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

The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of the European Commission, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. If you are interested in receiving the electronic newsletter "ESmail" from the European Commission's Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, please send an e-mail to empl-esmail@ec.europa.eu. The newsletter is published on a regular basis in English, French and German.

Europe Direct is a service to help you find answers to your questions about the European Union Freephone number (*):

00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11
(*) Certain mobile telephone operators do not allow access to 00 800 numbers or these calls may be billed.

A great deal of additional information on the European Union is available on the Internet. It can be accessed through the Europa server (http://europa.eu). Cataloguing data can be found at the end of this publication. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2006 ISBN 92-79-02275-X © European Communities, 2006 Reproduction is authorised provided the source is acknowledged. Printed in Belgium PRINTED ON WHITE CHLORINE-FREE PAPER

Foreword
Mobility is increasingly perceived in Europe as a key instrument in the quest for more and better jobs. Geographic mobility opens the door for Europe’s citizens to new languages, new cultures and new working environments. Job-to-job mobility helps workers to adapt more easily to Europe's rapidly changing working environment and to cope better with the effects of globalisation. Yet despite these benefits, figures show that, at present, there is no real ‘culture of mobility’ within the European workforce. Less than 2% of EU citizens live and work in another EU country, and nearly 40% of the European workforce has not changed employer for the past 10 years. There are several reasons for this trend, such as the difficulty in finding accommodation and moving with a family, or the uncertainty of return, and, more generally, a certain fear of the future. These figures also highlight two ironies that currently characterise the European labour market: first, that work itself has become more mobile, while workers have not; and second, even though 16 to 17 million people are still unemployed, between two and three million jobs remain vacant due to the lack of a genuine ‘culture of mobility’. This situation prompted the European Commission to designate 2006 as the European Year of Workers' mobility. The aim of the Year is to encourage a wide debate in the EU between all relevant actors about the rights, the opportunities, the instruments, and, above all, the lessons experienced by mobile workers. The decision by five countries to lift restrictions on the free movement of workers from eight ‘new Member States’ in 2006 is an exciting development and an important step forward in the context of the European Year. Workers can now move freely between 18 of the EU's 25 Member States. Highlighting the experience of mobile workers is the purpose of this book. Over several months, the team managing the European Year at the European Commission and the team responsible for the publication of this book have carefully researched and examined the personal stories of mobile workers in the 25 Member States, the candidate countries and the countries of the European Free Trade Association. This work has led to the selection of the 31 portraits for publication. Europeans on the Move aims to share the experiences of fellow Europeans of all ages, professional levels and sectors of activity in an open and informal way. The purpose is not to provide a systematic overview of all types of experiences and working environments. It aims, through the collection of 31 stories, to show what mobility means for the individuals concerned and to encourage other Europeans to engage in a mobility experience at least once in their working life. The book presents these 31 Europeans in their living and working environment, not hiding the difficulties but showing what they have learnt from their experiences of working abroad. Europeans on the Move invites all Europeans to reflect on their future prospects and to seize the opportunity to really experience a taste of their 'European heritage'. On behalf of the European Commission, I wish you an interesting and enjoyable read. Vladimír Špidla, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities

[3]

Table of contents
Alan Honan
...................................

10

Barbara Andersson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
From: Łódź, Poland Works in: Stockholm, Sweden

From: Dublin, Ireland Works in: Prague, Czech Republic

Albertine Niedercom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
From: Luxembourg Works in: Paris, France

Chris Economides . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
From: Larnaca, Cyprus Works in: Dublin, Ireland

Ana Luisa Baptista . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
From: Lisbon, Portugal Works in: Brussels, Belgium

Christian Mandl . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
From: Austria Works in: Bratislava, Slovakia

Anna Colamussi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
From: Ferrara, Italy Works in: Barcelona, Spain

Constantinos Erinkoglu . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
From: Greece Works in: Brussels, Belgium

Antek Baranski . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
From: Copenhagen, Denmark Works in: Europe

Drasute Zaronaite. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
From: Kaunas, Lithuania Works in: Lincolnshire, UK

Anton Burihhin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
From: Tallinn, Estonia Works in: Dublin, Ireland

Fernand Iaciu . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
From: Bucharest, Romania Works in: Lille, France

[5]

Gergana Vasileva . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
From: Sofia, Bulgaria Works in: Bonn, Germany

Mike Rizzo. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86
From: Msida, Malta Works in: Ipswich, UK

Helena Lundquist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62
From: Växjö, Sweden Works in: Barcelona, Spain

Miroslav Stefan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90
From: Prague, Czech Republic Works in: Halle, Germany

Jean-Marie Berthoud . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66
From: Switzerland Works in: Valencia, Spain

Pirjo Hirvonen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94
From: Espoo, Finland Works in: Brussels, Belgium

Lionel Zeba . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70
From: Brussels, Belgium Works in: Galway, Ireland

Rainer von Daak . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98
From: Germany Works in: Warsaw, Poland

Lourdes Martinez Sancho . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74
From: Bilbao, Spain Works in: Paris, France

Robert Foley . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102
From: Halifax, UK Works in: Warsaw, Poland

Magnus Saemundsson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
From: Reykjavik, Iceland Works in: Stockholm, Sweden

Rob Floris . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106
From: ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands Works in: Kalmar, Sweden

Miha Fras . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82
From: Maribor, Slovenia Works in: Gössendorf, Austria

Serhat Akin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 110
From: Istanbul, Turkey Works in: Brussels, Belgium

[6]

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

[7]

Acknowledgements
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.

Photographs:
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.

[9]

Alan Prague

“I just felt like I needed something new.”
n Honan Name: Ala d lin, Irelan From: Dub Czech Prague, Works in: Republic ector itment Dir Job: Recru Age: 29

I’ve been in the Czech Republic for four years now. I spent two four-month stints in the US before that but this is my first real experience of living abroad for any length of time.

Getting my papers in order
The Czech Republic wasn’t in the EU when I came so everything was much more stringent. You had to get a visa for two years. I was 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 translated from Irish to Czech. For the first month or two, I kept having to go back to the police and lawyers and wait in queues. But I didn’t mind, it was good to get out of the office and I would just read while I was waiting. 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 before I even asked the question!

I had visited the Czech Republic before I thought of moving here. I 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 Dublin at that time, but I was getting fed up with the weather, the expense, the whole lifestyle even. Two months later the opportunity to move to Prague came and I jumped at it! I made up my mind straight away that I wanted to go.

I remember my first day perfectly
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 second thoughts or wondered what I was doing here. I think my enthusiasm, the excitement and the newness of everything enabled me to overcome any worries.

[ 11 ]

I help companies move here
I work for The Source Group, which assists companies migrate from high-cost environments like the UK and Ireland to lower cost countries in Central and Eastern Europe. We deal with everything from project management to setting up the physical factory itself. My role as recruitment director is to deliver the human resources they are looking for. There are many reasons why a company might want to move here. 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 because I do that in my job too. Things work out well for companies that move labour intensive work here. If you are looking to make something and be near German and Austrian markets, it always works. It wouldn’t be such a good area if you were looking to develop a new product.

