Between Berlin and Tallinn: When Working Abroad Becomes a Lifestyle
Filipina Minez Villa Bombeo landed her first foreign employment offer a couple of years ago from an Estonian startup and moved to live in fairytale-like Tallinn. Today this opportunity has turned into a gift that keeps on giving and she is now residing in Berlin – the it-city for startups, foodies and hipsters. Minez shares her favorite spots in both cities, tips on how to prepare yourself for a life abroad and make new friends.
Minez was at a turning point in her career in her native Philippines when she stumbled upon Jobbatical’s ad on Facebook. That led to signing up on the platform and finding a job offer from a company in Tallinn, Estonia. Minez started researching the country and took a liking to the place. “The capital Tallinn looks like a fairytale,” she says. Mind you, Minez had several job opportunities she was considering in the Philippines, too – one of them from the IBM! – but she decided do not pursue them, even without knowing 100% she’d get the job in Estonia.
But as luck would have it, she did get that job as a Software Testing Specialist – at a company called FOB Solutions. The other smaller hurdle was securing a residence permit. “It took around three months because it was summer – but it was still super fast in my opinion. I was the first Philippines’ citizen to get that. The process is strict also on the Philippines end. They monitor people going to work abroad – because there have been so many human trafficking cases,” tells Minez.
Only Good Things Would Happen
Before she went on a jobbatical, Minez had lived her whole life in the Philippines and prepared for the move by telling herself that only good things would happen. “Most of the time before the move I spent with my family and friends as much as possible. Impromptu out-of-towns with friends to eat somewhere or to spend time in each other’s company. During free moments I researched the country – like what people wear in Estonia, especially in the winter.”
Minez wants to set the record straight. “I didn’t leave my country because I don’t like it or that there are no work opportunities. I lived a pretty comfortable life in the Philippines. Before coming to Estonia, I worked as a financial adviser, but my first love was always IT, and I wanted to return to that area, in or outside the Philippines. It just seemed like a better thing to do for my career and myself that I’d put myself to test in a foreign country.”
Faith as an Added Security
Although Minez was all set on her foreign adventure, she admits that without her faith she wouldn’t have had the guts to be on a continent where she only knew two people. “I also removed ALL expectations – that people will be accommodating, very welcoming and warm. I taught myself to have no expectations that people will care for me in times of crisis or sickness, so I better take care of myself and not to be sensitive with other people’s actions towards me. Somebody even told me I am so prudent. But I have to, and I have no family here when something happens!”
Luckily we all have and make friends who can become our second family. Minez has found a few close friends through Meetup – a service that helps organize online groups that host in-person events for people with similar interests. And she considers introducing and connecting with people her forte. “I love bringing friends from different circles together and witness how eventually they will become friends with my friends, too.”
Minez has also put together a little list of her favorite places in Tallinn. “For us, Asians, it’s the food that bonds us, we celebrate everything with food, so most of my favorite places are eateries,” Minez says.
Must visit in Tallinn
- Koht (for people who like beer, you can smoke inside beside the fireplace as well. They have 600+ beers by the way)
- Noku (mostly for locals because there’s no sign where Noku is, you just have to know its exact location and the passcode)
- Valli Bar – we initiate our new friends with their infamous drink Millimallikas
- Texas Honky Tonk & Cantina – at first, I found it hard to throw peanut shells on the floor but that’s part of the experience. Throw as much as you can. And their food is great 🙂
- Kehrwieder for a coffee place with a great view
- Kolmas Draakon for elk soup and a medieval feel
- Kaks Kokka for authentic Estonian food
- Ribe – for fine dining. There’s an excellent Filipina chef there.
Moved to Tallinn, ended up living in Berlin
Little did Minez know that by accepting a job in Estonia, she might get a chance to work in Berlin, too. This is exactly what she’s been doing now for the last year – consulting for a FOB Solutions client based in Germany. “At first I didn’t like Berlin but I have learned to like it and it is so convenient to travel.” Minez has now also mapped her own favorites in that European capital.
Must Visit in Berlin
- Cocolo Ramen – cheap and authentic, no 1 in Berlin
- Takumi Nine – pricey compared to Cocolo but tastes authentic too
- Klub Kitchen – Asian-European fusion, they only serve nutritious food
- 19grams Chausse – their staff is really friendly, it’s away from the big crowds
- GoAsia/Dong Xuan/Vinh-Loi for Asian stuff
- Yarok/Dada Falafel for Mediterranean food
- Gritspot – HIIT group fitness in Berlin. 45-minute high-intensity workouts led by expert coaches. Heart rate sensors worn during training maximize results and calorie burn.
- Über den Tellerrand |#maketheworldabetterplate – they hold social cooking once a month, different theme per month. You can be a volunteer cook or just eat and try the food made by four different volunteer cooks. Participation is for free, even the ingredients, they accept donations though.
- Urban Sports Club – Unlimited fitness, yoga, swimming, climbing, team sports, wellness and more with just one membership across all of Germany, as well as France & Italy.
Making Friends in a Foreign Country
Living and working in foreign countries, how does one make friends, I ask Minez. “Besides Meetup, I suggest going to an event ALONE. This makes a difference as well. That way you become more friendly, more open. Connecting people also works, inviting friends of friends. Most of all, you have to exert effort and force yourself to go out whatever the weather is.”
Another tip – be kind and approachable to your neighbors. “As my Mom always says – better is a neighbor who is near than a brother far away. I have met great neighbors in Berlin and they’ve introduced me to their friends. Also, I met a new friend in one of the Couchsurfing community hangouts. Now we go shopping, cook each other lunch or dinner and visit jazz concerts.”
Better Work-Life Balance
With her friends and family at home, Minez uses Facebook Messenger, video calls and WhatsApp. “Because we have a 6-7 hour time difference, we just leave messages to each other and respond when we can.”
Filipinos are very family-oriented, and Minez’s family is no different. But she isn’t done with her career building abroad just yet. “Europe is giving me a work-life balance, I feel that in both Tallinn and Berlin. There is plenty of time to do after-work things since there’s virtually no traffic to endure. I find the life in Europe more laid back. You can take the time to just sit in a park and eat snacks. Even my Mom noticed when she visited me in Berlin, that people in Europe are more relaxed.”
So you can understand why Minez continues on her career track, living and working in between Berlin and Tallinn.
Would you like to land a job abroad, too? You can start by checking out what opportunities there are right now on 👉 Jobbatical