11 years in Armenia and still counting
Amiroseyn Vafaei is a QA Engineer at PicsArt and a performer at the National Instruments of Armenia Orchestra. Coming from Tehran, Iran in 2008 to study at the Musical College for 4 years, Amir ended up staying and living in Armenia. He has found a new passion and goal - to make the world a bug-free place while still staying true to the music.

We started thinking about Armenia in 2007 and it was all about music. At that time, I was 15 and obviously, there was little possibility of going alone so by we I mean my older brother and I. I'm basically him now as he was 26 when he came to Armenia. My initial goal was to come to Armenia for around 4 years, finish the Romanos Melikyan State Musical College and go to Germany. But so many things have changed.

Coming to Armenia
The first thing that I noticed about Armenia was that there is no traffic here. You can actually breathe. Coming from the city that has more than 8 million people to a city that have roughly 1,5 million was the biggest change. For example, if you want to go from A to B in Tehran being in traffic for around 3 to 4 hours considered to be normal. In Yerevan you can reach two points of the city even by walking.

I was quite happy at that time. The thing that psychologically helped me the most was that I always knew I could go to Iran whenever I wanted. That it is so achievable. I came to Yerevan at the age of 15, after 3 months I felt so homesick that regardless of the studies I went back to Iran and stayed there for a full month.

Yerevan is 785 km away from Tehran. There is a direct flight connecting two cities and a variety of options with a layover in Doha (Qatar), Dubai (UAE), Istanbul (Turkey), Kyiv (Ukraine), Moscow (Russia). Another option is to come by bus that is coming daily. The route by car is about 1,146 km.
Struggle of living in Armenia without Armenian
11 years ago living in Armenia without Armenian was absolute hell. Not that many people spoke English, but that wasn't the biggest issue. The problem was that I felt like an outsider. I was studying in Armenian in a classroom of 9 people including me. Whenever we were waiting for something, 95% of the time that was 8 Armenians and me.

The first thing I did was - I found a really good teacher. The funny thing was that I was going to the viola lessons twice a week and I was going to the Armenian classes 3 times a week. I was practicing Armenian at least 3 hours at home compared to 1 hour playing the viola. For the first month at the college, I had a translator with me. Then I could understand most of the things as music is not something like mathematics.

After 6 months my teacher said there is nothing more that she can teach me apart from the vocabulary as grammatic vise it was done. Listening to the speech I could understand what's the verb, how many people are we talking about if it is in the future or past. I could analyze it but my vocabulary was so poor that I couldn't translate the whole sentence. And because I was also so afraid of making mistakes I started communicating with people only after a year and a half.

As any language, Armenian takes time to conquer. The most difficult thing is writing because both punctuation and alphabet are a little bit complicated. I know Persian, Arabic, English, German, Armenian and a little bit of Russian. I'm not a linguist but looking at the grammar out of these 6 languages Armenian is by far the easiest and one of the most straightforward.

Comparing to Persian, Armenian is very different but there are so many words in common, it's mind-blowing. The language in Iran changed a lot after the Arabs came. Technically we are speaking 50 to 60 percent Arabic nowadays, and those Arabic words came to Armenia through Iran.

Overall, when people ask me when did you start speaking Armenian I can never pinpoint the date. Because still at this point my Armenian is getting improved because not only my Armenian but also Russian is getting better. I feel like Russian for now is unseparated part of the language. If you want to speak fluently at least «local» Armenian you have to know at least a little bit of Russian. You also have to be familiar with some nostalgic and cultural things, like Karlson cartoon, for example.

I would highly recommend learning Armenian but there is another opportunity. If you can skip Armenian and learn Russian, go for it. Let's be honest outside of the country there are more chances to use Russian than Armenian.
Cultural difference
Usually, similarities are the things you can't explain, something like values. Both nations are extremely friendly. Sometimes we go way outside of our comfort zone to make someone else comfortable. Hospitality is another similarity. When you are considered someone's guest you are done - you can not pay or do anything. Both countries share a more traditional perspective on how you should treat women, for example. Many westerners can't understand that but I didn't have that problem coming here. The way of thinking is more or less the same.

Differences are starting from the fact that Iran is a bigger country. Maybe that is also the reason why I feel safer in Armenia. Let's say one out of 20 people is a bad person. Just following the basic mathematics the bigger the population the more bad people there are. I'm not sure if that talks about Armenians being kinder, it's more about the quantity.

The only thing in Armenia that I can't get comfortable with is other people commenting on things that for me are completely none of their business. I had so many comments about how I look, what I should wear, how long or short my hair should be, if I should have a beard or not. You do have a right to tell your opinion. Comments like "these black shorts suit you" are ok. But approaching with something like "do not wear these black shorts ever again, you look stupid" is way out of the norm.

I understand that people say that because they are friendly. They truly believe I should shave more often or never wear these shorts again. They tell that because they worry about me and they like me. So I can't be angry.

Sometimes I think that something is probably wrong with me. I have zero Iranian friends in Armenia. It's not like I couldn't find Iranians here. Maybe I was a little bit scared. Iranians usually come to Armenia just to have fun, especially the tourists. Because Armenia is so close and cheap usually the people that come to Armenian to rest are not the most well-behaved or the one you want to be around. Because of that, Armenians usually don't like Iranians and I can understand that. I saw those tourists, sadly but they represent our country.

Maybe I'm just too Armenianized now. When I started speaking Armenian it was so easy to get along with locals, I started hanging out with them and that's it. Armenian is one of the kindest nations. Probably the best adjective I can use to describe them is that they are honest.
Back to the story. From violin to Quality Assurance
After College I went to Germany, that was my initial goal. I passed the exams but couldn't stay because of the visa issues. So I stayed in Armenia and went to the Conservatory here.

Music and IT are interconnected in my life and in my family. I have 2 brothers. One is a musician, the one who came with me. The other one was studying computer science in Iran and then moved to Canada. About 3 years ago he was working at Oracle and told me about an open position of a QA Engineer. I thought he is kidding but he was quite serious. He joked that I'm going to his wedding anyway so why not to apply. I went to Canada. I was not even invited to the interview in Oracle. I think that's obvious.

But I started learning HTML and CSS, later C++, then I had a course at the Armenian Code Academy concentrated on Quality Assurance. I was sure about my choice because making something better was always my goal in life. I'm here to make the world a better place. To be honest, Quality Assurance is the nearest thing to that goal that I could find in IT. To make the world bug-free place :) Ability to write code and test is just awesome. Automation is heaven for me. I'm not doing that yet but that's the goal.

After the course, I spent around 8 months applying to places before I got the job. I think it's not that bad as I had zero experience. I didn't have much going on. Most of my CV was music-related stuff and just two tiny programming course. So I was not the best candidate.

Even before I was considering becoming an engineer, I had so many friends working in IT. The sector is growing so fast. The best thing is that on my way I meet different people but they all have so much in common. Probably, tech people are the biggest interest group in Armenia.
Music is still a big part of my life and I'm so happy that I work as a Quality Assurance Engineer and play at the National Instruments of Armenia Orchestra. Either one of those gives me something that I can't get on the other.

My main plan is to become better in anything I do. At this moment I'm not 100% sure is I will stay in Armenia. Probably, I will go outside someday to learn something new, go for the next challenge but I will be back for sure. If I go the main goal is to become a better person and than come to Armenia and make it a better place. Because undeniable Armenia is my home.

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