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 that puts a bit of humour into the interaction. You get a very warm reaction if you can speak Czech, especially outside Prague. People are surprised and they appreciate it because where else can you speak Czech? It shows a real appreciation for their culture. Czech culture is very closely connected to its language and everything about the Czech Republic is uniquely Czech.

I met my fiancée in an Irish pub!
The Irish are very warm people, very outgoing, and very passionate 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 Irish, but I’ve made friends from other countries as well. It’s helped me change my mind about a lot of nationalities. I’ve met a lot of fantastic, interesting people. I have Czech friends too. In fact I just got engaged to a Czech girl. I met her in an Irish pub! It must have been nearly two years ago. I went to watch some English football on television with some friends and met her there. I got her phone number and I suppose the rest is history! Czechs are good at planning social things. They organise barbecues, trips to a lake and so on. They’re good at setting aside

Speaking Czech helped me settle in
The language is difficult. I couldn’t speak a word when I arrived so I got some tapes to learn the basics. I was very interested in learning the language because I never had a second language before. It helped me settle in. Some people say the Czechs are somewhat cold or distant but I think people are seldom cold if you engage with them properly. If you speak English, it takes people

[ 12 ]

time for that and I’m getting into that habit too. Last weekend I went away with my fiancée to a beautiful place just outside of Prague. My number one love in the Czech Republic – after my fiancée – is Slavia Prague. I really enjoy watching football here because it’s not 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 I have to pay for a hotel room sometimes. I know the Czech Republic quite well because I travel around for 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 expatriates and we’ve been there maybe 10 or 15 times. They visit us too. They are wonderful hosts, I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life. The country is full of the most amazing people that you will ever meet.

I’m open to anything
I still feel like a foreigner. You always do. But I haven’t really thought about looking anywhere else. It’s different and enjoyable and for the moment I don’t even ask myself if I want to leave. It’s a lovely feeling knowing I’m 29 and I’ve already been in the 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 to have to push myself out of that and I’m open to anything really. I enjoy the challenge of my job and I like the country, so that helps. But my fiancée is the most important factor in any decision I make. It would be hard to take her away from her family. She has some relatives in South Africa so I think she wouldn’t mind going there, 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 mannerisms. I miss the Irish sense of humour too. It doesn’t translate too well here!

[ 13 ]

Albertine Paris

ertine Name: Alb m Niederco embourg From: Lux nce Paris, Fra Works in: cutive rtising exe Job: Adve Age: 28

“I could wait for people to come and find me, or I could make the effort…”
capital. I have many friends from school who have moved over to Paris. One of my brothers lives in London, and at the end of the year I plan to visit my younger brother in Brussels. I tend go back to Luxembourg when there’s a wedding or a birthday, something like that, maybe three or four times every six months. My parents, grandparents and aunts still live in Luxembourg. It’s hundreds of kilometres away, and there’s still no high-speed train. I tend to arrive in Luxembourg at midnight and have to leave at four on the Sunday afternoon. That’s eight hours in a car during the weekend, going to see my family and friends. I left aged 19 because my life wasn’t really that fulfilling, nor that exciting. Then all my friends left, and in Luxembourg there isn’t that much to miss. There is my mum, I miss her a lot. There is the beer, but I don’t like beer so that’s no problem! I was young. I didn’t 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 things about Luxembourg are its high standard of living and good school system. The only problem is that if I meet my husband in Paris, he might find the idea of moving to Luxembourg quite hard to take!

After doing my bac (final exams at secondary school) in Luxembourg I spent six months in London doing my école de norme, then I came to Paris. I had a little job for six months, then went to business school for four years. I got my degree three and half years ago. I said to myself that if I didn’t find a job in Paris within six months, I’d return to Luxembourg. I had some offers of unpaid work and to go on some training schemes. I went to some interviews, found a job and started off like that. And I’m still here. I work for a small media firm. We work on a development strategy: someone brings us their new product, perhaps a household appliance, and we create an advertising campaign for them. I work on campaigns for television, for cable and satellite channels, and colleagues work on campaigns in the press, on the radio, on the Internet and so on. It’s a great atmosphere here. We’re all around the same age and tend to go out a lot together, especially for lunch and drinks after work. I’m in charge of a team – a little team. It’s me and one other person.

Leaving Luxembourg is normal
Luxembourg is a very small country, only about 50 by 75 kilometres. There aren’t many opportunities for further study, so it’s normal, after finishing your bac, to go to live in another European

[ 15 ]

Luxembourg: a family-orientated, traditional life
Luxembourg is more family-orientated, more traditional. The secondary schools are much smaller, and you go through the whole school system with the same classmates. In Paris among my friends it’s different. Some have been here for two years, some for six. They’ve all come from different places, different countries, and have all had to integrate themselves into life here. It’s not a given. I wouldn’t say Luxembourg is old-fashioned exactly, but when I came to Paris for business school I found the people of my age were more self-assured and independent. Luxembourg is more like Belgium than France. People live a quieter life, and are more relaxed. They’re not at all loud or flashy

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 thought to myself that I could wait for people to come and find me, or I could make the effort. I knew there were so many people out there, so I threw myself into meeting them. That was my winning formula. From my early childhood we always spoke French at home. I was educated in the French school system, so I’ve always felt halfFrench, half-Luxembourger. So language wasn’t a problem. At the beginning I didn’t meet many native Parisians, generally it was people who had also moved here. It was only when I went to university that I really started to meet ‘real’ Parisians. College was very cosmopolitan, and I also met a lot of people from the provinces or other French-speaking countries. Of course, at college it’s easy to get to know people because you see the same 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 only about 450,000 inhabitants, but almost half are foreigners, so it’s like a big melting pot.

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 effect of Paris or just that I’ve grown up. My first year wasn’t so difficult, but things change for sure. I have a different mentality, a different way of living.

classes, went to dance classes, all kinds of classes, but in this way you only make casual friends, not people you could call close 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.

Lonely in the city of light
In Paris although you might see people when you go out, from time to time you get lonely. And lonely here means you’re really alone. 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 years ago, if I was to return I’d have to spend a lot of time renewing old friendships and make a whole new bunch of friends. My family are there, but my friends are here now. Perhaps the real reason I stay in Paris is that I have a lot of things going on. I stay because of my job, but also because of my friends.

It would be much easier, much more familiar, less complicated. At the same time I want to succeed, and returning to Luxembourg would mean finding a new job. There’s the language barrier, the motivation to make a move and the disruption it would cause – but mainly the language more than 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, shows, good night clubs, media parties. I don’t necessarily enjoy to the full all that Paris has to offer but I know that if I want to, I can. There are not the same things on offer in Luxembourg.

