Tallinn City Center Expat Chat: Rodrigo from Brazil

Rodrigo. Source: Marina Barinova

The sixth interview in our collaboration with the "Tallinn City Center New Arrivals Project" is with Rodrigo from Brazil.

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.

Rodrigo from Brazil 

Rodrigo is from a small city on the coast of Brazil with a population of 20,000, so he is quite used to living in small and quiet places. As of last month, he has been living in Estonia for three years and so far "Eesti" has exceeded his expectations in many ways.

Rodrigo recalled himself falling for Estonia as a teenager: "I first learned about Estonia when I was 15, because in my school we had an exchange program where you could go to another country to complete high school there. I really wanted to go to a place where English was not the main language. So, in the list of countries, I came across this funny little green country in the middle of nowhere called 'Estonia'. I remember looking at pictures of the Tallinn Old Town and saying to myself: 'Yeah, this is the city I want to go to'."

Unfortunately, Rodrigo was not able to come to Estonia at that time. But since then, he has always been curious about Estonia. "At the time, Orkut, the social network, was popular in Brazil, so I made some Estonian friends there and we kept in touch. My interest towards Estonia continued to grow," Rodrigo said. In 2018, Rodrigo was studying at a university in Brazil, when out of the blue, he decided to apply for several jobs in Estonia. He had a few interviews and one was successful. He ended up moving to Estonia as a customer support agent for a gambling company.

"Of course, I had a bit of a cultural shock when I arrived here," he said. "In my hometown, you can meet a person on the street and have dinner with him the next day." In Estonia, Rodrigo found that after a few drinks at a party, some people might open up to him, but the next day his new Estonian friends would return a cold hello to him and that's it. "But the good news is, this wall can be broken down again with a few more drinks," he laughs.

However, not all Estonians are reserved and shy as the famous cliche might suggest. "My colleagues, for example, are super open and crazy people, in a good way. I also have some close local friends with whom I can go out and have a wonderful time together. Having Estonian friends is great because once you become friends, they are loyal to you." Rodrigo has a soft spot for Estonians with a rural background and stories about their lives because, in a way, he is a countryside boy himself. "And a very important benefit of befriending locals – having an opportunity to practice the Estonian language," he adds.

Before moving to Estonia, Rodrigo used to live with his mother in Brazil. When moving to another country, Rodrigo realised that from now on he would have to do everything himself and, an even bigger challenge would be having to nurture the Brazilian part of himself far away from home, his family and friends throughout the Covid lockdowns. "For example, yesterday was Easter, and we used to have a big lunch with lots of traditional dishes with my family in Brazil. Here in Estonia, I can't really do that. However, I did cook some of those traditional Easter dishes for myself."

Rodrigo also shared his excitement about the food market in Estonia becoming more versatile: "Usually I don't like going to restaurants that much as I really enjoy cooking at home. Recently I was doing some shopping for a fish pie that I was planning to make, and I actually found all the ingredients! Three years ago quite a few important spices were not sold here! Isn't that a wonderful change?"

Rodrigo loves doing his food shopping at the Balti Jaam market – what could be better than fresh fruits, veggies and meat?  Sometimes he wishes that Keskturg would be renovated faster so he wouldn't have to worry about transport and could go to his favourite shopping place on foot. "Since moving to Tallinn, I realise I have become really spoiled: if I have to take two buses to my destination and the trip lasts about 20 min, I already start complaining about it being too far. Back in Brazil, it took me an hour each way just to get to university every day and it did not upset me at all," he laughs.

Rodrigo dreams about settling down in Estonia, buying an apartment or a house, most probably a little outside of Tallinn. Laughing, he says: "I think I would love going back to my village boy  roots and move further into the countryside, to have animals and my own garden."

Some people are surprised to find out Rodrigo's long-term plans of settling in Estonia. But he does have a clear explanation for his vision: "After joining my company three years ago, I got promoted at least 3 times. It was very good timing as the company has tripled in size since then. I can say that I am earning above average here which allows me to save money to purchase an apartment here in a few years. In contrast, in Brazil, purchasing an apartment or any other real estate is extremely expensive. Even if we talk about living expenses here in Tallinn, I live not far from Kadriorg, a very nice area, and my apartment building is also quite new. I don't think that this quality of life would be affordable for me back in my home country."

I ask Rodrigo the secret to his professional success here in Estonia. "I think I did well in my company because I speak English and Portuguese, and I am working hard on my Estonian, so I can get to a point where I can serve Estonian clients too (laughs). But really, I think that my strongest side is empathy. I am still doing customer service, and in a business like gambling, in addition to the fun side, there are losses too. I always try to help people and be understanding of their situation."

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Editor: Helen Wright

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