Relocating with school-aged children — meet Nick Gaitanis, Director of Engineering at Bolt

February 01, 2022

Life at Bolt

In 2021, Nick Gaitanis relocated to Estonia with his wife, 2 children, and dog to join Bolt. 

Today, we’ll hear from Nick about relocating and get his advice for others looking to do the same. You’ll also get an insight into what it means to move children between schools and what the process looks like.

Relocation can be full of opportunity, but also plenty of doubt and worry — particularly if you’ve got children switching schools.

If you’re in that position, Nick’s honest appraisal of moving countries (and what it takes to make it a success) might just offer the encouraging words you need to hear. 

We’ll first hear about Nick’s role at Bolt before moving on to all things relocation and schooling.

A day in the life at Bolt

Nick Gaitanis is Bolt’s Director of Engineering for Foundations. His responsibilities include database instances, the running of application servers, the creation of backend tools and APIs, and overall site reliability for Bolt products. 

The team consists of 70 engineers and managers, but this number is expected to hit 100 by the year’s end!

On a typical workday, Nick’s up for the school run early, so he uses this time to look over any urgent matters that might have come up. 

This is followed by leadership and supplier meetings or 1:1s with his team. Whether in the office or at home, Nick likes to make himself available as much as possible. But one day per week is set aside for quiet focus time.

He finishes each day planning the next and generally catching up on the day’s important events.

Surround yourself with smart people

Asked about why he enjoys working at Bolt, Nick appreciates that decisions are based on data and that teams are constantly working to find solutions instead of dwelling on problems. 

“There’s a unique and clear vision at Bolt that drives efficiency to levels I never thought possible. They say to surround yourself with smart people — I can honestly say that I am humbled every time I enter a meeting”, says Nick.

And it’s his impact that perhaps means the most to Nick:

“Every day I make decisions that impact customers and our business. I’m honoured to have been entrusted with this responsibility. But I’m also responsible for the growth of our people, and I’m focused on positively impacting their lives and well-being.” 

And despite being in a senior role, Nick still feels that he has the opportunity to grow and learn from his colleagues and Bolt’s founders. “The insight, profound intelligence, and perspective are life-changing”, he says.

Deciding to relocate

Now that we know a little more about Nick, it’s time to hear more about his relocation experience.

Nick relocated to Estonia with his wife, 2 (almost teenage) children, and dog Alice. Previously, they lived in the UK for over 10 years and Greece before that.

A big part of the relocation decision was introducing his two sons to the idea. 

Nick and his wife first tested the waters by bringing up the option of moving within the UK, before talking about relocating abroad and the opportunities this could bring. The children then did their own research and were positive about a possible move. 

Relocation worries and opportunities

The idea of relocating to Estonia wasn’t a difficult decision — especially when you get to know what the country has to offer. 

For Nick, these were the ease of access to the EU, high-quality education, low crime rates, great opportunities for work, and a better environment for mental health. Being offered a position at Bolt, plus the help from Bolt’s Relocation Team, made the decision even easier.

“The Relocation Team supported all aspects of our move to Estonia. They arranged our appointments and forms and were always available for questions. The team took care of administrative matters, which meant we could focus on the actual move”, says Nick.

Of course, there were some initial worries when thinking about settling in Estonia. 

The biggest was the perceived difference in mentality between southern Europe (where Nick is from) and Estonia. But Nick’s found that because of people’s directness in Estonia, it’s not been a problem at all. 

After being in the UK for 10 years, relocating did mean saying goodbye to friends (and for the children, their schoolmates) and general home comforts. 

But for better or worse, the lockdowns across Europe made the decision slightly easier, as so much communication had moved online in any case. 

Nick’s biggest surprises

No matter how many plans you make or websites you check, there are bound to be surprises when moving abroad. Here are Nick’s top 3:

  1. A common thought is that many Estonians are reserved or introverted, but that cannot be further from the truth. The people I’ve met are considerate, warm-hearted, and willing to listen and help.
  1. The quality of life and the food here are much richer than most places I’ve been to.
  1. We expected it to be cold, but -24°C was a slight shock to the system! I’m okay, but my family is beginning to crave the sun. The snow is nice, except for those early mornings where you have to defrost car windows and drive to school!

A closer look at choosing schools

Nick opted for an international school thanks to its reputation and standard curriculums. The main advantage for Nick of an international school revolves around broadening horizons. 

“Overall, it prepares children for the global realities of today, and to look beyond race, colour, religion, and any other ‘differences’”, says Nick. 

And compared to the UK education system of ability tiers, the European system sets the bar high and aims to bring everyone to that level.

“This allows high ability students to perform and hone their skills, whilst raising the level for lower-ability students. It’s a more fair system in my opinion”, says Nick. 

Getting down to the specifics of school places, the children had interviews with a teacher and school representative. There weren’t any tests, but proof of academic achievement was needed, along with a certain level of capability in maths and English.

There are several international schools in Tallinn. Tuition fees vary by institution, but in addition, you can add yearly supplies (notebooks, writing supplies, etc.), school dinners, and transportation — some of these are optional, some not.

Nick’s top tips for relocating

When it comes to relocation, Nick certainly knows a thing or two! So, we asked him for his top tips:

  1. Remember that children are resilient and adapt quickly — so don’t be afraid of the change as the long-term benefits are huge.
  1. Be open to experiencing the new culture and avoid gravitating towards the familiar — it’ll make your stay more involved and engaging.
  1. Be ready for an initial cost shock. When relocating, you don’t necessarily know your way around or where to find what you need at the best prices. You’ll soon find your rhythm, though, and things will settle down.
  1. The first 2–3 months are the toughest, so persevere and enjoy!

Interested in joining us on our mission to build cities for people, not for cars?

Visit our Engineering Page for our 140+ roles and Careers Page for the open Bolt vacancies.

And remember, if you don’t live in Estonia, then worry not! Our Relocation Team is here to make your move as smooth as possible.


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