Lady Wait-Rose, who moved to Tallinn from Japan in the winter of 2019, gives hints on how to manage starting out in the Estonian capital when you’re on a budget.
I moved into my flat in Tallinn in November 2019. Luckily, I found one near the city centre, by the Stockmann department store. The flat came with a large bathtub – which is a must-have feature for Japanese people – and the room layout was suitable for my workshop business. I felt my new life was blessed with such a miracle.
The properties for rent in Estonia usually come with furniture, kitchen appliances and even plates, pans and glassware, so the tenants can literally make themselves at home from day one. In Japan, nothing comes with a flat, so I was simply grateful that mine came with a king-size bed, laundry washer, dishwasher, dining table, sofa and two low tables in the living room.
I had to urgently get everything else but did not wish to spend much, while not yet sure if I would live in Estonia after a year of my sabbatical. Thankfully, the local society upholds the eco-friendly value of recycling quite extensively, and I found these good places to find essential items free – or at very affordable prices.
Uuskasutuskeskus (the Reuse Centre)
This is the first place you should check out, when you want to start your new life without much expenditure.
A colleague and a dear friend of mine gave me this great tip to go and find some nice clothes at Uuskasutuskeskus – just as Finnair, the Finnish flag carrier, had lost my luggage. I do not fit well in women’s clothes in Europe, so it has been a headache every time Finnair has lost my priority-tagged luggage – a whopping four times within two years!
Before discovering the Reuse Centre, I had gone shopping at Stockmann or the Ülemiste Shopping Centre and went through the same awkward conversation in children’s clothes shop. “May I try these on?”, I would ask – to which I received the same reply, “You know these are for kids, right?” For me, Uuskasutuskeskus is a heavenly place where I can try on any clothes that catch my eyes from across the women’s, men’s and children’s sections without being questioned at all.
The last three business days of the month are the best time to go to shopping there – the clothes are only €1 per piece and all the other items have a 50% discount. On the very last business day, before 4 PM, they even have this too-good-to-be-true offer: pay only €8 and bag any clothes, shoes and bags in a 150-litre plastic bag!
Online platforms: osta.ee / okidoki.ee / the Olio app
These platforms connect those who want to give away or sell things and those who want used or unwanted items. Unfortunately, okidoki.ee only works in the Estonian and Russian languages, but the other two operate in English (although you need to manage communication with the owners of your interested goods, possibly in Estonian).
Unlike usual Japanese people, I like second-hand goods because I feel I am extending the love from the previous owner and cherishing their used goods in my possession. But I still prefer buying certain items new and freshly out of the box, such as kitchen and beauty appliances, underwear and shoes.
From my private field research and quality assurance tests over a year, I can confidently recommend the supermarket chain Maxima as the place where quality goods are sold at noticeably cheaper prices than anywhere else. Just like they say in their brand motto, Maxima is truly “See, mis vaja” (grammatically speaking, it would have been much clearer for Estonian learners like me if it were “see on, mida vajame”, or “it is what we need” in English – but their motto is still linguistically correct and carries the meaning of “it is what is needed”).
Finally, you can find something good and functional, totally free of charge, even around your house or apartment.
For example, in my apartment block, some residents just threw away relatively clean and new furniture when they moved out. Practically speaking, these had to be sent to the special waste collection points as the household waste collection cars cannot load large items (or you can phone Uuskasutuskeskus, so they can come on a truck to take away a set of large furniture for resale).
But since neither of the diligent arrangements was taken, as a good fellow resident, I took them in to resolve the waste problem before the collection car arrived!
The opinions in this article are those of the author. The cover image by Lady Wait-Rose.