Leah and Arvi's first year in Estonia

Aale Kask-Ong 23. dets. 2015

Leah Jacques and Arvi Lehtsalu are two Australians with Estonian heritage who decided to move to Estonia and they absolutely love it!

Leah and Arvi's first year in Estonia

When and how did you and Arvi get the idea to move to Estonia?

Leah Jacques: We have both always wanted to explore the motherland of our grandparents that we heard so much about while growing up. We travelled around Europe in 2013 and spent some months in Tallinn working at a hostel. We made some great friends and fell in love with the country. When we got back to Australia we decided we wanted to come back and live in Tallinn for a longer period of time.


How was your first winter there?

Leah Jacques: Very dark! We don't mind the cold but the darkness is the hardest thing to get used to. There was not as much snow as we were expecting. We are hoping for a white Christmas this year.

Was it difficult to find a job?

Leah Jacques: For me, being a teacher and native English speaker, it was fairly easy to get some private tutoring work. I also have a half time position at one of the international schools in Tallinn.

For Arvi, it was much harder to find a job, due to the language barrier. Although our Estonian is improving, it is still not up to scratch! After a few months of doing small handyman jobs for other expats, he found a job at the Estonian craft brewery 'Põhjala', where he communicates in English.


In Tallinn you live in Kalamaja which is well known for its wooden heritage houses and hipster atmosphere. How do you find the area? Is it different from the lifestyle you both had here?

Leah Jacques: Kalamaja is a beautiful area that is close to Vanalinn but quieter than the city centre. We enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, with the trendy bars, cafes and the occasional street market or concert. The nightlife is buzzing in Tallinn, with many bars being open until sunrise, which is certainly different to Sydney. The city centre is very accessible, with a great public transport system that is free for residents, so we do a lot less driving here than back home.


What do you like about living in Estonia? Which are your favourite places?

Leah Jacques: Estonia really has something for everyone; forests, beaches, cities, country towns, islands. There is an exciting, dynamic atmosphere here, in a country that is growing so fast. There are many opportunities to do things we wouldn't be able to do back in Australia. Tallinn has the best of both worlds; all the services of a capital city with the relaxed feel of a smaller city. We love the snow capped roofs and winding cobblestone streets of Vanalinn, even in summer, when we have to navigate our way around the hoards of cruise ship tour groups.

In summer, we love having a grill in the forest with friends or taking a drive to the abandoned submerged prison at Rummu for a swim.

We also like sampling the many great restaurants the city has to offer. Some of our favourites are located in Telliskivi creative city, a hipsters paradise located a short walk from old town.


What was the biggest cultural shock?

Leah Jacques: Aside for the obvious language barrier, I guess the biggest cultural shock is the somewhat introverted nature of Estonians. In public places like on the tram or at the gym, everyone is completely silent, in their own world. They do not show much emotion, so it's often hard to get a smile out of a shop assistant! Initially, it can be a bit harder to make friends with Estonians but once you break through the exterior you have a friend for life! We both grew up eating Estonian food every Christmas Eve so the food was no shock, although our eating habits have certainly changed since living here. Dairy is a big part of our diet and hapukoor is added to almost all of our meals. We do miss the fresh fruit and vegetables in Australia and a good beef steak is hard to come by in Tallinn!


Do you think one day you will come back to Australia?

Leah Jacques: We will be returning to Australia mid next year to get married but would love to return to Tallinn again in the not too distant future (shhh don't tell our families!).