Global Estonians: Piret Saagpakk (San Francisco, USA)

Hi Piret, what made you to leave Estonia?

The main reason for my departure was to explore the world and find out what life has to offer. I think I have always been a radical type, so I headed to the States. So, in other words, I left for an adventure.

Where are you based and how long have you been there?

I have been living in San Francisco, California for the past 15 years.

What made you to choose San Francisco?

Hmm, good one! I decided to come to San Francisco because I knew some locals from here, but as soon as I arrived, I fell in love with this city! Few years later I attended to university, then graduated and got a job . . . one thing led to another – and now, here I am!

Then again, I think that I somewhat decided to stay here permanently the day I arrived, because this city has so much to offer. Here you have anything from events like Folsom street fair (BDSM and leather subculture street fair), Bay To Breakers (costume running marathon), Gay Parade; to companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, and anything between. I love this type of diversity!

Additionally, I’m captivated with this city’s holistic life approach. There are Bikram yoga studios, organic food markets, and vegan restaurants all over the place. I enjoy the health, wellness, craziness and weirdness all together here.

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

This city is a complete opposite of conservative Europe. People here are amazingly and excitingly alive and most view San Francisco as an assortment of crazy freaks and wizard nerds who are all heavily involved in naked marathons, costume parties, crazy street fairs, and hip tech industries.

Yet, the same freaks and nerds bike to work to eliminate pollution, recycle to support sustainability, eat at vegan restaurants because they stand for animal rights, and practice yoga to detoxify their bodies and strengthen their spiritual health. You get the picture of the lifestyle here. And then of course, there are people between, and we fit just right in. Some may find this all confusing, but I love this type of thrilling mixture.

As far as challenges – I never had any issues adapting to the culture here but there was a time when I had to put myself through school, so I was a full time student while working more than one job. Then again, I think that overall, the only challenge is to be away from my family in Estonia, I wish we all lived closer.

San Francisco Gay Parade

Was it easy to integrate in your current environment?

I was fairly young when I moved, so I think I adapted quite well and quickly. If I had moved at an older age, I’m not sure if my experience would have been the same.

Also, San Francisco has an amazing Estonian community – Eesti Selts is very active and has lots of events and activities happening all year around. I love to be part of it as much as I can and I’m sure that at some level this organisation eased my integration.

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

For the past 4 years, my husband and I have been running an internet marketing company. Best work experience – hmm, I’m obsessed with San Francisco’s startup culture. Failing here is not viewed negatively, but rather considered a learning experience and is therefore valued to some extent.

As far as the best work experience . . . I enjoy being part of the internet marketing industry and generate income this way. I don’t miss having a boss : )

Facebook HQ in Palo Alto, near San Francisco

Have you had any setbacks and how do you cope?

Not everything in life works always out the way you plan – in that sense, yes, definitely. But I think that if you are able to learn from your mistakes and face your challenges, then at the end you are a winner. You simply end up gaining more knowledge, experience, and etc. – you advance.

What or who motivates you in life generally?

Ha ha, Tony Robbins 🙂  (Tony Robbins is an American self-help author and motivational author – Editor) – actually, the successful like-minded people around me. In San Francisco you are pretty much surrounded by entrepreneurs. The ideas that people have and the products they come up with are truly amazing. It’s very motivating to see others succeed.

Piret in San Francisco

What’s your recipe for success and advice for others?

I would take advice from others! But since you are asking – I personally try to go by: have fun all day, every day!

Do you still have a connection with Estonia?

Of course and I always will! Most of my family still lives there and we all are very close.

Is there anything special you miss about Estonia?

The old town and warm summer nights.

How are you spending your Christmas this year?

I am spending Christmas in San Francisco with my husband, daughter, and friends. Merry Christmas to everyone – abroad and in Estonia!


Photos: Piret Saagpakk and Wikimedia Commons.

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