From college love to working at an international company. Dávid shared with us his story, how he started in Poland and how he lives in Warsaw now.
David has been living in Poland since 2016. So in May it will be five years. He lives in Warsaw, on the right bank of the Vistula River, in the Praga-Południe district. He lives with a Polish roommate and currently works as an IT consultant for an international company.
Why did you choose Poland?
I lived in a small town in Slovakia. I studied in Banská Bystrica. In 2014, in my fourth year at university, I was deciding where to go for Erasmus. My primary choices were the UK and Croatia. But after a few conversations with my classmates, I took their recommendations and chose Warsaw as a backup. The first two countries didn’t work out in the end, so I ended up in Poland. I found myself here kind of by accident. And so far, it looks like it was actually my destiny. I later ended up in a relationship with my mentor at Erasmus. She was Polish and that was also the main reason why I later moved to Warsaw. When Erasmus was over and I was on the bus back home with tears in my eyes, I told myself that when it was all over I would find a job in Warsaw. That was my biggest dream. Then I don’t want anything.
How did you look for a job?
I looked for a job on my own. I started as a student with no work experience and it was difficult. However, I think there is a lot of interest in jobs in Poland with Czech and Slovak language, so Czechs and Slovaks can find jobs very quickly.
Were you worried about anything before arriving?
I wasn’t afraid. I took it as a done deal. Of course, my friend helped me a lot. I didn’t go it alone. And I had already lived in Warsaw for half a year for Erasmus. As far as the language barrier is concerned, I managed to learn some Polish in the first few months.
How did you look for accommodation?
I had the advantage of not going into the complete unknown. My girlfriend already lived here in Warsaw. So when I found an apartment, she went over there and looked and told me if it was cool.
How was the move?
I packed some clothes, a few things for the trip and bought the rest here on the spot. I travelled by bus from Bratislava, where my parents brought me. I had, I think, two backpacks.
What memory comes to mind when you think of your beginnings in Poland?
I remember the excitement when I went to Warsaw for the very first time for Erasmus. My mentor was waiting for me in the city and we took the metro to the city center. When I stepped out in the center and the view of the Palace of Culture was revealed to me, it was amazing. Everything along with those skyscrapers around. I was living in a small town by then, so for me it was totally…wow. I didn’t expect Warsaw to be such an impressive city.
How do you perceive the Polish language?
When I heard Polish somewhere before and didn’t understand it then, it seemed very similar to Russian. But now I know that this is obviously not the case. But the linguistic similarity caught me off guard at first. For example, I walked by a newsstand and it said pig (loosely translated as press) and I didn’t understand what it meant. Or when something stinks. For us it stinks, for the Poles it means that it smells. I’m not even talking about šukanie [“fucking” in Slovak] (look for it in Polish). There are many words that sound similar or even the same in Polish and Slovak, but have completely opposite meanings. For example, čerstvý [fresh in Slovak] (in Polish czerstwy means stale).
What language do you speak in Poland?
I use Slovak at work every day. However, I also speak Polish and English on a daily basis. Either in my free time, when I speak Polish with friends, or at work in English. For me, it’s great that I’m developing two other languages in addition to my native language.
What’s it like with your friends here?
In the early days I had a Slovak community of friends here that I used to meet. But then our paths diverged. Many of them travelled to Krakow, Lodz or other cities. Now I have many Polish acquaintances here, my comfortable bubble.
What do you do in your free time? Do you have favorite places in Warsaw?
Warsaw is a city of two faces. During the summer, the whole town comes alive. The parks flourish, where one can go for a picnic, or go to the beach by the Vistula River. I like the boulevard above the Vistula, where in the summer it looks like a mass of people sitting on the steps or weaving between restaurants and gardens to the sound of music.
I also like running and cycling. Warsaw is great in that it has a quite well developed infrastructure of bike paths. There are also street workout playgrounds where one can exercise in the fresh air.
How do you live here compared to Slovakia?
We Slovaks and Czechs have it a bit easier. Our cultures are very similar. It makes me feel at home here. But it’s hard for me to compare a small town in Slovakia, where I lived, with Warsaw, which is huge.
As far as benefits are concerned, many companies here in Poland offer private healthcare. That’s definitely a big bonus. I have no experience with state care, but the private kind has a very good standard.
What did you think of Poland before you experienced it for yourself?
Before I went to Erasmus, I’d had only minimal contact with Poles. All I remember is a school trip to Auschwitz. Previously all I’d heard about Poland is that Slovaks go shopping in Zakopane.
How do Poles perceive a foreigner?
I’ve never had a bad experience. Poles, on the other hand, are very friendly and open. You can see the cultural and linguistic similarity there. Poland and Slovakia are geographically connected by the Tatra Mountains. But at the same time they are a kind of barrier. Poles also like Czech things. There are Czech restaurants with Czech beer on tap, etc.
What is different about Polish culture?
What we can envy the Poles is their patriotism. They are really very proud of their nation. They also definitely have business in their blood. They are business people They not only have great ideas, but they can seize an opportunity and make it happen. I miss that in Slovakia.
What about you and Polish cuisine?
I think Slovak and Polish cuisine is very similar. I must say that it is very tasty. Pierogi and žurek are great. But the beer here is not as good as in Slovakia.
I have noticed such interesting things. We eat compote in Slovakia. And here they drink.
What do you do at work and how did you reach this position?
I started in Poland as a technical customer service technician in call centers. Then I worked in sales for a Czech company that exported goods to Poland. I have gained a lot of experience in terms of communication with the customer. And gradually got into IT. I currently work as an IT consultant for SAP. It’s actually kind of like IT and sales combined.
Who are your colleagues? Are they Poles?
I work in an international environment. I enjoy Home Office now. It’s definitely better for me than the office. I have the convenience of not having to take the tram to work. But if I do visit the office occasionally, it’s not bad.
If you had the chance to decide again, would you move to Warsaw again?
Definitely yes. I consider it one of the best decisions I have made. Whether from a professional point of view or in terms of personal development. But without my girlfriend at the time, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today.
How has Poland changed you?
I’ve always loved learning about new cultures and interacting with people. Poland convinced me that it pays off.
Will you remain in Poland?
I have managed to find a job that I am happy with and look forward to every day. So I would definitely like to stay there for a while. But it’s a big world, and I haven’t been to many places yet. I’m thinking about trying my life somewhere else.
What would you say to people who are still considering a similar change to the one you have undergone?
Don’t be afraid of challenges. Don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams. There are huge opportunities in Warsaw compared to smaller cities in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Poland is a big country with a lot to discover.