Over the last few years, Tallinn has increasingly become a destination for foreigners from all over the globe to lay down new roots. In our new series, we ask expats a few questions including their reasons for coming here and why they decided to stay. Each of them has a unique story to tell and we trust that whether you are merely visiting, or planning on making your stay in Estonia a longer one – you’ll find out something new or interesting about this increasingly multi-cultural Nordic State.
Ali Adil is an entrepreneur, owner of three successful eateries, and now a father, who came to Estonia several years ago to create new opportunities in a country and culture much different than his own.
What originally brought you to Estonia and where are you from?
I came as an intern to Estonia, and started working in Tartu. I am originally from Pakistan.
What were the reasons that made you want to relocate to Estonia?
There were many reasons - the country was still developing and I saw an opportunity for making a business here, and (for the possibility to) expand, in time. The people (were another reason) and the freedom of living my life with no interferences from relatives and neighbours. In my country your neighbours know more about your life than your family. Estonians mind their own business.
Did you experience or how much of a culture shock was it for you to move here?
Before coming to Estonia I was in Ireland studying, so it was less of a shock for me. But yes, Estonians being cold (and reserved) was a bit of a shock as in my culture we make friends faster, but Estonians take a year or two before they call you a friend.
What are some of your favourite spots in Tallinn?
I love old town walks and the Rotermann Quarter, which is a new favourite place for me.
How would you describe Estonia as a country, and Estonians?
‘E-stonia’ is a very innovative country, and Estonians are very innovative people. Everything is thought of here to make life easier, and as it’s a small nation, it’s easier to implement (these) smart ideas faster. It might take a little time, but once Estonians accept you - you become one of their own. Integrating (properly) and learning the language helps a lot, as Estonians are very patriotic, which I admire.
How is it to live here and does it feel like home now?
Now having three restaurants in Tallinn (Damak Kebab), it’s very easy to do business here and if you offer honest food, people will accept you. I also have a family here now, with a one and a half year-old daughter :), so yes, I feel at home and plan to live all my life in Estonia.
What is your favourite Estonian word or words and why?
My favourite Estonian words are armastus (it really sounds and feels like ‘love’, just as it translates to in English) and tee* (it has so many meanings and so many contexts).
* translates to road/tea/do.