"I first came to Estonia in the summer of 2016 to spend my holidays here, in nature. I went to Saaremaa and Hiiumaa, and visited the Lahemaa and Soomaa national parks. The following year, I was looking for an inspiring work opportunity and I applied for a job in Estonia. After two Skype interviews, I was hired; I've been living in Estonia since then. I love that the country is so innovative and creative; you can easily meet a lot of interesting people here.
I think Estonians and French people are very similar, there's no big cultural gap. But there are some differences, especially because the French are much more emotional. Estonians can have a poker face and it’s interesting because they are very straight-forward but at the same time their body language doesn't say much. The French are less straight-forward and sometimes less honest about what they think, but their body language says more. Still, this doesn’t affect the relations between the two groups. The people here sometimes see me as different, but it’s not a bad thing.
I definitely feel at home in Estonia. After going to business trips, I’m always happy to come back here. Usually when I go to Paris or London, I’m so happy to experience big city life for the first few days, but after a week I miss being in Tallinn in my quiet neighbourhood. Another thing I miss is the ability to be in the middle of a forest in half an hour; in Paris, you’d still be in the city! But I also feel like I have several homes — I feel at home in Tallinn but I also feel at home when I’m with my family and friends in Paris or Bordeaux. I’d say home is a place where you have built yourself a community: a group of friends, relationships, and a professional network.
What I miss the most about France is the weather as it can be very challenging here! And each time I go to France, I bring some wine and cheese back with me. I also miss spending hours and hours discussing politics — in France politics is like a national sport. But living abroad is extremely inspiring as well. You can meet people from different backgrounds and life stories and it’s very enriching. When you live abroad and meet others in the same situation as you, you can build strong friendships fast because you’re all going through the exact same thing.
I don’t see myself as an Estonian but when I’m in France I often say ‘we’ when I talk about Estonians and I defend Estonia a lot. I think having lived in different countries has made me a better person with stronger values. I see migration as something very enriching. And my mother came to France as a refugee — if my country hadn’t let her in, I wouldn’t even exist.
When you meet a migrant, it’s important to know the decision to come to a foreign country is never easy. I was very lucky to have colleagues who helped me integrate fast, because they introduced me to their friends and we went out a lot together. The first days and weeks in a new place are the most important, you can feel depressed and lonely. It’s important to take part in different activities and just stay true to yourself. People understand you’re different and they don’t take it badly, just let them discover your culture and replace their stereotypes with new knowledge."