Advice to others
My advice to someone else planning to move abroad is to go out and find people, throw yourself into it. If you have problems making 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 couple of years I’ve changed apartments two or three times. It’s important not to become too stuck in one place. I think it’s a feeling I got from living in Luxembourg. 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.

There are things you can sign up to, bulletin boards where you can leave a little notice: “I’m in Paris, from Luxembourg, looking for a job, looking for somewhere to live.” Just give it go and see what happens.

[ 17 ]

Ana Luisa Brussels

“I feel at home here, if only the sun would shine!”
a isa Baptist me: Ana Lu Na al on, Portug From: Lisb elgium Brussels, B Works in: ent n investm Job: Foreig advisor Age: 32

I came to Belgium from Portugal about six years ago. I had worked there as a teacher. I wanted to do a Masters degree and thought it would be more interesting to experience a different country’s culture. In addition, Portugal has quite high unemployment, which can make it difficult to find a job. My boyfriend was a journalist who was working in Brussels, so Belgium was an obvious choice. I obtained a scholarship from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) to do a Masters in Philosophy and Culture for one year. My plan at the beginning was just to study, but as I had already made the investment in the country – learning the language and cultures – I decided to stay on and look for temporary work. My first job was as a receptionist in a law firm. Then I worked as a credit collector for one year, which I didn’t like too much – it wasn’t really me. I took an intensive French course for two months and then private lessons for two years because I needed to have good verbal and written skills. Portuguese and French are similar, they both have Latin roots, so I had a good start. My boyfriend – now my husband – is Belgian, so we speak French every day as well. Now I’m learning Flemish too.

Advising businesses
I started at the Brussels Enterprise Agency three years ago. I work in the international relations department as a foreign investment adviser. I speak English, French, Spanish and Portuguese – this multilingual element was important in my recruitment. I work mainly in English but also in French – it depends on the request from the client. The Agency is a contact point for entrepreneurs who want to open a business in Brussels. We are financed by the regional government and our main goal is to support companies doing business here. My particular role is to promote Brussels abroad as a location for inward investment and to attract and support foreign companies once they have made the decision to come here. I deal directly with businesses on a daily basis. We provide relevant information and advice to our clients and guide them to other organisations – we are facilitators. The kind of advice we give ranges from the price for rental accommodation to statistical, economic or cultural information – everything that someone thinking of coming to the city would want to know. We can tell people how to open a branch here or start a Belgian company, about recruitment, subsidies, planning regulations and so on. We work in cooperation 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 different 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 example, 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 midnight. 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 medical facilities or education. To do a Masters here is not as expensive 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 important 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 community 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 understands 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 difficult 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 ]

Anna Barcelona

na Cola Name: An ara, Italy From: Ferr , Barcelona Works in: Spain t ct Assistan Job: Proje Age: 33

“It was as if a light within me had been suddenly switched on again.” mussi
I am from Ferrara in Italy, but I have always wanted to live in Barcelona. I fell in love with the city when I first came here interrailing in 1992. like working in a multicultural environment and the city and the job are perfect for that.

My first job
I didn’t have great expectations for my first job after graduating. I was just hungry to work! I got a job in a big call centre for a car rental company. I was based in the new World Trade Centre that had just been built in the port. As a call centre agent I had to answer over 100 phone calls a day. The work was very boring and the turnover of staff very high. Nobody can stay in that kind of job for a long time, but the foreigners working in the call centres know it’s just a first step. You don’t need any previous work experience or even to be able to speak Spanish or Catalan – you just have to be a native speaker of a European language. It was like a big international Erasmus environment because there were hundreds of phone operators from France, Italy and other southern European countries. I had a wonderful and informal relationship with my colleagues. The downside is that I was always with my foreign colleagues and didn’t integrate with native Catalan speakers in Barcelona. I knew Barcelona as a ‘guiri’, which is the Catalan nickname for foreigners here.

In 2001, I got a Bachelor degree in foreign languages and literature from the University of Bologna. My thesis was a comparative study of how people answer telephone calls in Italy and Spain. After my studies I decided to go and work in Barcelona and, funny enough, my first job was as a telephone operator in a call centre.

Life in Barcelona
Barcelona is a lively city, full of opportunities. It is less stressful than Milan or London for example. I don’t think I could survive in one of those places. The weather is wonderful here too and that helps you feel good. It rains only once every two months. The quality of life is quite high. An average salary for an administrative job in Barcelona is only around 1000 euros per month, but people can live quite well on that because it is not an expensive city. At least, it’s cheaper than Italy. The cost of renting a flat has been going up by 25% every year though. In 2001, a room in a shared flat cost 150 euros. Today it costs up to 400 euros! In the six years I have been here, a lot has changed. People often reach a point when they decide to stay or leave. I’m happy here. I

[ 23 ]

On the other side
After my job in the call centre, I spent a year in Milan doing a Masters degree in management of human resources. As part of the degree, I did an internship at an international consultancy in Barcelona. The company recruited international workers for the call centres, so I found myself on the other side. One year I was working as a call centre agent, the next I was recruiting them! It was a very interesting experience because I could interview young foreigners who, like me, had moved to Barcelona. People had come for different reasons, but one of the common problems

I discovered was that they were used to much better salaries at home, especially the people from northern Europe. A lot of them were overqualified for the jobs available. Some people get fed up and go back to their home country. There is a sort of glass ceiling that separates non-Catalans and foreigners from the Catalans. Higher positions and responsibilities seem to be for Catalans only.

You are not in Spain!
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 so happy. It was as if a light within me had been suddenly switched on again.

I never forget I’m Italian
People always think that the Spanish and Italians are close in terms of culture and mentality but there are differences. Italians are very meticulous, especially at work, whereas the Spanish are a bit chaotic. And the Spanish are much more direct than us – they get straight to the point. They can sometimes seem a bit rude to an Italian. The Spanish love their soap operas and there are a lot of documentaries 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.

It hasn’t always been easy but I feel I have gained so much from my experience of moving abroad. I have become a richer and 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 now. I would miss the multicultural life of Barcelona. My advice to anyone thinking of going abroad to work would be to listen to your head, but don’t ignore what’s in your heart. It doesn’t matter what mentality people have – Spanish, Catalan or Italian – if we move successfully we forget about frontiers and nationalities.

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 foreigners. 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 weekends or cultural events in Barcelona. Now some of my closest friends are Catalan.

[ 25 ]

Antek Herne

“Europe is my home.”
ski tek Baran Name: An enhagen, From: Cop Denmark any erne, Germ Lives in: H Europe Works in: sultant Job: IT con Age: 32

I’ve been living abroad for most of my life. As a child, I spent eight years in Denmark and then 16 years in the Netherlands. For my final thesis I studied in Geneva and that is when my international ‘adventure’ began. My parents are Polish, I have Danish nationality, a Dutch wife, whom I married in Belgium and today we live in Germany. My first job was as a sales engineer for an American software company based in Sweden. Basically, I just packed two suitcases, took a flight to Stockholm and stayed for two years.

when job opportunities arise we can vouch for each other’s credentials to prospective employers.

