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Europeans on the move – Portraits of 31 mobile workers

Europeans on the move

Portraits of 31 mobile workers

European Commission
Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities
Unit D3

Manuscript completed in August 2006

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Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2006

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Printed in Belgium



Mobility is increasingly perceived in Europe as a key instrument Over several months, the team managing the European Year at
in the quest for more and better jobs. Geographic mobility opens the European Commission and the team responsible for the publi-
the door for Europe’s citizens to new languages, new cultures and cation of this book have carefully researched and examined the
new working environments. Job-to-job mobility helps workers to personal stories of mobile workers in the 25 Member States, the
adapt more easily to Europe's rapidly changing working environ- candidate countries and the countries of the European Free Trade
ment and to cope better with the effects of globalisation. Association. This work has led to the selection of the 31 portraits
for publication.
Yet despite these benefits, figures show that, at present, there is no
real ‘culture of mobility’ within the European workforce. Less than 2% Europeans on the Move aims to share the experiences of fellow
of EU citizens live and work in another EU country, and nearly 40% Europeans of all ages, professional levels and sectors of activity
of the European workforce has not changed employer for the past 10 in an open and informal way. The purpose is not to provide a sys-
years. There are several reasons for this trend, such as the difficulty tematic overview of all types of experiences and working environ-
in finding accommodation and moving with a family, or the uncer- ments. It aims, through the collection of 31 stories, to show what
tainty of return, and, more generally, a certain fear of the future. mobility means for the individuals concerned and to encourage
These figures also highlight two ironies that currently characterise other Europeans to engage in a mobility experience at least once
the European labour market: first, that work itself has become more in their working life. The book presents these 31 Europeans in
mobile, while workers have not; and second, even though 16 to 17 their living and working environment, not hiding the difficulties but
million people are still unemployed, between two and three million showing what they have learnt from their experiences of working
jobs remain vacant due to the lack of a genuine ‘culture of mobility’. abroad.

This situation prompted the European Commission to designate 2006 Europeans on the Move invites all Europeans to reflect on their
as the European Year of Workers' mobility. The aim of the Year is to future prospects and to seize the opportunity to really experience
encourage a wide debate in the EU between all relevant actors a taste of their 'European heritage'.
about the rights, the opportunities, the instruments, and, above all,
the lessons experienced by mobile workers. The decision by five coun- On behalf of the European Commission, I wish you an interesting
tries to lift restrictions on the free movement of workers from eight ‘new and enjoyable read.
Member States’ in 2006 is an exciting development and an important
step forward in the context of the European Year. Workers can now Vladimír Špidla,
move freely between 18 of the EU's 25 Member States. Highlighting European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs
the experience of mobile workers is the purpose of this book. and Equal Opportunities

Table of contents

Alan Honan ................................... 10 Barbara Andersson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34

From: Dublin, Ireland From: Łódź, Poland
Works in: Prague, Czech Republic Works in: Stockholm, Sweden

Albertine Niedercom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Chris Economides . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38

From: Luxembourg From: Larnaca, Cyprus
Works in: Paris, France Works in: Dublin, Ireland

Ana Luisa Baptista . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Christian Mandl . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42

From: Lisbon, Portugal From: Austria
Works in: Brussels, Belgium Works in: Bratislava, Slovakia

Anna Colamussi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 Constantinos Erinkoglu . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46

From: Ferrara, Italy From: Greece
Works in: Barcelona, Spain Works in: Brussels, Belgium

Antek Baranski . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Drasute Zaronaite. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50

From: Copenhagen, Denmark From: Kaunas, Lithuania
Works in: Europe Works in: Lincolnshire, UK

Anton Burihhin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Fernand Iaciu . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54

From: Tallinn, Estonia From: Bucharest, Romania
Works in: Dublin, Ireland Works in: Lille, France

Gergana Vasileva . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 Mike Rizzo. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86
From: Sofia, Bulgaria From: Msida, Malta
Works in: Bonn, Germany Works in: Ipswich, UK

Helena Lundquist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 Miroslav Stefan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90

From: Växjö, Sweden From: Prague, Czech Republic
Works in: Barcelona, Spain Works in: Halle, Germany

Jean-Marie Berthoud . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66 Pirjo Hirvonen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94

From: Switzerland From: Espoo, Finland
Works in: Valencia, Spain Works in: Brussels, Belgium

Lionel Zeba . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70 Rainer von Daak . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98

From: Brussels, Belgium From: Germany
Works in: Galway, Ireland Works in: Warsaw, Poland

Lourdes Martinez Sancho . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74 Robert Foley . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102

From: Bilbao, Spain From: Halifax, UK
Works in: Paris, France Works in: Warsaw, Poland

Magnus Saemundsson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78 Rob Floris . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106

From: Reykjavik, Iceland From: ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands
Works in: Stockholm, Sweden Works in: Kalmar, Sweden

Miha Fras . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82 Serhat Akin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 110

From: Maribor, Slovenia From: Istanbul, Turkey
Works in: Gössendorf, Austria Works in: Brussels, Belgium

Sophie Seashell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114
From: Paris, France
Works in: London, UK

Sven Størmer Thaulow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118

From: Oslo, Norway
Works in: Budapest, Hungary

Viktor Kravchuk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122

From: Riga, Latvia
Works in: Barcelona, Spain

Zoltán Antal. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126

From: Szeged, Hungary
Works in: London, UK

Zuzana Fodorova . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130

From: Banská Bystrica, Slovakia
Works in: Paris, France


First and foremost we would like to thank the 31 mobile workers

featured in this book for giving freely of their time and sharing their
experiences with us. We would also like to thank the library staff at
Bishopsgate Institute in London, Marina Port Vell in Barcelona and
all other venues that hosted the interviews.

Carl Cordonnier of Daily Life provided photographs for pages:
10-13; 14-17; 18-29; 34-37; 42-49; 54-69; 74-85; 90-113;
118-125; and 130-133.

Sue Cunningham of Sue Cunningham Photographic provided

photographs for pages:
30-33; 38-41; 50-53; 70-73; 86-89; 114-117; 126-129.

“I just felt like I needed something new.”
n Honan
Name: Ala d
lin, Irelan
From: Dub Czech
Prague, I’ve been in the Czech Republic for Getting my papers in order
Works in:
Republic four years now. I spent two four-month
itment Dir stints in the US before that but this is The Czech Republic wasn’t in the EU when I came so everything
Job: Recru
my first real experience of living was much more stringent. You had to get a visa for two years. I was
Age: 29
abroad for any length of time. lucky because my job was quite helpful in terms of getting the right
forms. There were so many and I had to get a lot of documents
I had visited the Czech Republic before I thought of moving here. I translated from Irish to Czech.
met up with a friend’s uncle who was working with an Irish firm
here, so I saw what it was like. I was working in recruitment in For the first month or two, I kept having to go back to the police
Dublin at that time, but I was getting fed up with the weather, the and lawyers and wait in queues. But I didn’t mind, it was good to
expense, the whole lifestyle even. Two months later the opportunity get out of the office and I would just read while I was waiting.
to move to Prague came and I jumped at it! I made up my mind
straight away that I wanted to go. It’s fair to say the bureaucracy can be bad at times. A few months
ago I went to a registrar to get a house transferred into my name.
I went to ask for information and the woman there said “no” to me
I remember my first day perfectly before I even asked the question!
The airline was good to me because my luggage
was way over the weight limit. My books and CDs
were important to me so I didn’t want to leave them
behind. Someone was supposed to collect me but
couldn’t come, so I had to put all my belongings in
a taxi.

I had no charger for my phone so I couldn’t use it as

an alarm clock. It was Sunday and I was starting my
new job the next day. I was afraid I wouldn’t wake
up so I stayed awake the whole night!

The next morning I got dressed and walked to work

in beautiful sunshine and a beautiful city. It was
one of the best feelings of my life! I never had sec-
ond thoughts or wondered what I was doing here.
I think my enthusiasm, the excitement and the new-
ness of everything enabled me to overcome any

[ 11 ]
I help companies move here out of their comfort zone. Speaking Czech makes people feel more
relaxed. You’re the one who’s the fool if you don’t get it right and
I work for The Source Group, which assists companies migrate from that puts a bit of humour into the interaction.
high-cost environments like the UK and Ireland to lower cost coun-
tries in Central and Eastern Europe. We deal with everything from You get a very warm reaction if you can speak Czech, especially
project management to setting up the physical factory itself. My outside Prague. People are surprised and they appreciate it
role as recruitment director is to deliver the human resources they because where else can you speak Czech? It shows a real appre-
are looking for. ciation for their culture. Czech culture is very closely connected to
its language and everything about the Czech Republic is uniquely
There are many reasons why a company might want to move here. Czech.
It’s not just about lower costs. They look for skills, proximity to their
markets and any tax incentives that might exist. We can advise
them on that. I’m used to talking about Czechs and Czech culture
I met my fiancée in an Irish pub!
because I do that in my The Irish are very warm people, very outgoing, and very passion-
job too. ate about things and I think that really helps us. We really throw
ourselves out there. Prague is full of Irish so a lot of my friends are
Things work out well for Irish, but I’ve made friends from other countries as well. It’s helped
companies that move me change my mind about a lot of nationalities. I’ve met a lot of
labour intensive work fantastic, interesting
here. If you are looking people.
to make something and
be near German and I have Czech friends
Austrian markets, it too. In fact I just got
always works. It would- engaged to a Czech
n’t be such a good area girl. I met her in an
if you were looking to Irish pub! It must have
develop a new product. been nearly two years
ago. I went to watch
some English football
Speaking on television with some
Czech helped friends and met her
me settle in there. I got her phone
number and I suppose
The language is difficult. I couldn’t speak a word when I arrived the rest is history!
so I got some tapes to learn the basics. I was very interested in
learning the language because I never had a second language Czechs are good at
before. planning social things.
They organise barbe-
It helped me settle in. Some people say the Czechs are some- cues, trips to a lake
what cold or distant but I think people are seldom cold if you and so on. They’re
engage with them properly. If you speak English, it takes people good at setting aside

[ 12 ]
time for that and I’m getting into that habit too. Last weekend I went I’m open to anything
away with my fiancée to a beautiful place just outside of Prague.
I still feel like a foreigner. You always do. But I haven’t really
My number one love in the Czech Republic – after my fiancée – is thought about looking anywhere else. It’s different and enjoyable
Slavia Prague. I really enjoy watching football here because it’s not and for the moment I don’t even ask myself if I want to leave.
a big spectator sport in Ireland. I know the finance director and I’ve
met a few of the players. My season ticket cost 50 euros, less than It’s a lovely feeling knowing I’m 29 and I’ve already been in the
I have to pay for a hotel room sometimes. country for four years. I feel like an ‘old hand’. I feel experienced.
I feel comfortable here. I know the time will come when I’m going
I know the Czech Republic quite well because I travel around for to have to push myself out of that and I’m open to anything really.
work. There’s one village near Olomuc in the east of the country
that is very close to my heart. I play football with a team of expa- I enjoy the challenge of my job and I like the country, so that helps.
triates and we’ve been there maybe 10 or 15 times. They visit us But my fiancée is the most important factor in any decision I make.
too. They are wonderful hosts, I’ve never experienced anything like It would be hard to take her away from her family. She has some
it in my life. The country is full of the most amazing people that you relatives in South Africa so I think she wouldn’t mind going there,
will ever meet. but I like it here and I can see myself staying a long time.

Going home is easy,

coming back is hard
I generally go back to Ireland once or twice
a year. That’s not a lot but going home is
easy and coming back is hard. I should go
back more often but I don’t like putting
myself through saying goodbye to family
and friends too often. Sometimes they visit
me or I see them in other places.

Migration is a very common story in Irish

families. The funny thing is a lot of people
are going back now. I’ve always thought
Poland was quite similar to Ireland in some
ways so I think it’s fantastic to see so many
Poles living in Ireland now.

I miss Irish bacon and sausages! And I miss

not having to slow my speech and contain
myself. In the Czech Republic I have to
speak slower and even adjust my manner-
isms. I miss the Irish sense of humour too. It
doesn’t translate too well here!

[ 13 ]
“I could wait for people to come and find me,
or I could make the effort…”
Name: Alb
From: Lux nce
After doing my bac (final exams at capital. I have many friends from school who have moved over to
Paris, Fra secondary school) in Luxembourg I Paris. One of my brothers lives in London, and at the end of the
Works in: cutive
rtising exe spent six months in London doing my year I plan to visit my younger brother in
Job: Adve
école de norme, then I came to Paris. Brussels.
Age: 28
I had a little job
for six months, then went to busi- I tend go back to Luxembourg when
ness school for four years. I got my degree there’s a wedding or a birthday, some-
three and half years ago. thing like that, maybe three or four
times every six months. My parents,
I said to myself that if I didn’t find a job in Paris grandparents and aunts still live in
within six months, I’d return to Luxembourg. I Luxembourg.
had some offers of unpaid work and to go on
some training schemes. I went to some inter- It’s hundreds of kilometres away, and
views, found a job and started off like that. And there’s still no high-speed train. I tend
I’m still here. to arrive in Luxembourg at midnight
and have to leave at four on the
I work for a small media firm. We work on a Sunday afternoon. That’s eight
development strategy: someone brings us their hours in a car during the weekend,
new product, perhaps a household appliance, and going to see my family and friends.
we create an advertising campaign for them. I
work on campaigns for television, for cable and I left aged 19 because my life was-
satellite channels, and colleagues work on cam- n’t really that fulfilling, nor that
paigns in the press, on the radio, on the Internet and exciting. Then all my friends left,
so on. It’s a great atmosphere here. We’re all around and in Luxembourg there isn’t that
the same age and tend to go out a lot together, espe- much to miss. There is my mum, I
cially for lunch and drinks after work. miss her a lot. There is the beer,
but I don’t like beer so that’s no
I’m in charge of a team – a little team. It’s me and one problem! I was young. I didn’t
other person. really leave for a dream, but just
to leave Luxembourg. I think one day if I get married
and have kids, then I’ll go back to live there though. Two good
Leaving Luxembourg is normal things about Luxembourg are its high standard of living and good
Luxembourg is a very small country, only about 50 by 75 kilome- school system. The only problem is that if I meet my husband in
tres. There aren’t many opportunities for further study, so it’s Paris, he might find the idea of moving to Luxembourg quite hard
normal, after finishing your bac, to go to live in another European to take!

[ 15 ]
Luxembourg: a family-orientated, I’m not shy at all these days, but when I arrived in Paris I was very shy.
I hardly mixed with anyone. I didn’t have much self-confidence. But I
traditional life thought to myself that I could wait for people to come and find me, or
Luxembourg is more family-orientated, more traditional. The sec- I could make the effort. I knew there were so many people out there,
ondary schools are much smaller, and you go through the whole so I threw myself into meeting them. That was my winning formula.
school system with the same classmates. In Paris among my friends
it’s different. Some have been here for two years, some for six. From my early childhood we always spoke French at home. I was
They’ve all come from different places, different countries, and educated in the French school system, so I’ve always felt half-
have all had to integrate themselves into life here. It’s not a given. French, half-Luxembourger. So language wasn’t a problem. At the
beginning I didn’t meet many native Parisians, generally it was
I wouldn’t say Luxembourg is old-fashioned exactly, but when I people who had also moved here. It was only when I went to uni-
came to Paris for business school I found the people of my age versity that I really started to meet ‘real’ Parisians. College was
were more self-assured and independent. very cosmopolitan, and I also met a lot of people from the
provinces or other French-speaking countries. Of course, at col-
Luxembourg is more like Belgium than France. People live a qui- lege it’s easy to get to know people because you see the same
eter life, and are more relaxed. They’re not at all loud or flashy faces every day. Outside college it’s not so easy. I took painting

like in Paris, but Paris isn’t the whole of France. Luxembourg has classes, went to dance classes, all kinds of classes, but in this way
only about 450,000 inhabitants, but almost half are foreigners, you only make casual friends, not people you could call close
so it’s like a big melting pot. friends. That’s how I see it, anyway. I’ve been here nine years
now, but it has gone so quickly. I’ve spent almost my entire adult
life here in Paris.
One year abroad and things change
for sure
Since I’ve been here I’ve changed, but I don’t know if it’s the
Lonely in the city of light
effect of Paris or just that I’ve grown up. My first year wasn’t so In Paris although you might see people when you go out, from time
difficult, but things change for sure. I have a different mentality, a to time you get lonely. And lonely here means you’re really alone.
different way of living. In Luxembourg being lonely is impossible. You bump into people all

[ 16 ]
the time, even if you don’t really want to! But because I left nine It would be much easier, much more familiar, less complicated. At
years ago, if I was to return I’d have to spend a lot of time renew- the same time I want to succeed, and returning to Luxembourg
ing old friendships and make a whole new bunch of friends. My would mean finding a new job.
family are there, but my friends are here now.
There’s the language barrier, the motivation to make a move and
Perhaps the real reason I stay in Paris is that I have a lot of things the disruption it would cause – but mainly the language more than
going on. I stay because of my job, but also because of my friends. anything. We spoke French at home, so there were no language
problems when I came to Paris. And it might take more than a year
to settle in, to really get to know people.
Freedom is important to me
In Paris there are always things to do, whenever you want, and
many friends who aren’t far away. There are lots of exhibitions,
Advice to others
shows, good night clubs, media parties. I don’t necessarily enjoy My advice to someone else planning to move abroad is to go out
to the full all that Paris has to offer but I know that if I want to, I can. and find people, throw yourself into it. If you have problems mak-
There are not the same things on offer in Luxembourg. ing friends, there are national networks. In Paris, for example, the
Luxembourg ambassador hosts a special evening once a year.

I enjoy moving, and freedom is very important to me. In the past There are things you can sign up to, bulletin boards where you can
couple of years I’ve changed apartments two or three times. It’s leave a little notice: “I’m in Paris, from Luxembourg, looking for a
important not to become too stuck in one place. I think it’s a feeling job, looking for somewhere to live.” Just give it go and see what
I got from living in Luxembourg. happens.

I’ve been doing the same job for three and a half years, and I ask
myself if that’s not already too long. In the past I’ve thought about
moving to another country, but now I’m a little frightened by the
idea of doing it alone. If I were to go with a good friend, I might
move for a year or two to Spain or Portugal to experience a new
culture. But I also think sometimes about returning to Luxembourg.

[ 17 ]
Ana Luisa
“I feel at home here, if only the sun would shine!”
m e: Ana Luisa Bap
Na al
on, Portug
From: Lisb elgium
Brussels, B I came to Belgium from Portugal about Advising businesses
Works in: ent
n investm six years ago. I had worked there as
Job: Foreig
a teacher. I wanted to do a Masters I started at the Brussels Enterprise Agency three years ago. I work
degree and thought it would be more in the international relations department as a foreign investment
Age: 32
interesting to experience a different adviser. I speak English, French, Spanish and Portuguese – this mul-
country’s culture. In addition, Portugal has quite high tilingual element was important in my recruitment. I work mainly in
unemployment, which can English but also in French
make it difficult to find a – it depends on the request
job. My boyfriend was a from the client.
journalist who was work-
ing in Brussels, so Belgium The Agency is a contact
was an obvious choice. I point for entrepreneurs
obtained a scholarship who want to open a busi-
from the Université Libre ness in Brussels. We are
de Bruxelles (ULB) to do a financed by the regional
Masters in Philosophy and government and our main
Culture for one year. goal is to support compa-
nies doing business here.
My plan at the beginning My particular role is to
was just to study, but as I promote Brussels abroad
had already made the as a location for inward
investment in the country – investment and to attract
learning the language and and support foreign com-
cultures – I decided to stay panies once they have
on and look for temporary made the decision to come
work. My first job was as a receptionist in a law firm. Then I worked here. I deal directly with businesses on a daily basis.
as a credit collector for one year, which I didn’t like too much – it
wasn’t really me. We provide relevant information and advice to our clients and guide
them to other organisations – we are facilitators. The kind of advice
I took an intensive French course for two months and then private we give ranges from the price for rental accommodation to statistical,
lessons for two years because I needed to have good verbal and economic or cultural information – everything that someone thinking
written skills. Portuguese and French are similar, they both have of coming to the city would want to know. We can tell people how
Latin roots, so I had a good start. My boyfriend – now my husband to open a branch here or start a Belgian company, about recruitment,
– is Belgian, so we speak French every day as well. Now I’m learn- subsidies, planning regulations and so on. We work in cooperation
ing Flemish too. with local partners to achieve the end result. Now we are offering a

[ 19 ]
new service to give companies thinking of locating here a free trial,
so they can ‘test’ Brussels first hand. They can use free offices and
services for three months before they make up their mind.

If we are involved as participants in Belgian Economic Missions –

as in Japan last year – then all the Belgian regions participate and
we help organise the seminars. We are not in competition, but of
course we are not going to advise a company to go to another
region outside of ours! We want them to come to Brussels.
However, if there is a company with a project that is not going to
be successful in Brussels but perhaps would be elsewhere, we
would contact our partners in the other Belgian regions.

We talk a lot!
Working in Portugal was completely different. Of course I did a dif-
ferent job, but even so, there is a difference between the north and
the south of Europe. In the south things are a little more relaxed.
Here, things are more organised, more demanding. It’s hard to
compare the two, but when I work with Spanish people for exam-
ple, the meeting always seems to start half an hour late! The
approach is different.

The Portuguese are more open, they chat more easily with other
people. We talk more about our private lives, we talk with our
hands, in fact we talk a lot! People here are more reserved. But
Belgians know how to welcome foreigners, so I had no problem in
fitting in and have made some good Belgian friends.

In Lisbon – where I come from – there is life in the streets until mid-
night. Here it is different. I miss this – and of course the climate.
Culturally, life in Portugal is quite dynamic, but here there are more
international events. In terms of health systems, Brussels has the
advantage – it’s not only the rich who have access to good med-
ical facilities or education. To do a Masters here is not as expen-
sive as in Portugal and there are language courses everywhere.
Brussels is quite well equipped in that area.

[ 20 ]
If only the sun would shine…
The first two years were quite difficult for me. The climate was a
shock! It was depressing – I cried a lot. I had no family. But Brussels
is a human-sized capital, not too large, and I made friends – some
Portuguese, some from other nationalities. At work, the atmosphere
is good. Belgians know how to work as a team and this is impor-
tant in my job. We don’t have all the answers, so we need to rely
on the expertise of our colleagues.

My family is still in Lisbon. I visit them three or four times a year.

One day I may go back, but Brussels offers me a quality of life
that – at the moment – Lisbon cannot. In general, young people
have difficulty in finding a job with a decent salary there.

Maybe I could start again in another country, it depends. I love

Paris, but not to live – it’s too big, too noisy, too French. London is
too English. Brussels is more international. The Portuguese commu-
nity is quite large here: there are restaurants, newspapers and
activities organised by the embassy. After six or seven years, I feel
completely integrated, I feel at home – if only the sun would shine!

Daily life is different

I think I would go back if I could find an interesting job, even if it I
was paid less. My husband doesn’t speak Portuguese but under-
stands it. He loves the country, the good food, the beaches, the
countryside – it’s an ideal location for a holiday. But this isn’t the
same as living day-to-day when you have to pay bills or study.

