Over the last few years, Tallinn has increasingly become a destination for foreigners from all over the globe to lay down new roots. In our new series, we ask expats a few questions including their reasons for coming here and why they decided to stay. Each of them has a unique story to tell and we trust that whether you are merely visiting, or planning on making your stay in Estonia a longer one – you’ll find out something new or interesting about this increasingly multi-cultural Nordic State.
Kristina Lupp is a freelance writer, restaurant critic, supper club hostess and amateur farmer, who came to Estonia seven years ago to rediscover her Estonian roots.
What originally brought you to Estonia and where are you from?
I was born in Toronto, Canada, but my grandparents are both Estonian. I grew up speaking Estonian at home and attending Estonian school on Tuesday nights, as well as many other Estonian activities. My first trip to Estonia was as a child with my grandparents, who showed me where they had grown up. I moved to Estonia seven years ago with the intention of only staying for a few months to work on my master’s thesis. I was researching Estonian food culture during the Soviet period. After finding some part-time writing work, I decided to stay a bit longer, and now, seven years later, here I still am.
What were the reasons that made you want to relocate to Estonia?
Despite having Estonian roots, my decision to stay in Estonia was easy. I work as a freelance writer and it was very easy to start my own company. In fact, it’s quite simple to do just about anything here, as mostly everything can be done online. It’s also been easy to network and find new clients, and my work isn’t just limited to writing. I’ve done restaurant reviewing, translation, catering... In my previous career, I worked as a chef. I still very much love cooking and entertaining, so I started the Tallinn Supper Club, a pop-up restaurant of sorts in my flat. This also proved to be a great way to meet people, for both me and other expats. Basically, I organise a dinner party about once a month where I prepare the food (for a fee) and guests bring their own wine. The dinners are casual and in addition to meeting new friends, I’ve also had guests who have met their future partner. In the summer, I spend my time at my farm, Torgo Talu, where I have a small guesthouse that I rent out, and of course, organise dinners too.
Did you experience or how much of a culture shock was it for you to move here?
Quite the opposite, actually. I was quite shy as a child and people would always ask why I was so quiet and didn’t smile. When I came to Estonia, I found that people were much the same, quiet. I certainly feel at home here.
What are some of your favourite spots in Tallinn?
I love Salt restaurant in Kadriorg and Frenchy in Telliskivi. Hell Hunt is cosy in winter, or really any time of year.
How is it to live here and does it feel like home now?
Estonia can be a very cold, dark, and lonely place, if you let it. I’ve certainly had my share of difficulties here, but Estonia is a place I’m happy to call home now. Speaking Estonian did help, but the Estonian that I knew was rusty and a bit dated. I didn’t know a lot of words, like for modern things like computers and internet that didn’t exist in the 1930s when my grandparents grew up here. I would have to use the words I knew to describe what I wanted to buy, or what ailed me when I went to doctor, which was always quite amusing. Most people speak English in Tallinn, so even if I didn’t know the language, I could have managed.
What is your favourite Estonian word or words and why?
Estonians love their sauna. It’s always been amusing for me to explain to friends what goes on in a sauna, the process of heating up your own hot water, “whipping” each other with anything from birch branches to nettles to even juniper branches, and the fact you can only throw hot water on the hot rocks to produce the steam. The latter is perhaps the most important sauna task and Estonians have a name for that person, leiliviskaja - the person who creates steam in the sauna from throwing water on the rocks.