in IT project management).
– Working in companies like Skype/Microsoft or the like.

These are 3 very common reasons why you find foreigners living here and, at least at first sight, these are not mine.

Part number 1: The comfort zone

I called this the part that answers to the question of “Why I came to Estonia?”, although I did not really come to Estonia. I did not even know Estonia existed 6 years ago. I actually decided to leave my country. And why? I guess one of the reasons is my family’s background. My father is a Colombian who moved to Venezuela when things were better in the latter country. He then went back when the situation went in the opposite direction. He taught us to go get a good life wherever that was. To get to know places, languages, cultures. Starting from there I grew up thinking that staying were I was born and make a life there was going to be too familiar, comfortable, predictable and boring. It was going to be getting stuck. It was inconceivable. It was staying in “the comfort zone” and that was not good. So when I finished University I followed the steps of three of my siblings who had already moved abroad and had lived in one or two other countries before choosing a final one. I ended up going to “where the magic happens” and that happened to be Poland.

Estonia came to the story because my husband Luis, who decided to join me in the plan of leaving our home country, got two offers: one from Czech Republic and another from Estonia. That is when we found out the country existed and that it was very “e”, perfect for his career (he’s a software developer). So he went there and I went to Poland. One year later I would join him in väike kauge Eesti* and so I guess that makes me a liar as I do fit in one of the 3 reasons I mentioned above.

*That stands for little remote Estonia in Estonian language.

Part number 2: The theory of games (or the beauty of the blondie’s friend)

I called this part such because of the scene of the movie “A beautiful mind” (one of my favourites) in which John Nash (played by Russel Crowe) explains the theory of games. In here I try to answer to “Why did I stay in Estonia?”. It really has nothing to do with the theory of games (I know nothing about economics), I just thought that having come Estonia is like having chosen one of the friends of the blonde: not too pretty at first sight but with charming things discovered along the way. An example of these charming things is when Luis and I were deciding where to get married: Estonia or Poland? We for sure did not want to go through the hassle in Venezuela. So we started comparing the places where we were living and…

In Poland I…
– Had to go to public offices and queue.
– Not always found someone who could speak (well) English.
– Had to wait for at least 9 months to get married.

In Estonia Luis…
– Found out the information online.
– When contacting offices to be 100% sure of the info, communicating in English was easy.
– We had to bring our passports, pay the fee and choose the date. One month after I came to Estonia we were getting married.

You get my point: no bureaucracy, easy access to information, straight to the point. I also like that I do not have to waste time in traffic jams, or queue in the bank or spend 2 hours commuting. I can use all of that time in things that I care about.

Part number 3: The white canvas

In here I try to answer to the question of “Why would I stay in Estonia for longer?”. Someone ones told me that Estonia was a like a white canvas: there were many things to get done. You could be one of the people doing them. I think is like a partially painted canvas. A lot is done, and a lot more can be done. You can be one of the artist painting on it. And because of the points mentioned above it is easy to do so. An example of this is when Luis, some friends and I decided to work on social projects (2009-2011). We did not have to waste much time registering or doing paper work. We could spend our time doing what was important. We managed to get to know a lot of people, organizations, get our stuff done which was not easy because of the nature of NGO projects, but easy (I am certain) compared to other environments.

Part number 4: My experience with working environments

I have two different professions: Management and Spanish Teaching as a Foreign Language. My first job in Estonia was as a teacher in a language school. My first surprise was that everything was in Russian rather than Estonian. That is a reality that other immigrants do not always have to face (in places like Belgium or Canada, yes, but to me those are exceptions): having to understand two new foreign languages and their cultures and their differences. It takes time. It’s hard. Additionally, as I come from a culture in which everything is done like baboons or elephants (together), it is hard to find that here interactions at work (or outside of it) are limited to the necessary (at least in the first few years). One difficult anecdote that can give you an idea is when one day I asked a colleague (as I did every day for 2 years) “Hello, how are you doing”? and I got as as response “Why are you always asking that. You do not care how am I doing and is annoying so stop asking me that!”. That was a lady of about 60 years of age that, even if an English teacher, was not at all OK with opening herself to other cultures which you would guess someone who teaches a foreign language would do. That was my assumption about all my colleagues: foreign language teachers = open to foreign cultures. I was wrong. My closest bonds in this work place were with my students.