When I came here, I didn’t speak the language well. I had one
year to get up to speed and reach a level of fluency so it was dif-
ficult for me. It would be the same for him in Portugal. I think the
key to a successful move is to research, research and research
again. I wouldn’t want to do it again just yet, but on the other hand,
if a good opportunity arose I may well be tempted!

[ 21 ]
“It was as if a light within me had been suddenly
switched on again.”
na Cola
Name: An
ara, Italy
From: Ferr ,
Barcelona I am from Ferrara in Italy, but I have like working in a multicultural environment and the city and the job
Works in:
Spain always wanted to live in Barcelona. I are perfect for that.
ct Assistan fell in love with the city when I first
Job: Proje
came here interrailing in 1992.
Age: 33 My first job
In 2001, I got a Bachelor degree in foreign languages I didn’t have great expectations for my first job after graduating. I
and literature from the University of Bologna. My thesis was a com- was just hungry to work! I got a job in a big call centre for a car
parative study of how people answer telephone calls in Italy and rental company. I was based in the new World Trade Centre that
Spain. After my studies I decided to go had just been built in the port.
and work in Barcelona and, funny enough,
my first job was as a telephone operator in As a call centre agent I had to answer
a call centre. over 100 phone calls a day. The work
was very boring and the turnover of
staff very high. Nobody can stay in
Life in Barcelona that kind of job for a long time, but
Barcelona is a lively city, full of opportuni- the foreigners working in the call cen-
ties. It is less stressful than Milan or London tres know it’s just a first step. You
for example. I don’t think I could survive in don’t need any previous work experi-
one of those places. The weather is won- ence or even to be able to speak
derful here too and that helps you feel Spanish or Catalan – you just have to
good. It rains only once every two months. be a native speaker of a European
The quality of life is quite high. An average
salary for an administrative job in It was like a big international Erasmus
Barcelona is only around 1000 euros per environment because there were hun-
month, but people can live quite well on dreds of phone operators from
that because it is not an expensive city. At France, Italy and other southern
least, it’s cheaper than Italy. The cost of European countries. I had a wonder-
renting a flat has been going up by 25% ful and informal relationship with my
every year though. In 2001, a room in a colleagues. The downside is that I
shared flat cost 150 euros. Today it costs was always with my foreign col-
up to 400 euros! leagues and didn’t integrate with
native Catalan speakers in Barcelona.
In the six years I have been here, a lot has changed. People often I knew Barcelona as a ‘guiri’, which is the Catalan nickname for
reach a point when they decide to stay or leave. I’m happy here. I foreigners here.

[ 23 ]
On the other side I discovered was that they were used to much better salaries at
home, especially the people from northern Europe. A lot of them
After my job in the call centre, I spent a year in Milan doing a were overqualified for the jobs available.
Masters degree in management of human resources. As part of the
degree, I did an internship at an international consultancy in Some people get fed up and go back to their home country. There
Barcelona. The company recruited international workers for the call is a sort of glass ceiling that separates non-Catalans and foreigners
centres, so I found myself on the other side. One year I was work- from the Catalans. Higher positions and responsibilities seem to be
ing as a call centre agent, the next I was recruiting them! for Catalans only.

It was a very interesting experience because I could interview

young foreigners who, like me, had moved to Barcelona. People
You are not in Spain!
had come for different reasons, but one of the common problems After the internship, I worked for a manufacturer of diamond tools
for the stone market and construction industry. The company was
very Catalan and somewhat narrow-minded. They always spoke
Catalan and considered me a strange animal because I was not
one of them. I remember once I used an image of a flamenco
dancer to publicise a fair to some Italian customers. The whole
sales department got angry with me. They said it was a Spanish
image and did not represent them at all. Catalonia is different –
never forget it!

Now I work for an association of Mediterranean businesswomen.

Since 2003 I have been working as an assistant coordinator for
European projects. I love it! The environment is quite cosmopolitan
and I find myself very comfortable in this job. The problem is that
the financing for this kind of non-governmental organisation is not
very reliable and you never know if you will still have a job the
next day.

A brief return to Italy

I went back to Ferrara a few years ago. My contract had finished
and I couldn’t find another job in Barcelona so I decided to go
back home for a while. I stayed for just over two months. I found it
a wrench leaving this city but my friends said I would be back
before I knew it, and they were right. I remember standing in front
of the mirror at home in Ferrara asking myself where I wanted to
be. The answer was immediate – Barcelona!

Two and a half months later I got a call from a former colleague
who had won another contract and he wanted me for the project.

[ 24 ]
I jumped at the chance. My father said that he had never seen me It hasn’t always been easy but I feel I have gained so much from
so happy. It was as if a light within me had been suddenly switched my experience of moving abroad. I have become a richer and
on again. more rounded person because of it. I’ve opened my mind, met a
lot of people from different backgrounds and have become more
independent. I couldn’t see myself going back to live in Ferrara
I never forget I’m Italian now. I would miss the multicultural life of Barcelona.
People always think that the Spanish and Italians are close in terms
of culture and mentality but there are differences. Italians are very My advice to anyone thinking of going abroad to work would be
meticulous, especially at work, whereas the Spanish are a bit chaot- to listen to your head, but don’t ignore what’s in your heart. It doesn’t
ic. And the Spanish are much more direct than us – they get straight matter what mentality people have – Spanish, Catalan or Italian –
to the point. They can sometimes seem a bit rude to an Italian. if we move successfully we forget about frontiers and nationalities.

The Spanish love their soap operas and there are a lot of documen-
taries on television too. The surprising thing for an Italian is that there
are not many political debates because we have them all day at home.

I miss not being able to ride my bicycle. Barcelona is too hilly and
in any case people drive far too fast and often shout at cyclists for
getting in the way. Now I walk everywhere. Barcelona is quite big
though – people live closer to one another in Ferrara. You can be
spontaneous and just drop by to see a friend after work. In
Barcelona you have to be more organised. Everyone carries a
mobile phone and life would be difficult without one.

After six years abroad, I am very happy with my choice of living in

Barcelona, but I never forget that I am Italian and I am proud of my
Italian roots. I miss my big Italian family, but thanks to cheap flights
I can go back every two months to visit them and eat my favourite
Italian food. It is easier to move between countries these days but
it could be easier still.

Don’t ignore your heart

At first I mixed only with foreigners and thought Catalans were
very closed. I think there is a paradox because Catalans want to
live in a multicultural environment but they aren’t very open to for-
eigners. But little by little we have warmed to each another. I
realised that I needed to make more of an effort to learn Catalan.
I joined a choir last year and we often meet up for outings at week-
ends or cultural events in Barcelona. Now some of my closest
friends are Catalan.

[ 25 ]
“Europe is my home.”
tek Baran
Name: An
From: Cop
Denmark any
I’ve been living abroad for most of my when job opportunities arise we can vouch for each other’s creden-
erne, Germ life. As a child, I spent eight years in tials to prospective employers.
Lives in: H
Europe Denmark and then 16 years in the
Works in:
sultant Netherlands. For my final thesis I
Languages help in business
Job: IT con
studied in Geneva and that is when
Age: 32 my international ‘adventure’ began. Polish is my mother tongue but I can switch between this and
My parents are Polish, I have Danish nationality, a English, German, Dutch and Swedish – I don’t need to think.
Dutch wife, whom I married in Belgium and today we live in
Germany. My first job was as a sales engi- I think that one of the reasons I have
neer for an American software company picked up so many languages is that
based in Sweden. Basically, I just packed when we moved to the Netherlands, my
two suitcases, took a flight to Stockholm and father started working for the European
stayed for two years. Space Agency and the street in which we
lived was multinational. As children, we
all played together and you heard all
A European network these languages – especially the Italians,
After this, I had an offer from an American who were the noisiest! But having a
start-up company and spent the next six father who insisted on me learning lan-
months travelling out of a suitcase, criss- guages also helped.
crossing around Europe. In 2001, they
downsized and I was out of a job. I decided Speaking other languages is a big
to start working for myself and that has advantage to me now – I can speak to
been rather successful. Now, I’m living off almost the entire northern part of Europe
my professional network all over Europe but in their own language. That helps in busi-
based in Germany. ness. If you are not from the country and
you are reasonably fluent in the lan-
I’m a consultant for software development – guage, people are very, very accommo-
the whole process from A to Z. My clients dating – it shows you have a good atti-
vary from the top 500 US public corpora- tude.
tions to smaller organisations – like the
Dutch police force, public authorities and Knowing the language of the country to
private companies. which you are moving is a big advan-
tage, but not knowing it shouldn’t stop
I have just started This is a group of pro- you from moving. I spent four years following French classes in the
fessionals who have worked together on previous projects and Netherlands. Then I spent one year living in Geneva and I learnt

[ 27 ]
more French there than the For example, I am now living in
previous four years. This has Germany and I have two German
been true for all my lan- private pension plans but if I
guages – practice is the best moved somewhere else, I could
teacher. no longer claim the tax back on
them. So moving around Europe
sometimes comes at a price.
Pros and cons
The countries I’ve lived in all There isn’t one particular coun-
have their peculiar pros and try that I refer to as my home.
cons. My favourite place is Home is where my parents
Stockholm. It has a great city life, live. Now, they live in the
but get in the car for 15 minutes Netherlands. My wife and I
and you are in the middle of really like Sweden but I have
nowhere. After living in the no idea if I will ever stay in
Netherlands or Germany, Sweden one place. We’ve been in
is very spacious. The one downside Germany for nearly three
to the country is the tax rates. They years and we are looking
are high, but then again there are around to move somewhere else.
very few countries in Europe where it
is advantageous to be self-employed from a tax point of view.
Adapting to attitudes
My social security cover is through Germany. One of the problems Attitudes vary across Europe. I think the most striking difference I’ve
with the EU is that, for example, the Netherlands has the rule that seen is between the Netherlands and Belgium, at least the Flemish
you pay tax where you earn it – but if you live in Germany and you part. Dutch people are very direct but in Belgium you have to skirt
start paying tax in the Netherlands, a German bank will not give
you a mortgage because you don’t have an income in Germany. A
Dutch bank won’t give you a mortgage because your house is in
Germany. That’s one of the challenges for Europe.

Freedom has a price

I love the European Union. I can go basically wherever I want to
live or work, but there are still some obstacles, for example in edu-
cation. I studied five years for two Bachelor of Science degrees, but
that means different things in different countries.

Pensions are another thing. Every EU government stipulates that

you have to take care of your own pension – but private pension
plans are only tax deductible in the country in which they originate.

[ 28 ]
around the issue, you have to be gentle. Germany is very formal, There doesn’t seem to be that much information out there to help
although this is changing, especially in non-German multinational people either. Although I did find the European Commission’s sign-
organisations. Sweden and Finland are very laid back, very easy post service particularly helpful and would advise anyone making
going, very amicable but people get their jobs done. Italy is some- a move abroad to use it. It provides free advice on almost any ques-
times slow. I guess I just adapt easily to different cultures – and tion you may have regarding your rights in EU countries. You can
knowing the language definitely helps. submit a question and an expert will get back to you with an
answer, or at least tell you who to contact.
Social life on the move is difficult. You have to be pretty self-reliant –
yes, we make friends if we are somewhere for a few years, but we My advice to someone thinking about leaving their own country
don’t have the same social network as someone who lives in the and living or working somewhere else would be, just go, just go
same place his whole life. A lot of people don’t understand how and enjoy yourself, have fun.
you can survive without this social net around you – but I’m not
used to it. What you are not used to you don’t really miss.

Use the signpost service

If you leave your coun-
try, be prepared for the
paperwork! You’ll have
to do a lot of it yourself
and even more so if you
are self-employed like
me. The EU may enable
you to travel and work
in different countries but
it ends there. Everything
after that such as the
social security issues, res-
idency and so on you
will have to sort out your-
self. This could involve
long queues of up to
two or three hours just
to get a residence per-
mit. Although we’re in
the EU, there is very lit-
tle continuity at the local
level when it comes to
sorting out residency.

[ 29 ]
“Get over your fears and go – there’s always someone
who’ll help you.”
ton Buri
Name: An ia
inn, Eston
From: Tall land
Dublin, e
Ir I come from Estonia, but my parents sent out a number of people at the same time so I wasn’t totally
Works in:
r viser are originally from Russia. I grew up alone. We started work in Dublin for a global food manufacturing
Job: Supe
in Tallinn with my two sisters and one group. The company organised our accommodation, which was
Age: 22 brother. Estonia is a very friendly
place, where people are made to feel wel-
come and almost immediately part of the family. It’s a very cosy
atmosphere. I guess this explains why after only three months in
Ireland I was so homesick I had to go back to Estonia for a bit.

I hadn’t really thought that long and hard about moving abroad but
things in my life changed. At 18 I had to do my national service for
eight months. It was really tough but it was good training particu-
larly when it comes to discipline. For the first time in my life I felt
really on my own. We were not allowed to contact our families.
Everybody looked the same with their shaved heads and uniforms.
Even the simple pleasures in life, like chocolate, were forbidden.

As I had no ties when I finished the army I started to think about

going abroad. I wanted to strike out on my own, start my own life
and didn’t want to feel trapped in Tallinn. I also wanted to study fur-
ther and going to a good college in Estonia is expensive, so this
was another reason for leaving.

First flight but not the last!

A friend of mine worked in a recruitment agency and they were
looking for people to go to Ireland at the time so he asked me if I
was interested. I thought why not. I didn’t really mind where I went
and I knew nothing at all about Ireland. It seemed like an interest-
ing opportunity and I could speak English quite well. But, as I
realised once I got here, it is the Irish accent that takes some get-
ting used to. I had three weeks to get ready to leave.

It was the first time I had been on a plane, and I have to admit I
hate flying even though now I fly so much! The recruitment agency

[ 31 ]
quite expensive, and paid for the around and introducing me to the
flight, which was paid back at 20 Irish lifestyle. We went for a beer
euros a week. I did a lot of over- after work. There is a real culture of
time in my first year and earned ‘buying a round’, which is very socia-
an extra 60–70 euros a month. ble. I think the Irish youngsters are not
When I first arrived I started off as ambitious as some other
packing and pricing sandwiches Europeans, they just seem to think
and putting them in boxes for dis- about going out! People are gener-
tribution. In the second year, I was ous here too. In Estonia, if it is your
promoted to team leader and in birthday, you buy all the drinks. Here,
my third year, I was appointed my Irish friends grabbed me and took
superviser. I am responsible for me to the pub and I didn’t pay for a
23 people as well as ordering single drink all evening.
supplies and ensuring a smooth
and efficient production line. There are things I miss about Estonia –
When I first got promoted it was a the food for example and, of course,
bit difficult especially when I my friends and family. But there is
ended up managing local people also an Estonian community here,
who are a lot older than me. But I which made it easier at least in the
worked extremely hard and peo- beginning. Now when I go back to
ple could see that I was trustwor- visit my parents I have more money in
thy. So I didn’t have too many my pocket to do the things I want
problems. without having to worry too much. I
like going to restaurants with friends
On the whole the company treats and I can do that now.
us well. The money is good, I
have more holidays than I would
get working for an Estonian com-
Future plans
pany and there is a good training I have started a part-time course in
programme. For example, I have interior design at the National
completed training to drive a fork- Institute of Design here in Dublin. I
lift truck and supervisers are often wanted to do something new, some-
sent on information technology courses as well. Companies in thing creative. I’d love to be an interior designer one day. I also
Estonia are not able to pay similar salaries or offer the same train- enjoy the social side of meeting people who work with ceramics,
ing structure. They still have a long way to go to catch up with the painting and other materials. I am starting with the basic techniques
UK and Ireland. of colour, which is fundamental to design. But it’s hard working
all day and doing a course in the evenings. You have to be really
motivated. I’d like to go full time next year, but we’ll see.
Social side
I find the Irish very friendly and within three weeks of being here I After this, I’d like to learn Italian and perhaps spend some time in
made friends with an Irish guy at work who started showing me Italy, which, for me, is the fashion and design capital of the world.

[ 32 ]
Don’t get stuck in a rut
When I was starting out, I was really nervous – going abroad for
the first time was daunting. I wanted to surprise my parents – to
show them that I could be successful. It is thanks to them that I am
here today.

Leaving Estonia has totally changed my life. I have enough money

to be able to do more or less what I want. I don’t have to worry or
count the pennies before I pay for something. I can also afford to
give a little to help others not so fortunate so I sponsor an African
child. It also means that I can help my mother too by paying the
rent on her embroidery shop.

I don’t know if I will stay in Ireland. Ultimately, I would like to buy

my own house in Estonia. I guess it really depends on work. I’ve
done it once, so the second move would be easier. Most people
are afraid to leave – it’s easy to get stuck in a rut with no ideas or
spur of the moment actions. For me, there was a voice just telling
me to go. I say, get over your fears and go – there is always some-
one who will help you.

[ 33 ]
“How I came to Sweden is a bit of a funny story!”
me : Barb ara Anders
ź, Poland
From: Łód ,
Stockholm My family suffered a lot both during Going to Sweden
Works in:
Sweden and after the Second World War. My
l worker father lost an eye fighting the I first went to Sweden on holiday with a friend in 1992. We were
Job: Socia
Germans and my mother experi- both single. I had been divorced for 15 years. I had a boyfriend
Age: 58
enced living in the tunnels under the for nine years during that time but we never married and had bro-
Old Town of Warsaw without food for two weeks. ken up two years before.
My uncle and his wife died in a concentration camp because he
had been illegally teaching Polish. How I met my husband is a bit of a funny story. Because I had liked
Sweden, I sent a letter with a photo to a paper there and he
My parents were anti-communists. My father had been a lawyer but responded to it. We spoke on the phone a lot at first. Then he vis-
lost his job because he was the kind of person to speak his mind. ited. And I liked him! I visited him in Sweden too. And after one
My parents were intellectuals but in the 1950s and 1960s that was year we got married. I was a bit nervous as I was over 40. But all
not a good thing in Poland! I had in Poland was a good job, not much else – so I decided to
give it a try.
So when I was born my parents were very poor. I was born and
raised in Łódź and had no brothers or sisters. I was taught communist
ideology at school and anti-communist ideology at home. With my
family we could only go on holiday to places like Romania. We
would go there and sell cosmetics and other things to pay for the trip.

As a child, I could imagine living in other countries from films. I

wanted to go. And I was inspired speaking to my grandmother
who was from France. She had met a Polish man in Paris at the
World Expo of 1900. They got married and moved to Poland.
She’s buried in Łódź .

I started visiting other countries by myself in the 1970s and 1980s.

First I worked in Germany. I worked in an American military bar. I
was there for three months. I improved my English and made good
money. After three months I could buy new furniture and clothes, it
was fantastic. And food. We had no food here! The meat ration
was two and a half kilos per month. I went back three or four times,
taking unpaid leave from my job in Poland.

[ 35 ]
people thought that everyone from Eastern Europe was coming for
the money. And that wasn’t why I came at all.

In Sweden I have four Polish friends married to Swedes. I also have

two or three Swedish friends but it’s not the same with them, you
can’t talk about things so much. I still have a lot of friends back in
Poland from my job in Łódź too – doctors and psychologists.

Happy at work
In Poland I started working in 1970. I worked with young people
who had alcohol problems. I did that for four years. Then I moved
to social help. I was head of a district for a year and a half. But it
was terrible. I didn’t have the right personality to be a boss. I
stopped that and worked in another clinic.
Settling in
Now I’m doing a similar job to what I did in Poland. I take care of
The beginning in Sweden was not good at all. I came to a new people with psychiatric problems – schizophrenia, depression and
family. My husband’s children were about 18 or 19 at that time. At so on. But I help them after they leave hospital. They can be isolated
first, they didn’t like me very much. They saw me as a stupid and I help with all kinds of problems to do with their job, apartment
woman from the East, speaking bad English. But he loved me, you or free time. I check they are taking their medicine.
know. I was very hungry for someone to love me and it felt good.
I’m happy to have my job because it’s difficult to get a job in Sweden
I couldn’t understand any Swedish at first – nothing at all. After two in my profession and now I’m nearly 59. I got the job myself without
months I enrolled in some classes. I was together with people from any help. I applied to an advert I saw in the newspaper.
Pakistan, Iran and Iraq and they had big problems with the differ-
ent alphabet. But after six months I started to speak Swedish and
then very soon after started to read it as well.

Reading was important for me because it is my passion. My hus-

band had a lot of books that I couldn’t read before. And I was very
isolated at that time because we lived on a small island. It took one
and a half hours to get to Stockholm by ferry. My husband worked
and I was alone.

Making friends
I am a very social person. I have always had a lot of friends and I
still do. It’s much easier to meet and make friends with foreigners in
Sweden. Swedish people are rather closed. They didn’t like people
from Poland, Russia and so on. Now it’s better, but in the 1990s

[ 36 ]
I learnt a lot in Sweden because it’s different there. But I hate it Swedes don’t show their feelings so much. They think I am too expres-
when people are ignorant about my country. We have modern sive. I use my hands when I talk. But I don’t plan to change! In Sweden
clinics but some people don’t realise that. I think you have to go to they have a word ‘lagom’. It means everyone should be at the same
a country before you make judgements. level – people shouldn’t stand out too much. They don’t like fancy
clothes or expensive cars. They are open-minded about other differ-
I think Swedes automatically get the best jobs. My boss is 31 and ences though. They don’t have a problem with homosexuality, for
he’s Swedish. It’s much harder for a foreigner to become a boss. example.
You have to be born, or at least have studied in Sweden.
Swedish people respect their jobs, not like in Poland. In the old
I have worked for 36 years – always with other people’s problems. days at least, Poles used to drink all weekend and miss work on
I’d like to just worry about mine for a change! But in Sweden you Monday because they were ill. In Sweden, people prepare for their
have to work until you are 65. jobs on Sunday evening!

I have changed a bit. I

Going back to Poland think I have more of a
When I went back to visit Poland a year or two after I got married Swedish attitude now. I
a lot had already changed. And now I notice that buildings are get irritated if I hear
freshly painted and there are better shops. But people don’t have Poles say they can’t
much money and unemployment is still very high. Even people with afford new things and
a good education don’t have many opportunities. A lot of doctors tell them they have to
are leaving, going to places like Ireland. work and save money!

I go back to Poland four or five times a year. Now it’s no problem I am still Polish. Poles
because flights are very cheap. And it only takes a little over an have their own lan-
hour. I have kept an apartment in Poland. guage, their own culture.
We have very good films
I think I will stay in Sweden now because of my husband and his and books and we are
relations with his family and job. But I think England could be bet- proud of that. It’s good
ter for me. It’s a bit more like Poland – a little bit messier! Sweden you can have dual citi-
can feel a little bit sterile sometimes. zenship now. I could
have got Swedish citi-
zenship. But I don’t need
Cultural differences – nationality it. It costs 2000 Swedish
and identity kronor. I would rather go
Swedes like to prepare things. My husband likes to plan a day ahead. on holiday to Greece or
But I prefer to be spontaneous! And I think Swedes are used to things somewhere!
being perfect. I remember working in a café at the beginning and
once we didn’t have one of 40 different ice-cream flavours. For the
customers it was a disaster! Being Polish I think I am more flexible.

