A software developer’s journey from Estonia to Singapore

by Loni Klara April 21, 2016

The ultimate change of scenery — from lakes to skyscrapers

photo credit: joyfull

When Kristjan was filming his video application in the midst of the peaceful Estonian landscape, he had no idea that he would soon be heading to the bustling environment of Singapore. Since his move, he has discovered many things about the place – including pineapples.


How did your Jobbatical journey start?

Before hearing about Jobbatical, I already knew that I wanted to have at least one more experience of living and working abroad. So Jobbatical was a a means to an end and happened to be the one that delivered. I applied in October. I guess I was hired because of the nice nature in the background of my application video.

After a few video calls with the CTO, it was just a matter of signing the contract, doing the paperwork needed and finding a place to stay.

What is your current role and what does your typical day look like?

I am a software developer. Currently still learning the new programming language, their technology stack and business processes. I arrive around eight, we have a quick stand-up meeting at 9:30, after that, a quick breakfast with colleagues. Then lunch with colleagues around two.

At around six, we play some basketball. It is a lot of fun, especially since I do not know how to play…yet. Oh…and some coding gets done in between the aforementioned events.

Some really genuine and hardcore software engineering takes place in-between the breaks and we monitor the transactions during the off-hours as well. Work hard, play hard!

Did you have any concerns before the move?

I read about Singapore being very expensive. So I was concerned if it would be a financially good decision for me to come here. But people at my company explained that it is expensive if you would want to own a car or rent a whole apartment. It really depends how you live here.

They also put me in contact with the other expats who work there, so I could ask them questions directly (we have people from more than 10 countries!).

What did you do during your first week in Singapore?

Haa! Well, the first thing I remember is that I went to a dinner with the CEO of Jobbatical! I really like the personal touch! Thanks for the Heart Attack Rice, Karoli! 😉

Jobbatical meetup in Singapore

Also, I went running in the rain, was taken for a nice walk around the neighborhood by my very nice landlords (hi, Greg & Denise!), went to a party hosted by one of the clients, met some local Estonians and was taken to a health spa. All the people I met made me feel really welcome here!

What is your favorite thing about living in Singapore, and the most difficult?

All the fruits! Mango, jackfruit, durian, mangosteen, pineapple. Everything is so close by and the mass transit is fast. My workplace is 25 minutes from home — either by mass transit or running. The closest open-air swimming pool and gym are less than 10 minutes by running. Singapore is a nice place to live if you want to discover the surrounding countries and cultures of Southeast Asia. The airline tickets are relatively cheap.

Most difficult — healthy food and quality food products are expensive. Keeping an eye on what you eat needs some effort. You are what you eat.

Have you lived in any other countries before, and what are some cultural differences?

I lived and worked in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for over a year. Every experience about a country or a location is very subjective and is affected by so many factors. For this reason I am going to keep it short: Yes, the culture in Rio is different from the culture in Singapore. Rio suits better for young singles and Singapore fits better for people with family.

How do you think your international experiences have influenced you as a person?

By being far away from them, I learned to love my close ones even more. I learned to deeply love the Estonian nature and culture for the same reason. I learned that your experience is what you make of it. Feeling more empowered towards guiding my life. I am more adaptable, more willing to go with the flow and not force my will on things that do not matter a lot. I learned that I like warm weather and adjust to warm weather with ease.

In Brazil, I learned that there are different types of mangos and bananas, not only one. In Singapore, I learned that there are different types of pineapples too! 😀

Finally, what advice would you give to someone considering a jobbatical?

Two thoughts about the problem of deciding if you should do a jobbatical or not:

First, you generally WILL regret the things that you did not do but wanted to do and you generally do NOT regret the things you did do.

Secondly, do the cost calculation about how much it would cost you to revert your decision if you went on the jobbatical and realized that you want things to be as they were. If the price of reversal is not too high for you, go for it!

If you have already decided to go on a jobbatical but are having a hard time of choosing between two or more locations: First, do a basic background check on the companies and filter out the locations and companies you do not get a good vibe from. When you still have more than one jobbatical left to choose from, do not worry: whatever choice you make, it will be the correct one. When already there, you, with your good attitude and experiences while living there will make it be a correct one. The choice you make will never be a wrong one in hindsight.

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