Mahwish Naim is a Senior Account Manager in Veriff, who moved to Estonia for her job with us. She was recently interviewed by Postimees about what it's like to live in Estonia, the local culture, and how life is within Veriff.
Mahwish Naim, a Senior Account Manager in Veriff was recently interviewed for an article in Postimees. We thought the interview was awesome, so we've reproduced it in English below. Enjoy a fascinating insight into the life of one of our many Veriffians who've come to call Estonia home.
Hi, my name is Mahwish Naim. I started my career in a real estate agency but soon moved into the corporate world and worked with one of the leading Market Research firms in Dubai in the capacity of Account Manager. Since then I have become passionate about working with clients, building customer relationships and business development.
This experience of 6 years along with my Business Project Management degree from London, helped pave my way to Estonia. I applied across Europe and got interviews in Ireland and Malta. And one day, I got an email from Veriff stating that they have come across my CV and would like to know if I am still looking for a job and available for an interview. My first thought was “Where is Estonia?”. I started researching online about the country, language, cost of living, lifestyle, culture and the availability of modern apartments (something I am spoiled by being brought up in Dubai). The more I read about Estonia, the more it excited me. I learned ‘tervist’ way before I actually came to Estonia.
At first, the thought did scare me of moving to a new country with a totally different culture, a very different language, no relatives or friends and a complete shift in weather (from 40 degrees in UAE to -20 degrees in Estonia). However, I took the leap of faith after my research, went through the interview process and the rest is history. I landed in Estonia on 18th October 2019. I instantly fell in love with the nature and the beautiful view while I was still on the plane and looked down from my window during landing.
Veriff is, and will always be, my first family in Estonia. From the beginning with a smooth interview process to migrating to Estonia and settling down, Veriff has been there with me at every step. The whole immigration process took one and half months and Veriff waited for my arrival patiently. After landing, Veriff ensured I have a place to stay and all my paperwork for a bank account, apartment registration and TRP were taken care of through the relocation company. Not only that, everyone at Veriff supported me in understanding the culture and Estonian way of living. They also helped me in identifying places where I can get a vegetarian diet, socialize and get a good apartment. Having people from 34 nationalities, Veriff is equally respectful of everyone’s culture and educated us about different nationalities by organizing cultural events. Working at Veriff makes me feel like I am already residing in a mini global village. Veriff not only supported me in adapting on the personal front but also made my professional transition from the corporate world to a startup much easier with the immense support of my team.
If you ask if I felt at home instantly, I would say no. It was rather a gradual process to start feeling like Estonia was home. I believe my multicultural background played a huge role in my settling down here. And now if someone asks me where I am from, I take a moment and respond, “I am Pakistani by birth, Emirati by upbringing, a British degree holder and now becoming Estonian at heart”.
If you had asked me this question two months ago, I would not have been so sure. But now I can say confidently that I will stay here longer as I just got married to my Estonian partner. When I moved here, it was solely for the purpose of working with Veriff and I never ever imagined that I would end up finding my soulmate here. My marriage has certainly changed my long term plans.
When I moved here, most of my life was surrounded by work. Being new to the tech industry and startup life, I got super engaged with building my career. And I was getting comfortable with that life as I kept getting my dose of cultural learning within Veriff. But I don’t believe that being in a new country solely for work helps. It is important for both personal and professional development to socialize with people and learn the history and politics of the country.
One thing which I did do outside of work was getting myself enrolled on an Estonian language course through the ‘Settle in Estonia’ program. However, all my efforts came to a halt due to this pandemic and lockdown. As my classes went online I stopped attending the course given that most of my time was spent in front of the screen and it started affecting my health. And with working from home, I also got cut off from my colleagues which greatly affected my Estonian cultural learning curve and social life. I took support from social media and became part of some expat groups where I got connected with my partner and made friends. It was after meeting him, I have been able to explore Estonia and Estonian culture more closely. Together we have travelled around Estonia, and even though I have seen quite a few places, I have so much more to explore as Estonia has over 2,000 islands. I admire nature, cleanliness, the smaller population and lower pollution in the country. Through my partner, I have learnt about Estonia’s difficult history that made Estonians more adaptable to challenging situations. This is also the reason Estonians have become more tech-savvy and have an innovative spirit which is also reflected in Veriff. The digitization of the whole country blows my mind, it’s something I have not experienced living in UAE or even the UK.
I also got a chance to experience the ancient tradition of Sauna which helped cleanse my body and mind. And whenever I want to enjoy the medieval period and poetic Estonian language through folk songs accompanied by tasty ginger tea, I go to Olde Hansa in Old Town.
As the pandemic hit soon after my arrival and we went into lockdown in March 2020, socializing with people at all became difficult, let alone with locals who are quite reserved in their nature. However, social media was a great tool for me to connect with a handful of locals including my partner. And since my marriage, I am able to connect with my partner's extended family and friends which is helping me grow my Estonian contacts gradually.
As I mentioned earlier, Veriff has been my first family in Estonia and I have learnt a lot from the people working here. From the morning greetings to saying ‘head isu’ during lunch, these small gestures helped me pick up the basic language and manners. One of my personal favourites is not wearing shoes inside home or offices because this is something I can relate to from my Pakistani culture too and something you don’t often see in other countries. Kohuke has become a regular ritual of my diet and the day is not complete without having one thanks to Veriff. An interesting fact I learnt at work is that for Estonians less is more. And I appreciate this directness and practical approach of the locals. Lastly, I learnt through my colleagues that Estonians take pride in their language and practice it widely, however, they also respect foreigners who cannot speak Estonian and they often show us the excellent command they have over the English language.
I would say the negative is mainly the dark and gloomy nights during winter. Even though I have loved this year’s snowy winter (which I witnessed the first time in my life and found it enchanting), I did miss the daylight at times.
There are a lot of positive aspects for me, such as nature, clean roads, safety to travel around alone, free public transport in Tallinn, digital facilities, ability to find things that I crave from my homeland, and many more.
Thank you Mahwish for the fantastic interview, and thanks for being an amazing Veriffian!