[ 37 ]
“If the opportunity comes along, don’t waste it, take it!”
ris Econom
Name: Ch s
aca, Cypru
From: Larn land
Dublin, Ire I come from Larnaca in Cyprus. It is a I wanted something more for myself so I started looking further
Works in: l
r technica beautiful place, very laid back but we afield to opportunities abroad.
Job: Senio
don’t have the same standard of living
as in Dublin. Salaries are a lot lower
Age: 38
and there are not as many opportu-
They offered me the job and I accepted
nities for career development. I lived in the UK I specialise in data warehousing the basic principle of which is to
between 1990 and 1994 as I was studying computer science in help companies consolidate and organise their data so that it can
Staffordshire. It was a ‘sandwich course’, which basically means be easily managed, accessed, and analysed. Usually it isn’t that
that you work while you study. difficult to find job openings in this area but 2002 was a particu-
larly bad time to be looking for a new job. A lot of companies had
experienced setbacks due to the financial climate and weren’t really
Looking further afield recruiting. Still, I regis-
When I finished the tered my CV on vari-
course, I went back to ous Internet sites and
Cyprus and worked at one point had
for three different something like five
organisations includ- interviews in one
ing Oracle, the world’s week! Then I got a call
largest software com- to come for an inter-
pany. But after the view in Ireland. I had
company merged, a already been to
lot of people left and Dublin once before to
morale reached a bit do a demonstration
of a low. My depart- with a team from India
ment, in which there but apart from that
were originally 17, didn’t really know
was scaled back to much about the place.
three. I am very career But once I was here I
orientated and I started quite liked it. Then
to feel that I was going they offered me the
round in circles rather job, and I accepted. I
than advancing. I didn’t believe I was
could see it in my friends too. They had been doing the same thing actually going until the tickets were in my hand. I was excited, not
year after year, always experiencing the same problems but never so much about Ireland, but more about the job. That was in August
really moving forward. Life doesn’t change that much in Cyprus. 2002 and I’m still here!

[ 39 ]
Moving on, moving up When Irish eyes are smiling
The actual moving I think that Ireland is more relaxed than in the UK, which was my
aspect was not too first point of reference for living abroad. For example, I could
cumbersome, large- never fathom the ‘old boy network’. It is such an English way of
ly because the com- operating and not one that we are accustomed to in southern
pany had agreed countries such as Cyprus. But Ireland is not without its peculiari-
to pay all my relo- ties and difficulties. I found the first year quite challenging and
cation costs plus even felt a bit isolated because it was hard to make friends.
two free trips back Everyone is happy to talk about the weather, but they tend to shy
home every year. away from anything more meaningful! The Irish are more cau-
That in itself lifts tious, they have different attitudes. They don’t like directness –
a burden from which is difficult for a Cypriot to understand and get used to.
your shoulders. The They are also very wary about opening up to strangers. Of
hardest thing was course, there are certain codes of conduct and cultural subtleties
getting the work that you are not aware of as foreigners. When you are used to
permit to have the
right to work here. I
had to wait three
months between
accepting the job
and actually mov-
ing over to start.
Thankfully the com-
pany was prepared to wait. Cyprus only joined the EU in 2004
and before that getting your papers in order to take up a position
abroad was a complicated and long-winded process. There were
two options for applying for the permit. One was to apply myself
for a two-year work permit through the Irish Embassy in Cyprus,
which, at the time, cost around 380 euros. The other was for the
company to arrange everything, which is what happened in my
case. In a lot of ways the second option is the easy one but you feel
under pressure to stay with the company for at least 18 months so
they get a return on their investment. The second option also leaves
you more vulnerable and companies use it to their advantage.

I stayed with the company two years before moving on to a better

position at BearingPoint where I am today.

[ 40 ]
life when you want to start building and moving forwards, so I
decided to stick it out. Looking back I am glad I persevered.
What was the most difficult? It was definitely the weather. I
missed the hot, sunny Cypriot summers, the myriad of outdoor
activities and the possibility of enjoying a coffee by the water’s
edge. I also missed the spontaneity of my fellow Cypriots. People
here don’t understand the notion of spur of the moment, it’s just
not in their genes. Having said that though, on the whole it has
been a positive experience. I have changed a lot. For one thing
I am less restless and I feel I have achieved more professionally
than I would have done if I had stayed in Larnaca. I think I will
stay a few more years to get the most from the experience. I am
a firm believer that if an opportunity comes along you shouldn’t
waste it, but take it and make the most of it.

your way of doing things, it is difficult to change. But change you

must if you want to fit in.

I feel quite settled here now and have a circle of friends. Dublin is
a great place for relaxing over a beer after work or exploring the
streets on my motorbike, though not if it’s pouring with rain! But
getting to this stage has taken time.

Heading back home

Initially I found it tough and at one point was even thinking of
heading back home to Cyprus. But it would have meant throwing
it all in and starting again from zero. There comes a time in your

[ 41 ]
“I can always hop on a plane.”
ristian Ma
Name: Ch
From: Aust ,
Bratislava My parents are Austrian but worked in high disposable income and on the other, an emerging market with
Works in:
Slovakia Belgium. I was born there, which low production costs and an unsatisfied demand for travel.
SkyEurope gives me dual citizenship. I went to
Job: CEO,
Airlines the European School in Brussels, so To be competitive with what existed in Vienna, my airline would
French is my mother tongue. need to be cheaper and so the idea came to create a low cost air-
Age: 32
line. There were companies like Ryanair or Easyjet, but not many
I studied political science in Paris and then basically I others at that time. By pure chance, one
looked at different types of EU-related projects, includ- day I bought Business Week and there
ing those in Central and Eastern was a feature about my present-day busi-
Europe. I sent my CV to human resource ness partner, who was involved in two
people but they never responded, and Belgian low cost airlines.
finally I decided not to wait for an
answer any more but to start my own I contacted him, telling him about my
business. idea for a low cost airline in Central
Europe. He agreed to meet me. From
I discovered Slovakia at a time when most there he helped me with the feasibility
investors had already found the Czech study and business plan and we
Republic, or Hungary, or Poland. Slovakia became business partners. On 6
was a bit like the forgotten child of Central September 2001 – five days before
and Eastern Europe. 9/11 – we created the company. It
was quite a difficult time to launch a
new airline, but today we are the
Gap in the market largest low cost airline in Central
I had no business experience, but I did what and Eastern Europe with a fleet of
most entrepreneurs do – I looked around at 16 Boeing 737 aircraft and, in almost five
the type of services that were not available years, we have transported four million passengers.
and spotted an opportunity. After the split of Czechoslovakia in
1993, the national airline became Czech Airlines – which meant
that Slovakia was one of the only countries in Europe without a
A truly European project
national carrier. Before I started the airline, I had always worked on European proj-
ects. I feel that what I am doing today is still somehow related to
There was a gap in the market – an airline was missing. Bratislava European integration.
was only 50 kilometres away from Vienna, so could be used as a
secondary airport for this city. This is an extraordinary region, In 1989, people had the freedom to travel but they didn’t have the
where on one side of the border you have a mature market with a means, air travel was still considered a luxury. Low cost airlines

[ 43 ]
Bratislava base – global attitude
I live in Bratislava but the airline has five bases: Bratislava,
Budapest, Krakow, Warsaw and Prague. We also fly to Croatia,
Bulgaria and Romania, future members of the EU. For financial rea-
sons we are listed on the Vienna and Warsaw stock exchanges.
We have a holding company in Vienna so from that point of view
we are an Austrian company but it is actually a European compa-
ny with investors from different countries.
have helped to democratise air transport and help make Europe a
reality. I think there are a lot of people, thanks to SkyEurope and
other low cost airlines, who have travelled East to West and vice
versa and gained from seeing other cultures.

Basically, we are kind of a bus with wings. Prices start from 9, 19

or 29 Euros, and people can discover places they have never
been, like Bratislava, Budapest or Warsaw. In a way it is very nice
to do something that is a business but is also useful. In Slovakia we
are one of the top 20 largest companies and we employ 900 peo-
ple. We are exactly the opposite of the idea that Eastern Europeans
will come and invade the labour markets of Western Europe. We
have created employment from within the country but have also
attracted people from outside.

Young entrepreneurs There is no routine in the airline business. The job has to be your
I started to write a business plan at the age of 25 but people would hobby, there is not a lot of free time. I normally prefer large cities but
not have taken me seriously in the West. I would have had to raise after a long day it is better not to spend time in traffic jams. Bratislava
the finance and find the people to manage the airline, but I did not is a smaller, very exciting city and it is only one hour away from
have enough stature. I think Eastern Europe is still a place which Vienna with all its cultural history and events. Bratislava is booming,
presents opportunities for young, ambitious and creative people. it has a Mediterranean atmosphere with terraces and cafes, a good
quality of life. I am at home there but I am home in Europe too. Being
In Slovakia, the quality of the education system even during commu- an airline executive I can always hop on a plane…
nist times was actually quite good. If an economy is in transition, it
is very important to have this human basis for economic develop- I learnt Slovak because when I first went to meetings with the gov-
ment. That is what makes this emerging Europe attractive to ernment and other executives, nobody spoke English so I had to
investors. Maybe there is also more entrepreneurship here than in learn the language. It is very important, it is a sign of respect for
Western Europe, because it is easier to take risks when there is noth- the local people. I am not fluent but I can communicate. We have
ing to lose. People with responsibilities in the East are normally an international team with more than 20 different nationalities.
younger, maybe the older generation had more difficulties, and the Some airlines in France have been facing problems so we have
young people are seizing power – whether in business or politics. been able to offer jobs to these pilots. It was quite surprising that

[ 44 ]
quite a few pilots from Western Europe wanted to come and work they may be valid in one country and not the other. Theoretically,
in Slovakia. it is supposed to work but in practice there is still a lot of work to
do. Taxes are also complicated and not everyone can afford a tax
More than half the passengers flying out of Bratislava airport are adviser. These are little things that make life difficult to move. If you
SkyEurope passengers, so we are the de facto national carrier. We work in five countries in your career, how will the pension scheme
are also the only airline offering domestic flights to Košice – the sec- be put together? But I’m not an expert, I don’t have all the answers.
ond largest city, which takes four to five hours to get to by car.
There is no comparison with a flight of 35 minutes. This is impor- Mobility has to start in the minds of people, it is not just the physi-
tant for the country – it helps tourism and future investors. It’s satis- cal getting up and going. It means that people should not expect to
fying to create a successful enterprise that is needed by the coun- have a career in the same place for 60 years but not everyone
try and financed by private funds. wants to be a modern nomad and there has to be respect for peo-
ple who attach greater importance to their roots. To assume that
everyone is going to become mobile is not necessary. It is not need-
Languages – the key to mobility ed but worker mobility cannot be disconnected from education, lan-
By definition, an airline enables mobility. In our case, it is afford- guage skills and so on. It has to start there. There are many oppor-
able. If there is to be workers’ mobility it is important to give people tunities in Europe and people should not be afraid to take their
the opportunity to travel in a comfortable way. They also need to be rucksack and go East…
able to come back and visit their families fairly easily and cheaply.

It is sometimes surprising to see a country like Slovakia, and its older

population sometimes criticising the way of life of Roma people, but
the modern world is about being nomads, we are becoming ‘mod-
ern gypsies’. I think it is very enjoyable to stay home where your
roots are but to study or work abroad brings new perspectives.
SkyEurope is part of the solution, we make distances shorter.

I am now 32. I am married to a Slovakian with a child and I enjoy

it very much. I speak to my child in French, my wife in Slovak.
Sometimes we speak English together, so the child will definitely
have language skills. I think what was important for me in my edu-
cation was the chance to learn languages, independently from
what you study at university, language skills are the key to mobility.
In the European School in Brussels, we didn’t just learn languages,
we used them and that makes quite a big difference. I spent a lot
of time studying history but here I am living it so I have absolutely
no regrets about moving to Slovakia.

Red tape
The EU still has too much red tape for moving people from one loca-
tion to the other, in terms of the different social and health systems –

[ 45 ]
“…a new state of mind, a new way of living.”
Name: Co
From: Gre I was born in the countryside. I’m orig- tions, marriages if you like, so for instance today I’m serving fava
Brussels, inally from Greece, but I came to with scallops of foie gras.
Works in:
Belgium Belgium in 1982, having studied in
Job: Resta Strasbourg. Afterwards I studied
European Affairs in Bruges. Then I
Age: 50
worked as a civil servant at the
European Commission, then after 10 years decided it
was time for a new direction.

I went to live in Lyon, France. I became completely vegetarian, and

more and more interested in cooking, in the biological and biody-
namic side of food. I began a series of placements in biodynamic
companies. At about the same time I took a trip to a very small
Greek island strewn with olive trees, orange trees and lemon trees.
I found four hectares for sale, right by the sea. The owner wanted
quite a lot of money, which I couldn’t afford at the time. I asked
myself, how can I make this work?

I thought I could serve as a middleman between high-quality food

producers and the markets, the people of Lyons, and that’s how it
all got started. Selling wine was all right, but the olive oil, the
honey – that’s what people really went for. Soon I realised this was
my real vocation.
What is this idea of ‘Greek’?
Lyons is very different from the rest of France, very conservative, the
realm of the bourgeoisie. It takes years to succeed there, and I’m I don’t want to make references to the perceived image of the
not one for waiting around. That’s why I came to Brussels. There ‘Greek’ in the décor of my restaurant. The references are in the
are people of all nationalities, with Mediterranean roots. There’s a food, and it is the food that is absolutely sacred. What is this idea
certain atmosphere and essence. of ‘Greek’? It’s a kind of filter between the East and the West. But
people have a certain image of ‘Greece’ and they want it to remain
Then I got into the restaurant business. My first restaurant was very that way. Flags and drapes all over the place – it makes me laugh.
small, only 30 seats, and after four years I decided I needed to
evolve, to get lots of people in. I was offering a unique product, We have quite a coherent customer base. People know they’re get-
Greek food with a new twist. Greek cuisine inspires me. Tradition! ting quality food here, but a restaurant also has a social role to play.
It’s like oxygen for the Greeks. But I’m also interested in combina- We don’t want to be known as a Greek restaurant, but as a popular

[ 47 ]
Europe, with all the expectations that come with it. Horizons have
been broadened, the continent has become smaller.

In the beginning I never really thought about my identity. I was

Greek and that was that. But I had a strong desire to travel, so I
began to think about studying in Europe. That’s how I ended up in
Belgium. What’s important when you live in another country is mak-
ing contact with other people. It’s all too easy, for example, to live
in Brussels and not mix with Belgians. But the nature of my work
means that I come into contact with lots of people, including
Belgians, on a daily basis. I feel very happy here, ‘at home’ now.
I live here, I work here, I opened a restaurant here. I don’t say to
myself, I’m Greek, I’m Belgian; I just feel content.

I go back to Greece every couple of months. My whole family is

there, though there’s the distance of many years between us.
place with good food and a warm ambience. We’re trying to be a
place that you’d recommend to a friend. We have people from all
walks of life. For instance the Belgian prime minister comes here
Be motivated to succeed
with his wife. Nobody bothers them, it’s that kind of place. I feel a lot of the other Greeks that I’ve met in Belgium don’t exper-
iment enough. At most 10 or 15% welcome new influences in their
cooking, while the rest are using sauces that were the norm 15
The Belgians are very accepting of years ago.
I don’t think being a foreigner means you encounter more obsta- The migration of 40 years ago was a different matter. The people
cles. It’s more of a question of the efforts you make. I’ve had to that emigrated then were really foreigners, completely outside of
work hard. I’ve encountered no racism, neither in France nor here. society, so they had to hold on to an idea of Greece. Whereas the
I’ve made an effort with the language. The Belgians are very Greeks of Egypt, of Istanbul: they had a sort of mantra, a nobility, a
accepting of foreigners, especially in Brussels. different mentality that made it easier for them to integrate.

I originally wanted to go to England. As a young man I went to In the end, in order to succeed you need motivation. You need to
Switzerland, and I couldn’t speak the language at all. It wasn’t until I want to move forward, and to know where you want to take things.
went to university that I really learnt to speak French. Now day-to-day
I speak in French, but it will never be my mother tongue. For me it’s
the language of business.
I could envisage returning to Greece
I could envisage returning to Greece, or starting a new project
somewhere else, because in the past few years I’ve been amazed
I began to think about Europe by the demand there has been, the offers people have made. There
Before Greece entered the European Union it was struggling. are potential openings all over the place, but it’s a lot of work.
Things were quite hard. A big spider’s web has spread out across Work is important, but now I’m at an age where I’m asking myself,

[ 48 ]
what shall I do? Take some time out, some breath-
ing space, or start up again in the same frenetic
rhythm with a new project?

In France what’s most important for the French is

that everyone integrates. If you don’t put in the
effort the flower won’t blossom. In Belgium – I mean
Brussels, it’s important not to confuse the two – you
can exist without becoming Belgian. There are lots
of opportunities. Meanwhile Greece has changed a
lot in the past 20 to 25 years. The people are bom-
barded with consumerism, obsessed with wealth.
There’s a lot of new money, and it seems a bit super-
ficial. It seems like they’re going through
a process the Belgians went
through a long time ago. Here
there is much more discretion.
When I go back these days I find
it very hard to deal with this new
state of mind. I speak the same
words as these people, but I feel
they don’t have the same meaning.

Life is a journey
Neither changing country nor chang-
ing career was the biggest challenge
for me: both were very important. It’s
the combination more than anything else. I had to find work, decide Roughly translated: Ithaca
what to do. At first it was difficult. When I was in Belgium, I was cannot give us everything
homesick for Greece and when I was in Greece, I wanted to be we need. We have to leave,
back in Belgium. broaden our horizons but
then come back a richer person. Don’t be in a hurry to reach Ithaca
I’d tell someone who wanted to do a similar thing to try to tap into a but let your path be long and full of enriching experiences. Learn
new state of mind, a new way of living. Though things aren’t so dif- from those you encounter along the way. But always keep Ithaca
ferent these days, it’s still interesting to immerse yourself, to try to firmly in your mind for that is your final destination. Life is a journey
make your way in a new culture. Above all be proactive, be positive. and we should seize the opportunities to live and work abroad but
always remember our roots and dream of returning ‘home’ one day.
There is a Greek poem about Ulysses's return journey to the island
of Ithaca. It can teach us a lot about our journey through life.

[ 49 ]
“Be brave and if at first you don’t succeed, try again!”
sute Zaron
Name: Dra nia
nas, Lithua
From: Kau e, UK
Lincolnshir I come from Kaunas in central It wasn’t easy to begin a new life
Works in:
nt worker Lithuania. I studied theology and
Job: Migra ger in the UK
na gained a Masters degree in social
project ma
work. After that I also gained some When I came back to the UK the second time, it was because I
Age: 32
professional experience in the field, had seen an advertisement in a Lithuanian newspaper. An English
with an emphasis on helping people. company was recruiting someone to look after people with learn-
ing disabilities for three weeks. I applied and
Like the majority of Lithuanians, I am Catholic got the job.
and worked for CAFOD, a Catholic develop-
ment and relief agency, in Lithuania. I was I studied very hard for 20 years to get through
Deputy Director and responsible for imple- school and get my Masters degree in
menting government projects. We worked a Lithuania, but there is no cross-border recog-
lot with ex-prisoners, helping them to find work nition of qualifications for social workers. It
and settle back into society. During the course wasn’t easy to begin a new life in the UK and
of my work, I saw some terrible social prob- to find out all the requirements and rules.
lems, including all kinds of human trafficking.
These days I’m in the UK, working to support The paperwork is rather complicated. I had to
migrant workers in the Lincolnshire area. register with the Home Office, which costs
£75 per person for a one-year permit. This
process has to be repeated if you change
I took a risk jobs. I had to send off my original identifica-
I first came to England 10 years ago when I tion papers when I applied for residency,
got a job picking strawberries in the south of which took six weeks. In the meantime, I had
England for three months. I had learnt English no passport, no proof of identity. I was lucky
during my studies and was excited about the that my company helped by writing a letter,
opportunity to come and spend time in the but I wasn’t happy with the difficulties
country. I was also a little apprehensive involved in the whole process.
because of the fear of the unknown. In fact I
hadn’t heard from my employer by the time I As a foreigner, I had to register to prove that
had to leave to come to the UK, so I took a risk in coming over. But I was eligible to work in the UK. This ‘guarantee’ costs £155 but is
it worked out in the end. only valid for three years. The good news is that my application
was accepted, which in turn meant that I could apply for other jobs.
The company provided accommodation, but it was in a village and After my initial short-term contract working with people with learn-
public transport was rather limited. It made us feel a bit isolated. ing disabilities, I was appointed as a project manager for a local
I think it can be hard to find good accommodation in the UK. council, the job I still do today.

[ 51 ]
My work has given me My own experiences and working with migrant workers have made
me aware that there are some prejudices against them. People
valuable experience think they play their music too loud and too much or that they drink
I deal with migrant workers, promoting understanding and raising excessively. I think I was turned down for a job as a doctor’s recep-
awareness of cultural differences through different outlets such as tionist because I was an immigrant. Of course, this is difficult to
drama and writing articles. I also created a website to show the prove.
positive side of diversity and gave presentations to organisations
such as Rotary clubs. My work has given me valuable experience There’s a danger when accommodation is tied to employment.
but working for a local council with its unique systems is not easy! Sometimes the employer provides accommodation, but this can
restrict a migrant worker’s choice and freedom. This accommoda-
The UK has an ageing population and perhaps depends more on tion might be overcrowded and with no right to move, as the worker
workers from other countries to fill job vacancies. Lithuania is in a might lose his or her job.
different situation. It has a population of around three and a half
million but about 10% of Lithuanians live abroad these days. Many migrant workers are working through gangmasters, so they
are not provided with employment contracts and conditions. That
In Lincolnshire, there are more than 700 migrant workers. This means they might have work one day, but not the next – it’s a very
influx affects the economics of the region and the country. Public insecure situation for them.
bodies are struggling to provide and develop services, as new
arrivals’ needs differ from those of local people. Migrant workers Language is an issue too. Two thirds of migrant workers have
have a need for all kinds of information: how to register with a doc- quite poor English skills. They are often not fluent enough to
tor, emergency numbers, education systems, their rights as workers understand legal requirements, like paying for a TV licence or
and so on. registering a car.

Migrant workers face a lot

of challenges
Migrant workers face a lot of challenges! Getting started is not
easy. Many employers or landlords want a reference but if you
have just arrived in the country this can be impossible to provide.
To set up a bank account you have to provide utility bills to identi-
fy yourself. Since many migrant workers don’t have these, they end
up carrying large amounts of money around or keeping it ‘under
the pillow’.

At the Council where I work, we carried out a survey that found

around 40% of migrant workers feel discriminated against in
employment or housing. I do think that workers from other countries
are often not paid as well as indigenous people. I’ve even seen dif-
ferent treatment of different foreign nationalities – for example one
case where an employer was paying different rates to Polish and
Portuguese workers.

[ 52 ]
is always a barrier – trying to find the specific terminology is not

It is good to see another culture, meet new people, make new

friends. And coming to the UK has meant that I can afford to do
more. These days I can sometimes go to concerts for example.

I would say that people shouldn’t be afraid to take risks. Learn the
language and be prepared – make as many contacts and friends
as possible. I think in Lithuania the culture is a little different to that
of the UK and sometimes people give up too quickly if they fail in
something. I would say you have to be brave and if at first you
don’t succeed, try again!

There is even a Lithuanian shop here

I do miss Lithuania. I miss my sister and my family and try and go
back at least once a year. I really miss the food too, but finding the
kind of food I like is a lot easier than I thought it would be. In fact,
there is even a Lithuanian shop near where we live so I can get cer-
tain things like black bread, smoked meat and sweets.

