Tallinn City Center Expat chat: Melda from Turkey

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Medla from Turkey. Source: Private collection.

The third interview in our collaboration with "Tallinn City Center New Arrivals Project" is with Melda from Turkey who has become a favorite among her students.

This interview was carried out by Svetlana Štšur project manager of "Tallinn City Center New Arrivals Project" which is run by Tallinn City Center (Kesklinn) Government with support from the European Social Fund.

Every month, Štšur will interview an expat living in Tallinn and discuss why they moved to Estonia, what they like about the capital and their recommendations for other newcomers.

Melda - the students' favorite

Since childhood, Melda has dreamed of living outside Turkey and the Nordic countries had always been her dream because she liked their minimalist culture.

After graduating from university, Melda started looking for a job in Europe, but it turned out that it wasn't so easy after all. She sent her CV everywhere, but the only positive answers she received came from the Czech Republic and Estonia. The choice wasn't difficult to make at all: Estonia is a real Nordic country and it was written on the Internet that it is a small, cute and safe country to live in. Melda was thrilled.

"When I finally came to Estonia, I did experience a culture shock of sorts," Melda says, laughing. "For example, it was surprising that when you stand on the side of the road in Turkey, cars never stop for you. You have to wait until they all drive by. Here in Estonia, I stood and waited in front of the crossing like an idiot until I noticed that the cars were also waiting for me to finally cross the road! I thought, wow, civilization, finally!"

She also noticed that Estonian and Turkish people are different from one another and that the local culture is much more reserved. "One thing I really like about Estonia is that Estonians hate small talk and I do not care for it either," Melda says.

"My first month here was weird. I came here alone from miles away, didn't know anybody and ended up in the hospital for five days! Fortunately, the nurses were very good and patient, although I was definitely not the best of patients," she says, laughing at the memory. "I didn't take any medication, I wanted to go home and I cried. The nurses comforted me as much as they could and were truly very kind. Another bonus is that the treatment and the hospital stay didn't cost much, as health insurance covers most of the costs, which is great!"

Melda admits that the experience of being hospitalized in a foreign country taught her quite a lot and made her much more confident. "If I was able to live through this experience on my own, I am also capable of handling other things!"

Melda started to feel at home in Estonia after finding friends here with whom she connected. "Although I have to admit that having friends in Estonia differs from having friends in Turkey. In Turkey, I interacted with my friends 24/7. We went out together, we ate and slept together - we did everything together. In Estonia, however, it is a bit different. At first, I had acquaintances here with whom I went out but felt like it was still not 'it'. Finally, I found my people in Estonia."

Melda thinks that the quality of living in Estonia depends largely on whether you can find people close to you here. If for some reason this doesn't happen, you might feel quite lonely here.

According to Melda, who works as an English teacher at a school, the work environment there is excellent. "Students are polite, respectful and learning-oriented, my boss and co-workers are also supportive. For example, my colleagues visited me in the hospital and have always been helpful outside of work as well."

Melda is known as the students' favorite. "I think the students love me because I look young and I could easily become their friend. I understand them because, in a sense, I'm still like a child pretending to be an adult, and students definitely see that in me."

Melda's tips on how to cope in Estonia as a foreigner:

- Get yourself a true winter jacket, especially if you come from a warm country.

- Go to parties, meet new friends.

- Learn from your new experiences, including the bad ones. If you feel like things might be getting complicated, keep calm - it's all temporary.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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