Poland was a great choice for me and my daughter
She lives in Warsaw with his ten-year-old daughter. They live in the city center in the “Śródmieście” area. Barbora decided to work in Poland and move here in 2015 and since May 2016 she has been working in the country and her daughter Zuzka attends primary school here.
Why did you decide to move to Poland?
I always knew that I didn’t want to live in Slovakia and I was drawn abroad. I was very much influenced by my best friend who had lived in Poland before and every time we met, she would describe life in this country to me. She especially told me amazing things about Warsaw. I was also interested in talking about the mentality of Poles, about the job opportunities there and also that Warsaw is a city not as affected by tourism as, for example, Prague or Vienna. She knew how to compare because she had lived in those cities before.
But I also moved to Warsaw because I pushed my brother to Warsaw. He had the opportunity to study for half a year in another country as part of the Erasmus program. He came to consult with me. He had three options. Bucharest, Prague and Warsaw. He was considering Prague, but I talked him out of it and talked him into Warsaw. My brother found out that Warsaw was better and actually somehow beat me to it. And then the roles were reversed and my brother took me to Poland.
What was your opinion of Poles before you came to Warsaw?
I’d always seen them as good people. I didn’t have a bad experience, I myself come from the Polish-Slovakian border area. Even when our parents were building the house, they were helping them. It made no difference whether they were Polish or Slovak workers. We never had a problem buying food in Poland either, it was just cheaper. I’ve never had a negative experience. It’s a rumor that someone should debunk.
What was your life like before and how did Warsaw live up to your expectations?
I used to work in a bank as a VIP banker. That job was very stressful and it was never the path I wanted to take. In Warsaw I got a new job, which opened up more opportunities for me. I’ve always been interested in marketing and was given the opportunity to work in online marketing. So my ideas were fulfilled by the city, the mentality of the people I met and the job I got.
How did you deal with the move itself?
I first came alone, without my daughter, to deal with all the bureaucratic issues. I already had the job, but I had to get other things ready by May. I stayed with my brother for a while and later found my own sublet. All in all, the bureaucracy and registration at the offices were not difficult. I registered with the company, reported that I had a child, and she was automatically covered by state insurance. My company arranged private insurance for me and they immediately offered it to my daughter. Everything went relatively quickly, I didn’t feel like I was dealing with anything complicated.
What were your fears before moving?
As an adult, on my own, I was not afraid of anything. I was only worried about how Zuzka would catch on, how quickly she would learn the Polish language. I imagined her at school, being spoken to in Polish and not understanding. So it was just such a concern about how she was adapting.
When did you stop being afraid?
I was coming to pick Zuzka up at the school playgroup and I saw her running around with her classmates, shouting something at each other, laughing. That was the first time I heard her speak Polish. It was sometime in October. So about a month and a half since school started. She didn’t speak Polish before me, so it was such a surprise and a relief.
And then when they had the Christmas fair, it made me sit up in my chair, the way she spoke completely fluent Polish. Zuzka was entering the first grade. From kindergarten she knew a few letters, she knew numbers, how to spell “mum” and so on, but all the other basics she learned in Poland. I can say that when she was taking her differential exams at the Slovak school where I had enrolled her, she had a bit of a problem reading Slovak, she couldn’t read some of the syllables, for example “de-te-ne-le, di-ti-ni-li”.
So if you are moving with a child who possesses the basics of writing, reading and arithmetic, you should also spend some time teaching them Slovak. If it’s an older child, that shouldn’t be a problem at all. In general, Polish education is much more advanced.
What positives and negatives surprised you during the first days?
Mainly the gentlemanliness of the Polish guys. And by that I don’t mean that someone was hitting on me. These were guys of any age. You walk in the door of the store, they hold the door for you. You’re approaching the escalator, the guy lets the woman go first. And it’s not just me, it’s just normal there. The same thing struck our grandmother, how kindly men behave even to complete strangers, normally on the street, in the shop, when they walk in the door. I was also very pleasantly surprised by the strong patriotism of the Poles and especially the people of Warsaw.