I find Lithuania very stressful and expensive when I go back. For

£100 you can buy so much more in the UK. Because of the eco-
nomic situation in Lithuania, there are a lot of people who have a
drinking problem.

Things are changing in Lithuania but not as quickly as people had

initially hoped. But my own situation has changed dramatically. In
Lithuania, I lived with my parents in a two-room flat and here we
live in a beautiful 17th Century house. My husband and I are now
looking into buying our first home. I could never have achieved this
in Lithuania.

Some words of advice

When it comes to language, I find that it is easier to ask if I don’t
know! That way, I also make friends. For my husband, it is not so
easy as his English is not so good. It is improving though. What
I do find hard is that if I have to go to the doctor, the language

[ 53 ]
“I left Romania with a suitcase and a violin – into the unknown.”
rnand Iaciu
Name: Fe mania
harest, Ro
From: Buc ce
Lille, Fran I arrived in Lille in 1982, but I’m plan to go to China next year. And I’ve travelled by myself to play
Works in:
violinist, Romanian by origin. I spent my child- at several festivals as well, for example to the US.
Job: Lead f Lille
rchestra o hood there and studied at the
National O
Bucharest Conservatoire and then I was 25 when I arrived in France. I’m an only child, but my family
Age: 50
worked for two years at the followed me and arrived here a couple of years afterwards – my
Bucharest Philharmonia. mother in 1984 and my father in 1985. They still live here, they’ve
settled down in northern France.
I first left Romania for a competition in England. After that I came
to the competition in Lille and applied for political asylum in
France. I have stayed here since then. I left Romania with a suitcase
Everything was new
and my violin, into the unknown, into an adventure, into the uncon- Of course there were a lot of differences between the two coun-
scious as it were! tries when I first arrived – from a communist state to a country that
was completely free. More or
I studied French at school, as Romania is quite a less everything was new for me.
Francophile country. I had the choice between I didn’t know the banking sys-
English and French, and chose French. I wouldn’t say tem because we didn’t have
I spoke fluently when I arrived, but I had studied the one in Romania. I had to learn
language and knew it already. everything about the social
security system, borders that
we could cross just like that –
First stop, Hong Kong that was fantastic. The people
In fact, my first asylum application when I arrived in were much more open and
France was actually at the Australian Embassy in Paris weren’t scared of making a
– that had been my childhood dream. But they refused joke about a politician or
the application politely. On the same day I decided to something. For example,
stay here instead, so I regularised my stay in France by when I first read Le Canard
applying for political asylum, and everything worked out. Enchainé (a French satirical
I passed the competition in Lille and found work. My asy- magazine), I couldn’t
lum application was accepted quickly – within a few believe that kind of thing
months – so I was able to go on my first tour with the Lille could exist. It was a radi-
Orchestra to Hong Kong and Japan shortly afterwards. cal change for me, but
a change for the better,
I travel quite a lot for my work – in fact we’ve been to every and I was young at
continent except Australasia! We’ve been to Africa, both the time so I had no
Americas, pretty much all of Europe, Russia, and there’s a problem.

[ 55 ]
When I had my first French passport, it was valid for travel to all The second trip was three or four years later, to go back to the hos-
countries except Romania and the other communist countries at the pital. Of course I’ve also received invitations – as a violinist – to
time. I dreamt of being able to travel and so I bought a train ticket participate in festivals in Bucharest, but I haven’t been able to make
and went to visit some friends in Germany. When I lived in them.
Romania, we had to apply for a visa one year in advance and
weren’t allowed to keep our passports with us – they were held by I made a big effort to integrate here when I came, to try to think in
the Foreign Ministry. Even then there were problems: in 1979 I French. Perhaps I miss some things about Romania, but I prefer to
applied for a visa to participate in a competition in Vienna, which keep them as memories. Things have changed there a lot and I
I had been preparing for more than a year, but when it was final- have a new life here now. Still, I want to go back to visit. I’m plan-
ly processed, the visa arrived one week after the competition had ning a trip soon so I can show the country to my children, so they
begun! Here I just took a train and arrived in another country a few can see where I’m from – and where they’re from too.
hours later – it was incredible!

After the revolution Quality counts, not nationality

Now I feel French. My wife is French, and my children have grown There are three Romanians in the orchestra – including me. We
up here. I’ve only been back to Romania twice since I left. Both trips also have Poles, Japanese, an Englishman, an American... Like in
were for three days. After the fall of Ceausescu in 1989, we set up any orchestra, it’s the professional quality that counts, not the
a humanitarian foundation here in Lille – the City of Lille participated nationality. The orchestra looks a bit like Europe in fact, even the
too. Rather than buying a scanner with the donations and sending world! I’m completely used to working like that – internationally,
it off to a hospital in Romania, we brought over virtually all the staff working together.
from a hospital there to train here in France, with a grant to cover
their costs. In the orchestra, everyone brings something with them – working
with people from different countries is always enriching. Musically
The first trip I went on was between Christmas and New Year 1989 speaking, the approach of an American conductor can differ from
with an aid convoy from the French government – at the time of the that of a German, for example, or a Russian coming to conduct
revolution. The Mayor of Lille at that time, Pierre Mauroy, suggested Tchaikovsky. I believe a lot in musicians’ ability to interpret their
I go along too, to see what was happening in my country. People own national culture, so that a Frenchman will be best placed to
were still shooting in the streets at the time, it was complete chaos. play Ravel or Debussy, for example, or we try to learn the way that

[ 56 ]
a Russian sees Russian music. There’s an exchange between them
and us, so sometimes we make compromises, stylistically speaking.
We’ve had some great conductors here, so working with them is
always a pleasure. And moreover, the best conductors are the ones
who need to speak the least, because it’s something that you can
feel – that’s communicated differently, without necessarily needing
to talk.

Changing mentalities
Romania being part of Europe and joining the European Union is
something that bridges different parts of my life, so to speak –

when Romania was part of the Eastern Bloc there was a sort of
separation between the two parts. Of course I’ve always felt close
to my origins, but knowing I can go to Romania tomorrow if I like
is an unbelievable change. Before, I was completely banned from
visiting and would have gone to prison for being there because I
had claimed political asylum in France. That was more than fif-
teen years ago, but fifteen years is not that long to change the

And for the Romanians themselves – being part of Europe – I think

there’s been a sort of accelerated change in mentalities since the
communist times where the state did everything. Of course there
are pros and cons – there’s perhaps more unemployment for exam-
ple – but people are better off in general and it’s going in the right
direction overall, so I’m very pleased that Romania will be joining
the EU in 2007.

[ 57 ]
“There was nothing to risk, so we just did it.”
rgana Vasi
Name: Ge a
a, Bulgari
From: Sofi any
Bonn, G rm
e I came to Germany because my hus- Language is important
Works in: ry
g tempora band found a job here, so we decided
Job: Placin the Federal
r jointly to move here – we didn’t want The language was no problem for my husband, but I needed to
workers fo Agency
ym en t to live apart. Our reasons were both learn it very quickly. Without language you can’t survive – you are
professional and personal – we like a small baby: you can perhaps understand when someone
Age: 30
moved both for the job opportunity speaks, but you can’t respond!
and for the quality of life. One big advantage of being
here is that we can travel throughout Europe. We can live better So I followed an intensive course for almost six months, and lis-
here than we can in Bulgaria. tened to radio and television to get used to
the language. The course was four days a
My husband came in February 2001 week and four hours a day. It was interest-
and I followed him two months later to ing because there were only foreigners in
study German. The first plan was to the class and you could see a lot of cultur-
stay for 18 months – the length of my al differences. Today I am still learning
husband’s contract. But after I had more. We’ve been in Germany five years,
learnt German, I got an offer to work so now I’m like a five-year old kid!
here and my husband got a new job
too, so we decided to stay. Getting a visa was difficult for me because
it was just a study visa, so I had to prove I
The decision to come was not so diffi- had enough money to support myself. The
cult. I wanted to try it and see how it same day I received my visa, I received a
was, and if it didn’t work out we could job offer from the Bulgarian Interior
just go back after the first 18 months. Ministry. I had wanted to work there for so
Before that I had never lived abroad. long but suddenly I had the option of living
abroad. It hadn’t been my plan to come to
We decided on Germany because my Germany, but as my husband was coming
husband had studied at a German here I decided to join him.
school so he already spoke the lan-
guage, and because he had once reg-
istered at a job fair for students. After
Good day, bad day
that, the Bulgarian employment service I find people here react to me in different
contacted him one day to ask if he had ways; my colleagues are very friendly,
finished studying and if he was interest- also people I meet in the train going to
ed in working in Germany. work, for example. There are always some

[ 59 ]
people who are not very friendly, but that’s the same everywhere. I have learnt quite a lot from day-to-day contact with colleagues. In
Maybe it just depends on their mood – whether they had a good Bulgaria I learnt things at school and university, but here it’s real life.
day or a bad day! I work with people from different nationalities, in quite an internation-
al environment – that’s something I wouldn’t have been able to do at
I don’t think we’re very different from people here: we’re home.
Europeans and we’re Christians, so there aren’t that many cultural
differences. What is different about our life in Germany are the My job is with the German Employment Agency, working with
opportunities we have here: to travel, to meet different people and people who come here as seasonal workers. I like the fact that I
do different things. But in terms of daily life, we have the same life help people on both sides – both the employers and the people
as in Bulgaria: work, home, cooking, going shopping and seeing coming here. I know a bit about what it is like to come to a coun-
friends at the weekend. try and wait for a contract. The job that they do is very helpful for
Germany and for their country. The people come here to earn
money and take it back to their country. They use it to support their
Easy to stay in touch families and pay the bills, school for the kids – they’re earning
Of course we miss our families and parents a lot. In Bulgaria, your money instead of waiting for money from the government. And
family ties are very important. But that’s the price of being here – Germany needs this labour – it’s just for a couple of months, mostly
nothing comes for free in life! Sometimes I think it’s just like anoth- seasonal work. It’s hard work that’s not paid very well compared
er town in Bulgaria. We see our family once every six months. Lots to German standards, and lots of local German people wouldn’t
of people living here don’t see their family often either. And we want to do it. The jobs are in agriculture, hotels, catering and fun-
have contact by phone, SMS, email, sending photos – it’s easy to fairs for example.
stay in touch these days.

We didn’t really have I work here and I pay

to make any other sac- taxes, like everybody
rifices in coming here. else. I think I’m posi-
I didn’t have anything tive about the country.
in Bulgaria – only fam- I think all foreigners
ily and studies. I together make a con-
worked in a shop tribution and help to
there, although I had change attitudes, and
a Masters degree. that’s something that’s
There was nothing to good for Germany.
risk, so we just did it.
Attitudes are
Helping both different
sides In terms of obstacles,
I find it very interesting what surprised me
to work with German was that having a
people – they’re very bank account here
helpful and friendly. was very difficult. You

[ 60 ]
need a certificate of where you live and my husband’s certificate you and you take it wherever you are. Where you are with your
was more than six months old, so he had to go back to the town thoughts, that is your home. And this is my home here, in Germany.
hall to get a new one. We felt like they didn’t want us as customers!
It was also difficult when we were looking for a new home. When I think I will go back one day, but I don’t know when. I dream of
we called landlords they noticed that we were foreigners and some having my own bookshop. One day I might write a book or do
doors were closed at the beginning. paintings. But I do this job right now and I’m very happy.

And when we went to the immigration office, the attitude was dif-
ferent. The people sitting behind the desk were like a wall. Even
when everything is in order – the paperwork and so on – they make
you feel different, they show you the difference. It’s especially an
attitude from people in official situations. The contact we have with
everyone else – friends and colleagues – is very different. The peo-
ple who know us respect us.

I think things will change next year and get easier when Bulgaria
joins the EU. Bulgaria is geographically a member of Europe, the
people already feel European.

Freedom is for everybody

We don’t know where we want to live in the next few years –
Spain, Germany, England, Bulgaria…What is important is where
we have our jobs. Where we have work will be our home. For now,
we still want to see something more and it’s very nice to see other
countries. I never dreamt that I would live abroad. I sometimes think
how lucky I am – I’m thankful for every day. That I can be here, that
I can work, that I can travel. We’ve visited Paris, London,
Barcelona, Rome, Brussels, and many more cities… I’m a historian
by background, so it’s especially interesting for me to see all these

I don’t know yet if I would start a family here. It would be nice one
day when we have kids to show them what we’ve seen, around the
world. It doesn’t matter where they are born, I’d want them to
understand they’re normal people just like everyone else. That
they’re free to decide what to do, that they can decide where to
live. This freedom is my wish for everybody.

I’m thankful for everything I got from Bulgaria, like my studies and
so on – I brought that with me here. What you learn is always with

[ 61 ]
" Whenever I get nostalgic, I have to eat something Swedish."
lena Lund
Name: He n
jö, Swede
From: Väx a ,
Barcelon I come from a small village in the Finding work
Works in:
Spain south of Sweden about 300 kilometres
mer Ser vic north of Malmö, with a population of After my internship, it took four months before I found a job. It is
Job: Custo e
Representa 2,000. From Sweden I went to much easier once you have contacts. I worked as export assistant
London for a few months then I for a year and half. Then I worked with a Swedish girl who had
Age: 32
moved to Paris. I had only planned opened a company doing translations. There is always a job to be
to stay a short while but ended up staying there for a found in Barcelona. It depends on what you want to do. It’s not dif-
year and a half before deciding to ficult to find a job but an interesting
study international business for a fur- job is another story. I also notice that
ther four years. I had to do an intern- if you are a woman between 25 and
ship abroad, which brought me to 35 employers are less likely to take
Barcelona. Initially, that was only for you on because they are concerned
three months but I’m still here. I have you will get pregnant. I’ve also expe-
always been interested in languages rienced that, which to me is weird
and meeting people from different because you only get four months
cultures, which is why I have always maternity leave here whereas in
chosen to live in big cities. Sweden you get a year and half. This
is one of the major barriers in finding
I was lucky when I first moved to work and I think it is easier for a
Barcelona because I knew people woman to find work in Sweden than
from Paris so they helped me, espe- in Spain. Here the work situation is
cially to find accommodation. It was not very secure. You can get a fixed,
also much easier than in Paris where short-term contract, but they can sack
you need a carte de séjour (residence you easily, which is not the case in
card) and you can’t get that unless other countries. Employers issue such
you have a job but you can’t have a contracts over and over again for as
job unless you have a residence card. long as they can without specifying
I didn’t really speak Spanish when I what it is for.
first arrived although I had taken a
few classes in Paris. It was a bit diffi- Now I work as a customer service
cult during the first few days of my representative, which basically means
internship, some people even hung that I take care of customer queries,
up on me because I kept saying distributors and orders. The company
“perdón”. is a multinational organisation working

[ 63 ]
in the gas industry. I’ve I won’t say that I’ll never go back to Sweden but I have been away
been working here one and 13 years and I’m not really thinking about going back at the
a half years but I’ve been in moment. When I go back to see my family I say I am going home
Barcelona for seven years. to Sweden, but when I’m leaving Sweden, I say I am going home
to Barcelona. So I suppose both are my home now, although I def-
initely have Swedish roots but I also feel partly French and partly
Quality of life Spanish because I spent so much time there. I just try to take the
Barcelona is really the per- best of each place I’ve lived in.
fect city for me. It is not as
stressful as London or Paris I go back to Sweden regularly, especially now that I have a
but it offers the same things. nephew. I still manage to stay in contact with my friends especially
I find it very relaxing and I those I went to school with from the age of seven. Most of them live
have a good quality of life, in Malmö so I often to fly to Copenhagen and spend a night with
for example, I walk to work them before travelling on to see my parents. They have also trav-
– that’s quality of life for me. elled, in fact girls from the south of Sweden often travel abroad at
I don’t like public transport. a young age to be au pairs for a while.

I realised when I moved

here that I was actually very
stressed in Paris. It is also a
world away from Sweden. It
is easier to make friends,
the days are longer here and people make more of their time. In
Sweden, we finish work at 5pm, maybe at 6pm we’re at home, at
7pm we eat, and that’s it, you’ve reached the end of the day. But
here you finish at 6pm and it doesn’t stop there, you can go shop-
ping, meet up with friends… You can drop by and see someone
unannounced whereas in Sweden and Paris you have to plan
ahead and make arrangements if you want to see a friend. I love
that sense of spontaneity.

Swedish thoughts
I miss my family. I miss Swedish food but I am lucky… I have IKEA!
Most people go to IKEA to buy furniture, I go to there buy food. I
love sauces and salty liquorice, which you just can’t get in Spain.
When in Spain
Whenever I get nostalgic I have to eat something Swedish. It’s just People are really friendly even if you don’t speak Catalan or
a feeling I have when I miss home. I went through a phase of crav- Spanish. Having a few friends here before I arrived made it easier
ing Swedish hotdogs – something I never ate when I lived back in for me to meet people and integrate into Spanish culture. Medical
Sweden! care is good here and it’s free. In Sweden you always have to pay.

[ 64 ]
In comparison to France it was easier to get my papers. Here it was
a question of showing up with your passport showing that you are
from Europe and that you have a job. It did take me a couple of
months because they decided that I was Swedish from Switzerland
– they got the right nationality but the wrong country!

I came to Spain thinking it was a warm country but I have never

been as cold as I have been here in the winter when it is quite
humid. In Sweden everything is insulated from the cold – at home,
in buses, in shops…. But here if you have an old flat there is no
heating so you end up using electric heaters that you move from
place to place. Accommodation has become incredibly expensive
in Barcelona. In the time I have been here prices have doubled. I
am lucky though as I have been in the same flat for six years and
so I still pay the old rates. Rents are going up but salaries are stay-
ing the same.

An enriching experience
I feel so much richer as a person having been able to live all these
things and get to know different people from different cultures, not
only from Europe but also South America and Africa. That’s really
important to me. It’s something I felt the minute I left my own coun-
try – growing as an individual because of everything you experi-
ence. Having to overcome difficulties on a daily basis such as arriv-
ing in France and needing to open a gas account but not knowing
how to do it, where to go or even what to say when you get there.
But you still manage and that’s the sense of achievement. I've
gained experience in terms of languages and being able to com-
municate in English, French, Spanish and Italian is great for me.

To anyone thinking of moving abroad, I would say: be open

minded. It might be hard at the beginning but I think it is definitely
worth it. If I had my time over again, I wouldn’t do anything

[ 65 ]
“I have no time for people who live with regrets. I live for today.”
Name: Je
From: Swit Spain
I come from a small village in to think about moving there permanently. Slowly I saved enough
Valencia, Switzerland. For a number of years I money to buy an apartment, I continued to take regular holidays
Works in: er
rty Manag worked for the Canton of Freiburg in here and then I started looking into the job prospects.
Job: Prope
helping unemployed people find
Age: 48
work. I believe in
In the beginning
changing for the better and learn- I worked for the Americas Cup
ing new skills, hence the fact that when I first came to Spain. The
I’ve never stayed in the same pro- Swiss Alinghi team had won in
fession for more than five years. New Zealand in March 2003 and it
My very first job in Switzerland is always the winners who organise
was as a blacksmith but I also the next Americas Cup. But since
worked as a lifeguard in Lausanne. Switzerland doesn’t have a port
Then I did an evening course in they chose Valencia for 2007. So I
occupational psychology and was was lucky enough to find work with
a human resource manager for a them.
time. Finally, I got the position with
the Canton before moving to Spain I then moved quickly to set my own
to set up in Valencia. I’ve been liv- property management business. We
ing in Valencia for the past one currently have seven holiday homes
and half years and I am really that we rent out. We also manage
happy here. I don’t think I could go eight other properties for people
back to Switzerland. who live abroad, which entails stop-
ping by once a week to check that
everything is all right, water plants,
Love at first sight mow the lawns and so on.
I first discovered Valencia over Normally, such properties are
twenty years ago. I was tutoring a owned by Spanish people who
young Spanish person who was liv- have emigrated and who have
ing in Switzerland. His parents bought homes with the idea of retir-
invited me to stay in Valencia, ing here. Of course, with increased
where they were from and I fell in mobility and cheap flights these
love with the region the moment I days other nationalities also buy
stepped foot there. I went back for homes in Spain. We manage prop-
holidays several times and started erties for Swiss and German clients

[ 67 ]
for example. During the holiday season we are very busy with who have lived abroad themselves and are therefore are more
holidaymakers arriving and leaving at the weekends. For the open to foreigners. There seems to be an air of distrust for for-
moment there are just two of us in the company but we enlist extra eigners in Valencia. There is a general feeling that foreigners
help when needed. For instance, when holidaymakers leave on the come to make money but often, what they don’t realise is that
Sunday we have someone who helps with the cleaning. some foreigners work under difficult conditions and don’t earn
that much at all. For instance many foreigners are employed as
fruit pickers. Often they are young people who live six or seven
Making friends to an apartment; they might drink a bit too much and be a bit rau-
Before coming here I knew a couple of people but not that many. cous and the locals find that difficult to accept. As far as I know
On the whole, the Spanish are very approachable. It’s easy to they’ve never caused any trouble. I personally didn’t have any
strike up conversation in a bar or restaurant with a perfect problems settling in Valencia. Speaking the language also helps
stranger but it takes time to be considered a ‘real’ friend and be you to get to know people. I didn’t speak a word of Spanish
invited to dinner. The Spanish are very family orientated and so when I arrived here. But reading it was never a problem as I had
often don’t mix as much as you might think. I noticed that it was studied Latin so I already had a good basis, which helped. It
much easier to make friends with other foreigners. For instance didn’t take me too long to pick it up. I know people who have
we have French and German friends. It is only now we have started spent 18 years in Spain and they still don’t speak the language.
to make Spanish friends and this is nearly always with people It’s a shame as they miss out on a lot.

[ 68 ]
Cutting the red tape prepared for what awaits them. My advice would be to check out
the place first; take a holiday there; go a few times; soak up the
The only problems I experienced were administrative. I bought a atmosphere; and ask yourself if it is really for you.
house in the country, which had been newly built. The address
was not recognised by the computer for some reason and it cre-
ated a lot of problems with the post. Apparently they didn’t know
where to deliver my letters so often they went missing. The second
problem was obtaining the licence plate for my car. Because
Switzerland is not in the EU there are lots of administrative hoops
to jump through. It took about eight months to sort out but now it’s

Living for today

I don’t really miss anything about Switzerland. Of course, I still go
back sometimes to visit my family. But I am so focused on my proj-
ects here that I don’t really have time to be nostalgic. I have no
regrets. I have no time for people who live with regrets. I live for
today. I am a bit of an explorer but I also like to be prepared before
embarking on my journey. I am still Swiss at the end of the day. I
have always functioned in terms of projects and I tend to land on
my feet quite quickly. Of course, there are certain things I wouldn’t
dare do, like swim the Channel. Even if I thought it was interesting
and wanted to give it a try, I wouldn’t because I can’t swim well

A few words of advice…

A lot my friends couldn’t really understand why I wanted to give
everything up in Switzerland to move to Spain. I had a great life,
120 employees working for me, a well-paid job. But I wasn’t step-
ping into the unknown. I had already prepared a lot in advance. I
had an apartment, I knew the region really well and I had job

I had friends who left Switzerland at the same time as me. They
bought a bakery in Brazil with 15 employees but neither of them
were bakers, nor did they know how to run a bakery. They did it
for a year and then gave it up. A lot of people dream of moving
abroad and if they have a job to go to there is no risk. But there
are many who leave their home countries without being adequately

[ 69 ]
“With enough preparation everything comes right in the end.”
nel Zeba
Name: Lio ium
ssels, Belg
From: Bru eland
Galway, Ir I was born in Burkina Faso, West
Works in: pment
ess develo Africa but left when I was very young.
Job: Busin
I have lived most of my life in
Brussels. My father was a diplomat,
Age: 34
which meant he travelled extensively
around the world. He gained a lot from his experiences
abroad and ultimately that influenced me when thinking about my

Maybe it was because of this that I wanted to have international

experience on my CV. It was very important for me to have the
opportunity of living and working abroad, to know that I could sur-
vive outside of the comfort zone. I got in touch with the Brussels
Chamber of Commerce, and I remember in particular the manag-
ing director who told me that if I wanted to work internationally, I
should go abroad while I was still young.