Languages help in business
Polish is my mother tongue but I can switch between this and English, German, Dutch and Swedish – I don’t need to think. I think that one of the reasons I have picked up so many languages is that when we moved to the Netherlands, my father started working for the European Space Agency and the street in which we lived was multinational. As children, we all played together and you heard all these languages – especially the Italians, who were the noisiest! But having a father who insisted on me learning languages also helped. Speaking other languages is a big advantage to me now – I can speak to almost the entire northern part of Europe in their own language. That helps in business. If you are not from the country and you are reasonably fluent in the language, people are very, very accommodating – it shows you have a good attitude. Knowing the language of the country to which you are moving is a big advantage, but not knowing it shouldn’t stop you from moving. I spent four years following French classes in the Netherlands. Then I spent one year living in Geneva and I learnt

A European network
After this, I had an offer from an American start-up company and spent the next six months travelling out of a suitcase, crisscrossing around Europe. In 2001, they downsized and I was out of a job. I decided to start working for myself and that has been rather successful. Now, I’m living off my professional network all over Europe but based in Germany. I’m a consultant for software development – the whole process from A to Z. My clients vary from the top 500 US public corporations to smaller organisations – like the Dutch police force, public authorities and private companies. I have just started www.true-professionals.eu This is a group of professionals who have worked together on previous projects and

[ 27 ]

more French there than previous four years. This been true for all my guages – practice is the teacher.

the has lanbest

Pros and cons
The countries I’ve lived in all have their peculiar pros and cons. My favourite place is Stockholm. It has a great city life, but get in the car for 15 minutes and you are in the middle of nowhere. After living in the Netherlands or Germany, Sweden is very spacious. The one downside to the country is the tax rates. They are high, but then again there are very few countries in Europe where it is advantageous to be self-employed from a tax point of view. My social security cover is through Germany. One of the problems with the EU is that, for example, the Netherlands has the rule that you pay tax where you earn it – but if you live in Germany and you 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.

For example, I am now living in Germany and I have two German private pension plans but if I moved somewhere else, I could no longer claim the tax back on them. So moving around Europe sometimes comes at a price. There isn’t one particular country that I refer to as my home. Home is where my parents live. Now, they live in the Netherlands. My wife and I really like Sweden but I have no idea if I will ever stay in one place. We’ve been in Germany for nearly three years and we are looking around to move somewhere else.

Adapting to attitudes
Attitudes vary across Europe. I think the most striking difference I’ve seen is between the Netherlands and Belgium, at least the Flemish part. Dutch people are very direct but in Belgium you have to skirt

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 education. 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, although this is changing, especially in non-German multinational organisations. Sweden and Finland are very laid back, very easy going, very amicable but people get their jobs done. Italy is sometimes slow. I guess I just adapt easily to different cultures – and knowing the language definitely helps. 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 don’t have the same social network as someone who lives in the same place his whole life. A lot of people don’t understand how 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.

There doesn’t seem to be that much information out there to help people either. Although I did find the European Commission’s signpost service particularly helpful and would advise anyone making a move abroad to use it. It provides free advice on almost any question you may have regarding your rights in EU countries. You can submit a question and an expert will get back to you with an answer, or at least tell you who to contact. My advice to someone thinking about leaving their own country and living or working somewhere else would be, just go, just go and enjoy yourself, have fun.

Use the signpost service
If you leave your country, 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, residency and so on you will have to sort out yourself. This could involve long queues of up to two or three hours just to get a residence permit. Although we’re in the EU, there is very little continuity at the local level when it comes to sorting out residency.

[ 29 ]

Anton Dublin

ton Buri Name: An ia inn, Eston From: Tall Ireland Dublin, Works in: r viser Job: Supe Age: 22

“Get over your fears and go – there’s always someone who’ll help you.” hhin
sent out a number of people at the same time so I wasn’t totally alone. We started work in Dublin for a global food manufacturing group. The company organised our accommodation, which was

I come from Estonia, but my parents are originally from Russia. I grew up in Tallinn with my two sisters and one brother. Estonia is a very friendly place, where people are made to feel welcome 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 particularly 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 further 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 interesting opportunity and I could speak English quite well. But, as I realised once I got here, it is the Irish accent that takes some getting 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 flight, which was paid back at 20 euros a week. I did a lot of overtime in my first year and earned an extra 60–70 euros a month. When I first arrived I started off packing and pricing sandwiches and putting them in boxes for distribution. In the second year, I was promoted to team leader and in my third year, I was appointed superviser. I am responsible for 23 people as well as ordering supplies and ensuring a smooth and efficient production line. When I first got promoted it was a bit difficult especially when I ended up managing local people who are a lot older than me. But I worked extremely hard and people could see that I was trustworthy. So I didn’t have too many problems. On the whole the company treats us well. The money is good, I have more holidays than I would get working for an Estonian company and there is a good training programme. For example, I have completed training to drive a forklift truck and supervisers are often sent on information technology courses as well. Companies in Estonia are not able to pay similar salaries or offer the same training structure. They still have a long way to go to catch up with the UK and Ireland.

around and introducing me to the Irish lifestyle. We went for a beer after work. There is a real culture of ‘buying a round’, which is very sociable. I think the Irish youngsters are not as ambitious as some other Europeans, they just seem to think about going out! People are generous here too. In Estonia, if it is your birthday, you buy all the drinks. Here, my Irish friends grabbed me and took me to the pub and I didn’t pay for a single drink all evening. There are things I miss about Estonia – the food for example and, of course, my friends and family. But there is also an Estonian community here, which made it easier at least in the beginning. Now when I go back to visit my parents I have more money in my pocket to do the things I want without having to worry too much. I like going to restaurants with friends and I can do that now.

Future plans
I have started a part-time course in interior design at the National Institute of Design here in Dublin. I wanted to do something new, something creative. I’d love to be an interior designer one day. I also enjoy the social side of meeting people who work with ceramics, painting and other materials. I am starting with the basic techniques 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. After this, I’d like to learn Italian and perhaps spend some time in Italy, which, for me, is the fashion and design capital of the world.

Social side
I find the Irish very friendly and within three weeks of being here I made friends with an Irish guy at work who started showing me

[ 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 someone who will help you.

[ 33 ]

Barbara Stockholm

“How I came to Sweden is a bit of a funny story!”
son ra Anders me: Barba Na ź, Poland From: Łód , Stockholm Works in: Sweden l worker Job: Socia Age: 58

My family suffered a lot both during and after the Second World War. My father lost an eye fighting the Germans and my mother experienced living in the tunnels under the Old Town of Warsaw without food for two weeks. My uncle and his wife died in a concentration camp because he had been illegally teaching Polish. My parents were anti-communists. My father had been a lawyer but lost his job because he was the kind of person to speak his mind. My parents were intellectuals but in the 1950s and 1960s that was not a good thing in Poland!

