My miserable life in Estonia

Spring 2010 France went to lockdown and I was stuck in Toulouse, France. Just had plans to be in Sweden to get myself a small sailing boat as my new home. I had been homeless enough time and was anxious to change my lifestyle. 

But then “lockdowns” happened. Macron first promised for two weeks, then extended another two weeks, etc until several months had passed. 

Obviously I wasn’t able to get myself to Sweden to buy my boat and as you where not allowed to be outside without an especial permit. I had to stay in my tent and nearby forest several months. Sometimes I made trip to local supermarket over 2km and stayed in line for several hours. As only 10 person was allowed inside, only food section was open and limited hours. Even wasn’t able to buy toothpaste and soap! 

When finally was announced in August, that people are now allowed to travel up to 100km from their home, I started hitchhiking back to Estonia and arrived late august in Tartu. Obviously I considered my home to be where I had setup my tent, but actually even nobody in France-Germany or Germany-Poland borders never asked any documents from me or Covid certificate. Police stopped all cars and buses, but when I just walked over the bridges, they smiled to me and never asked anything. 

First night in Tartu I setup my tent between Emajogi and Anne Canal on green area and next day visited social services to get myself registered again. But they told me, that this area was another department and I had to setup my tent to their area of their coverage for following night to visit them again next day. 

OK, they registered me and also I registered myself in population registry as I arrived again to Estonia. 

But social service told me, that I do not get my 150 EUR allowance before I’m not signing to homeless center and start to sleep there. So I had to spend few horrible nights passing alcohol tests to get inside in evening and trying to sleep in overcrowded room where people are snoring near me. 

Anyway, when I finally got my allowance, I was able to buy local SIM card and call one landlord whose business was to rent flats to those, who are qualified for social support and take maximum what was allowed to compensate by law. 

And I was lucky that he had one newly renovated small flat available, so we made agreement same day. Even he told, that for heating he had calculated electricity, I was very happy to see old wood burning oven there. And was right as his floor heating with electricity didn’t much warm my flat, so I switched it off. 

So there I was finally having my own flat with my own shower in old wooden house and I didn’t had to worry paying for it. 

I figured out very quickly that living 150 EUR in month in Estonia wasn’t working out at all. For the time being away, the prices has been increased so much that everything costs two-three times more, than in France, Spain or Germany. Maybe two-three weeks maximum, but not full month. 

So, basically I stay’d always inside reading books and cooking myself something once a day. That was all, I was able to afford for 150 EUR per month. No vine each evening or not even beer, like I had used to in France or Spain. 

Obviously I was trying to find work, but based on my previous experiences, finding work thru some CV idiots you mostly get humiliated or insulted by those idiots that can’t even read or write. 

Therefore I was surprised that local newspapers morning delivery firm (Express Post) got back to me immediately and asked, can I start tomorrow. 

Sure, happy to woke up 3AM in mornings and make my little walk. And somebody will pay for it, seems like a dream job. 

So, I was there before 4AM and previous person showed me the routes. She had written down to paper “turn left”, “turn right”, etc. for me. 

So, first day I just walked the routes and watched her to do the job; second day I already asked to put newspapers to post boxes. Actually, there should have been 5 days training period but after second day the boss asked her: “can he deliver alone” and she answered, that I have already posted newspapers to post boxes and fully capable to do the work alone. 

Therefore, they decided that next morning I start alone. 

Next days I was able to deliver newspapers however, always I had leftovers and her notes where useless, because somehow when I was other side of my trolley, so I started to walk wrong side until I finally was able to read street signs in dark and figured out, that I’m in wrong place. 

Anyway, before New Year somehow all monthly journals had to be delivered and newspapers where so fat, that nothing fitted to my trolley. 

When the boss arrived, I was so confused but she just told me: “figure this out yourself. I have no time”. So, I had to and everything was delivered even it took me several rounds and I ended just before 10AM, when supermarkets are allowed to sell you beer in Estonia. Yes, they have such kind of stupid law there. 

