Mustafa, originally from Turkey, has been living in Estonia for 10 years. He is the only foreign camera operator currently working in Estonia.
How did you find yourself in Estonia?
I went to study in France and met my future wife there. After France we moved to Istanbul, where we got married. At my wife’s request, after three years in Istanbul we came to Estonia.
How did you find a job here?
I studied journalism and political communication in France. When I first came to Estonia I met the then prime minister, Andrus Ansip. Through acquaintances I received a job offer from ETV (Estonian Television). I recall meeting Ansip again a year later, and he was very surprised that I’d learned Estonian so quickly.
How did you find the whole process of moving to Estonia?
It was very simple, because me and my wife were already married. I think that if we hadn’t been, it would have been a lot longer process. Since my wife is Estonian, getting a work and residence permit was easy. All I’ve had to do is extend my residence permit with the Police and Border Guard Board, but I don’t find that hard.
My parents were also absolutely okay with me moving to Estonia with my family. My mother visits us a lot to see her grandkids. My parents knew where Estonia was but hadn’t heard anything about the country itself. I was surprised how friendly Estonians are. They don’t treat me as a foreigner and I’ve never experienced hate towards foreigners, which I did in France.
How is working in Estonia and what is it exactly that you do?
The thing I like most about working in Estonia is that I can work under my own firm at ETV. That solution was the easiest and most useful for me.
The process of setting up a company in Estonia is also very easy – I created mine in just 15 minutes, after which I was already able to send out invoices. It’s absolutely amazing. Everything can be done so quickly online in Estonia.
One of my strengths is that I’m a mobile operator – I run back and forth, attend filming and am active in the whole process. All of that’s only possible because I love doing sports and have time to do it –I play football in the third league with my friends, basketball is my pastime and I go to the gym every day.
I film a lot of Estonia’s most popular TV broadcasts – the President’s reception, Your Face Sounds Familiar, MI, Plekktrumm and Suud puhtaks. Plus I film for Rally Australia with ETV.
What are the biggest differences between Estonia and Turkey?
I like the fact that my employer respects my private life and the time I spend with my family. In Turkey your employer can cancel your holidays and call you back to work just like that, or call you at night and say you need to come in straight away. In Estonia that never happens – work-related things are discussed at work. A big plus in working in Estonia is that you get paid for overtime, which in Turkey you don’t.
There’s no hierarchy in Estonia. It’s always okay to go to the sauna with members of the board, play basketball with them, spend time with them. Again, that’s something that never happens in Turkey. If someone is higher up the ladder than you, you have to interact accordingly.
In Turkey, a camera operator’s work is much more dangerous. Here it’s safe because there are almost no protests whatsoever, which is strange for me, since there are a lot of things where people should be out on the streets voicing their opinions.
There’s a lot of opportunity here to develop yourself and change your specialty. You can go from being a camera operator to a film director or vice versa. That’s another thing that doesn’t happen in Turkey – if you’re an operator, you stay one.
Although I earn less in Estonia than in Turkey or France, the living costs are much lower here. For example, I pay €60 a month for my MyFitness gym pass, whereas in Turkey it would cost me €300.
Another thing is people’s way of adjusting to things – in the last 10 years, living in Estonia has become so much more expensive, but Estonians tend to just deal with it quietly. In Turkey there would’ve been protests and people on the streets to show their resentment towards the government.
Do you see yourself living somewhere else in the future?
I don’t plan on leaving Estonia. It’s the ideal place to raise kids. I know my children are safe here. That’s what’s most important to me. I can let them go outside without having to worry too much. In the other countries we’ve lived in I’d never let them out to play by themselves.
How do you spend your free time?
I enjoy playing football, doing all sorts of sports really, and playing pool with my friends – those are my getaways. I really enjoy going to Kohvisõber after workouts with my friends. We often go swimming with the kids and play in Kalamaja Park. In summer I like cycling – it’s so easy in Estonia because there are lots of bike tracks and the forest is close by.
In my spare time I like to go out to eat and relax at Manna la Rosa, Vapiano, Butterfly – I like places that are busy and where the people smile and are friendly.
How do you find living in Tallinn?
Living in Kalamaja is great – the park is nearby and the kindergarten is right next to our building. Getting an apartment was a hard process. I wasn’t able to get a loan. They said I was a ‘risk’. I hadn’t taken the state language exam, but because I knew how to speak Estonian I didn’t see the need for it. Learning the language was very easy for me because for some reason it’s the easiest language to learn for Turks. Some people think Estonians and Turks are related. The two languages have the same sort of structure and the letters are the same – soft letters and so on. The language rules are very similar as well, so the whole learning process was painless. From day one I was against speaking English. Everybody wanted to speak to me in English but I insisted on speaking Estonian so that I’d learn more quickly.
I think it’s mostly a question of respect – whether or not you’re willing to learn the language of the country you live and work in.
We’re happy to have you here, Mustafa! We wish you good luck with everything.