On the look out for a job

The EURES website helped me a lot in my search for a job. I was
particularly interested in French-speaking positions within informa-
tion technology companies. But I also thought it would be good to
work in an English-speaking country and decided to focus on
Ireland as there are a lot of positions opening up over here at the
moment. I saw a job on the website in Galway – I had no idea
where it was but once I knew it was near Connemara, I decided it
would be all right. I didn’t want to be in a big city, I wanted to see
life from another point of view. So I applied directly to SAP, which
is one of Europe's largest software companies, and got offered the
job. They hired me because they were targeting the French market
and since I could speak French and knew the market fairly well, I
seemed to fit the profile.

[ 71 ]
No real surprises Looking ahead at the open road
I had no definite idea about the people or the place I was moving I left Burkina Faso when I was five years old so I consider myself
too but I was very open-minded and very curious. When I first more European than African. I am still very attached to my African
arrived, I shared a house with a few other people from the same roots though. There are not many Africans in Galway but people
company, which was good because it was very close to the office. are very open and I can’t say I have experienced anything nega-
Once I had started working, two tive while being there. There is a lot
people from the company helped all of ignorance about Africa, its peo-
the newcomers to find permanent ple, traditions and culture but that’s
accommodation. We were well true of most places in the West. I
looked after. often find myself having to explain
the geography of the African conti-
There were no real administrative nent but often people are more
problems. We knew what forms to intrigued than anything else. I think
provide so there were no surprises. my dream job would be promoting
There were two other French-speak- the differences between Africa and
ing people with me and so our three the West. In fact, I recently attended
brains were better than one. It is eas- a conference organised by the New
ier to deal with everyday life when Partnership for Africa’s Development.
you are not alone. Of course the I’m glad to see that things like that
downside is that we spoke French a exist.
lot so I had to make an extra effort to
improve my English. I don’t miss Belgium because I am
looking straight ahead at the open
The Irish don’t fall in love with for- road. I wouldn’t go back to Brussels
eigners very quickly. They are quite unless I could go one step higher in
guarded when it comes to making my career. In the meantime, I am
friends. It is difficult to share things learning a great deal from the outside
with them in Galway. They tend to world. For the moment it is Ireland,
stick together. I’ve had to try hard to but I would move to another place in
integrate. In fact, I have more con- Europe without hesitation. It would
tact with people from other countries, depend on the job, the salary and
than Ireland. I’m making an effort but whether the company was open to
it’s not easy…. Fortunately, I like to accepting foreigners.
change difficulties into challenges! I
have trained in martial arts since I
was a kid, which is good for teaching you discipline, patience and
tolerance. So I can deal with most situations. Even administration
doesn’t prevent me from moving forward!

[ 72 ]
So far, so good
Personally, I’m very open to Europe. Ireland has been a bit tough
but I’ll probably stay at least another two years to gather enough
professional experience before moving on. Anything less and it
wouldn’t look good professionally speaking.

There are certain things that concern me about moving around. The
health system, is one. Private health insurance is very expensive
and there is always a lot of paperwork involved. I try to make sure
that I remain fit and healthy so that I don’t have to worry too much
about my health. I work out regularly and always watch what I eat.
So far, so good. Anyone moving abroad should make sure they are
in a perfectly healthy condition before they go and make sure that
they can go back to their home countries quickly if they have a seri-
ous accident or need extensive medical treatment.

Gaining from the experience

I have gained immeasurable experience from moving abroad. I’m
a firm believer that if you want to get the most out of life you need
to go with the flow, leave those preconceived perceptions behind
and just go with an open mind. Be prepared to do a lot of ground-
work before you leave. Even though I didn’t really know that much
about Galway I had done a fair bit of research on Ireland before
applying for the job. It’s important to research where you want to
go, which country suits your professional and private life. I would
also advise people to set themselves a time limit of what they want
to achieve and by when. It is amazing how fast the mind and body
can adapt to the challenge. Once you know those things you can
focus on that country and the job will come. I did everything nec-
essary to get here. It was just as well because I only had two weeks
from the time I accepted the job to the time I had to start. Just
enough time to book my ticket and pack my bags. With enough
preparation and detail, everything comes right in the end.

[ 73 ]
“We are European nomads!”
urdes Mart
Name: Lo
ao, Spain
From: Bilb ce
I was born in Bilbao and lived there Studying and working in Denmark
Paris, Fran until I went to university in Barcelona.
Works in:
an factors I spent three years there doing my When you are a student it is easy to find your way in a foreign coun-
Job: Hum
engineer Bachelors degree in physiotherapy. It try. My first six months were really great. I enjoyed the international
was a four-year course and I got an environment of Erasmus and made a lot of Danish friends too. All
Age: 30
Erasmus grant to go to Aalborg in the lectures were in Danish and my Danish friends helped me a lot
Denmark in my final year. It was originally supposed to – there was always someone next to me translating everything into
be for three months but I ended up extending it to the whole year English and I had individual tutorials with the lecturers too.
and then spending
another six months When I finished study-
working in Denmark. ing I thought it would be
That’s when I met easier to find work in
my French husband. Copenhagen, since it’s
My Erasmus grant a bigger city than
changed my life! Aalborg. By then I had
learnt some Danish but
I have been in France it was not very fluent
for five years now and and interviewers often
in my current job in made an issue of it. I felt
the car industry for the I just needed some time
last three. I am a and I knew I would
human factors engi- improve quickly if I
neer, which means I could use the language
am responsible for the at work. Another prob-
safety of machinery lem was having a home
and reducing the risks address in Aalborg.
for people working on Some employers wouldn’t
the production lines. even look at my CV
Engineers tend to because of it.
focus on mechanical and technical aspects and they forget that
humans operate the machines. As humans we make mistakes, so I I finally got a breakthrough when a woman at a hospital called me.
ensure, for example, that any error and warning messages are cor- They wouldn’t offer me a permanent contract because they thought
rect and in place. I go to work by bike and train. I have two bikes, I might not stay in the country, but I did get some short-term work
one for each end of the train journey! to cover people on holiday. The woman who hired me had worked

[ 75 ]
abroad when she was
younger so she under-
stood the situation and
gave me a chance. It’s
getting the first job that’s
difficult. When I met
Mathieu I moved back to
Aalborg for a while but
it was easy to get a job
there because I already
had some work experi-
ence in Denmark on my
CV. I was the only non-French person there and people were curious
about me. They spoke to me in French and I couldn’t reply at all. It
wasn’t until three or four days later they realised I hadn’t under-
Validating my qualifications stood a word! When I first arrived in France I did 90 hours of inten-
I had to go through the process of validating my physiotherapy sive French but only learnt the basics.
diploma in Denmark and then in France. It took something like nine
months in Denmark. I had to explain all the lectures I had taken, I remember the first day of my new job. I stood in the waiting room
and going through seven years of notes and papers took three calling the names of my patients. Nobody responded and I went
months. I had a huge file by the end of it! away thinking none of them were there. It turned out they just had-
n’t understood my accent! We pronounce every letter in Spanish,
When you are a health worker you need an official paper from the which you don’t do in French. But they just laughed about it. People
ministry to be able to practise. You also need official translations of there were very friendly. I think in general it’s easy to be Spanish
the documents and these are expensive. It helped that I had already in France. They like us and associate us with holidays. People used
been through the process in Denmark when I validated my physio- to say that I brought them the sun!
therapy diploma in France, but it still took a year. And in France I
couldn’t validate the studies I had done in ergonomics. I had to My husband was strict with me. Once I visited him at the weekend,
spend a year in France studying a lot of subjects I had already cov- looking forward to being able to speak freely in English at last, but
ered for my level to be recognised. he insisted on speaking in French. After three months in the village
I could speak French almost fluently.
Alone in a Normandy village
After Denmark, I worked in Spain for nine months and then came to
Sometimes you have
France to be closer to my husband. We knew it would be easier for to approach people
me to find a job in France than for him in Spain. I decided I want- I think I have come across two kinds of people in France. A lot of
ed to be alone at first though. I got a job as a physiotherapist in a my husband’s friends have travelled and lived abroad so they
village in Normandy. There is a huge lack of physiotherapists in know what it is like. They have always given me a lot of encour-
France and I could have found something closer to Paris, but I felt agement and praised my progress in French for example. Others
this would help me integrate. have maybe lived in small villages all their lives and don’t under-

[ 76 ]
stand the effort you have to make to integrate. They are not so money you have. I also think the job market is more open to
helpful. I think in Spain we always try to make foreigners feel com- foreigners in France than in Spain. In Spain you often need con-
fortable. In France, sometimes you have to approach people, they tacts to find a job and salaries are low. Many of my friends back
won’t come to you. home are 30 and still living with their parents.

I miss the social life in Spain and the open nature of people there.
We have been here a year but still don’t know the neighbours.
A new start in Italy
Once, when we had run out of salt, I suggested that we ask the My husband has been offered the opportunity to work in Rome for
neighbours for some but my husband said that people don’t do that three years, so we will go there in December. Neither of us speak
here. In Spain you would open the door even in pyjamas. Here it’s Italian but we don’t see that as a problem. I may have to change
very formal – you have to be invited. Making a phone call is differ- job and start all over again and I know the first six months will be
ent too. You can call people at 11pm in Spain but in France you difficult. But we’ve done it before and we know how it works now.
can’t call anyone after nine.
One thing I have learnt is that smaller companies are more wary
France is an old country and an old democracy. They are traditional, about hiring foreigners even if your profile is perfect. The bigger
feel secure and don’t want to change. Spain is the opposite, it has companies are the ones that tend to hire more people from abroad.
only been a democracy for 30 years. I think I tend to see the bad Once I get a job in Italy I know I will have a great time there. I
things about France when I’m here and feeling a bit homesick, but remember how exciting my first year in France was. I hope in the
when I’m in Spain there are things I really miss about France. In future that administrative systems will make it easier for people to
France, nobody cares about who your parents are or how much move about. I think that’s the hardest thing at the moment, not the
language or anything else.

I love moving abroad but do feel I have

inevitably lost some of my roots. Living
in a different country is completely dif-
ferent to going on holiday. You inte-
grate, live with the people and learn
the culture. I feel European, I don’t feel
Spanish or French or Danish. Our son
was born in Normandy and home is
where the three of us are together. We
are the European nomads of today!

[ 77 ]
“Staying away is not a usual story for an Icelander.”
Name: M n
Saemund land
kjavik, Ice
From: Rey ,
I was born in Iceland and grew up
Stockholm there. When I finished high school I
Works in:
Sweden r of a
worked as an art teacher for two
ct manage
Job: Proje years in a small town on the western
school netw coast of Iceland.
Age: 56
I suppose like a lot of other
migrants, I never decided to leave as such. I came to
Stockholm in 1975. I was 25 and it was initially just to study. But
I’ve been here ever since, apart from three years in Brussels from
2000 to 2003.

Moving to Stockholm was as easy as

moving within Iceland
My wife and I wanted to live abroad for a few years before hav-
ing kids and settling down. I did an art course in Sweden. When
I finished three years later my wife decided to enrol in an art col-
lege as well, so I got a job as a teacher.

When we had our son, we thought we’d go back to Iceland before

he started school at age seven. Then we thought it would be when
he left secondary school. Finally, after 15 years, we realised we
were probably not going back!

I didn’t have any administrative problems changing countries. We Coming to Sweden from Iceland you are not really considered a
have had free movement of labour since 1954 in the Nordic coun- foreigner. I’m not seen as an immigrant in Stockholm, people never
tries. Moving to Stockholm was as easy as moving within Iceland. think of me as a non-Swede. I speak Swedish with an accent but
There was no need for a work permit. So the situation then was a people have great difficulties working out where I come from. They
step further than where the EU is right now. think I’m from another part of Sweden.

It’s very easy for someone from one Nordic country to settle in When people know I come from Iceland they find it quite exotic
another. The cultures are very similar. The social system is more or and positive. Our kids learned quickly that if they told people they
less the same and schools and what you learn there are similar. were from Iceland they would get an enthusiastic response.

[ 79 ]
A special way of looking at life Iceland has changed a lot. Even the language has changed. I
notice it especially when I hear young people talk. Society has
Iceland is a very modern country with a very developed education changed a lot too in 30 years and, of course, I notice it more than
system. But it is a very small country – only 300,000 people all in someone who lives there all the time.
all. So a lot of students need to go abroad for higher education –
postgraduate and even graduate studies too. Reykjavik has expanded enormously. It’s still small, but two thirds of
all Icelanders live there. It has become an urban capital city. It was
Many go to Scandinavia, some to the UK or the US. Most of them a town in the country before. Everything is happening in Reykjavik,
move back though. When my wife and I went to Stockholm in there’s nothing outside in terms of culture.
1975, there were 700 Icelandic students in Sweden. We knew a
lot of them but only one is still in Stockholm! All the others went It’s an affluent society. Iceland has one of the richest average
back to Iceland. So staying away is not a usual story for an incomes in the world. Unemployment is 0.2 % or something like
Icelander. that. Really amazing. There are more foreigners in Iceland now.

I miss my family. People have very strong family ties in Iceland. I I think they find the long, dark winters and our rather archaic lan-
think that’s common in island cultures. A strong sense of family and guage quite difficult, but they integrate well because they find jobs.
a strong sense of home. Home is the centre of the universe. I’ve met
people from other islands, Sicily and so on. I think we have a spe-
cial way of looking at life. In bigger countries it’s different.
Working for Nordic cooperation
I’m the project manager of the Nordic Schoolnet. Looking at the big-
ger picture, it’s based on a cooperation that dates back to just after
Visiting ‘home’ the Second World War. It is not political but cultural. Scandinavian
When I go back it still feels like going home even if I have been languages are mutually understandable, which makes it easier.
away so long. It’s an odd thing. Apart from family, I miss the nature
of Iceland. It’s quite unique. They sent astronauts there because it’s Since 1954 a lot of money has been invested in different coopera-
similar to the moon in places. tion efforts. In the 1980s people started to get interested in ICT
(Information and Communication Technologies) in education. That
We’ve been playing with the thought of getting a flat in Reykjavik, was the beginning of the Nordic Schoolnet.
together with my sister-in-law who lives in Norway. A place to stay
when we go back and visit. Flights used to be expensive but they The important thing now is the cooperation between schools and
are much cheaper now. teachers, the exchange of ideas and teachers and pupils. We have

[ 80 ]
partner-finding forums, community tools and so on. There are get them in cities with international institutions but you notice it
grants too. more in Brussels because it’s not such a big place.

Pupils see another side of countries because they make contact on I really liked being there. It was a great three years but I left for fam-
a personal level – they get to know other people. And teachers ily reasons. I became a grandfather! For me it was important to be
gain experience by working with teachers in other countries. Most close to my children and my grandchildren too, and they are in
of them find it very exciting to work in different school environ- Stockholm.
ments. Even if Swedish and Danish school systems are similar,
experiences and perspectives can be quite different.
A new perspective
Travelling can be a bug. My son has travelled a lot. He’s in his
Three years in Brussels early thirties. He’s been to India and lived in Tanzania and other
I came to Brussels to work with school networks at a European countries in Africa for four years. He can speak Swahili.
level. It was very different to coming to Sweden, and very exciting
too. It was 2000 and When I was younger I
Sweden had joined the EU thought about working in
about 10 years before. some other countries too. I
Brussels still seemed quite nearly accepted a teaching
exotic. There was a feeling job in Gaza for example. It
that it was a political centre. never happened but it
would have been interest-
Brussels is a strange town, ing.
very different from Stockholm
or Reykjavik. It was much I don’t have any plans to
harder to settle there. I never leave Stockholm. Even if I
managed to learn French miss family and the nature in
though I did get to a point Iceland, I probably won’t go
where I could understand back to live there. In any
Flemish. If you don’t speak the case Sweden has great
local languages you are on nature too and Stockholm is
the outside all the time. For one of the most beautiful
the first and second year it cities in the world.
wasn’t a problem. But in the third year it was. You realise you are liv-
ing in a kind of bubble. When you go to live in another country, you come with the luggage
of your upbringing and your own culture. You integrate into anoth-
A lot of expats in Brussels are there with a particular mission for a er culture and see the good and bad of both. One of my friends
few years. Everybody is eager to get to know new people but it’s grew up in Congo Brazzaville. He is a writer and says that many
difficult to build friendships on a long-term basis. writers gain from having more than one perspective.

The people I knew were the people I worked with and people from I think that living abroad does give you a different perspective on
the same countries. The expat circle was a strange one. You always life. And I enjoy that!

[ 81 ]
“Differences come in personality, not nationality.”
iha Fras
Name: M enia
ribor, Slov
From: Ma rf,
Gössendo I live in Maribor, Slovenia but work in
Works in:
Austria Austria. At school, I always wanted to
e for
e in a hom work in a different country. So when
Job: Nurs le
elderly pe I left and was looking for a job, I fol-
lowed my dream. I registered with
Age: 25
the Slovenian job service, and later
they contacted me for an interview in Austria. The
vacancy, which was for a medical nurse in a home for elderly peo-
ple, came through the EURES network.

My qualifications were in order but it was also important that I

could speak German. I had learnt English at school and then went
to German classes for about eight years and passed my certificate.
Now I can speak it like a native.

I also had the opportunity to continue my studies here in Austria

too, which was particularly interesting for me. Study opportunities
are much better here and it is cheaper – so I have a greater choice
for less money.

A foot in each camp

It took almost 18 months from the time of my interview until I actu-
ally started my job in April this year. This was largely because of
the mountains of paperwork and the time it took to arrange the
work permit. For example, we had to translate everything from
Slovene to German and get confirmation from the school. In the
meantime, I worked in Slovenia as an ambulance driver. I was very
philosophical about it. I just waited for the papers and thought, if it
happens, it happens and, if not, I am happy doing this.

I drive back and forth across the border every day – it takes me
about 50 minutes each way, or one hour if the traffic is bad. It’s not
that far – the town where I work is closer to Maribor than Ljubljana –
the capital of Slovenia.

[ 83 ]
I enjoy my job. I take care of the residents, helping them to shower I like helping people. I work for eight hours with half an hour’s
and eat their food, making sure they take their medication. It’s about break, beginning at 6am and finishing at 2.30pm, then I drive
taking care of them and helping them with their daily routines. home. I get home around 3.30pm so I have the whole afternoon
in front of me. I have to get up at 4.15am, but I go to bed at 10
or 11pm so that I am ready to do my job.
Putting your heart into it
In Austria, they don’t have enough nurses or people simply don’t
want to do this. For them it is not particularly well paid. People in
Cross-border commuter
this profession work for the love of it and not for the money. I wanted to stay living in Slovenia because things are generally
Working with the elderly is not like working with babies even cheaper and the quality of life is good there. There are plenty of
though they sometimes behave just like children. Older people opportunities in Austria and most of these are just a short drive
have to stay in bed longer, they are often terminally ill and need a away. I know people who drive two or three hours back and forth
lot of care, and constant attention. We can only do our best and to work, so 65 kilometres is nothing for me. My cousin and my girl-
be there for them. friend’s father also work in Austria. From the northern part of
Slovenia, it is easy.
There are about 55 people in the home at any one time. The build-
ing where I work is part of a larger group, operated by the same I wouldn’t think of living in Austria. I am used to living in Maribor.
owner. The people are generally between the ages of 60 and 90, It’s a small city, everything is in the centre, my family and friends
occasionally we have centenar-
ians. More and more, people
are living longer but many
can’t take care of themselves –
or they prefer to come and live
in a place like this where there
is some company.

The more active residents take

exercise classes, go out for
walks in the park, or generally
get out and about. So for them
it’s more like a hotel. But others
may be bed-ridden and this is
obviously a different kind of

The work is hard and physi-

cal. You need to live with older people somehow, to be able to are there. I have no wish to start over, I want to build on what I
bond with them. If someone says on the street, “Oh, that’s an have. If I go out and I want something, I think, why not? That is one
easy job.”, I say, “Go and try it for yourself”. It’s very hard, you of the reasons I work abroad, to have this choice. When I retire
have to be gentle, very patient, and often do and say the same after 40 years work – provided retirement age is not extended too
thing a hundred times. I am used to it – it’s no problem for me. much – I want to see what I have achieved.

[ 84 ]
At home in Slovenia, at work in Austria
There aren’t too many differences in working with Austrian people.
I think the differences come in personality. It doesn’t matter if some-
one is Slovenian, German or Polish – it is the person that counts. I
could work with 100 Slovenians and among these, there would
perhaps be four that I wouldn’t get on with. I haven’t experienced
any negative attitudes as a foreigner here in Austria. In my job, the
senior nurse is German, two women are from Hungary, one is from
Poland – we are an international team, we are all Europeans.

I’m going to continue to study while I work so that when I get my

diploma, I can improve my career prospects and get a promotion.
The main reasons I went abroad to work were for the money and
my studies, but there is some pressure because I have to complete
my diploma within two years, otherwise I will have to stop working
in Austria.

I don’t have any real social contact with Austrians beyond the work-
place. After work, I go home, back to my girlfriend, to my environ-
ment. I only work in Austria – I spend my free time in Slovenia. For
me, the only differences are the language and the fact that I have
to stop at the border to show my passport.

