Who are you?
I’m Hyun Lee, a 27-year-old South Korean living in Estonia.I’m currently managing growth at an Estonian startup called Qminder and I’m really enjoying my life in Estonia.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
I was living in the U.S. when I met my then-girlfriend. I decided to visit at the end of 2011 and stayed ever since. To be honest, I like here more than back home.
What challenges did you face during the move?
I think the biggest challenge for me was integrating into the small town life.
Estonia is a small country as is. When I first arrived I lived in Saaremaa, the “biggest” island in Estonia with a population of ~30,000.
People warned me about the cold weather and the “coldness” of the people – I did not find those to be a challenge (mostly because they’re not true).
Are there many other expats in your area?
Yes, there are many expats in my area. I currently live in the capital city, Tallinn; specifically in the Kalamaja district.
There are lots of things happening around these parts – from being the “hipster” area to having a good startup scene, it’s not difficult finding other expats.
What do you like about life where you are?
Life in Estonia is peaceful. I find that I’m closer to nature, the air is fresh, and I’m more active here. My life is virtually stress-free.
The public transportation is free in Tallinn and I don’t have to worry about high medical costs since there is public health care.
And the e-services. It’s really awesome. I can do all my invoices online, I can schedule an appointment with the doctor online, I can even do my taxes online (in less than a minute!).
What do you dislike about your expat life?
Although you can find expats around here, not many of them stay around. I’ve made many friends but most of them have left.
I suppose that’s how it is everywhere as an expat. I tend to find locals to make friends with nowadays.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
Back in the States, people make small talk. In my opinion, small talk will always be a foreign concept here.
What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?
The food in Estonia feels like home-made food. It tastes healthy.
At the same time, I do feel that the food scene is lacking. I’m looking forward to the future where Estonia will have a bigger international food scene.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
I’d say do it!
It has never been easier to move here – and even if you don’t plan on moving, you can certainly take advantage of some of the benefits here. For example, companies here have a 0% tax on retained and reinvested profits.
This means as long as you keep money in the company, you won’t have to pay any taxes.
It’s an entrepreneur heaven.
What are your plans for the future?
I’ve been here enough to know what I want to do in Estonia. I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon and looking at buying a property here myself.
I also want to give a small shoutout to a new project I’m working on called Estonian Advisor. I’d like to think that I’ve been here long enough to produce some content to help people move, travel and get acquainted with Estonia.
You can keep up to date with Hyun Lee's adventures on his website, Estonian Advisor.
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