My second job was at another language school, this one dedicated to teaching Spanish only and owned by a Spanish. My colleagues were usually from other Spanish speaking countries and if local, they had studied Spanish intensively and had lived in another country for at least a short period of time. This meant that I created bonds with my students but also with my colleagues.

Now I work in a British company. I have Estonian and Russian-Estonian colleagues, as well as from other nationalities. I now have a circle friends outside the office built across these years here so I do not worry as much as I used to about the relationships at work. And if I had to, they are fine where I am at and it probably has to do with the variety of people in it.

Part number 5: Job offers and personal life

In here I sum up what I think are the offers available for foreigners and how does one build a life outside of work.

The offers are: limited or self-made. Because of the complexity of the local language, you find very few people learning it to become fluent. This means having access to just a few job offers. On the other hand, because of what I explained in parts 2 and 3, it is very easy to start your own business if you want to (and have the guts to do so). The majority of foreigners I know work in IT or have their own business. Only a handful of them work in something else.

Making local friends is a slow and difficult process, particularly if you come from a tribal culture like mine in which doing everything with someone and talking to just about anyone is the rule. Making friends with an Estonian will require a lot of dedication and patience. That is why most of my friendships have been built around International circles. There are Estonians in that circle, but they have an International mindset (they date a foreigner or have lived abroad or are simply interested in other cultures and languages). I think in my case the fact of being with my husband who comes from the same city that I come from also helps a lot.

I will leave it until here and, I repeat it, if you have comments or questions feel free to shoot down there. I will be happy to keep the conversation around this topic going.

Este año, el Ministerio de Cultura de Estonia comenzó a trabajar en una Estrategia de Integración y Cohesión Social en Estonia 2020.

Como parte de este proceso se organizó un proyecto llamado “Foro abierto” cuya intención era incluir a los inmigrantes de países del tercer mundo y de nacionalidad no identificada en el desarrollo de la política de integración del país.

Me pareció una idea maravillosa y desde la primera invitación acepté tomar parte. Desgraciadamente, por circustancias ajenas a mi, no pude ser parte del proceso, pero he estado siguiendo de cerca lo que ha pasado.

Open Forum

El proyecto fue organizado siguiendo la metodología de páneles ciudadanos, en los que se reúne a una muestra representativa de la población en cuestión para identificar problemas y proponer soluciones. Esa es la más interesante del asunto: la propuesta de soluciones de la mano de las mimas personas que experimentan ciertas situaciones.

Los páneles se organizaron en diferentes ciudades del país y en dos lenguas: ruso e inglés. Los temas que se discutieron incluyeron: mercado laboral, educación, idioma (estonio), diversidad y tolerancia, entre otros.

El resultado final del proyecto está publicado en inglés, estonio y ruso. Puden ver la versión en inglés aquí: http://issuu.com/clash/docs/misa_raport_engl_

Me agrada ser parte de este proceso 🙂

Esta es la vista desde la sala de profesores de la escuela donde trabajo. Es especialmente linda cuando sale el sol y todo está nevado. Primero, porque en invierno casi no se ve el sol y, segundo, porque con la nieve el brillo se intensifica. Estos momentos son cortos y escasos, por eso tomé la foto.


Esta otra es camino al trabajo. La ruta la cubro en 3 minutos a pie. Un lujo que pocos podemos darnos. La hora a la que la tomé fue a las 4 de la tarde. El sol ya se estaba ocultando. Aunque no como antes, esto aún me sorprende.