[ 85 ]
“I’ve really opened my eyes to the world.”
ike Rizzo
Name: M
da, Malta
From: Msi K
Ipswich, U I was born in Malta, which has a total wasn’t part of the European Union and so everything took a lot
Works in: ltant
oms consu population of about 400,000 and is, longer to sort out. In total it took about a year from the time I was
Job: Telec
I believe, the smallest country to have offered the job to the time I got my permit and could move over
Age: 36 joined the EU. I first came to the UK here. There were a few administrative blunders along the way and
in 1990 to do my postgraduate degree in I think the application sat around on various desks before it was
computer science at the University of Kent based in Canterbury. It finally processed. But these things can happen anywhere. It is just
was a great opportunity for broadening the outlook of a boy who the luck of the draw. However you look at it, administration the
came from a small town in Malta. I spent six very happy years world over is a nightmare!
immersed in my studies and UK student life.
The idea was always to go back to Malta
afterwards. I had found an academic posi-
Culture shock
tion at the University of Malta but I soon It seems funny to say this given the historic
realised that I wasn’t really cut out for life as links with Britain, but there are still some quite
an academic. I was also a bit restless and striking cultural differences. The Maltese, for
found it difficult to get back into the way of example, are more open about everything
life after living in the UK for so many years. I even when it comes to discussing personal
found Malta a bit too disconnected and issues. Whereas the British are much more
missed the excitement of meeting so many reserved and don’t give very much away. It
people from all over the world. So I started makes it harder to get to know people, espe-
looking for a job back in the UK. cially as a foreigner who doesn’t know the
correct social codes. Obviously, as a student
it was fairly easy because I just mixed with
Back in the UK other students. So my social life was great.
I was lucky enough to find a position with But when you work it is much more difficult
British Telecom (BT). Though I had to start on and you really have to make an effort to go
the graduate programme, which was a bit out and socialise. I don’t think it helped that
frustrating in the beginning as I was much when I first joined BT in Ipswich I still had a
older than those who had newly graduated Maltese girlfriend, who was based in Kent so
with first degrees. I already had a postgrad I spent every other weekend there. The down-
and a few years experience behind me. But side is that I never really built a network of
it was an opportunity, and looking back I am friends or had the chance to ‘settle’ because I
glad now that I took it. Finding accommodation before moving over was always thinking about leaving for the weekend. During the week
here was easy enough particularly as I still had friends here who it was hard as I felt there was a real vacuum that needed to be
kept a look out for me. The hardest thing was sorting out the work filled. I started a few evening classes and took up sailing. I also
permit. When I came over to the UK eight years ago, Malta still joined a European Club where I made a number of friends.

[ 87 ]
The older I get and the more I start to build a life here the more I
notice the differences in attitudes and outlook. For example, when it
comes to personal finance the British are more willing to take on
huge debts to buy houses whereas the Maltese wouldn’t dare. Banks
are more willing to lend vast amounts of money too. Obviously the
risks are higher but the opportunity to succeed is greater. In terms of
family ties there is a big difference, which has taken some getting
used to. My wife is English and we have just had our first child,
which is fantastic, if a little exhausting at times! What I notice is that
families are not quite as close knit here as in Malta. I guess this has
something to do with the small-island mentality and the fact that people
live much closer together. Families are more spread out in the UK.
Starting a family in a foreign country is challenging in the sense that
it is harder to maintain links with my relatives back in Malta and
ensure that they also get to share our joy. These new cultural influ-
ences are enriching but at the same time I can’t help feeling that I
am distancing myself from my cultural origins.

Living at the cutting edge

I can’t see myself moving back to Malta, well not yet anyway. I love
going back to visit my family, soak up the sun and do a bit of div-
ing. I could also see myself buying a small flat right on the coast.
But I wouldn’t want to live there full time. The Maltese often find it
difficult to move out of their comfort zones and challenge things. It’s

[ 88 ]
true that since joining the EU, Malta has changed and is making
progress, albeit rather slowly. But, for me, the UK has opened up
so many opportunities that I just wouldn’t have found back in
Malta. Professionally speaking, I am working with millions of cus-
tomers worldwide and not just thousands of customers based in one
country. More money is available for project development, which
means you can really try out innovative stuff. I have had the oppor-
tunity to work in Silicon Valley, which is right at the cutting edge of
technology. Personally, I have been able to change my way of
thinking, discard any prejudices and really open my eyes to the
world. Then there is the fact that I have really built a life for myself
here. I got married and became a dad to mention two significant
changes. So I guess I have more roots here now than in Malta.

Don’t stick to your own kind

I am not sure that I would move countries again for work. Although,
of course, if the right opportunity came along I wouldn’t rule it out.
But I have other people to take into consideration now. I always
think that people should take up the challenge and move abroad if
they have the opportunity. But if they take the plunge, they shouldn’t
stick too closely to their own kind. I loved the fact that I have been
able to mix with all kinds of people and in doing so I have learnt
so much about myself and really grown as an individual. I am very
happy that I have done something different with my life other than
follow a simple, less stressful routine in my home town.

[ 89 ]
“Just try it, you have nothing to lose!”
iroslav Ste
Name: M h
gue, Czec
From: Pra
Republic any
I’m an anaesthesiologist. I studied but I followed an intensive course and within three months it was
orks in : Halle, Germ medicine in Prague and worked there much better. Now I’m more fluent in German than in English!
W ist
sthesiolog for five years at the university hospi-
Job: Anae
tal. Then my wife and I decided we
Age: 32
would like to try another country,
Doing it the old way
new experiences. My wife was on maternity leave so The first obstacle I faced was bureaucracy and getting a work
for her there were no risks. For me too, there was nothing to lose. permit. I came here two months before the Czech Republic joined
There are a lot of vacancies for the EU and after that it was much
anaesthesiologists both in Germany easier – but I had to do it the old
and in the Czech Republic. I sent way. I had to wait two or three
about 10 or 12 CVs by email to var- months for all the formalities. But I
ious hospitals in Germany and got got a lot of support from the hospi-
five or six interviews, so I could tal’s human resources department,
choose where to go. who wanted to get things done
faster. The positive side was the
For me it was simple, but I think for friendly welcome I got here at the
other professions it’s more difficult. hospital. I have very good col-
Here we need a work permit, but leagues. Without their support, it
for doctors it’s not a problem. We would have been much harder.
originally wanted to go to England
because we wouldn’t have needed In general, I feel people are warmer
a work permit at all, but it was too here – for example, they greet us in
far away. Our families are in the village in a way they don’t do in
Prague and it’s just three hours the Czech Republic. This gives a
drive away, so we can easily go positive feeling – people smile more.
back to visit. Of course, they also say negative
things – they’re more direct. But my
I only studied English at school, so personal impression is positive. On
for me German was more difficult. To start with, I didn’t have the the whole, Czechs are more distant, but they become friendlier
courage to come here as I didn’t think my German was good once they get to know you.
enough. But a friend told me that the language would come and
not to worry about it. I took the risk and came to the interview. They Although unemployment is very high in this region, they need doc-
told me I had to improve it. As an anaesthesiologist I don’t have to tors. People who know me, know that I’m a doctor and that I’m not
communicate with the patients so much, but of course I need to talk taking a ‘German’ job, so I haven’t experienced many negative
with the other doctors. The language was hard at the beginning, attitudes. In any case, people from Eastern Europe are not allowed

[ 91 ]
to work in jobs where there are a lot of unemployed German can- Now my wife is starting to look for work. She is in human resources
didates. and had a good job in Prague. If we want we can always go back,
but she’s giving it a try here. She speaks German and is quite well inte-
We had a lot in common with the old Eastern Germany. We grated. She probably has more friends than me, as I work a lot. Before
weren’t allowed to travel much, and nor were they. East Germans we came here we didn’t know anyone. Most of our social network is
could only travel to Czechoslovakia, as it was then. This means through colleagues at the hospital and friends of my wife. My daugh-
they know Czechs very well, so I feel I have been accepted very ter goes to kindergarten here and my son will start in September.
warmly. There are also some West Germans living here and some-
times there is a certain animosity towards them from East Germans. Living here has its advantages especially for my children. My
Personally, I haven’t experienced anything bad, although some- daughter speaks very good Czech and German. Perhaps that’s

times it’s clear they don’t know much about Czechs – for example, what I would have liked for myself. Now there are international
where Prague is. They ask very carefully if we know this or that, for schools in Prague, but there didn’t use to be. We children from the
example: “Do you know Mickey Mouse?” – but of course we do! I Eastern Bloc lacked that cosmopolitan lifestyle available today – it
think this is a fairly typical problem in big nations, like France or was an opportunity we didn’t have. I think that’s why many people
Britain. In general though Germans travel quite a lot and are geo- now go abroad to try it. Many go back home too, as it’s not as
graphically close to the Czech Republic. great as they expected. After the revolution, people felt that every-
thing was wrong at home, but it’s not true. For example, the educa-
tion system in the Czech Republic is very good, like the medical
Passport problems education I followed. Many people think it’s better to study abroad,
I have a four-year old daughter and a son who was born here – he’s but that’s not necessarily true. In Prague now, people come from
one year old. My wife and daughter came here a little later, once abroad to study there, like Canadians and Greeks.
the Czech Republic had joined the EU, so didn’t have too many
problems. The biggest problem we faced was getting a passport for
our son. He couldn’t get a German passport since we are both
New ideas
Czech, but couldn’t get a Czech one either, as we needed to regis- I think I’ve brought several new ideas with me from my medical
ter the birth in the Czech Republic. To get a Czech passport we had education in Prague. In general I felt that I had to integrate, rather
to travel to the Czech Republic, but to get there we needed a pass- than change things here. But in terms of different approaches, I
port from here! After lots of work, we found a solution in the end. think I’ve been able to make some contributions. For example,

[ 92 ]
during a lung operation, one lung is operated and only one is ven- family to support us. Sometimes we also feel a little bit culturally
tilated. During this operation there can be a lack of oxygen, but ‘starved’ here.
there is a special bag you can use to improve the oxygenation on
the operated lung. This was not used here, but I told my colleagues On the whole it’s been a positive story for us. My goal was to learn
that we used it in Prague and now everyone is using it here. the language and that’s what I’ve done. I don’t know if I would want
to move countries again. My grandmother says I should go to
It’s too early to say if we’ll stay in the long term or not. I love Prague England, that it’s better there. But she doesn’t know why – it’s just
and miss my friends there. But we go back very often to visit as it’s because of an idea she has about the country. Most of my old col-
close by. I also miss the architecture there and going out to the the- leagues and friends are happy at home in the Czech Republic. They
atre, as we have no au pair or babysitter here – in Prague we had say: “We should try living abroad too, but, but, but...” I say: “Just
try it, you have nothing to lose!”

Before I left, my former boss in Prague told me, “You will come
back and bring your new experience home.” I hope that will hap-
pen. I don’t want to retire here in Germany. But now I’m still young
and I should get more experience. Then I can go home to the
Czech Republic and stay there.

[ 93 ]
“I decided to come for two years… and I’m still here!”
jo Hir vone
Name: Pir d
oo, Finlan
From: Esp Belgium
Brussels, I was an au pair for a year in Italy in
Works in: e
mer ser vic 1985 and I thought it would be good
Job: Custo
to go abroad for a real job one day.
Four years later, I started working for
Age: 44
an IT company in Finland and in
1998 there was an opportunity to transfer abroad
within the company. I thought it would be an easy way to experi-
ence living in another country again – I didn’t want to go some-
where without having a job.

When I took the opportunity to come to Belgium, the initial posting

was for two years… and I’m still here! Each time I sign up for another
two-year period and now I’ve been here for eight years.

Finnish work ethic

I work for a Scandinavian IT company that has around 15,000 Maybe because I’ve worked for the company for a long time, I am
employees and offices in several European countries. The head- more used to the company’s working culture than the people hired
quarters are in Espoo, Finland and there are around 60 of us in here. I hope I bring something of the culture of the company here
Belgium. Apart from Belgians and Finns, we have Greeks, Danish, but I have learnt to be more relaxed in Belgium too. You don’t have
Swedish and Germans working here. to be so strict. I really like working in an international environment –
and living in one.
I am a customer service manager for a Finnish forestry industry cus-
tomer. We monitor their production and sales servers. I am respon-
sible for ensuring that the customer gets what was agreed and what
Belgium was completely new
they are paying for. I’m based in Brussels but I travel quite a lot. I didn’t know anything about Belgium when I came. I could have
gone to other places. I was offered the possibility of going to Riga
It’s difficult to say whether it’s a cultural or a personal thing, but I think in Latvia, but I preferred somehow to stick to Western Europe at the
I’m a very disciplined worker and I like to plan and work to a time, so Belgium seemed the obvious choice. Eight years ago it
schedule. That can be difficult here, where nobody seems worry that sounded a bit too exotic, but I’ve visited Riga now and it is a
much about schedules. I think the work ethic is a bit higher in Finland really nice city. I don’t know what it would have been like to live
and sometimes I get a bit irritated when things don’t get done. there though.

[ 95 ]
My company provided temporary accommodation while I was married and have kids. We are still in contact, of course, but if I
looking for a flat and the Finns in the office advised me on the best was still there they wouldn’t be so free to go out in the evenings.
areas to live. It was quite hard looking for flats after office hours
and some of them were terrible – at least by Finnish standards – Brussels is an easy place to live because it’s very international.
but I found a nice place and I’m still living there now. There is a lot on too – that’s what I like about it. There are concerts
and exhibitions and all the outdoor
events in summer. I used to organise
Mission Impossible the cultural events for the Finnish
English is the working language in club here. There’s a big Finnish
my office but I studied six months of community in Brussels – around
French in Finland before I came. It 3000 people I think. People say
was Mission Impossible to learn it in Finns are quiet and distant, but
Finland – I didn’t hear it, didn’t use maybe those who go abroad are
it and couldn’t pronounce it – but I different from those who stay home.
do like the language. I could speak All the Finns I know here are very
Italian after my year in Italy and I sociable.
thought I would come back with flu-
ent French after two years in
Brussels. Eight years later I’m still
Foreigners together
here and am still not fluent! It’s easier to get to know foreigners
because we are all in the same boat.
My company had language courses It’s easier to widen your group. I
in the office at first. At the beginning seem to know mostly Finns at the
a lot of people participated, but moment because some of my friends
then there was too much work and of other nationalities have left in the
little by little people dropped out. I last three years. We stay in touch and
like languages and went to all my it’s nice to go and visit them.
classes, but eventually I was the last
one there and the classes stopped. In eight years I haven’t made any
Belgian friends and I’m not the only
one. They are friendly at work but
There is a lot on in vanish home at the end of the day.
Brussels In Finland I used to go out for din-
I didn’t know anyone when I came ner with my colleagues at least
here. But I immediately made a lot once a month. I think Belgians are
of friends from the company. There more family orientated.
were people from South Africa, India and Finland too. We went
out a lot and it was a lot of fun. Belgium is great for travel so I move a lot. In Finland it never
occurred to me that it’s more difficult to take weekend breaks to
I think I have a better quality of life here. I’m single and a lot of places like Barcelona because flights are more expensive and you
my friends in Brussels are too. In Finland most of my friends are are further away. It’s easy to get to other places from Brussels.

[ 96 ]
I’ve been on trips to the Champagne area of France and wine No reason to go back
areas in Germany. My friends at home are envious that I can do
things like that. I feel Finnish. I don’t think I would ever feel Belgian, even if I lived
the rest of my life here. I do feel at home though. I always feel
happy to come back here from holidays, even holidays in Finland.
I don’t miss the Finnish winter My parents would prefer to see me in Finland, but my friends are
I’m happy here. I like the way buses and trams are packed with dif- happy because they like to visit me here.
ferent people and different colours, sometimes with someone play-
ing the accordion. In Finland people sit as far from each other as After eight years it would be a big step to return. I never say never,
they can and look out of the window! but it would be hard. I visit Finland five or six times a year but I
have my work, my friends and all my social life here.
Traffic is my favourite subject! Even if the traffic lights are working you
see policemen controlling the traffic here because otherwise it would I don’t know if I would move to another country now. It takes years
be chaos. People like to drive everywhere with their own cars. I have to build your life and it would be like starting over again, at least
to drive to work but I always go to the centre by tram or bus. if I went alone. If I did leave Belgium, it would be to go to Finland,
but I have no reason to go back now. I think I’ll stay here.
I miss my friends and my family. Some Finnish food too, but there
is a Finnish shop here where you can buy it. I miss the nature some-
how. There’s no sea or river
in Brussels, unlike many
other capital cities. And I
miss fishing or going to the
forest to pick berries and
mushrooms. I’m more of a
city than a countryside per-
son, but it’s nice to do that
now and then. It’s very
crowded here – we have
more space in Finland.

I don’t miss the long dark

Finnish winter. I didn’t notice
it when I was there, but I do
now when I go back for a
week at Christmas. It gets
dark so early in the after-
noon. It would be difficult to
go back to that.

[ 97 ]
“I only came for six months, but I met a girl…”
iner von D
Name: Ra any
m : Fra nkfurt, Germ
ork s in: Warsaw, One morning as I was driving to time. It was incredible. Poland was not in the EU then. All the doc-
anager work past Frankfurt airport, I saw a uments were in Polish and I couldn’t understand anything.
b : Inte rn al sales m
Jo plane take off at sunrise. I said to
Age: 40 myself, I should do something. Really, My girlfriend was from near Poznan so I decided to move there
it was like that. Within three months afterwards. I found another job in the electronics field but after 14
I was in Poland. months my old company offered me a job in Warsaw. It appealed
to me because I thought Warsaw would be the closest thing to
Poland isn’t my first experience working abroad. I was a cook on Frankfurt in Poland.
a small boat in Turkey for seven months. Maybe that’s something
you wouldn’t expect! I went on vacation and decided to stay. I visited Auschwitz a year ago. I ended up working there as a
guide for a few weeks. Some things you do without thinking too
I had a Polish wife before I moved here. But we had hardly seen much. But coming to Poland was something I had thought about.
each other for two years before we split up. That’s life. I came to
Poland five and a half years ago. I lived in Breslau – Wrocław in
Polish – then moved to Poznan and finally
Warsaw, where I have been for the last
three years.

Arriving in Poland
I was lucky. I worked for a major interna-
tional electronics company in Germany
and had a friend who worked for them in
Breslau. He got me a job and the company
did all the paperwork for me. One week-
end I packed my suitcases and on
Monday I was at work in Poland.
Everything was done. It was easy for me.

I had a contract for six months. I didn’t

plan to stay any longer than that but
women are the most powerful force on
earth and I had met a girl. My boss gave
me a three-month contract extension but I
had to deal with the paperwork myself that

[ 99 ]
Speaking the language Europe! A lot of people want to work for the
parent company in the US and I know peo-
When you go to a country you have to speak ple who have gone to Australia or
the language. Two months after I arrived in Singapore.
Poland, I got sick and couldn’t explain what
was wrong. None of the doctors could speak I think people are afraid to come to Eastern
German or English. So even if I thought I was Europe because the salaries are lower. But
only staying six months at that time, I decided I can recommend working in Poland. It’s a
I had to learn the language! good experience. There are jobs here and a
lot more people can speak English these days.
My Polish is quite good now. At least, I
have no problems speaking it but writing is The working culture is different though.
difficult. I’m a bit too lazy to improve my People are not so punctual and projects tend
grammar. Polish is a difficult language, to start at the last minute. I think Germans
even harder than German! like to be ready in advance. You can be a
German-style manager and push everyone
I use all my languages at work – Polish, hard or you can be a friend.
German and English. I’m an account man-
ager for three big customers abroad and People don’t take things from your experi-
speaking languages makes my job a bit ence. They have their own way of doing
easier. things. You can try to suggest doing things a
different way and switching back if it doesn’t
work. But they don’t even want to try. It’s
Work permits really hard for a manager.
There are still a lot of countries in the old EU
that stop Poles and others working freely Polish people are really smart and Polish uni-
there. While this exists I have to fill in forms versities are really good. You see this in the
too. But it’s a revenge measure – how many field of electronics. International companies
people want to work in Poland compared to come here to hire Polish developers. Poles
those who want to work in Germany? are very inventive. They haven’t always had
access to parts so they improvise and look at things differently.
A lot of Poles are working in Germany anyway. Some have serv-
ice contracts and are hired in Poland so they pay into the Polish
social system. But I work here and pay into the social system
Immigration, emigration
here. We should lift the barriers and have a really free It’s amazing how many Poles are leaving the country. I think they leave
market. purely for economic reasons. A car mechanic earns 2500 zloty here,
but 10,000 in England. Poles love their country and some are coming
back to open businesses.
Working in Poland
All my colleagues here are Polish. In my company, I’m the only for- I heard that there are only 33,000 foreigners in Warsaw. I had
eigner in Poland, and also the only one in the whole of Eastern expat friends in Poznan but all left because they felt too isolat-

[ 100 ]
ed. Poles don’t know what it means to have foreigners – and My parents were reluctant to visit too. In the end I had to buy their
conflicts about integration – in their country. Foreigners go to tickets and just tell them to come! They really enjoyed the last trip.
other countries but it will change. Prices are going up and Now they say it’s an amazing country and they are coming again
salaries will rise too. soon.

Friends and social life Going back to Germany

When you come as a tourist, Poles are the nicest people ever and When I lived in Breslau, just two hours drive from the border, I went
as a guest they will drink with you. Later it’s hard to make further home and came back with a full car every time. I missed certain
steps. It took so long for me to meet people who I could really con- things, like German sausages and some cheeses. It doesn’t make
sider as friends. any sense for me to shop in Germany any more. You can get most
things here and prices are the same.
Social life is different here. I live in a nice area with a lot of bal-
conies. But I am the only one who enjoys it and has breakfast out When I visit my parents, they organise a big party together with my
there. Polish people close their two sisters and I feel like I’m
doors and live in a private way. home again. I still call Germany
I play football. I play on
Sundays in summer and twice a
week indoors in winter. It’s a
Thinking of the
great way to meet people. future
Sometimes I just go where peo- I won’t stay in Poland. The com-
ple are playing and ask to join pany is big and always looking
in. It’s my favourite sport, even for people in Asia or America.
if I have suffered some bad My dream is Japan but I don’t
injuries and I’m getting slower! think I have the patience to
learn the language at my age.
I’m a big fan of music. Polish It’s different in the offices in
people are amazed when I tell India or Thailand where I would
them what I know about music just need English.
from their country. I even know some of the musicians personally.
I contact them and they’re often open to meeting me, maybe I could work in the Netherlands too where I have had some offers.
because I’m a foreigner. I have suggested going to the US to my girlfriend. I don’t think it
will be in the next two years though. The electronics business is
really good. I can work anywhere, like a car mechanic or a hair-
Friends and family at home dresser!
I miss my friends from home. And they don’t visit. If I lived in
California or Sydney they would visit me but I live in Warsaw and I was born in Germany and love Germany. But I was there for 35
it’s not as attractive for them. I offer to show them the country years and for me it’s enough. Maybe I will feel different when I’m
because I know it well. But even my best friend hasn’t come here older but as long as I still have the chance, I want to continue dis-
once. covering other countries.

[ 101 ]
“There was no real plan, each step made sense at the time.”
bert Foley
Name: Ro
fax, UK
From: Hali
orks in: Warsaw, Living and working abroad is not wife really. It wouldn’t have been my choice. I like Latin culture –
W something I planned to do. One thing Spain and Argentina. I travelled a lot in South America. I have
sh teacher
Job: Engli just led to another. I had a degree in friends here who speak Spanish and we meet up sometimes. My
Age: 43 American history and politics and girlfriend is Polish but she speaks Spanish. And there are events
had spent my junior year in St. Louis. here – there’s a Latin American film festival and a Brazilian cultur-
After I graduated, I went back to the States to do a al festival as well.
doctorate in Argentine politics. I
planned to be an academic at the
time but not any more.
Arriving in a new city
Coming to Poland was fairly easy. I
I needed to learn Spanish, so I did had the job before I came. I had set
a teaching qualification. I taught in it up from Buenos Aires. A flat was
Venezuela for seven months, then in arranged for me too and because
Spain for a year. I was in Krakow, my wife was Polish, she sorted
Poland for a year then back in everything else out. Coming here
Spain for two years. After that I was and not speaking any Polish would
in Argentina for two and a half be very difficult though.
years. Now here I am in Warsaw,
where I have been for the last four
years. There was no real plan to it,
Speaking the
each step made sense at the time. language
My Polish is atrocious! It’s a difficult
I came to Poland because I used to language. I had about a year’s
be married to a Polish woman. I met worth of Polish lessons and I know
her in a Spanish lesson in Madrid. enough to go to a shop and get
We were in Spain and Argentina what I need. I tend to speak English,
together. We spent the year in all my friends speak English. At
Krakow because she had to finish work all the office staff speak
her degree and we came back to Poland four years ago because English and the majority of people I meet want to practise their
that is what she wanted. She’s a diplomat in Spain now, we are still English, especially young people. Basically their English is much
in touch. better than my Polish and you can’t impose upon people. Maybe
some time I’ll spend a whole summer learning Polish intensively and
I already knew Poland quite well when I came to Warsaw because try and get to a point where I can have a conversation and not be
I had lived in Krakow for a year but I came back because of my embarrassed.

