Karim Heredia, software Engineer for Teleport from Guatemala
One reserved Guatemalan's 'practical' choice for living
in Estonia
Even though Estonian citizenship is one of the most difficult citizenships to obtain for foreigners, Karim is looking forward making the leap next year. Read his tale of integration into life in Estonia to find out what makes Estonia a 'practical' place to work and raise a family.

Having lived in Estonia for seven years, Karim Heredia is looking forward to giving up his Guatemalan citizenship next year to continue raising his two children (3 and 5) as an Estonian citizen in the safe and family-friendly Estonia. Although Karim does not see himself living in Estonia for the rest of his life, he wants his children to grow up in and be a part of Estonian culture. "I'm just curious about other cultures, but I'm here because I think it's the best place to raise my children at the moment and I'm pragmatic."

Moreover, Karim enjoys many parts of Estonian society such as the fact that "silence just means that you are ok- there is no problem!" and that it is more acceptable to be direct and speak your mind here than in continental American cultures. While he feels that he has changed in some ways living here, he points out that he has always been more reserved by nature.
In Guatemala I would be considered really reserved,
but of course here it means that I'm a party animal

When asked how he first came to Estonia, Karim confessed "So my wife is Estonian. Which is a very common case with my friends." After meeting during their study abroad in Germany, Karim and his wife moved to Ireland together where they lived until the financial crisis. Karim recalled that "there was a decision to make there and we decided to move to Estonia because the work situation was better here at the time."

As a software developer, finding a job and feeling comfortable and secure in Estonia were no problem at all for Karim. Although he originally worked for Skype, when Karim decided he wanted a change it was easy to transition to his current company: a start-up which helps individuals find the best international city to work in, called Teleport. "If you need to change your job or you want to look for a new opportunity there is always something. I have friends who have changed too. It's super easy if you're a Software Engineer."

Because of his two children, who were both born in Estonia, the work-home life balance and overall level of safety are also very important. "I want to have time with the children in the evening and on the weekend. At home [in Guatemala] it's by chance that you will have it but here it is part of what I know I have every day." He also noted that workers here are much more understanding of the difference between work and family life.
People don't like interruptions at work here. You take advantage
of the time and make it as efficient as possible. When you go home, you have your private live, you have hobbies, you have a family, which are things that don't exist in Guatemala
The main challenges Karim faced moving here involved adjusting to the more reserved mode of social interaction, the language and the literal darkness during the winter months in Estonia. Even though Karim had passed the B1 exam and can speak Estonian he admits: "I am very shy about speaking Estonian and I lack the communication that I would like to have." It took four to five years before Karim started making friends with the locals in Tallinn. He noted however, that the language barrier isn't the main reason that it has taken more time to make Estonian friends than international ones. In comparing his experience living in Ireland, he noted that "in Ireland all of my friends were Irish, but in Estonia it's impossible to do. It's not because of the language, since most young people hear speak English, it's mainly due to the way they interact."

After seven years living in Tallinn, Karim spoke a great deal about what it means to be Estonian for him and his children. At home, Karim's children speak Spanish with their father and Estonian with their mother while the parents speak English together. Both children attend Estonian kindergarten, have plenty of contact with their Estonian relatives and will hopefully have what Karim considers an 'Estonian identity'. "My concept of what I would like them to have is not necessarily the typical mentality that an Estonian is someone who has an Estonian Last name, speaks Estonian fluently and so on."
I think that an 'Estonian' is someone who actually wants to make this place better. It's already good we just have to improve it
Karim himself has been very active in learning about Estonian history, politics and culture. "I read a lot and know their history more than locals." he mentioned, "I have noticed that young people in this generation are starting to forget what the cost of their independence was. That it was not a natural change. People don't necessarily read about it, they hear about it from politicians who always have an agenda." Although it seems to Karim that Estonia is "really afraid of 'foreigners' as a state", he pointed out that some things, particularly the attitude to local native Russian speakers seems to be changing. He shared how his wife was shocked when the boy, a native Russian speaker, working in the shop close to their house apologised to her for not being able to speak Estonian 'as fluently as he would like'. "For her it was a shock because you don't talk about this topic. Also the fact that he was apologising about it shows that people are aware you have to have both languages." In Karim's view, this shows a positive change, which he hopes will continue to broaden the image of what it means to be Estonian for his children.

In the meantime, becoming an Estonian citizen, as Karim points out, is "one of the hardest citizenships you can get." It takes eight years and one must give up their own citizenship to do so. Despite these difficulties, Karim stated confidently: "I will do it! I am staying here for a while. My children are staying here. So I am happy here."
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