Global Estonians: artist Elina Suvi (Texas/US)

Hi Elina, where are you based and how long have you been there?

I’ve been living in the Dallas suburbs in Texas for almost three years now.

What made you choose your current location?

I didn’t really get to pick this location, it’s where my husband lives and we decided to stay here for a while. I never thought I would be moving to Texas but coming from Estonia with its gloomy weather, I’ve definitely had my share of sunshine over here and I’m ready to go back to rainy Estonian weather soon.

What is it like to live in Texas and what challenges have you had?

Let me start out by saying that Texas is not one big desert and people don’t ride horses to work! Despite that, cowboy boots ARE somewhat popular. People are very friendly and chatty – you can strike up a conversation with a stranger on the street, at the gas station etc. and that’s considered completely normal. Texans are also known for their southern hospitality and food. Mexican food (obviously) and anything deep fried is pretty popular, just like barbecuing. One thing you will find in most restaurants is either spicy food or hot sauce. Even I am slowly building up my tolerance for spicy foods!

If you’re looking to get a tan then Texas is the perfect place for that. It’s sunny about 95% of the time, with the average temperature of 36C (in the summer though, it’s closer to 40C and upwards). Imagine being in a sauna and that’s exactly how it feels like outside for a better part of the year. Ironically though, I am starting to dislike the constant sunshine we have here for 95% of the year. If we’re lucky, we’ll get a day or two of snow but Christmases are generally not white here.

To see all parts of Texas you would need at least a few weeks because there are very different sides to it; green east coast, dry south and canyons in the west. Dallas, Houston and Austin get a lot of big musicians, which is pretty amazing if you’re into music. Texas is a very diverse state with a bunch of different people living in it.

I think Texas isn’t a bad place for a first time mover. Southern states are known for their hospitality and Texas is no different. Everyone has been super nice to me and curious about my home country. Since Texas is a huge state and public transportation doesn’t really exist unless you live in a big city, it’s impossible to get around without a car, which is probably the main reason why sidewalks are rare here. It took me a while to get used to this.

How do you make your living and what has been your best experience so far?

Getting a green card + a work permit can take a long time sometimes. And by long, I mean over a year. I got my work permit just this year (still in the process of getting my green card) and at the moment I’m working in a customer service. My boss is super nice and also happens to be an immigrant. Customers are very, very picky in the USA, so sometimes you have to bend over backwards to please them, which is very different from how things work in Estonia. I also paint whenever I have time for it and put my art up at local art shows every once in a while. I’m thinking about opening up my own Etsy shop sometime in the near future.

What motivates you in life?

My family and friends! And the thought of moving back home in a few years time.

Have you had any setbacks?

I would say my biggest setback has been the whole green card process and not getting started with it right away. I can’t really travel or go to school without it and it’s taking a long time to get it. Not to mention the stress and worry over it.

Your recipe for success?

I think you can become very successful here if you work hard for it and network a lot. American dream CAN become reality if you come here with either a lot of money or knowing the right people.

Do you still have a connection with Estonia?

Yes! All my friends and family live there and I’m still an Estonian at heart, not an American.

Is there anything special you miss about Estonia?

People I know, the sea, all four seasons (we really only get 2 or 3 here in Texas, skipping mostly winter), certain foods, rain, Tallinn’s old town, public transportation…

Your future plans?

We’ll be trying to move back to Estonia in a few years, at least for a little bit. Maybe start a family. Travel the world. Try to train our cats not to wake us up at 5am :). We don’t really plan too far ahead, so we’ll see what the future will bring!

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