She thought about working by the sea and although she ended up in Warsaw, she has not regretted her decision. In August 2021, she packed her bags and headed straight from the small town of Bardejov to the capital of Poland: Warsaw. She has been working for Accenture for more than half a year. As she says herself, in this Polish city of unlimited possibilities, she sometimes feels like she’s in Erasmus. We talked to Nina Sališová about working in Poland.
Nina, how did your story in Poland begin?
By the time I finished college and was looking for a job, I was approached by Ahoy Career to see if I wanted to apply for a position at Accenture. As I had sent my CV to Accenture before; I didn’t hesitate and accepted the offer. This greatly accelerated the whole process. In comparison, I didn’t receive any response from the company directly for a month and went through the first round of interviews through Ahoy Career in one week. In the case of Poland, I honestly didn’t have it at the top of my list. It’s true that I’d been looking for a corporate job as well because it may look good on a CV in the future. But I was thinking more of some place by the sea where it’s warm, although Poland resonated somewhere at the end of the list. When I was deciding whether to accept a job in Warsaw, the main thing that led to the decision was that I had passed all three rounds of interviews, so it was clear that I was moving here.
You moved from Bardejov. What was the whole process of moving your life to another country like? Did anyone help you with that?
My recruiter from Ahoy Career helped me a lot in starting my new life. Whatever I asked him to do, he was always able to help me. He always directed me on what to do and how to do it at the offices, sent me documents to fill out, recommended places where it’s worth looking for housing and where it’s not. My company also helped me in these matters. Personally, I made a mistake right from the start when I started to obtain a PESEL (Polish identification number) for my employment contract. In this case, they didn’t send it to me until thirty days later. But if I had arranged it on a lease, they would have given it to me while I waited. It was also challenging that they mostly speak Polish here in the offices, so there was a language barrier between us. Not so much from my side as from theirs. I understood everything, but they were less interested in understanding. What is good, however, is that in some institutions it is already possible to click on English as your preferred language and complete formalities in English. It was very helpful for me at that time.
You say that when you moved here, you didn’t speak Polish. So how did you manage at work?
I don’t need Polish at all at work. We communicate with each other in Slovak or Czech. I work on a Czechoslovakian team and so my colleagues speak my language. We speak English with others at work, as it’s an international company and it’s such an internal language. So I don’t use Polish at work at all. My Polish at the moment is such that I understand everything they ask me, but I have a bit of a block and I’m embarrassed to answer in Polish, so I’ll use Slovak or English. Recently I saw a doctor who didn’t speak English; I was a little worried about how the diagnosis would look. But in the end we agreed that everyone would communicate in their mother tongue and we managed it.
Imagine, please, what a normal working day looks like on such a Czechoslovak team.
We work two shifts. I personally prefer the evening ones because I like to sleep longer in the morning. We have a short meeting when we arrive at work and then everyone works on their assignments. We have several types of roles and although we each specialize in something different, we can also help and advise each other. Of course, there is also time for coffee or tea with colleagues at work and, as we are a great team, the atmosphere is pleasant and we work very well together.
What does it look like in your job with opportunities for development and career growth? Do you have the opportunity to develop yourself?
I’m going to a Public Speaking training soon. The way it functions at our work is that a list is made and each month we are offered the opportunity to attend individual training sessions. We are approved to participate by our team leaders based on hours worked, but we usually get that approval. The trainings or in other words the training courses are different – from JAVA, through Python to the already mentioned Public Speaking. When it comes to career progression, the path is a little more difficult, but it’s certainly not impossible. As it happens in big companies, it takes a lot of time and is subject to a lot of processes. However, I’ve heard that it’s also partly because it’s Warsaw and that in smaller cities it’s not that difficult to move up the ranks. That’s why I don’t rule out the possibility of moving to another city, but within the company.
I assume that you don’t spend all your time only at work, but also have plenty of free time. Warsaw is a big city. Have you found your place here yet? How did you integrate into the Warsaw community?
My work colleagues and I sometimes laugh that it feels like Erasmus. Because we work in shifts, we are able to adjust our work schedule to allow time for fun. So I have very good colleagues. But I was even more pleased when I was added to a Facebook group of people who came to Warsaw through Ahoy Career. I met them at the earliest opportunity and we still have our Czechoslovak parties and meet regularly. They are the people I can turn to at any difficult moment, even for me, they are really very helpful. I think that because we are foreigners here in Warsaw, we help each other much more than we would in Slovakia.