Actually, there were no negatives. Even when I was going to the offices and arranging things, when I was arranging Zuzka’s school, I didn’t encounter the negative attitudes of people. The thing that bothers me about living in a big city is the time you spend in traffic. I come from a small town. Here, wherever you go, you spend an awful lot of time traveling. But now I can plan for it. I always walk so that I have things along the way so that I don’t have to go behind. You just need to think and remain more steps ahead.
Where are you currently working?
I work for a creative agency called The & Partnership, where I work as a Key Account Manager. I am in charge of Toyota and Lexus clients. My main job is to coordinate their online and offline marketing activities on the Slovak and Czech markets.
What language did you work in?
In my first job I worked in a Polish-Slovak environment. I spoke Slovak with my Czech clients and some of my supervisors were Polish, so I communicated in Polish as well. But they will understand you even if you speak Slovak.
Did working in Poland give you anything?
Definitely and very much so. It opened the door to an amazing world I’ve always wanted to enter, the world of marketing. I started out in a client service position working on a project for Google. I was in charge of these small clients who were doing small ads on the search network, on YouTube and so on. There is a great potential for career growth in this company. Especially if you’re smart and want to move forward. You can also earn good money there and climb the career ladder. For example, even within one company, as I was rising, when I went from small clients to digital agencies. I was in charge of Czech agencies, a portfolio of about 60 agencies that had their own clients. Then there were other opportunities to move on.
I can say that 98% of the experiences I gained have pushed me forward. I knew I didn’t want to end up just doing online marketing. I was also interested in television and eventually moved to the Czech television channel Prima, where I was a key account manager. I’ve worked with other agencies before, not digital agencies but media houses that have big clients under them. For example, Billa, BMW, Adidas, Zalando, CCC Shoes. I was also in charge of TV online there, a bit different type of advertising than Google uses. I was actually in that job as a project manager as well. I mean, if I received a project, I managed it from start to finish. I gave work to other teams and checked their procedures and results.
This opened a new path to a new job, an even better position in Warsaw, at the fastest growing global influencer marketing company called indaHash.
Back to the beginning, was it difficult to get a first job in Poland?
Of course you have to know what online advertising is. But I guess it’s like any job, if you head into a new job, a new company, you have to prepare for the interview. Find out something about them. I’ve also started reading about it, Google’s products and stuff.
Can you earn better in Poland if you compare your experience in Prague?
When I compare it there are far lower costs. It was much more expensive to live in Prague. I see the difference especially in those day-to-day costs, in food expenses. It’s an incomparable difference to what I spent in the Czech Republic and what it costs me in Poland. And yet I buy almost the same groceries, cook almost the same meals. It really makes a big difference. Rent is also lower in Warsaw. And as for apartments, it’s about what suits each person better, but I didn’t like the old stone huge apartments in Prague. I rather prefer the modern living in Warsaw.
Everyone thinks that the Poles are market traders, but in services, for example, they are far, far ahead of us. Whether in services, when you go to the office, where everything is digitized, or in everyday things, when you need to arrange your monthly public transport pass, courier services, restaurants, hairdressers, card payment terminals are everywhere. Compared to Prague, it’s completely different, they want cash in many places. Anyone who hasn’t experienced it can’t compare, and I don’t even like it when it’s done.
Comparing life in Warsaw and Prague, I also feel safer in Poland. Here I have no problem walking alone on the street at night. I don’t mind the cops stationed in many places. I lived in a very decent part of Prague, but I encountered a huge number of drug addicts and homeless people. They were annoying and I was normally scared of them. In Poland, there are locked housing estates where you go in with the assumption that the guard knows you, even though he may be a gentleman in years. But he’s not going let anybody in there he doesn’t know, checking who enters.
What were the reactions of people when you said that you are from Slovakia?
I felt rather discriminated against in Prague as a Slovak. In Poland they have always been positive. But one thing happened to me once. I had a friend staying with me and I was talking to her on the tram and someone thought we wouldn’t understand him, so he said Ukrainians. I wasn’t offended by that, but I corrected him that we were Slovak and he apologized. But I have never encountered anyone discriminating against me because I am Slovak or from abroad. On the contrary. Wherever I went, I was admired on how I was trying to integrate, how well I spoke Polish, how well Zuzka spoke Polish and how we caught on here. So it was more of a positive response.