[ 103 ]
Meeting people of the city. There are Chopin performances in the park too. But
there’s a lot of stuff I can’t go to – apparently the best theatre in
Poles tell you they are very hospitable but I don’t think they are unless Poland is in Warsaw. In Argentina I could go to the theatre.
you are a member of the family. My ex-wife’s family were very friend-
ly and my girlfriend’s family too. Of course language is a barrier,
which is my fault. People can invite you to meet friends and family
My students are ambitious
but if you don’t speak the language, it’s tough for them too. At school where I teach, the main languages are English and
German. I think 70% of classes are English, 20% German. Spanish
When you go to a foreign city, you are looking to make friends. is quite popular too.
People who are already there have their
own social circles. Working as an English
teacher you meet people through work.
Because of the language barrier you are
restricted to that. Most of the Polish teach-
ers in my school are women and married
with small kids. They are not interested in
socialising, which I understand.

It may have something to do with my age

too. I did a Junior Year in the US and made
a lot of friends in a similar situation to me.
Maybe if I was 20 and at university it would
be very different. People naturally form cir-
cles and are more open at that age.

Out and about in

Teaching ruins your social life. We work
until nine in the evening and usually work
Saturdays. In the evenings I like to go to the
cinema or to a bar. I bike a lot in the sum-
mer, four or five days a week, two hours a
day. There are a lot of bike paths in
Warsaw. From where I live I can get to the
old town in ten minutes and it’s only an hour
to a huge nature reserve. As I am a native speaker I tend to teach higher level students.
Mostly I teach 16 to 25 year olds. They are educated and reason-
There are a lot of exhibitions and things going on in Warsaw. At ably well off. I think Poles are very good at languages. They learn
the moment they have a free open-air cinema every day in a part very quickly.

[ 104 ]
They work very hard too. I have a lot of students who work full time, I don’t really have a home in the UK
study full time and learn two languages. They are very ambitious.
They learn English for travel, but mostly for work. If you want to get Last year I went back to the UK quite a lot. I went four times
a job with a multinational company, you have to speak English. because you can get cheap flights now. It’s interesting to go back.
Not just American or British firms, also Dutch or Swedish or others. It has changed a lot since I was at university. When I left university
To get a good job here you need English. there were no jobs. It’s so much more prosperous now. I see the
jobs my friends and family have. But it’s very materialistic, quite
For some of the students, learning English is a means to live and sad really.
work abroad. Some of them say they want to do that. I have an
I don’t think I could go back and live in the UK,
mostly because I don’t know what I do there.
Certainly not teach English. I make more money per
hour here than I could there. I don’t feel I have a
home! I have a brother in Nottingham, and two sis-
ters where I grew up in northern England. But I don’t
really have a home to go to. I suppose it does bother
me a little. But you can’t change it. I like going to
different places. The downside is you make friends
and you don’t see them and lose contact. They
change, you change. The upside is you meet a lot
of nice people.

Plans for the future

I’m going to stay next year. I’m going to do a teach-
ing course here. I’ve got this job and it’s ok. I have
a good job by Polish standards. Teaching English is
a good job here – it’s one of the better places in
Europe to do it. I’d quite like to get into training
teachers. Last year I worked observing and assess-
ing other teachers.

After Poland, it depends if I do what I want or I

decide to be an adult. What I really want to do is
go to Brazil. It’s a country I find attractive culturally
and I’d quite like to learn Portuguese. If I am being
ex-student, who now teaches nurses and doctors who want to go practical, I would go to the Middle East and make some money. But
abroad. A lot of doctors have left Poland because their qualifica- I will see, I don’t know.
tions are valid now. Before it was more difficult. Poland has a lot
of well-trained doctors and nurses, but a newly-qualified doctor I don’t know where I will be in ten years time, but I won’t be in
makes very little. England!

[ 105 ]
“I think she forced the manager to hire me!”
b Floris
Name: Ro sch,
From: ‘s-H nds
The Nethe weden
I come from a fairly big city in ager is also a woman but wanted to introduce a greater mix of peo-
orks in: Kalmar, S Holland, ‘s-Hertogenbosch with ple into the organisation. She wanted young people, foreigners,
adviser 250,000 inhabitants. I studied in and especially men. So I fitted the profile!
Job: Eures
1997 for one year in Sweden on a
Age: 34
Leonardo da Vinci exchange pro-
gramme and I thought, “What a country!”
Cutting ties
I took the job without hesitation. I had a telephone interview with
After my studies, I went back to Holland and worked for the public the manager. I was the only foreigner. Her philosophy was this, if
employment service, five kilometres from Germany on a cross-border a Eures adviser is going to advise people who live abroad, then the
basis. I thought it was interesting to work in an international envi- best example is someone from abroad themselves. She offered me
ronment and decided to pursue this. However, it was not really the job on 1 August and asked if I could start on 15 September, six
easy to find a job in this field as I had only recently graduated. weeks later. I had a house in the Netherlands that I rented and a
job where I had to give three months notice. I explained the situa-
tion to my boss and the fact that I had to leave within six weeks.
Networking He understood that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and
I had already built up a network in Sweden with job centres and, that I should take it.
in the summer of 2000, I drove to visit friends in Sweden and I
also had contact via email with a Eures adviser It was really scary
in Kalmar. She was very encouraging and because I didn’t speak
said: “Just stop by, we can talk about the possi- the language; I had
bility of you working in an international environ- never been to Kalmar; I
ment.” We had long discussions and she gave hadn’t seen my manag-
me some advice but when I got back home, she er; nor my assistant. But
called me and said, “Listen, I am leaving, are I just counted the days
you interested in my job?” I said, “You’re kid- before I had to leave. I
ding, right?”, She said, “No, just apply”. So, I had to hire a truck,
did. There were 119 applicants – I think she pack my things, give
forced the manager to hire me anyway. notice on my apart-
ment and so on. You
In the south east, where I work, the average age is forget at least 50% of
60 plus and at work, from among 62 colleagues, the things you need
the average age is 52. It doesn’t bother me but I to do when you emi-
was the youngest. On top of this, I was a foreigner, grate for the first
I didn’t speak Swedish and, to them, I was just a boy. time. I was not an
Around 70% of my colleagues are women. My man- exchange student

[ 107 ]
and their families. An average strawberry picker
earns 16,000 Swedish kronor per month, that’s
about 1,500 to 1,600 euros and in Poland the
equivalent average salary is 200 euros.

Swedish in three months

I wanted to work in an international environment. I
thought, however, that because we were close to
Germany, I would be talking 85% English, 10%
German and maybe 5% Swedish language but it
is actually the opposite. I talk at least 95% Swedish
every day and I have to work with law books by
my side as I need to understand the rules.

The first three months

coming home again after one year. I was actually emigrating this I was allowed to
time. I had a six-month contract. I thought, “this is the experience speak English but my
of my life”. manager told me after
this, I had to continue
in Swedish. I prom-
Helping people to move around ised to do the
I am a Eures adviser. I manage 11 offices, which I visit twice a language course
year. Sweden is divided into several regions and I am responsible immediately, for two
for the south east. I advise people who want to move in and out of hours a week, with
Sweden. This means helping them with their social insurance num- a lot of homework
bers; tax file numbers; how to apply for a place on a language because, of course,
course; all those practical things. The other part is building up net- I was working 40
works with other European countries. hours per week
as well. Swedish is not Chinese or
At the moment the kind of vacancies we are looking at are Arabic, it has similarities with German or English. It is not so
plumbers and bricklayers but also more highly skilled people for much the language skills but to be brave enough to speak it!
Ericsson, Ikea, Husqvarna. But we also have a shortage in several
other areas, for example, seasonal workers, particulary fruit pick- On the 2 January the telephone rang and I had to really push
ers, and we recruit them from the Baltic States and Poland. myself to speak Swedish. I made a lot of mistakes. For the first six
months, I apologised all the time. But in my region with an elderly
Seasonal workers from Eastern Europe are prepared to put in a population, they thought it was rather charming that a Dutch per-
longer day and earn money. They don’t complain, it helps them son came to their country and learnt the language.

[ 108 ]
Swedish characteristics Dutch people can be very stubborn and I did not want to change
but I realised that there are cultural differences and that you have
People are very closed in Sweden. Even after five years, most of to adapt. Dutch people can be very black and white and call a
my friends are international. There are some German, French or spade, a spade. When Swedish people say, “maybe”, that actually
Spanish/Swedish couples but getting to know Swedish families is means, no.
almost impossible. Sweden is a big country and that means that in
general people grow up and live in the same area and they know
people from childhood. That is my opinion and my experience.
Don’t forget to research the culture
When you move abroad, people often focus on the language and,
Bureaucracy is a Swedish word. I’m sure everyone thinks that about of course, that is number one priority. But never forget the cultural dif-
each country but the Swedes have forms for everything. For exam- ferences, especially if you move to work in an organisation. I would
ple, if you come to a country as an employee you need a contract say, try and find out information about the country’s culture otherwise
and you can only get this if you have a personal number but you you will not manage.
can only get this number if you have a contract!
In Sweden, if you book your presentation for 1pm, people will
In Sweden, you need at least a one-year contract, but everyone like arrive around 1.15pm. If you do not understand this, you may have
me who had a six-month contract is paying taxes in Sweden, but is to make your next appointment for 2pm but your first appointment
not insured for health care. That is what you have to do in your will probably run over. In Holland, 1pm is 1pm. My final tip is, of
home country but because you don’t live there any more, you are course, to speak to a Eures adviser before leaving. Well, that’s my
not allowed to do this. I had to take a global travel insurance to job, isn’t it!
cover me for that period.

On the other hand, ‘stress’ is a forbidden word in

Sweden. Just like the Spanish, mañana, mañana. If you
don’t fix it today, you can fix it tomorrow. Nobody
expects it from Sweden, but it is like that. Maybe I
should look at it from the flip side, that in the countries
we come from, there is a lot of stress. I think the Swedish
are the Mediterraneans of the North!

At first it’s exciting

A new life is exciting when you first emigrate but after a
while you get a dip and may even feel like going home
just to meet friends, get back into old habits, the food and
so on. The winter was hard when I arrived here, it got
darker and darker, and then the snow fell and it was
minus 20 degrees Celsius. The first time it snowed, there
was 40 centimetres of snow – I could hardly find my car!
People said you have to use winter tyres but I didn’t
believe them until I skidded.

[ 109 ]
“Take the challenge, move on. Life is not that long.”
rhat Akin
Name: Se ey
nbul, Turk
From: Ista Belgium
Brussels, My parents are Turkish but have lived to pay for their tickets so they want to see more action than here in
Works in:
aller most of their lives in Germany, where Belgium, for example. They shout more and they are more fanati-
Job: Footb
I grew up; I feel 60% German and cal, which makes it more stressful for the players. As a young per-
Age: 25 40% Turkish. We used to go on fam- son, this was not always easy to handle. I was expecting to go
ily holidays to Turkey when I was a there, to sit on the bench, and slowly step by step make my debut
child and I always dreamt of playing for Fenerbahçe, as a professional footballer. But a player was injured and I was
the biggest football club in Turkey. It was my father who encour- playing well, so I was put on the field at 18 years old. It was just
aged me to play football and follow my dream. He saw me kicking as if they had put me in a cage with a lion or a bull… all those
a ball at the age of four and enrolled me in the local football club. strong, experienced players and me so young and new to profes-
sional football.
At the age of 18, I fulfilled my dream, playing for Fenerbahçe in
Turkey for five years. I was transferred to RSC Anderlecht in After five years, I was coming to the end of the contract and want-
Belgium in 2005. ed to move on. I want complete success in my career and am not
just interested in the money. I want to achieve more. I always want-
ed to go to RSC Anderlecht, which is the biggest club in Belgium,
It was like being in a cage and has been champion 28 times. The stadium is great and the sup-
with a lion or a bull…. porters are a good crowd. When I first came here, I only intended
I seized my opportunity to play for Fenerbahçe and performed to stay, maybe, a year but I suffered a bad abdominal injury in May
well during the time I was this year and have been out of
there. We became Turkish action for a while, so will stay
champions for three seasons, on for another year or so.
twice consecutively – they
had never achieved that I always saw the move as a
before. They hadn’t won for step before moving on to
six years even though they another big European club. I
had a lot of money and plen- would like to go to Germany or
ty of opportunities to buy Spain, but I think in Spain the
good players. football and the people are
closer to my country and my
When you play for the biggest mentality. Barcelona is, of
club in Turkey, which has course, a great club but I also
30 million supporters world- think of Madrid, the supporters
wide, you are always recog- just make it a dream club so
nised. People work very hard maybe one day….

[ 111 ]
Just an ordinary guy…
When I moved to RSC Anderlecht I wanted to be treated just like
an ordinary guy and didn’t want people to think that I thought of
myself as a star. I’m not. Nor did I feel like I needed to prove
myself. I just knew I had to play well, for myself, for the supporters
and especially for my team.

I like the fact that here I can have a social life again. I can stay
at home, go out for dinner with friends and even go to the hair-
dresser without being hassled. You won’t catch me on a raucous
night out or in a nightclub as it’s not my scene, plus I don’t drink
alcohol because of my religion. After a match I love relaxing with
friends, especially if we lose a game. I just like to forget it. It’s no
good taking it to the next game either because you’ll only lose
again. I couldn’t really have a private life in Turkey because of
the pressure and attention we got as players. I once went out for
Support is crucial dinner with my sister and then opened the newspaper the next
I have travelled all over the world, sometimes for two weeks, some- day only to see that she was pictured as my new ‘girlfriend’.
times more. I get used to it. This has helped me a lot so that when
I moved here to live, I didn’t have any problem settling in. It also It used to be even
helped that the club was 100% behind me and supported me in worse if we lost a
sorting out everything. I lived in a hotel for the first two months but game. The supporters
when I needed to help finding accommodation or filling out paper- took football so seri-
work, they were always there. I was really happy with the level of ously and if we lost a
support that I received from the club. When you are supported in match they expected
such a way it makes you feel good, and when you feel good you us to stay at home and
perform. grieve. If they saw us
out they would come
Football is not easy. To become a champion, you have to play more up and say things like:
than 34 games, with the cup matches it may be even more in the “You lost the match,
region of 40 games. Of course, you need a good team of 30 play- so what are you doing
ers but it doesn’t stop there. You need good support services as here celebrating?”
well. The person who washes my football kit, Monique who does But here I feel I can
the cleaning, the guy who takes photographs of us at every match, lead more of a normal
the physiotherapist, the coach and the management are just as life.
important – we are all in this together. The electricity of these peo-
ple working together is what makes us champions. There is no
place for individualism or those who think they are stars. Everyone
is important. I forget no one. If you start to forget, then you may as
well forget football…

[ 112 ]
Thoughts of Turkey?
Sometimes, I miss Turkey, but not really. Because I cannot eat pork
it is sometimes difficult to find the variety of food here, whereas in
Turkey it’s fantastic. You have restaurants right by the sea where
you can eat fresh fish while watching the sun set. That’s spectacu-
lar. I was based in Istanbul when I was there, which I think is one
of the most beautiful cities in the world. So there was plenty to do
and visit. Of course, I miss Turkey – it’s my country so I can’t say I
don’t miss anything! There are certain things I miss about Germany
as well, which is natural as I spent my childhood there. It’s where I
went to school, where my friends are and my memories too. If you
think too hard about what you will miss you won’t move.

Learn and look to the future

I think people have to change. It’s no good saying: “I’ve lived here
for ten years, I cannot move.” I would say, take up the challenge,
move on. Life is not that long. I remember when I went to
Fenerbahçe, it seems just like yesterday – but it was seven years
ago. When I was 21 and scored 16 goals, I had two offers to go
to Spain to play but everyone said: “You’re too young, wait one
Home is where I am more year….”. I was confused so I listened to them and I didn’t go.
Belgium feels like home for the moment because it is where my
house is. I feel very comfortable here. It’s also very close to With hindsight, this was a mistake and the next time I received an
Germany where my parents still live, so they visit sometimes. I can offer, I took it. I regretted not going to Spain but I don’t live in the
invite my friends over for a weekend as well. Culturally Belgium is past. I learn from it for the next time. My advice is, learn and look
very different from Turkey but quite similar to Germany, so it wasn’t to the future. Even if you make a mistake, say, “I’m taking the
hard for me to get used to things. I think it would be much more dif- opportunity while I have it, even if it is the wrong decision I will live
ficult for a Turkish-born player who grew up there, to transfer here. with it and move forward.” If you think like this, you can only gain
from the experience.
I think the people are really welcoming here, for instance my neigh-
bours are very friendly and open. It’s important. When you come
as a foreigner to another country, you need to feel comfortable.
Language has never been a barrier here. I speak German, so
understand some Flemish. I am planning to learn French but my
team mates generally speak English and if not, we make signs with
our hands, eyes, legs – whatever we can to communicate. It has
worked all right until now.

[ 113 ]
“I had no preconceptions of what life would be like or how it
would work out.”
phie Sea
Name: So
s, France
From: Pari K
London, U I was born in Paris. My father is I went to the French Embassy to get my identity card and papers
Works in:
manager Togolese and my mother is French. I sorted out. I find the English systems a lot easier than the French. I
Job: Band
was brought up in Paris and don’t miss the French bureaucracy! I did have to register with the
Age: 46 Normandy in northern France, but in French consulate when I got married though.
the early 1960s we lived in the Congo in Africa.
I lived in Montreal too for a while, so I could already speak reason- I had no preconceptions of what life would be like or how it would
able English when I came to London in1980. work out. I think if I were moving here now, it would be more difficult.

Everything is easy when you have Starting with the Tiger Lillies seems
youth on your side like light years away
When I came to London, I had a bohemian lifestyle and was really Playing bass guitar with Martyn, meant that I had an idea of how
into the London subculture. I played bass in a band, which is how I the music business worked from a musician’s point of view. When
met Martyn – the singer and composer of the Tiger Lillies and my the band started about 15 years ago they were doing everything
husband. We then moved to Soho, an alternative neighbourhood in themselves and as they got more successful they needed someone
central London. I didn’t make much money and was unemployed for to take over. As I was married to Martyn and knew their music
a while so I got a job as a waitress to make a living. I still play gui- better than anyone else it seemed logical that I worked with them.
tar and write songs and for a while I ran a monthly Cabaret club for That all feels like light years away now. As a band, and as a free-
a few years. lancer, we just grew together.
It was a natural progression
Accommodation in London from the early days to where
was, and still is, difficult to I am today, managing the
find and incredibly expen- band. I do a lot of multi-task-
sive. Socially I didn’t have ing from taking care of the
any problems. It’s easy to bookings, to organising the
make friends but I think every- schedules, administration,
thing is easier when you have finances, doing contacts with
youth on your side. I have a the record companies and
few French friends here but I publishing the catalogue.
really wanted to make the
effort to speak English and We’ve been releasing our own
have different friends. music for over 15 years but
also have some albums with
The administrative side of major record labels such as
things went fairly smoothly. Warner and EMI. The world

[ 115 ]
of music has changed a lot club scene is very vibrant here. The young ‘alternative’ person has
and we have changed with it. a much easier time in England’s capital. There is a different attitude.
Record and tapes went out
and CDs arrived. These days I still try to keep up with the French culture, the films and so on. I
everyone has MP3 players like watching other European productions and American films too.
and so we make some of our
tracks available for download I used to miss the food in France but it’s much better now. I remem-
on I Tunes and Amazon as ber when I first went to supermarkets here. I was appalled by what
well as our website. I saw. There were three types of Cheddar cheese! In France, fresh
food is much more important – there are markets every day, and
I move with the band whenev- shopping on a daily basis is a way of life.
er we have gigs. For example,
we are going to Germany
soon and after that we are in
Vienna for a whole month as
part of a musical black come-
dy called the Weberischen –
about Mozart’s relationship
with the women in his wife’s
family. At the end of the year
we will be in Paris with another

I work with different agents for each of the countries where the
band plays. E-mail has made things a lot simpler. It means I can
keep up with things while we are away and I can live anywhere I
want. Every country has its own laws and its own terminology. If
we are working in a French-speaking country, then of course it is
easier for me. But normally, the contractual language is English.

Paris is so conservative
Personally, I think it’s good to have patriotic fervour. That means I
was still rooting for France in the World Cup! But after 26 years of
living here I feel like a Londoner now and that is fun too. I go back
to Paris quite often but I’m mostly based here.

I don’t really miss France. Not at the beginning either because I was
excited about being in London. I think Paris is so conservative
whereas in London you can dress the way you want, and the art and

[ 116 ]
I think the French health system is a lot better
than here. It’s one of the best in the world. If I
were to go to a doctor here, I know what
would happen. They would take a quick look
at me and shove me out the door after five

No fixed abode
I think moving around must have been much
more complicated before the European Union.
And going by ferry to travel between France
and England used to take forever whereas
now you can be in Paris in two hours.
People’s attitudes have changed too. The
world is smaller and ‘old Europe’ is not so
exotic anymore.

I wouldn’t rule out commuting back and forth

but I don’t want to be fixed in one town –
there are so many exciting cities in Europe
and I get to see them when I’m travelling with
the band. I’m looking forward to going to
Germany and Austria.

If I were to give some advice on moving to

another country, I would say it’s good to have
a job before you go, or at least have some
contacts and a plan. Otherwise it can be quite
lonely. If you can, go beforehand to have a
look around. I think it’s very important to
speak the language too. The whole thing was
a good experience for me and now I feel as if
I could go anywhere and work in any place.

[ 117 ]
Sven Størmer
“You need to be humble when you don’t know the country or how
the people work.”
en Størm
Name: Sv
Thaulow y
o, Norwa
From: Osl I’ve been in Budapest for exactly a
Budape ,st year now. It’s my first experience of
Works in:
Hungar y rkets
working overseas. I have lived
ucts & Ma abroad before, but it was quite a
Job: Prod
Director long time ago. I spent two years in
Age: 33 the US, one as an exchange student.
It’s quite common to do that in
Norway, where we traditionally have been quite directed
towards the US and the UK.

Even if the American culture wasn’t so different, it was a good

experience to live in a country other than my own. I don’t think it
really influenced my decision to come to Hungary, but maybe it
made it a little easier. It reduced the barrier somehow.

I have worked for Telenor since I left university in 1999 – my whole

professional life. I was working for its Norwegian mobile operator
in Oslo, when they suggested the post in Hungary to me. I hadn’t
asked for a transfer but they knew it was something that would another. Of course, we do have free movement of workers in
interest me. Europe now, but it can still be a lot of work as far I can see.