Going to Sweden
I first went to Sweden on holiday with a friend in 1992. We were both single. I had been divorced for 15 years. I had a boyfriend for nine years during that time but we never married and had broken up two years before. 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 responded to it. We spoke on the phone a lot at first. Then he visited. And I liked him! I visited him in Sweden too. And after one year we got married. I was a bit nervous as I was over 40. But all 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
The beginning in Sweden was not good at all. I came to a new family. My husband’s children were about 18 or 19 at that time. At first, they didn’t like me very much. They saw me as a stupid woman from the East, speaking bad English. But he loved me, you know. I was very hungry for someone to love me and it felt good. I couldn’t understand any Swedish at first – nothing at all. After two months I enrolled in some classes. I was together with people from Pakistan, Iran and Iraq and they had big problems with the different 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 husband 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.

Now I’m doing a similar job to what I did in Poland. I take care of people with psychiatric problems – schizophrenia, depression and so on. But I help them after they leave hospital. They can be isolated and I help with all kinds of problems to do with their job, apartment or free time. I check they are taking their medicine. I’m happy to have my job because it’s difficult to get a job in Sweden in my profession and now I’m nearly 59. I got the job myself without any help. I applied to an advert I saw in the newspaper.

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 when people are ignorant about my country. We have modern clinics but some people don’t realise that. I think you have to go to a country before you make judgements. I think Swedes automatically get the best jobs. My boss is 31 and he’s Swedish. It’s much harder for a foreigner to become a boss. You have to be born, or at least have studied in Sweden. I have worked for 36 years – always with other people’s problems. I’d like to just worry about mine for a change! But in Sweden you have to work until you are 65.

Swedes don’t show their feelings so much. They think I am too expressive. I use my hands when I talk. But I don’t plan to change! In Sweden they have a word ‘lagom’. It means everyone should be at the same level – people shouldn’t stand out too much. They don’t like fancy clothes or expensive cars. They are open-minded about other differences though. They don’t have a problem with homosexuality, for example. Swedish people respect their jobs, not like in Poland. In the old days at least, Poles used to drink all weekend and miss work on Monday because they were ill. In Sweden, people prepare for their jobs on Sunday evening! I have changed a bit. I think I have more of a Swedish attitude now. I get irritated if I hear Poles say they can’t afford new things and tell them they have to work and save money! I am still Polish. Poles have their own language, their own culture. We have very good films and books and we are proud of that. It’s good you can have dual citizenship now. I could have got Swedish citizenship. But I don’t need it. It costs 2000 Swedish kronor. I would rather go on holiday to Greece or somewhere!

Going back to Poland
When I went back to visit Poland a year or two after I got married a lot had already changed. And now I notice that buildings are freshly painted and there are better shops. But people don’t have much money and unemployment is still very high. Even people with a good education don’t have many opportunities. A lot of doctors are leaving, going to places like Ireland. I go back to Poland four or five times a year. Now it’s no problem because flights are very cheap. And it only takes a little over an hour. I have kept an apartment in Poland. I think I will stay in Sweden now because of my husband and his relations with his family and job. But I think England could be better for me. It’s a bit more like Poland – a little bit messier! Sweden can feel a little bit sterile sometimes.

Cultural differences – nationality and identity
Swedes like to prepare things. My husband likes to plan a day ahead. But I prefer to be spontaneous! And I think Swedes are used to things 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 ]

Chris Dublin

“If the opportunity comes along, don’t waste it, take it!”
ides ris Econom Name: Ch s aca, Cypru From: Larn land Dublin, Ire Works in: l r technica Job: Senio consultant

I come from Larnaca in Cyprus. It is a beautiful place, very laid back but we don’t have the same standard of living as in Dublin. Salaries are a lot lower Age: 38 and there are not as many opportunities for career development. I lived in the UK between 1990 and 1994 as I was studying computer science in Staffordshire. It was a ‘sandwich course’, which basically means that you work while you study.

I wanted something more for myself so I started looking further afield to opportunities abroad.

They offered me the job and I accepted
I specialise in data warehousing the basic principle of which is to help companies consolidate and organise their data so that it can be easily managed, accessed, and analysed. Usually it isn’t that difficult to find job openings in this area but 2002 was a particularly 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 recruiting. Still, I registered my CV on various Internet sites and at one point had something like five interviews in one week! Then I got a call to come for an interview in Ireland. I had already been to Dublin once before to do a demonstration with a team from India but apart from that didn’t really know much about the place. But once I was here I quite liked it. Then they offered me the job, and I accepted. I didn’t believe I was actually going until the tickets were in my hand. I was excited, not so much about Ireland, but more about the job. That was in August 2002 and I’m still here!

Looking further afield
When I finished the course, I went back to Cyprus and worked for three different organisations including Oracle, the world’s largest software company. But after the company merged, a lot of people left and morale reached a bit of a low. My department, in which there were originally 17, was scaled back to three. I am very career orientated and I started to feel that I was going round in circles rather than advancing. I could see it in my friends too. They had been doing the same thing year after year, always experiencing the same problems but never really moving forward. Life doesn’t change that much in Cyprus.

[ 39 ]

Moving on, moving up
The actual moving aspect was not too cumbersome, largely because the company had agreed to pay all my relocation costs plus two free trips back home every year. That in itself lifts a burden from your shoulders. The hardest thing was getting the work permit to have the right to work here. I had to wait three months between accepting the job and actually moving over to start. Thankfully the company 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.

When Irish eyes are smiling
I think that Ireland is more relaxed than in the UK, which was my first point of reference for living abroad. For example, I could never fathom the ‘old boy network’. It is such an English way of operating and not one that we are accustomed to in southern countries such as Cyprus. But Ireland is not without its peculiarities and difficulties. I found the first year quite challenging and even felt a bit isolated because it was hard to make friends. Everyone is happy to talk about the weather, but they tend to shy away from anything more meaningful! The Irish are more cautious, they have different attitudes. They don’t like directness – which is difficult for a Cypriot to understand and get used to. They are also very wary about opening up to strangers. Of course, there are certain codes of conduct and cultural subtleties that you are not aware of as foreigners. When you are used to

[ 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 ]

Christian Bratislava

“I can always hop on a plane.”
ndl ristian Ma Name: Ch ria From: Aust , Bratislava Works in: Slovakia SkyEurope Job: CEO, Airlines Age: 32

My parents are Austrian but worked in Belgium. I was born there, which gives me dual citizenship. I went to the European School in Brussels, so French is my mother tongue.

high disposable income and on the other, an emerging market with low production costs and an unsatisfied demand for travel. To be competitive with what existed in Vienna, my airline would need to be cheaper and so the idea came to create a low cost airline. There were companies like Ryanair or Easyjet, but not many others at that time. By pure chance, one day I bought Business Week and there was a feature about my present-day business partner, who was involved in two Belgian low cost airlines. I contacted him, telling him about my idea for a low cost airline in Central Europe. He agreed to meet me. From there he helped me with the feasibility study and business plan and we became business partners. On 6 September 2001 – five days before 9/11 – we created the company. It was quite a difficult time to launch a new airline, but today we are the largest low cost airline in Central and Eastern Europe with a fleet of 16 Boeing 737 aircraft and, in almost five years, we have transported four million passengers.