Tell me a bit about how you perceive Warsaw as a city. What do you like and what do you dislike?
I studied cultural studies in college, so I’m a person who loves multicultural environments. I love meeting new people and that’s exactly what Warsaw allows me to do. Bardejov is a small town after all. In contrast, Warsaw is full of opportunities for both leisure and personal development. I’m discovering new things here, I’m tasting food from all kinds of restaurants, it’s just a city of unlimited possibilities for me. And so honestly I don’t feel like such a big foreigner here, because I understand much more culturally and linguistically compared to others, and so I enjoy this beautiful city. You can really do everything you can think of here. For example, if I decide at four in the morning that I want a kebab, I can have one. During the pandemic there was also a much more relaxed regime than in Slovakia, so we had somewhere to go.
You mentioned that you like to explore new tastes. What Polish food charmed you the most?
I love žurek [sour rye soup]. I just love žurek.
And which place in Warsaw is dearest to your heart?
On Friday nights I choose the pavilions. A typical, student-run, cheap place to spend a Friday night. Even in Warsaw it’s much cheaper than in Slovakia. Life in general is cheaper here. But I would add two more to the places you asked me about. Moczydło Park and Łazieki Królewskie.
I was intrigued that you say that life is much cheaper here than in Slovakia. You work in Warsaw, which is the most expensive Polish city, as it is the center of Poland, just like Bratislava in Slovakia. So let me ask a pragmatic question. How are you doing on expenses? Are you enjoying the city to the fullest or are you also saving something for the future?
There are definitely savings to be made here, and very nice ones at that. I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to cope financially. I was even preparing my parents for the possibility of having to contribute a little financially, because I was thinking exactly what you’re saying – the capital. But I really don’t restrict myself in practically anything substantial, and on top of that I’m able to save a decent amount each month. We also receive incentive bonuses on top of my salary at the company, so I’m really managing very well financially. I buy everything I used to buy in Slovakia, I get my nails done, I go to the hairdresser, I have fun on Fridays and I still manage to save money.
I see a really great satisfaction in you. But is there anything you’d like to change?
Only Polish authorities and officials. I would also change the fact that when I moved here I became sick right away and I hadn’t yet signed a contract with LUXMED (a Polish private healthcare provider – usually offered as a form of employer’s benefit), so I was in pain for two weeks. But other than that, I wouldn’t change anything.
And how do you perceive yourself to have changed after your time in Poland?
In Slovakia, I have noticed that young people stay at home longer and their parents help them with everything. For example, when they have to visit the office to do something, they accompany them all the time. It doesn’t work that way here. And what’s important for me is the fact that I also learned how to work this way and I managed to do everything myself. Of course, when I didn’t know something, didn’t understand something, I asked questions, but I didn’t go to my parents with it. And that kind of confidence that I can do it on my own is very encouraging to me. It is rewarding to know that I don’t need other people to hold my hand and help me with formalities. In Slovakia, I still had first contact with my parents. But there was no such option here, so I learned to be independent. I was always very happy when I succeeded at something and I also rewarded myself with some good sweets or those buns of theirs. In the same way, I learned how to handle money. At the beginning I had no idea how much such a life costs per month, so I had to think about what I would spend money on and what I didn’t need. But now that I’ve had my fill, I honestly don’t even count it that much, because I know I’ll still have enough and still have some left over.
How do you like Poland now that you’ve spent more time here?
Poland is a nice country and I like Warsaw very much. What is still a nightmare for me are the Polish authorities and Polish officials mentioned above. But apart from that, life in Poland is really great.
Are you planning any changes in the future or are you staying in Warsaw?
That’s a difficult question for me, because I like Warsaw very, very much. As for work, if I can’t go higher up in the company in Warsaw, I will look for other opportunities within the company. I am very satisfied with the company itself. But the job I’m in can’t be done long term, it’s more of a gateway position, so I’d like to try something more challenging as well. I’m young, I’m not limited by anyone or anything yet, so why not give it a try. If not in Poland, then maybe somewhere else.
If you could say something to people in the same situation as you when you made the decision to leave your homeland, what would it be?
Just go and thirty exclamation marks! Really, there is no need to worry, there is always someone willing to help in a time of need, so you will not be completely alone. And this experience pushes a person in all directions. Both professionally and as a person.