First weeks in Budapest The working culture is completely

I was looked after very professionally when I came. My compa- different
ny helped with everything. I think it’s not hard for an employee I’m a line manager, running the marketing operation. It’s an impor-
to move to another European country when working for a big tant position in a mobile phone company. It’s the company’s philos-
company. ophy to hire mostly local talent, so nearly all my colleagues are
Hungarian. Telenor is a Norwegian company but I am one of just
An accountant takes care of the rather complex tax issues and there three Norwegians among around 1,300 employees.
is someone to help with other administration like extending my
work permit. We did have to find a place to live ourselves but we I connected well with a lot of people straight way. I was open from
got information for that too and it was easy. the beginning and said I would need help to understand what was
going on. You need to be humble when you don’t know the coun-
I can see how it is for others though. Moving to work from one try or how people work. All nations and their people are proud. If
European country to another isn’t like moving from one US state to you think you know better than others you will surely fail.

[ 119 ]
The working culture is totally different here. Scandinavia is extremely I speak ‘Hunglish’!
consensus-based and everything has to be agreed upon. It takes
longer to reach a decision, but then it is final and things go fast. It’s One of my fellow directors told me not to bother learning
more formal here and more based on documentation and processes. Hungarian. He joked that you learn it from your mother or not at
Decisions are reached quite quickly, all! It’s not really impossible of
but are sometimes discussed after- course, but it is a difficult language.
I don’t speak Hungarian but I do
Hungarian work culture is more speak ‘Hunglish’! I used to speak
hierarchical than in Scandinavian English with an American accent,
countries, where the structure tends but when I came here I found
to be flat. I was the first director to myself speaking with a
give up my office and work in an Scandinavian accent again. The
open-plan office with my col- next step is that I now speak
leagues. One of the first messages Hunglish – I sometimes cut out
to my people was to come to my prepositions and speak English in
desk and tell me when they dis- the same direct way as
agree with me. And they do! Hungarians. It’s incredible!

There are some issues with speaking English at work because it is

Marketing to a Hungarian audience a second language for all of us. I have learnt that I have to express
As director for products and markets, I decide what products we things in several ways to cover all angles and be sure I am clear.
launch, how we sell them, to which segments and at what time. It’s Since I don’t speak Hungarian, I am very much dependent on the
a complex business but I like the academic challenge. We use a lot people working for me.
of local research and I can see that Hungarians and Norwegians
are very different in what they want.
My family is happy here
Most mobile phone companies use the same advertising across dif- I have a wife and a young daughter. In Norway generally both part-
ferent countries, but my company always goes for a local look. It is ners in a couple work, so it’s something companies like mine have to
important for us that if we use a street location, it can be recog- take into consideration when they offer someone a position abroad.
nised as being in Hungary and not the UK or somewhere else. I My wife was able to take leave from her job, but at some point we
look at the visual aspects and so on, but of course I can’t evaluate will have a decision to make. She’s got her network of friends here
the use of Hungarian language. now and she’s happy. She’s going to start studying at the Central
European University here in Budapest.
Compared to Norway, the cost of calls and other mobile services
is almost half in Hungary. The average salary is lower though, so My daughter is two years old. She goes to an English-speaking
effectively it works out about the same. Hungarians are very good kindergarden. It’s a good time to go abroad for her. She’s at an
at analysing our offers. When we test a new tariff on young peo- age where she doesn’t have to worry about adapting to new sur-
ple, they think like a calculator. roundings or leaving friends behind.

[ 120 ]
Friends, free time and travel Working abroad is something that I will always remember. It’s
something special for people from Scandinavia. We don’t drive
I have friends from different European countries – Germany, across borders all the time like people in continental Europe.
Switzerland and Italy for example. We were invited to a closed
Internet community for expats and met some people there. People It has been great for me to go and live in another country.
communicate, suggest places to eat and organise meetings. And I don’t think it will be the last time.

Hungarians don’t really invite people into their lives right away. But
for me that’s quite normal as I come from the Nordic region, where
people are similar in that respect. And when you do get to know
Hungarian people, you get to know them quite well.

In Norway I used to sing in a big funk band and with a classical

choir too. I don’t have the time to do it here and I miss it. If I stay
longer I might consider getting involved in something. I will start
going to classical concerts in the autumn. It would be a shame not
to, as there’s a highly developed cultural scene here. They have
good operas and concerts. I can go to the cinema too because
they do show films with English subtitles in some theatres.

I’ve travelled around Hungary, to places like Lake Balaton and so

on. And it doesn’t take long to drive to other countries. Two hours
to Vienna, five to coastal Croatia and the Alps are only about six
hours away. As a Norwegian I like skiing of course!

I’ve been back to Norway four or five times since I’ve been in
Hungary. It’s just over two hours by plane on a direct flight, so it’s
very close in that way. There are a few things that I always bring
back with me – Norwegian caviar is one, and brown goat’s
cheese. I also buy all my electronics there too because it’s cheaper.
We get the tax back because Norway is not in the EU.

One year is too short

I’ve been in Budapest for one year already. Line managers in my
company are sent out for two years and have an option of a third
year. It’s good I think. One year is too short, you don’t settle in that
time. You don’t even sort out your furniture! I might well be interested
in the third year. We’ll see. It depends on my family too.

[ 121 ]
" Visiting a country is one thing, living in it is very different."
tor Kravch
Name: Vik
a, Latvia
From: Rig ,
Barcelona I’ve been in Barcelona since the Finding a job
Works in:
Spain 24 August 2005. I never thought I
rt Manage would move to another country to Although Latvia is part of the European Union it was impossible to
Job: Expo
work because Latvia is my home work in Spain – I didn’t have the right to work here. Latvians, as
Age: 24
and I love the place and I still miss new members, could go to the UK, Ireland and Sweden. But
it a lot. After studying three years at Riga Technical Spanish laws are very difficult for foreigners. So Laura and I had
University, I won a scholarship to study in Germany at the Lübeck to take another very important decision. We got married in
University of Applied September 2005. I then
Sciences. It was there spent two months in Riga
that met a very beautiful and started looking for
girl, Laura, who was par- work in Spain.
ticipating in the Erasmus
programme and we start- Infojobs is a very good
ed to meet regularly. That Internet site for finding
was in 2004. work – actually my wife
works there! At that
I visited her twice in point, I would have
Spain and she came to accepted anything from
Latvia several times and working in a bar to stack-
we started to think about ing shelves in a super-
living together. For her it market just to be back in
was not easy to live in Spain with Laura. But I
Latvia and I liked Spain continued sending my
but that was not my pri- CV to various companies
ority – I wanted to be and I received a call for
with Laura! In 2005, I a job interview from a
came to Spain for six company who needed
months to work as a volunteer for the Red Cross. I was based someone to be responsible for sales in Central and Eastern Europe.
in Vilanova, which is about 45 kilometres south of Barcelona. I I was in Latvia at the time so I asked for an interview for the follow-
was here for six months and then I returned to Latvia. It was a ing month. I could hardly speak Spanish but I still went to the inter-
particularly important time for me because I got to know Spain view and after three interviews and three months of waiting I was
better, to learn the language and to see the real situation of the chosen for the job from among 139 candidates.
country. Visiting a country is one thing, living in it is very differ-
ent. When you live and work in a country you see it from the I was very lucky to get this job. The company produces plastic
inside. cards, chips and magnetic strips for tickets and I am responsible for

[ 123 ]
the sales of this product. So I also found it difficult to get used to the number of people living
every three weeks I travel to here and cars on the roads. In Barcelona, there are something like
Germany, Poland, two million people. In Latvia for example there are only 2.5 million
Lithuania, Austria and so in the whole country. The main reasons I came here are because it
on. I guess you could call is easier to find work than in other cities in Spain and my wife also
me an export manager. I lived near Barcelona, so it seemed the logical choice. Barcelona is
started at the end of a very nice town but it’s too busy for me and is also very expensive
November. to live here. It is almost impossible for young people to get a flat.
Some young people take out loans for 30 years and others for an
even longer period. If you rent a place, it makes little sense
Cultural because the rent is generally the same as the mortgage payments.
differences In any case, we preferred the coast, so we bought a place there.
Spain is very different to
Latvia where I grew up but I It was difficult getting used to the working day especially the
also spent a lot of time in Spanish timetable. For example, I work until 7pm or later but I have
Germany with my grand- two hours for lunch. I work from 9am to 2pm and from 4pm to 7pm
mother. She had lived in the but I am not used to having two hours for lunch. Ten minutes is fine
former USSR in many differ- for me. It seems that lunchtime is the most important part in their
ent places but, like many day as this is when the Spanish meet and talk… and they talk a lot!
people, moved to Germany I get home at 8pm, we have dinner and then go to sleep and that
after the fall of communism I can’t understand. I’d rather have less time for lunch and more time
in 1991. Every summer at home. The pace of life is a lot slower and you need to be patient
since 1993, I visited her and particularly when it comes to getting passports or papers. There is
this background of Germany a saying in Spanish: ‘Las
and Latvia makes Spain a cosas de palacio van
very different place for me. It despacio’, which means
was a huge cultural shock ‘things from the palace
for me coming here. There come very slowly’.
are so many differences, from the people and the environment to the
food. I have more in common with the northern European countries
probably because of my German roots and the fact that the Germans
Things I miss
founded Riga 850 years ago and were very influential in the develop- I miss my family and
ment of the Baltic States until communism took hold. When Germany friends but thanks to the
lost against Italy in the World Cup, I was very upset! Internet I talk to them quite
often and I try to visit them
The most difficult thing was getting to know people. Maybe I am once every three months –
too closed with them as that is my nature and then, of course, there with the help of cheap
is the language barrier. My colleagues tell a lot of jokes, which is flights. I also miss woods
difficult for me as you have to be fluent in the language to under- and forests. Spain is very
stand them. I had problems with language in my company at first, hot and dry and there are
as my Spanish is not perfect. no natural springs. Latvia,

[ 124 ]
by contrast, is very green – almost half of the country is covered
with pine forests. I miss spring because here in Spain the seasons
skip spring. On 2 February, I remember the first time I came to visit
my girlfriend and we went swimming because it was so warm here.

In Latvia during the same period I would have been wearing lots of
layers of clothes to keep out the harsh cold. Temperatures could be
minus 25 degrees Celsius at night or even minus 35 degrees
Celsius in some places. Spring begins in March when the grass
begins to grow and flowers start to bloom. You feel good and have
more energy. In Spain you only have winter and summer.

Words of wisdom?
I will stay in Spain. I find it easy to integrate.
The Spanish are very interested in other cul-
tures. They are very open but like many peo-
ple, they often confuse Latvia and Lithuania. I
like to learn about the culture and language of
the place in which I am living. I think it’s impor-
tant to try to integrate and use the language as
much as possible. I would advise people mov-
ing abroad not to mix only with people from
their own country. I don’t know any Latvians in
Barcelona but it would be interesting to meet
some, just to speak with them to find out what
their experience has been and how they have

I would advise others to go back to Latvia after

their experience, to go back to their roots and
not forget their own country and bring the experience of other cul-
tures to Latvia. I am already quite international. My father is
Ukrainian and my grandmother was German and we lived in
Latvia. My mother is half German and half Ukrainian. My native
language is Russian, then Latvian, because I am from Riga, then
German, then English that I learnt in school. Now comes Spanish
and Catalan.

Let’s see what my children will be because my wife is half Spanish,

half Catalan!

[ 125 ]
“Fish and chips are all right but it doesn’t beat mum’s cooking.”
ltán Antal
Name: Zo ar y
ged, Hung
From: Sze K
London, U I come from a small village in the Avoiding double-decker buses
Works in:
r in a café south east of Hungary. The nearest
Job: Ser ve
town is Szeged, which has about I found a flat with a few friends near Wembley and these days I
Age: 23 170,000 people. I studied economics travel by tube. I tend to avoid the double-decker buses. Once, I
and after my degree I decided to travel and don’t know why it happened, I fainted on a bus, perhaps
experience the world a bit. The general image we Hungarians because transport here is so crowded and it was a particularly
have of the West, and especially the UK, is that if you are prepared hot day. Everyone was really good. I was taken to the nearest
to work hard you can achieve a lot. The UK opened the labour mar- hospital and, I have to say, was treated really well. Some peo-
ket to us Hungarians and I thought I would give it a try and find a ple moan about the health system here but I had no problem
job over here. Actually, it is relatively easy to find work if you are whatsoever. The only difficulty in London is getting to see a doc-
open to anything. I received a lot of help from Action for tor. You have to book an appointment a week and half in
Employment, which is an EU-funded programme. advance but it’s not always possible to know in advance that you
are going to be ill! I still tend to go back to Hungary if I need to
see a dentist. It’s easier because I’m used to the system. I can also
Finding that first job speak in my own language and, of course, it’s a lot cheaper
When I first arrived I sent my CV out to over a hundred companies. for me.
I wanted to find a job that was in line with my studies. I wouldn’t even
have minded being a personal assistant for a while. I soon realised
that my degree wasn’t really recognised over here. I needed to pay
for a foreign certificate in order for my studies to be verified and
validated. But this costs around £120. I simply couldn’t afford that
kind of money when I first got here. I knew that I couldn’t just focus
on finding a relevant job as I needed to live on something. So I
started applying to everything and anything. Three weeks after set-
ting foot in the UK I found my first job through a small advert in a
local newspaper. It was a cleaning job in Essex. I entered the blue
collar workforce and that meant early morning starts. I continued to
send out my CV all the time. Eventually I found a job working on the
nightshift at Sainsbury’s for a while, which was based out in Harlow.
Soon after I had started, I had the opportunity to move departments
and work as an advertising assistant. Harlow is a bit too far out from
the centre and I really wanted to experience life in London, not its sub-
urbs. So that’s how I ended working here in an EAT café. I really like
the atmosphere here. I have the opportunity to work and mix with
people from so many different backgrounds and nationalities.

[ 127 ]
Weighing up the pros and cons Homesick for Hungary?
When you live abroad you start to view things differently. I’ve This isn’t my first time abroad. I did a fair bit of travelling with my
changed as an individual and my English has improved enormously. family when I was younger particularly to places like the former
I am much more confident in speaking these days. I tend to worry Yugoslavia, Romania, which are very close to Szeged. But we also
less about the grammar and more about getting my point across, travelled further afield to places like Venice as well. But it is the first
but then you have to speak otherwise you wouldn’t get anywhere. time I have ever lived abroad for any length of time. I do get a bit
Of course there are both advantages and disadvantages of living homesick from time to time and of course, I miss my family. I also
in any country. I faced a few problems when I first got here espe- miss Hungarian food sometimes. British cuisine just isn’t the same.
cially when trying to find somewhere to live. There is a lot of red Fish and chips are all right in moderation but it doesn’t live up to
tape to cut through. When I first arrived I didn’t have any money my mum’s homemade cooking. I also find the rainy weather here
for a flat for instance and it took time for me to save up enough to difficult to get used to. It’s the middle of summer and outside it is
get a decent place. London prices are astronomical! Registering to pouring with rain. Where’s the sun?
work here is also a lengthy process. I had to leave my passport with
the relevant authorities while they processed my application. It took
nearly two months and during that time I obviously couldn’t travel
Moving on
anywhere outside the country. But the advantages far outweigh the I’m thinking about returning to Hungary for a while so that I can
disadvantages. continue my studies. But afterwards I think I may try somewhere like
Spain for a few years. I’ve gained a lot from my experience here
Meeting people,
making friends
Meeting people is fairly easy, but
making real friends, especially with
the British, is a lot harder. They tend to
be a bit reserved. I guess it makes it
harder as well that most of the people
I work with are also foreign so I don’t
really have much opportunity to mix
with British people. But generally, I’ve
found people friendly enough. It
depends on your attitude as an indi-
vidual. If you smile a lot and are open
then more people tend to approach
you. I like relaxing after work with
friends and listen to a lot of music,
which helps improve my English. I’m
into photography too so I often wan-
der around with my camera and take
photos. London is great but it’s not a
place where you can really relax.

[ 128 ]
and would advise anyone to give it a try. But they should be wary
of people offering ‘to help’ them in their own countries. In Hungary
there are plenty of people ready and willing to help you find you
work abroad, especially in the UK. But this comes at a price. They
want money to set up your accommodation and travel but more
often than not they stick you in the worst places and in terrible con-
ditions. Sometimes they deliver nothing at all. I would say, avoid
this kind of help and do it yourself.

[ 129 ]
“I was stepping into the unknown and didn’t know
what to expect.”
zana Fo
Name: Zu ca,
ská Bystri
From: Ban
Slovakia nce
I come from central Slovakia, a town working as an au pair in the Netherlands for three months, then I
Paris, Fra called Banská Bystrica. It’s a fairly worked for a while in Belgium. I went back to Slovakia and started
Works in:
er/Dancer large town with around 85,000 teaching English in a grammar school. Then I had the opportunity
Job: Teach
people and is surrounded by beauti- to go to the UK as part of an exchange scheme. At first I worked
Age: 31
ful mountains. I belong to the new in a very posh, private school near Gravesend but it didn’t really
generation of Slovaks who move around a lot from work out. I felt like a prisoner because of all of the various restric-
country to country. It seems perfectly normal for us to hop across tions and rules. So I left and moved to another school near Ipswich
the border and discover new places and cultures. Of course, it hasn’t in Suffolk where I worked as a teaching assistant. It was a great
always been the case. Before the ‘Iron Curtain’ fell people were too experience because there were a lot of young people from English-
scared to leave Slovakia. I don’t think it was because we were speaking countries and so I could compare accents, the different
influenced by propaganda though. We were quite aware of the cultures and mentalities. And of course, my English really
differences between East and West, we just couldn’t talk openly improved. The second school had a strong focus on music and the
about them. I guess, for many people it was more the fear of the arts, which was perfect for me. I even had the opportunity to teach
unknown, as well as a lack of money. some dance classes.

I was 15, and still at secondary school when the communist gov-
ernment, in what was then Czechoslovakia, was overthrown in
Dancing is part of my life
1989. I felt so proud being part of the student demonstrations and Dance has always been part of my life. I am classically trained as
the change that followed. I was young and didn’t really fully a ballet dancer but now mainly focus on contemporary dance.
understand the impact, but it I was six when I started
felt right and was a great studying dance and my
experience. Things started teacher wanted me to be a
to change for the better, sud- professional. At the age of
denly we could speak our 10, I was offered a place at
mind and travel became a a ballet school but my mother
reality. wasn’t too happy about it.
She worried about the future
and didn’t think dance
Travelling about would lead to anything so
I studied English and French she didn’t let me take the
at university and always place. But I continued danc-
wanted to spend a year or ing in my free time at a cul-
two in France and an English tural centre in the town
speaking country after- where I lived. At university I
wards. I spent some time taught Slovak folk dancing

[ 131 ]
to young children between the ages of three and seven. It was so Everything seems to be more difficult than it should be. For example,
lovely watching them enjoying dance at such a young age. Now getting my papers took a bit of time and I still have to renew them
that I’m in Paris I still try to find time to dance, sometimes taking the every six months. Each time I have to produce a new file with more
odd workshop or doing some classes. But teaching is a bit compli- copies of the same papers. I think it is a waste of time and a waste
cated here because you need qualifications for everything. Also of paper. I also found it a bit difficult to meet French people initially
there isn’t much call for Slovak folk dancing in Paris! but I was so busy that I didn’t have time to dwell on the negative

Paris – big city mentality I used to argue with my sister all the time about French attitudes to
foreigners and how hard it was to meet people. She was living in
I’ve been in Paris for six years now. After Ipswich I went back to Avignon at the time and we used to travel back and forth between
Slovakia for a couple of months. Then a French friend that I had there and Paris. Contrary to my experience, she found it really easy
made at the first school in the UK found me a position working as an to mix with local people. We concluded that it was just Paris. It’s
au pair here. When I first arrived I looked after the children in the the same in Slovakia – people in the larger cities are not very
afternoons and evenings, and the mornings I had to myself. I like friendly, but outside the city, in the country, people are much more
being kept busy, so I decided to find a teaching job for the mornings. welcoming. I guess it’s the big city mentality.

The first few months were a bit difficult because, although I had
studied French and had some knowledge of the culture and tradi-
Immersing myself in cultural life
tions, I still felt a bit out of touch. I had more in common with the I love Paris, particularly for the cultural aspects of the city. There
English-speaking world. There’s a different mentality here. The is so much to do and see, so many museums to visit. My
French are a bit complicated, especially in their daily lives. favourite is the Musée d'Orsay. Each time I go there I have to

[ 132 ]
head straight for the section on Degas. I can spend hours admiring Of course, I miss my family, my home town and the mountains. It helps
his dancers! I also like French food and there are some really that my sister is living here in Paris. We support each other a lot. We
good restaurants in Paris. Of course, I love the language as well usually call our mum and grandmother once a week. So I don’t get
despite having found it tough trying to speak it when I first too homesick. My home, my roots and all my memories are in
moved here. Studying a language from a textbook is not the Slovakia. English and French will always be foreign languages for me.
same as using it on a daily basis in the country. Suddenly, it
becomes real, people everywhere are speaking it and you need
to too if you want to survive! Amazing how fast you pick up a
Greater self-confidence
language when you have to. I’ve gained a lot from travelling and living in different countries. I’m
much more self-confident than I used to be. It has made me more
independent because I have had to rely on myself. Professionally
My home, my roots and speaking, I have gained a lot too. Last year, for example, I finished
all my memories are in Slovakia my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course. It would
Despite the fact that I like the place, I don’t see myself staying in have been more difficult to do this in Slovakia, because I couldn’t
Paris forever. But I’m not ready to leave just yet as I am quite happy have afforded it. I’m glad I have had the opportunities to live
here. Six years is a long time in one place and I have a lot of abroad. Before I left Slovakia to go to the UK, I was excited but
friends and have built a life here. Each time I go back to Slovakia, worried at the same time. I was stepping into the unknown and I
I find that I have fewer friends in my home town. So from that point didn’t know what to expect. I would say to anyone thinking about
of view, I think it would be hard to return. moving abroad… just give it a go!

[ 133 ]
European Commission

Europeans on the move – Portraits of 31 mobile workers

Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities

2006 – 133 pp. – 27 x 27 cm

ISBN 92-79-02275-X
Publications for sale produced by the Office for Official Publications of the European
Communities are available from our sales agents throughout the world.
You can find the list of sales agents on the Publications Office website
( or you can apply for it by fax (352) 29 29-42758.
Contact the sales agent of your choice and place your order.

Europeans on the move – Portraits of 31 mobile workers

Job mobility in Europe opens the door for Europeans to new
languages, new cultures and new working environments. Yet despite
these benefits, less than 2% of EU citizens live and work in another
EU country, while nearly 40% of the European workforce has not
changed employer for the past 10 years. This situation prompted the
European Commission to designate 2006 as the European Year of
Workers' Mobility – of which this book forms part.

Europeans on the Move, is a unique collection of 31 people from

the current and future EU Member States and countries of the
European Free Trade Association, who work in another European
country. The publication aims to share the experiences of fellow
Europeans of all ages, professional levels and sectors of activity in
an open and informal way. Through the personal accounts of each

individual, we gain a rare insight into what it is like to move for

work – including not only the positive aspects of their experience,
but also the challenges that they have faced along the way. The
book is beautifully illustrated throughout with black and white

Read it and be inspired!

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