I studied political science in Paris and then basically I looked at different types of EU-related projects, including those in Central and Eastern Europe. I sent my CV to human resource people but they never responded, and finally I decided not to wait for an answer any more but to start my own business. I discovered Slovakia at a time when most investors had already found the Czech Republic, or Hungary, or Poland. Slovakia was a bit like the forgotten child of Central and Eastern Europe.

Gap in the market
I had no business experience, but I did what most entrepreneurs do – I looked around at the type of services that were not available 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 national carrier. There was a gap in the market – an airline was missing. Bratislava was only 50 kilometres away from Vienna, so could be used as a secondary airport for this city. This is an extraordinary region, where on one side of the border you have a mature market with a

A truly European project
Before I started the airline, I had always worked on European projects. I feel that what I am doing today is still somehow related to European integration. In 1989, people had the freedom to travel but they didn’t have the 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 reasons 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 company 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 people. 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
I started to write a business plan at the age of 25 but people would not have taken me seriously in the West. I would have had to raise the finance and find the people to manage the airline, but I did not have enough stature. I think Eastern Europe is still a place which presents opportunities for young, ambitious and creative people. In Slovakia, the quality of the education system even during communist times was actually quite good. If an economy is in transition, it is very important to have this human basis for economic development. That is what makes this emerging Europe attractive to investors. Maybe there is also more entrepreneurship here than in Western Europe, because it is easier to take risks when there is nothing to lose. People with responsibilities in the East are normally younger, maybe the older generation had more difficulties, and the young people are seizing power – whether in business or politics.

There is no routine in the airline business. The job has to be your hobby, there is not a lot of free time. I normally prefer large cities but after a long day it is better not to spend time in traffic jams. Bratislava is a smaller, very exciting city and it is only one hour away from Vienna with all its cultural history and events. Bratislava is booming, 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 an airline executive I can always hop on a plane… I learnt Slovak because when I first went to meetings with the government and other executives, nobody spoke English so I had to learn the language. It is very important, it is a sign of respect for the local people. I am not fluent but I can communicate. We have an international team with more than 20 different nationalities. Some airlines in France have been facing problems so we have 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 in Slovakia. More than half the passengers flying out of Bratislava airport are SkyEurope passengers, so we are the de facto national carrier. We are also the only airline offering domestic flights to Košice – the second 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 important for the country – it helps tourism and future investors. It’s satisfying to create a successful enterprise that is needed by the country and financed by private funds.

they may be valid in one country and not the other. Theoretically, 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 adviser. These are little things that make life difficult to move. If you work in five countries in your career, how will the pension scheme be put together? But I’m not an expert, I don’t have all the answers. Mobility has to start in the minds of people, it is not just the physical getting up and going. It means that people should not expect to have a career in the same place for 60 years but not everyone wants to be a modern nomad and there has to be respect for people who attach greater importance to their roots. To assume that everyone is going to become mobile is not necessary. It is not needed but worker mobility cannot be disconnected from education, language skills and so on. It has to start there. There are many opportunities in Europe and people should not be afraid to take their rucksack and go East…

Languages – the key to mobility
By definition, an airline enables mobility. In our case, it is affordable. If there is to be workers’ mobility it is important to give people the opportunity to travel in a comfortable way. They also need to be 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 ‘modern 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 education 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 location to the other, in terms of the different social and health systems –

[ 45 ]

Constantinos Brussels

“…a new state of mind, a new way of living.”
nstantinos Name: Co Erinkoglu ece From: Gre Brussels, Works in: Belgium uranteur Job: Resta Age: 50

I was born in the countryside. I’m originally from Greece, but I came to Belgium in 1982, having studied in Strasbourg. Afterwards I studied European Affairs in Bruges. Then I 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 biodynamic 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. 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 not one for waiting around. That’s why I came to Brussels. There are people of all nationalities, with Mediterranean roots. There’s a certain atmosphere and essence. Then I got into the restaurant business. My first restaurant was very 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, Greek food with a new twist. Greek cuisine inspires me. Tradition! It’s like oxygen for the Greeks. But I’m also interested in combina-

tions, marriages if you like, so for instance today I’m serving fava with scallops of foie gras.

What is this idea of ‘Greek’?
I don’t want to make references to the perceived image of the ‘Greek’ in the décor of my restaurant. The references are in the food, and it is the food that is absolutely sacred. What is this idea 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 that way. Flags and drapes all over the place – it makes me laugh. We have quite a coherent customer base. People know they’re getting quality food here, but a restaurant also has a social role to play. 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 making 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 with his wife. Nobody bothers them, it’s that kind of place.

Be motivated to succeed
I feel a lot of the other Greeks that I’ve met in Belgium don’t experiment enough. At most 10 or 15% welcome new influences in their cooking, while the rest are using sauces that were the norm 15 years ago. The migration of 40 years ago was a different matter. The people that emigrated then were really foreigners, completely outside of society, so they had to hold on to an idea of Greece. Whereas the Greeks of Egypt, of Istanbul: they had a sort of mantra, a nobility, a different mentality that made it easier for them to integrate. In the end, in order to succeed you need motivation. You need to want to move forward, and to know where you want to take things.

The Belgians are very accepting of foreigners
I don’t think being a foreigner means you encounter more obstacles. It’s more of a question of the efforts you make. I’ve had to work hard. I’ve encountered no racism, neither in France nor here. I’ve made an effort with the language. The Belgians are very accepting of foreigners, especially in Brussels. I originally wanted to go to England. As a young man I went to Switzerland, and I couldn’t speak the language at all. It wasn’t until I 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 by the demand there has been, the offers people have made. There are potential openings all over the place, but it’s a lot of work. Work is important, but now I’m at an age where I’m asking myself,

I began to think about Europe
Before Greece entered the European Union it was struggling. Things were quite hard. A big spider’s web has spread out across

[ 48 ]

what shall I do? Take some time out, some breathing 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 bombarded with consumerism, obsessed with wealth. There’s a lot of new money, and it seems a bit superficial. 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 changing 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 what to do. At first it was difficult. When I was in Belgium, I was homesick for Greece and when I was in Greece, I wanted to be back in Belgium. I’d tell someone who wanted to do a similar thing to try to tap into a new state of mind, a new way of living. Though things aren’t so different these days, it’s still interesting to immerse yourself, to try to make your way in a new culture. Above all be proactive, be positive. 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.

Roughly translated: Ithaca cannot give us everything we need. We have to leave, broaden our horizons but then come back a richer person. Don’t be in a hurry to reach Ithaca but let your path be long and full of enriching experiences. Learn from those you encounter along the way. But always keep Ithaca firmly in your mind for that is your final destination. Life is a journey and we should seize the opportunities to live and work abroad but always remember our roots and dream of returning ‘home’ one day.

