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.
Swiss-born Andreas Näf talks about finding love in unusual places and the ease of moving to Estonia.
What originally brought you to Estonia and where are you from?
I am Swiss. In 2014 my father and I went on a road trip with motorcycles to the North Cape in Norway. On the way back to Switzerland we planned to stop in Tallinn, and as I was looking online for local tourism advice, Eva was the one who kindly answered. We never met back then, but stayed in contact and that was the beginning of our love story.
What were the reasons that made you want to relocate to Estonia?
Even though I liked Estonia a lot, I had (and still have) a company in Switzerland and I couldn’t imagine moving to Estonia. After the first year together with Eva and several flights back and forth, she was moving with her two boys to Switzerland. We lived there for three years, but then she got a very interesting job offer in Tallinn. The decision was fast and clear, and we jumped at the chance for the adventure. Moving our life and stuff here lasted almost half a year, as we wanted to do it all by ourselves, but managing my Swiss company here was way easier than I expected.
Did you experience or how much of a culture shock was it for you to move here?
It wasn’t a culture shock at all. It was the opposite. I am discovering more and more similarities. For example people from both cultures are a bit ‘tagasihoidlik’ (shy). We both have the image that we are somewhat cold and distant, but also polite and ‘korrektne’ (proper). But the layer of ice is not very thick and the people are very warm and welcoming when they get to know you better.
What are some of your favourite spots in Tallinn?
The seashore is definitely one of my favourite spots, especially in winter and when the sea is frozen. Besides that, I enjoy every little hill or taller building that has a view. For example, the TV tower in Tallinn and the view from there is amazing. And I like the Old Town. Estonians have good coffee and good food. They have good chocolateries and I love La Muu’s ice cream café. I also like the forests on the outskirts of Tallinn. That’s all a Swiss person needs.
How would you describe Estonia as a country, and Estonians?
The history of Estonia is fascinating and there are many similarities to Switzerland. It is amazing how Estonia and the Estonians withstood all the influences of the other cultures ruling it over such long periods. Estonia is small in size and population, but full of great, strong-minded people who like dark humour, and maybe that is what makes it so charming. I am still discovering and learning about Estonia. Learning the Estonian language helps me understand more about this interesting culture. The way many Estonians see the nature, their sea, their forests, trees, stones, marshlands and bogs, is very charming.
How is it to live here and does it feel like home now?
Living in Tallinn as a foreigner is not a big challenge. Most Estonians I meet speak English fluently, and in general, the people are very friendly and helpful. Home for me is where my family is, so yes, Tallinn feels like home.
What is your favourite Estonian word or words and why?
In the language courses, I always learn new, interesting words. But the word ‘päevakoer’ just stuck out because I expected something very different behind it. It literally translates as “day dog”, but is actually the word for a Giant Tiger Moth. And another cool word is the Estonian word for shoe. Once, a few years ago, I wanted to know how to say shoe in Estonian, and my wife was patiently pronouncing it for me. Yet, I somehow still failed with some letters. That was the moment when she told me to look at the tattoo on my arm - it’s of a crown with the word “king” written under it.