Can you rate why we don’t like Poles at all?
Especially when I meet Czechs, they perceive Poles more as businessmen. Also that Poland is linked to various scandals, so it gives them a bad name. When I lived in Prague, a lot of top positions were held by Poles, so their skills in marketing and management, for example, were recognized.
What cultural similarities and differences have you noticed while living in Prague and Warsaw?
Hospitality is the same in Poland and Slovakia. Regarding us, when visitors come, we prepare meals, treats. Even the Poles are like that, they would give themselves away. For example, when we came to visit my sister-in-law’s parents, I had never experienced such a rich breakfast, lunch, dinner. Several dishes to choose from. Simply as if us Slovaks were doing it. And if I compare it with the Czech Republic, people there were very closed. It happens that they don’t call anyone over at all. Or even if they buy gifts when a child is born, when a visitor comes home, it’s not as generous as here. They even acknowledge that this is the case.
And as far as differences go, we’re just not that proud of our nation. Instead we idle about in the living room, we don’t go out into the streets. And even if we do, only in small groups. Poles are more able to rally if they take to the streets in their tens of thousands. You can see that they have been scarred by war, so they know what is important and how they must all stand on the same side.
You and your daughter have been living in Poland for a long time, what are your favorite places?
The “powiśle” part, for me, is the most beautiful part of the city. It has the most beautiful atmosphere, you’ll feel like you’re out of the city. There are also cafés with a pleasant atmosphere and a view of the Vistula, but also noisier bars where you can have fun. You can check out the National Library, the Doctrine Center, where adults and children will have fun. Nearby is the Vistula and its “wisłostrada”, then the next most popular place is Pole Mokotowskie. It’s a park for dog walkers, where there is an artificial reservoir where dogs can swim. Sometimes there are more dogs than people. They run freely there, a park with a beautiful atmosphere and set in a good location in Warsaw. The third place is Hala Koszyki. I like gastronomy, wine and coffee. So I look for places in Warsaw connected to that.
And outside of Warsaw it’s Tricity, Gdynia, Gdansk and the Polish sea. At first I had a feeling that there would be ice floes, but you can swim there just fine. It is also a fact that the culture is different there than in other Polish cities. I even laughed a little when I saw their smiles, but later I understood why they were there. If I could, I’d go back five times a year. The beaches are the most beautiful I’ve seen in Europe. The sand is white, smooth as flour. There are many beaches. If you want hustle and bustle, you can go to busy beaches, if you want to be alone, you have a lot of private beaches where there might only be ten people. It’s also great that there’s a little forest around the sea, it’s a bit different than other seas.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Still in Poland, still in Warsaw. I would like to have a job that would not constrict my time and space at all. To be flexible. I have a baby and with Zuzka growing up, I see myself more at work, where I don’t have to be there from nine to five and spend more time with her. I don’t have a target I want to reach, but I certainly wouldn’t leave.
Would you recommend that other people try life in Poland?
Of course. It changed me a lot and I think other people would benefit from it as well. I have broadened my horizons, both professional and mental, my perception of myself has changed. I’ve gotten to know myself here, I’ve changed. I have more humility and have become stronger.
What legacy would you like to leave behind?
I would myself to be known. To let it be known that Barbora Jurčová is behind this project. Let the Slovaks know. Making it about the fact that Slovakia has achieved something in Warsaw. And I would like to change the perception of Poland in neighboring countries. I think I’m succeeding. I challenge stereotypes in my environment as often as I can. Simply, we should not judge something that we have not experienced for ourselves.
Chcela by som, aby bolo o mne vedieť. Aby sa vedelo, že za týmto projektom stojí Barbora Jurčová. Aby to Slováci vedeli. Aby to bolo o tom, že tá Slovenska vo Varšave niečo dokázala. A chcela by som zmeniť vnímanie Poľska susednými krajinami. Myslím si, že sa mi to aj darí. Vyvraciam stereotypy vo svojom okolí tak často, ako sa dá. Jednoducho, nemali by sme súdiť niečo, čo sme si nevyskúšali na vlastnej koži.