[ 49 ]

Drasute Lincolnshire

“Be brave and if at first you don’t succeed, try again!”
aite sute Zaron Name: Dra nia nas, Lithua From: Kau e, UK Lincolnshir Works in: nt worker Job: Migra ger na project ma Age: 32

I come from Kaunas in central Lithuania. I studied theology and gained a Masters degree in social work. After that I also gained some professional experience in the field, with an emphasis on helping people.

It wasn’t easy to begin a new life in the UK
When I came back to the UK the second time, it was because I had seen an advertisement in a Lithuanian newspaper. An English company was recruiting someone to look after people with learning disabilities for three weeks. I applied and got the job. I studied very hard for 20 years to get through school and get my Masters degree in Lithuania, but there is no cross-border recognition of qualifications for social workers. It wasn’t easy to begin a new life in the UK and to find out all the requirements and rules. The paperwork is rather complicated. I had to register with the Home Office, which costs £75 per person for a one-year permit. This process has to be repeated if you change jobs. I had to send off my original identification papers when I applied for residency, which took six weeks. In the meantime, I had no passport, no proof of identity. I was lucky that my company helped by writing a letter, but I wasn’t happy with the difficulties involved in the whole process. As a foreigner, I had to register to prove that I was eligible to work in the UK. This ‘guarantee’ costs £155 but is 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. After my initial short-term contract working with people with learning disabilities, I was appointed as a project manager for a local council, the job I still do today.

Like the majority of Lithuanians, I am Catholic and worked for CAFOD, a Catholic development and relief agency, in Lithuania. I was Deputy Director and responsible for implementing government projects. We worked a lot with ex-prisoners, helping them to find work and settle back into society. During the course of my work, I saw some terrible social problems, including all kinds of human trafficking. These days I’m in the UK, working to support migrant workers in the Lincolnshire area.

I took a risk
I first came to England 10 years ago when I got a job picking strawberries in the south of England for three months. I had learnt English during my studies and was excited about the opportunity to come and spend time in the country. I was also a little apprehensive because of the fear of the unknown. In fact I hadn’t heard from my employer by the time I had to leave to come to the UK, so I took a risk in coming over. But it worked out in the end. The company provided accommodation, but it was in a village and public transport was rather limited. It made us feel a bit isolated. I think it can be hard to find good accommodation in the UK.

[ 51 ]

My work has given me valuable experience
I deal with migrant workers, promoting understanding and raising awareness of cultural differences through different outlets such as drama and writing articles. I also created a website to show the positive side of diversity and gave presentations to organisations such as Rotary clubs. My work has given me valuable experience but working for a local council with its unique systems is not easy! The UK has an ageing population and perhaps depends more on workers from other countries to fill job vacancies. Lithuania is in a different situation. It has a population of around three and a half million but about 10% of Lithuanians live abroad these days. In Lincolnshire, there are more than 700 migrant workers. This influx affects the economics of the region and the country. Public bodies are struggling to provide and develop services, as new arrivals’ needs differ from those of local people. Migrant workers have a need for all kinds of information: how to register with a doctor, emergency numbers, education systems, their rights as workers and so on.

My own experiences and working with migrant workers have made me aware that there are some prejudices against them. People think they play their music too loud and too much or that they drink excessively. I think I was turned down for a job as a doctor’s receptionist because I was an immigrant. Of course, this is difficult to prove. There’s a danger when accommodation is tied to employment. Sometimes the employer provides accommodation, but this can restrict a migrant worker’s choice and freedom. This accommodation might be overcrowded and with no right to move, as the worker might lose his or her job. Many migrant workers are working through gangmasters, so they are not provided with employment contracts and conditions. That means they might have work one day, but not the next – it’s a very insecure situation for them. Language is an issue too. Two thirds of migrant workers have quite poor English skills. They are often not fluent enough to understand legal requirements, like paying for a TV licence or 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 identify 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 different 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 easy. 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 certain 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 economic 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 ]

Fernand Lille

“I left Romania with a suitcase and a violin – into the unknown.”
rnand Iaciu Name: Fe mania harest, Ro From: Buc ce Lille, Fran Works in: violinist, Job: Lead f Lille rchestra o National O Age: 50

I arrived in Lille in 1982, but I’m Romanian by origin. I spent my childhood there and studied at the Bucharest Conservatoire and then worked for two years at the Bucharest Philharmonia.

plan to go to China next year. And I’ve travelled by myself to play at several festivals as well, for example to the US. I was 25 when I arrived in France. I’m an only child, but my family followed me and arrived here a couple of years afterwards – my 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 and my violin, into the unknown, into an adventure, into the unconscious as it were! I studied French at school, as Romania is quite a Francophile country. I had the choice between English and French, and chose French. I wouldn’t say I spoke fluently when I arrived, but I had studied the language and knew it already.

Everything was new
Of course there were a lot of differences between the two countries when I first arrived – from a communist state to a country that was completely free. More or less everything was new for me. I didn’t know the banking system because we didn’t have one in Romania. I had to learn everything about the social security system, borders that we could cross just like that – that was fantastic. The people were much more open and weren’t scared of making a joke about a politician or something. For example, when I first read Le Canard Enchainé (a French satirical magazine), I couldn’t believe that kind of thing could exist. It was a radical change for me, but a change for the better, and I was young at the time so I had no problem.

First stop, Hong Kong
In fact, my first asylum application when I arrived in France was actually at the Australian Embassy in Paris – that had been my childhood dream. But they refused the application politely. On the same day I decided to stay here instead, so I regularised my stay in France by applying for political asylum, and everything worked out. I passed the competition in Lille and found work. My asylum application was accepted quickly – within a few months – so I was able to go on my first tour with the Lille Orchestra to Hong Kong and Japan shortly afterwards. I travel quite a lot for my work – in fact we’ve been to every continent except Australasia! We’ve been to Africa, both Americas, pretty much all of Europe, Russia, and there’s a

[ 55 ]

When I had my first French passport, it was valid for travel to all countries except Romania and the other communist countries at the time. I dreamt of being able to travel and so I bought a train ticket and went to visit some friends in Germany. When I lived in 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 the Foreign Ministry. Even then there were problems: in 1979 I applied for a visa to participate in a competition in Vienna, which I had been preparing for more than a year, but when it was finally processed, the visa arrived one week after the competition had begun! Here I just took a train and arrived in another country a few hours later – it was incredible!

The second trip was three or four years later, to go back to the hospital. Of course I’ve also received invitations – as a violinist – to participate in festivals in Bucharest, but I haven’t been able to make them. I made a big effort to integrate here when I came, to try to think in French. Perhaps I miss some things about Romania, but I prefer to keep them as memories. Things have changed there a lot and I have a new life here now. Still, I want to go back to visit. I’m planning a trip soon so I can show the country to my children, so they can see where I’m from – and where they’re from too.