Because I had to end my routes before 7AM, I just asked that maybe I just do one route and when I’m more confident, then take two. They didn’t liked that proposal, but when I threatened to quit, they had to accept this. 

Anyway, within two weeks I was so confident that I asked my second route back and even in snowstorms or piles of snow, I pull my trolley and assure myself: “work must be done before 7AM”. 

After few weeks of working I got a questionary to fill: “How satisfied I am with my work-life balance”. So, I had to answer to very funny questions, like: “Do you sleep well in night?” If I would sleep well, I would never get to work by 4AM?; “Have you encountered sexual harrasment in your work?” We had Corona restrictions for distancing at least 2 meters, so how could anyone harrast me from that distance?, etc. Really, some people think that those in high-salary positions are doing something useful there.

Immediately after starting my work I figured out that having a mobile app to tell me what I need to deliver today to each address in route would make my life much easier rather than reading codes from delivery book in my hand. And having my device on my wrist will leave my second hand free. So, I wrote myself such kind of app and I ordered wrist band for my mobile. Because it was posted from China and because first one was even lost, the band arrived exactly when spring started and was on time for me. Trying to use my device below minus 20 degrees celsius would have not worked anyway. 

So, life was happy and because social services was paying my rent, I earned even enough to buy necessary things like cookware, kettle, new boots, etc. 

Until social services told me, that I was only allowed to keep my earnings (actually it was more complicated system, that they calculated only half of my earnings) four months after starting employment and from now, I have to pay my rent (or part of it) leaving me still only 150 EUR per month to live! 

So, basically, either you are working or not, you are still allowed to live only for 150 EUR per month in Estonia!

So, I had to quit working and as I got my final payment on 1. June, I wasn’t allowed to ask social services help before end of august as they calculate previous month income, therefore letting me to survive only that little money I had got full summer and even asking me to pay part of my rent from that!

As my luck, my childhood friend had recently acquired centuries old farmhouse near Estonian-Russian border (Setoland) and offered me to stay there in old sauna. So, I told my landlord that for next two months I’m unable to pay rent but do not live here as well. Somehow he took this easy as I have been good tenant for him. 

Therefore I spent hot Estonian summer in her place, helping her and her heavy metal music fan, fully tattooed and pierced boyfriend with their house, drink lot of beer and learned to collect “unusual” plants from nature. 

Meanwhile I hitchhiked also to West Estonia to setup website for Westland Independence organisation (yes, they claim that according to UN nations definitions Estonia is illegal country because there is no such kind of nation as Estonian and they have right for their country in Westlands as Setoland in south has theirs) until august was coming and I had to be back in Tartu. 

As knowing, that I can’t anymore do work that does not pay enough to cover my rent (over 300 EUR per month) and does not leave me sufficient funds for living, I was eager to find better pay jobs. 

Estonia had changed a lot after joining EU. Nowadays those high salary jobs are working as government burocrat regulating and controlling what businesses are allowed to do and how people should do their job. 

Therefore they can report high average salaries to EU, while people who actually do work get paid minimum salary nearly sufficient to cover those high rental prices. 

Short term I worked with Viktor to throw cardboard boxes to conveyor in local recycling center, but that work experience was short. The boss there was weird. She fire out all long term employees, who actually know anything of the job, told everyone that she will hire Ukrainians and Georgians and made always stupid remarks to everyone. When one day she told me, that I’m too slow, I just answered: “OK, then I do not come tomorrow anymore”. And that was it. I still wonder how is it possible, that most incompetent idiots become managers in Estonia. I have my explanations, but you can’t publish such kind of ideas not to be accused of racism and antisemitism in todays society. 

Anyway, after few days I had found another job in local supermarket nightshift. The boss there was reasonable, even lot of people had told horror stories about their brand. 

The products in containers and pallets are delivered in night, so your job is to bring them in, sort them and put the products to shelves or storage areas. 

Those where 12h shift three nights consecutively having two night off afterwards. 

Sounded nice as I assumed having some time myself as well using those free days. 

