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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Tallinn, Estonia

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?


Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?


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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

Most young people speak English, but after arriving I took courses in Estonian.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

Not enormously

How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

It was basic; toilets had push buttons, door knobs were door levers, society in general looked the same; Shopping malls, downtown, the beach.

My culture shock mostly came from after being here for awhile where I experienced some of the old Russian and Estonian tension from the Post-Soviet Era. But anyone who comes here for a period of time will experience that.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

First arriving
Absolutely Great

4 Months
Kind of normal

6 Months
Well adapted, can adjust between here and US

9 Months
Some things tick you off, miss home some

12 Months
Really want a McDonalds cheeseburger

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

Estonia has caused me to be a little impatient at times because some things aren't done in a timely manner.

When I'm back home I have some discontent toward people who say (isn't that country part of Russia), and so I'm angry at the U.S. Education system Long winters will turn you introverted, because they are dark and last 8 months. I haven't gotten it yet, but they call it seasonal anxiety disorder. Its easy to get here.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

Their song festivals, Beautiful native language, Love of Nature, Long lived history, Story of survival of a culture

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Russians vs. Estonians Post-Soviet integration

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

I went into Sauna with a towel. Everyone is supposed to go completely naked together. It's normal here. I was laughed at because I felt weird hanging out naked with a bunch of guys. Now it doesn't even phase me since it is part of the culture.

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

When you get here, Enjoy yourself, there is a lot more than meets the eye. The real Estonia is outside of Tallinn ;)

AGS Worldwide Movers

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Comments about this Report

Jul 1, 2012 13:29

Nice :) However regarding Sauna - it is not common for the culture that men and women go together to sauna. Except if it your husband or boyfriend. It is totally okay to use bikinis, in case the sauna is together with men and you would prefer not to be naked - that everyone will see you naked ;)

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