Y esta última es de regreso a casa. La misma ruta que la anterior, pero en dirección opuesta. Al fondo se ve la torre del Ayuntamiento, un edificio construido en los 1400. Increíble, ¿cierto? Yo vivo justo en una calle detrás de esa plaza, la del Ayuntamiento. Vivo en un edificio que tiene, literalmente, siglos en pie. Otra cosa que aún me sorprende y me agrada.


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En algún corto período de mi vida me gustó muchísimo correr. Cuando me mudé a una zona con estaciones y con uno de los inviernos más fríos y largos que pueda haber, dejé de hacerlo. Por un tiempo lo intenté en el gimnasio, pero la trotadora me mataba de aburrimiento: ¡no me permitía cambiar la ruta! No había entendido nunca por qué la gente corría en invierno, si lo que provoca, con estas temperaturas, es estar enrollado cerca de una tacita de té o chocolate caliente viendo una buena película o navegando por Internet. Pero desde hacía varios días sentía las ganas de intentarlo porque, por un lado, ya no necesitaba el sweater extra debajo del abrigo, y sin él, hasta sudaba con sólo caminar, es decir, que ya estoy aclimatada y, por otro, comenzaba a asustarme el hecho de que al subir 20 escalones me quedaba sin aliento, tal cual viejita de 70 años, y todavía me faltan cuarenta y tantos para eso!

Así que hoy, después de mucho meditarlo, motivada por la capacidad de mis poros de sudar aún a temperaturas bajo cero y espantada por haberme ganado la resistencia física de una abuelita, me bauticé como corredora de invierno. En teoría debía ser ayer, pero no me atrevía a intentarlo bajo una tormenta de nieve. Habría sido insensato, ¿no? Resumo mi experiencia así:

¿Qué tuve en cuenta?

Después de leer suficientes recomendaciones:

  • Me compré pantalones de correr térmicos,
  • me puse 3 capas en la parte superior del cuerpo (dos capas de material sintético para mantenerme seca y abrigada y una chaqueta rompevientos),
  • me puse un gorro y un buff,
  • unos guantes y
  • compré púas ajustables para los zapatos.

Algunos recomendaban zapatos para correr en la nieve, aunque muchos decían que no eran los mejores y no hacían su trabajo bien. Otros recomendaban zapatos para hacer trekking. Estos últimos fue los que usé porque mis zapatos normales son muy delgados y supuse que me darían frío. Con las púas me fue muy bien sobre hielo y nieve, tal como leí que sería, pero sobre calles, aceras u otras superficies libres de nieve, resbalaban así que me las puse al empezar el recorrido y me las quité apenas salí de la ruta sin nieve.

¿Qué salió mal?

  • Ruta mal planificada: decidí ir a un parque relativamente lejos de casa y con tanto tiempo sin entrenar era lógico que no me iban a quedar energías para volver corriendo, así que me enfrié muy rápido apenas paré para esperar el transporte de regreso.
  • El buff (como una bandana multiusos para el invierno) se me bajaba y el gorro se me caía, dejándome orejas y cara al descubierto y distrayéndome. La solución fue ponerme la capucha de la chaqueta, pero lo descubrí muy tarde.
  • Convencida de que iba a sudar mucho (como siempre me pasa), no me compré los guantes más abrigados y las manos se me enfriaron.
  • Los audífonos fueron otra molestia porque se me salían de las orejas.
  • No consideré el viento y, aunque el termómetro marcaba -3ºC, con este se sumaban -7º. Batí un récord personal: había corrido con 8º C hacía 4 años, pero nunca con ¡¡¡menos 10!!!

Con todo esto, a la experiencia le doy un 6 de 10 y sí que estoy dispuesta a volver a intentarlo, pero tengo muchos errores que corregir.


La imagen de este post es cortesía de p4nc0np4n.