I had very little training until one evening I arrived to work and to my surprise, there wasn’t anyone else besides me there. So, the supermarket manager called and told, this night you have to do everything alone. 

OK, I managed most of it by morning until she arrived and pointed out some mistakes that I had left out from freezers or put to wrong places. 

And afterwards I worked mostly alone even there should have been four persons in the shift. Some days a week a young guy comes to help and some days a week a middle age nice woman was dealing with fruits and vegetables as she was confident with those. 

But the work was very stressful for me. At least I always purchased my beer in evening coming to work and stored it in locker for morning. So, I had my beer 8AM and not 10AM as regulated by law. 

Then drag myself home as my feet where tired of constant running as those supermarkets have lot of floor space. 

Then I had to heat my oven, do some lunch, drink my beer and afternoon I tried to sleep little bit. Sometimes this was impossible as my neighbours had their parties and at the top of me (penthouse) was living one DJ. 

So you woke up after few hours and starting to prepare yourself work again. 

When your free days arrived, then I just bought 3l of vine, drink few glasses and went sleep. Woke up with “work?” in my head, look on calendar, then to my schedule and calmed down. Took another glasses of vine and slept again. Sometimes happened, that I didn’t even had my day off. Just shop manager called, that today there is no-one to take delivery so can you at least come and take them in. So, I did. 

Anyway, by living such kind of hard work lifestyle I noticed, that I had no time to spend and I had collected savings. That was a pleasant surprise to me and immediately I started to think my boat again as my new home. Calculated, that if I can handle such kind of work 4-5 months, there should be enough money to execute my dream project. 

But the economy always works against me. I was shocked when landlord had written me 110.- EUR electricity bill! My laptop and light is around 10W, I cook something 20-30 minutes max per day using 800W and make myself coffee 5 minutes in kettle using also 800W. How is possible that I have used electricity worth of my 3 hard night salary? But he showed me such kind of original bill, where there was “electricity in market price”, distribution fees, government taxes, maintenance fees, etc. 

Damn, I need my solar panel soon if those companies really think their electricity is so much worth. No wonder they are paying themselves huge salaries for those market manipulators buying and selling on energy markets. 

But my plans to stay on that work didn’t lasted as I planned. One morning one hag with strong Russian accent started to revile everyone. At first I was thinking to go security guys that they will throw her out, but when I asked her politely: “who are you?” (because she never introduced herself), she barked: “I’m your new boss”? Somehow I wasn’t seen my old boss several weeks, but we all managed well without any supervision. I always introduced to day shift what I had done in night and what they could do further. Sometimes we agreed, that I do this in night for you as you do some other thing during day. 

Anyway, I went my workplace for shopping during day and met my daytime co-worker there. I asked, did you got lot of false accusations. She nodded and with sadness answered: “Yes”. So, I went upstairs in her cabinet to promise her, that your kind of Putinists will be sent back to Russia, etc. Anyway, when she claimed that she knows that “we do not do any work in night and she will end this nightshift anyway”, I just walked home and send my resignation letter in e-mail. If she ends nightshifts then obviously I have no work there anymore. She called back to tell me that: “I have to come this night to do her “slave work”” (that was the actual term she used), which convinced me that I would never enter to this supermarket again. It took them three days to receive my final payment which is unlawful as in Estonia you should receive your final payment same day when you finish working for someone. But anyway, later I met one co-worker that my old boss was back next day (she had been sick), but I had already made my choice and asked my old job back to make my morning walks to deliver newspapers. They where very happy to see me again. 

So I did that pleasant job until I decided to leave Estonia again and went to Sweden to get myself small sailing boat, which is another kind of adventure for next time. 

In Summary:

  1. I can’t survive with 150 EUR per month in Estonia, where especially this spring food prices went up 40-50% but your allowance has been same over 5 years;
  2. I think that over 100 EUR per month electricity prices are unreasonable;
  3. Finding work is very frustrating process;
  4. It’s unreasonable to pay more than half of your hard worked income to rent a place to sleep and cook. 

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