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There and Back: Introduction

Thinking of spending more time in Eesti than just a holiday visiting your weird Estonian relatives? Read on…

Hillar Lauri, Entrepreneur and part-time math teacher

Are you reading this in Canada or America, or even Europe, and thinking of living in Eesti for a short period? Do this the easy way, and do not say “I have decided I will move to Eesti forever. I will move to the land of my forefathers, I want to hang out with Kalevipoeg and I have come to Eesti to die.” Far too melodramatic. And what's worse, you shall not come to Estonia for longer than a week.

Do it the easy way. Why not come to Eesti for a summer job and see if you like it there? Or get a job at one of the many English speaking start-up companies (like Wise or Bolt) to name but a few. Or if you are a university student, why not do a term or a year at one of the universities in Estonia where many courses are offered in English?

In other words, make this easy for yourself. Do not feel you are tying yourself to Estonia forever, or you have made a long-term commitment that you must stick it out for, even if you do not like it. If it is not for you, feel free to move on.

Think about your own motivations. Why would I do this? As a life experience to work in Europe or to live somewhere you were not born? To work in a digital or tech savvy environment? To see what the land of your forefathers is like—is it the land of milk and honey that your grandmother told you about? Where all the women were fair haired maidens wearing Estonian folk clothing to work everyday, and the men were real men?

What makes you more attractive to any Estonian employer, is if you have an Estonian passport. Your employer will have no hassles hiring you. As an Estonian citizen (even if you have never set foot in the country), you have a legal right to work in the country. If you want to work in Estonia with a Canadian or American passport (or any non-European Union passport), your employer will need to jump through some administrative hoops to hire you. If you are reading this article in Eesti Elu, it is very likely you have Estonian roots and have a legal right (via your parents or their parents) to obtain an Estonian passport.

But these issues can be complex. How do you feel in your heart, about obtaining an Estonian passport when you were born and grew up in Canada or America? Are you a traitor to the country in which you were born, shaking off the citizenship of the country in which you were born? To see it in this manner would be a mistake. You are obtaining another set of rights (plus the odd obligation). You do not lose your American or Canadian citizenship. And no one can see inside your heart, how much you love Canada vs. Estonia. With an Estonian passport, you have a right not only to work in Estonia, but a legal right to work in any country in the European Union. This potentially opens many doors for you. And this is how a second passport (even if you are American) should be viewed. It gives you more options in life. For some, this may seem a very selfish view of citizenship, but for those who view Estonian citizenship as returning to be their true selves, then this is your opportunity.

In future, this column will explore many issues connected to thinking about living in Estonia. What does it mean to say Estonia is a digital society? How many start-ups are really looking to hire students or graduates of North American universities? How easy is it to find a place to live, or to study at a university in Estonia?

How difficult is it to make friends in Estonia? What are Estonian salaries like? Is it easier than in the past (like the 1990s) for women to come and work or study in Estonia? Or does väliseesti writer Vello Vikerkaar's adage apply, that in Estonia, the best man for a job is a woman. A portal that explores many of these topics in English is Global Estonian.

With a new season having arrived, now is the time to start dreaming about if a stint in Estonia is for you.

Hillar was born in Toronto, Canada, but is currently in the 30th year of his life sentence of living in Estonia.

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