Sammalhabe o señor Barba de Musgo

Si hay alguien que sea experto en bosques, no hay duda de que es un estonio. Desde deportes como la orientación, pasando por las caminatas para la recogida de hongos y bayas en sus respectivas temporadas, hasta llegar a las celebraciones más importantes que, o bien toman lugar en alguna casa en el medio del bosque, o se hacen en la casa de campo de algún amigo o familiar que, a todas estas, es también naturaleza. Cuando se trata del bosque, los estonios son los protagonistas y fieles compañeros de este.

Y es que los estonios son campesinos por excelencia. Hasta hace unos pocos años (pocos en lo que se refiere a la historia de un país) los citadinos fueron de otras culturas que, en diferentes épocas, ocuparon o compartieron la tierra, como lo quieran llamar. Durante muchos años el estonio era quien dominaba los territorios naturales del país, en casas cuyos vecinos más cercanos se ubicaban (ubican) a 5 kilómetros de distancia, cultivaban la tierra, criaban animales, preparaban el pan en casa y equipaban una alacena con conservas para el largo y frío invierno.

Los abuelos y, en algunos casos, los padres que encontramos en las calles de Tallin son las generaciones que quedan de aquellos tiempos. Hasta en mis contemporáneos queda todavía algo de eso, porque pasaron su infancia en el campo y no fue sino luego de la caída de la Unión Soviética que, si bien no todos sí muchos, comenzaron a ocupar las ciudades.

Mis contemporáneos (nacidos en la década del 80) prefieren pasar un 24 de diciembre metidos en alguna casa a 2 o 4 horas de camino en carro de la ciudad, en medio de la nada, tranquilos, en familia, comiendo comida casera y vino caliente con especias trabajadas por la abuela. Las calles en estas fechas decembrinas parecen las de una película de ciencia ficción luego de la extinción de la humanidad. También el 23 de junio las calles quedan solas, cuando celebran el día de San Juan. Normalmente los ingredientes incluyen sauna, carnes, frutas y conservas, en medio de una isla o en el centro o sur del país. Y las opciones típicas para pasar el fin de semana también suelen incluir algún espacio metido en el medio de la nada, lejos de grandes avenidas, edificios altos, centros comerciales y transporte público; todos estos quedan sustituidos por manzanos y robles, arbustos y piedras, arena y brisa marina, y por otras maravillas naturales.

Esta herencia se refleja también al hablar de elementos de la cultura como la música, los cuentos para niños o las creencias. Hoy, por ejemplo, en una comilona con estudiantes terminaron hablando de qué cosas debe hacer una persona para ubicarse en el bosque. Todos tenían algo que decir al respecto. Una estudiante, muy sabiamente, me cuenta una forma de hacerlo: observar los árboles para ver dónde tienen musgo. Resulta que la parte de los árboles que apunta al norte es la que tiene musgo y, la que apunta al sur, no tiene. ¿Por qué? Porque en el norte no pega la luz del sol y (enriquezco la información con Wikipedia) esto se traduce en que, al no pegar la luz del sol, cuentan con más agua que las otras zonas lo cual les permite reproducirse. Así, termino enterándome también de que todas estas cosas las aprenden desde pequeños. Lo llevan en la sangre. En la misma conversación me explican que, en un libro para niños titulado “Naksitrallid”, hay tres personajes entre los que se encuentra el señor Sammalhabe que literalmente significa Barba (Habe) de Musgo (Sammal). En otras palabras, una figura sabia que educa (educaba) a los niños estonios representa al musgo. ¿Qué más les puedo decir? Y, cómo no, me lo recomendaron todos.

Con estas y muchas historias más que, lamentablemente, no me he dedicado a documentar en este diario personal, concluyo que un nombre que distingue perfectamente a los estonio es el de “Gente del bosque”. Tendré que copiar algo de esta sabia sociedad que se decide seguir en contacto directo con la naturaleza a la que, nos guste (cueste) o no, todos pertenecemos.

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