Relocating to Estonia with a four-legged friend — meet Director of Product Ali ‘Juju’ Khalid

August 26, 2022

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Relocation can be fun and full of adventure, but it comes with a fair share of concerns and worries, especially if you’re relocating with someone else. 

Ali, originally from Pakistan, relocated to Estonia from sunny Dubai with his wife, Natasha, and their dog, Enzo (yes, he has a personal Instagram account). 

Spoiler alert: it’s been a smooth experience for all three of them, but read on to learn more about the challenges they had along the way. 

Considering Estonia as the next destination

Ali grew up and lived in Islamabad for 18 years. Then he moved to Lahore, where he spent the next four years. And at 22, he moved to Dubai to start his career in e-commerce.

In 2021, Ali and his wife Natasha (along with dog Enzo) packed their things to start a new adventure in Estonia. “Deciding to test myself in newer pastures was easy. Estonia had been on my radar for a while due to all the government innovation,” says Ali. 

Ali also had experience using Bolt and kept an eye on the company’s direction and growth. He was excited to start a journey not just in a new country but also in a new company. “The day I got the offer was when my wife and I went to see Tenet. It was the first time I saw Tallinn or Estonia being mentioned in a film. My wife and I still joke about it and say it was the sign,” remembers Ali. 

Ali’s brain was so preoccupied with ensuring everything went smoothly for Enzo that he lost his ticket and passport an hour before the flight. “Luckily, the Dubai airport police was able to locate my documents within 30 minutes while I sweated buckets and panicked,” recalls Ali.  

Some initial concerns 

As much as Ali and his loved ones were excited about their new beginnings in Tallinn, they still had some concerns. 

“I hadn’t lived in a sub-zero climate before. I’ve lived in 50-degree heat, but never in minus 20. I was worried about layering up and making sure I didn’t freeze. I even bought hoodies, jackets, and boots for Enzo as I wasn’t sure how he’d react to the weather,” says Ali. 

Meet Enzo, the lovely labradoodle 

Ali and Natasha rescued Enzo from Ras Al Khaimah Animal Centre in March 2020 — a couple of days before Covid-19 lockdowns hit Dubai.

The centre found Enzo dumped in an alley. He couldn’t walk, but he’s now much better through love, care, and supplements.

Enzo has hip dysplasia, so he has to perform underwater exercises and take supplements. His parents have to ensure he doesn’t take the stairs, jump, or run around too much as it’s detrimental to his health. “We’re happy making sure he’s safe. It’s one of the finer joys in our life,” says Ali. 

Fun fact: when Ali and Natasha started the fostering process, they discovered they were both allergic to cats and dogs. Luckily, Enzo is a labradoodle, and this breed is hypoallergenic. 

Since Enzo’s a rescue dog, it’s hard to tell how old he is: “His vet thinks he’s anywhere between four and six”, says Ali. In November, Enzo celebrates his birthday, and like every spoilt baby, his parents will organise a proper celebration: “Yes, he’ll have a cake and an actual celebration!” Ali laughs.

Enzo’s relocation experience 

Enzo, Ali’s and Natasha’s dog, had never travelled such long distances. However, Ali described the process as simple and comfortable: “I was informed that we may need to do some tests for Enzo as we were coming from outside of the EU.” 

When you’re bringing a pet from outside of the European Union to Estonia, your pet needs the following:

  • A microchip or a clearly readable tattoo (applied before 3 July 2011);
  • An identification document which must state details about the owner and the animal, the number of the transponder or tattoo, rabies vaccination date, and validity of the vaccination;
  • An anti-rabies vaccination and primary vaccination;
  • One month after the anti-rabies vaccination, your pet should have a blood test to confirm that the vaccine has taken effect. The test must be sent to an approved rabies serology laboratory to get approval on the antibodies. After getting approval, you must wait three months before the pet can travel to the EU.

“Luckily, UAE/Dubai is on the green list, so we didn’t need to do any of that,” says Ali.

Bolt’s Relocation team supported Ali and his family at each step. They found a reliable third-party company that ensured all necessary supporting documents were taken care of and provided information regarding the process to make sure all went smoothly. 

The third-party company also gave information on which crates to use for travelling, which airline to choose, and answered any other questions.

“We travelled with Lufthansa so Enzo could take a break and stretch himself in Frankfurt. It was a great experience that was absolutely hiccup free!” says Ali. 

Fun tidbit: Frankfurt airport has a 4400 m2 animal lounge where pets can take a break, play, and go for a walk.

Dog-friendly office 

If you’ve been wondering whether or not you can come to the Bolt office with your dog, then the short answer is yes! 

But there are some rules in place. For example, some floors don’t allow dogs as some people may be allergic. And there’s also what we call the Dog Calendar, where dog owners can book a day when they plan to come to the office with their pet. As much as we love dogs, if there are too many of them, it can get a little too loud. 

Enzo’s loved at the office. Whenever he visits, he makes everyone smile. “He loves being around people and loves to cuddle. He’s also friendly and has the most human and kindest eyes ever. I think that’s the key to his popularity at Bolt,” says Ali. 

Dogs are allowed almost everywhere

One of the biggest surprises about Estonia for Ali and his wife was how dog-friendly places are. “Until now, I can’t remember Enzo’s entry being restricted at any place we’ve walked into. It’s so common for places to be dog friendly that they don’t even have to mention it explicitly,” says Ali.

Among other surprises, they mentioned the excellent air quality and how walkable and people-friendly Estonia is. “Even bogs have wooden pathways making it easy for everyone to take a stroll in nature,” says Ali. 

Working at Bolt

Ali’s first serious encounter with Bolt as a company was the relocation process, and that process went well. 

He’s been a part of Bolt since February 2021 and now works as Director of Product for Rides and Business. “A lot of my workday revolves around people management and meetings, but I don’t just want to be a people manager,” says Ali. 

He likes to be hands-on with tasks that he’s genuinely passionate about. Sometimes it can be something vertical-specific, for example, building functionality for riders or drivers. Other times something at an organisational level, for example, improving processes for quarterly reviews.  

Ali finds it refreshing how open, honest, and transparent the organisation is. Everyone knows how they’re contributing to the grand scheme of things. 

Ali knows how his team contributes: “Given that my job technically enables drivers in over 45 countries to earn and feed their families, it motivates me to continue doing a great job as a team. Also, I find equal joy in allowing riders the ability to offload the cost of cars and just move with freedom and efficiency.”  

Lastly, the lack of politics and how everyone gets things done is impressive: “I’ve not worked in an organisation where everyone works in the same direction and is so open to feedback. These things set Bolt apart for me,” says Ali.  

However, in 5 years, Ali’s planning to retire. “In 5 years, I see myself retired on a beach or running a dog shelter. I even have a name for it — Enzo’s Way”.

Interested in joining Bolt? 

If our mission to build cities for people, not for cars, sounds like something you want to be a part of, visit our Careers Page to see all open vacancies.

And if you’re worried about the practicalities of moving, remember that our Relocation team is here to make your move as smooth as possible.

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