After the revolution
Now I feel French. My wife is French, and my children have grown up here. I’ve only been back to Romania twice since I left. Both trips were for three days. After the fall of Ceausescu in 1989, we set up a humanitarian foundation here in Lille – the City of Lille participated too. Rather than buying a scanner with the donations and sending it off to a hospital in Romania, we brought over virtually all the staff from a hospital there to train here in France, with a grant to cover their costs. The first trip I went on was between Christmas and New Year 1989 with an aid convoy from the French government – at the time of the revolution. The Mayor of Lille at that time, Pierre Mauroy, suggested I go along too, to see what was happening in my country. People were still shooting in the streets at the time, it was complete chaos.

Quality counts, not nationality
There are three Romanians in the orchestra – including me. We also have Poles, Japanese, an Englishman, an American... Like in any orchestra, it’s the professional quality that counts, not the nationality. The orchestra looks a bit like Europe in fact, even the world! I’m completely used to working like that – internationally, working together. In the orchestra, everyone brings something with them – working with people from different countries is always enriching. Musically speaking, the approach of an American conductor can differ from that of a German, for example, or a Russian coming to conduct Tchaikovsky. I believe a lot in musicians’ ability to interpret their own national culture, so that a Frenchman will be best placed to 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 fifteen years ago, but fifteen years is not that long to change the mentality. 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 example – 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 ]

Gergana Bonn

“There was nothing to risk, so we just did it.”
leva rgana Vasi Name: Ge a a, Bulgari From: Sofi ermany Bonn, G Works in: ry g tempora Job: Placin the Federal r workers fo Agency yment Emplo Age: 30

I came to Germany because my husband found a job here, so we decided jointly to move here – we didn’t want to live apart. Our reasons were both professional and personal – we moved both for the job opportunity and for the quality of life. One big advantage of being here is that we can travel throughout Europe. We can live better here than we can in Bulgaria. My husband came in February 2001 and I followed him two months later to study German. The first plan was to stay for 18 months – the length of my husband’s contract. But after I had learnt German, I got an offer to work here and my husband got a new job too, so we decided to stay. The decision to come was not so difficult. I wanted to try it and see how it was, and if it didn’t work out we could just go back after the first 18 months. Before that I had never lived abroad. We decided on Germany because my husband had studied at a German school so he already spoke the language, and because he had once registered at a job fair for students. After that, the Bulgarian employment service contacted him one day to ask if he had finished studying and if he was interested in working in Germany.

Language is important
The language was no problem for my husband, but I needed to learn it very quickly. Without language you can’t survive – you are like a small baby: you can perhaps understand when someone speaks, but you can’t respond! So I followed an intensive course for almost six months, and listened to radio and television to get used to the language. The course was four days a week and four hours a day. It was interesting because there were only foreigners in the class and you could see a lot of cultural differences. Today I am still learning more. We’ve been in Germany five years, so now I’m like a five-year old kid! Getting a visa was difficult for me because it was just a study visa, so I had to prove I had enough money to support myself. The same day I received my visa, I received a job offer from the Bulgarian Interior Ministry. I had wanted to work there for so long but suddenly I had the option of living abroad. It hadn’t been my plan to come to Germany, but as my husband was coming here I decided to join him.

Good day, bad day
I find people here react to me in different ways; my colleagues are very friendly, also people I meet in the train going to work, for example. There are always some

[ 59 ]

people who are not very friendly, but that’s the same everywhere. Maybe it just depends on their mood – whether they had a good day or a bad day! I don’t think we’re very different from people here: we’re Europeans and we’re Christians, so there aren’t that many cultural differences. What is different about our life in Germany are the opportunities we have here: to travel, to meet different people and do different things. But in terms of daily life, we have the same life as in Bulgaria: work, home, cooking, going shopping and seeing friends at the weekend.

I have learnt quite a lot from day-to-day contact with colleagues. In Bulgaria I learnt things at school and university, but here it’s real life. I work with people from different nationalities, in quite an international environment – that’s something I wouldn’t have been able to do at home. My job is with the German Employment Agency, working with people who come here as seasonal workers. I like the fact that I help people on both sides – both the employers and the people coming here. I know a bit about what it is like to come to a country 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 families and pay the bills, school for the kids – they’re earning money instead of waiting for money from the government. And Germany needs this labour – it’s just for a couple of months, mostly seasonal work. It’s hard work that’s not paid very well compared to German standards, and lots of local German people wouldn’t want to do it. The jobs are in agriculture, hotels, catering and funfairs for example.

Easy to stay in touch
Of course we miss our families and parents a lot. In Bulgaria, your family ties are very important. But that’s the price of being here – nothing comes for free in life! Sometimes I think it’s just like another town in Bulgaria. We see our family once every six months. Lots of people living here don’t see their family often either. And we have contact by phone, SMS, email, sending photos – it’s easy to stay in touch these days. We didn’t really have to make any other sacrifices in coming here. I didn’t have anything in Bulgaria – only family and studies. I worked in a shop there, although I had a Masters degree. There was nothing to risk, so we just did it.

I work here and I pay taxes, like everybody else. I think I’m positive about the country. I think all foreigners together make a contribution and help to change attitudes, and that’s something that’s good for Germany.

Helping both sides
I find it very interesting to work with German people – they’re very helpful and friendly.

Attitudes are different
In terms of obstacles, what surprised me was that having a bank account here was very difficult. You

[ 60 ]

need a certificate of where you live and my husband’s certificate was more than six months old, so he had to go back to the town 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 we called landlords they noticed that we were foreigners and some doors were closed at the beginning. And when we went to the immigration office, the attitude was different. 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 people 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.

you and you take it wherever you are. Where you are with your thoughts, that is your home. And this is my home here, in Germany. I think I will go back one day, but I don’t know when. I dream of having my own bookshop. One day I might write a book or do paintings. But I do this job right now and I’m very happy.

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 places. 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 ]

Helena Barcelona

" Whenever I get nostalgic, I have to eat something Swedish."
quist lena Lund Name: He n jö, Swede From: Väx a, Barcelon Works in: Spain e mer Ser vic Job: Custo e tiv Representa Age: 32

I come from a small village in the south of Sweden about 300 kilometres north of Malmö, with a population of 2,000. From Sweden I went to London for a few months then I moved to Paris. I had only planned to stay a short while but ended up staying there for a year and a half before deciding to study international business for a further four years. I had to do an internship abroad, which brought me to Barcelona. Initially, that was only for three months but I’m still here. I have always been interested in languages and meeting people from different cultures, which is why I have always chosen to live in big cities.

Finding work
After my internship, it took four months before I found a job. It is much easier once you have contacts. I worked as export assistant for a year and half. Then I worked with a Swedish girl who had opened a company doing translations. There is always a job to be found in Barcelona. It depends on what you want to do. It’s not difficult to find a job but an interesting job is another story. I also notice that if you are a woman between 25 and 35 employers are less likely to take you on because they are concerned you will get pregnant. I’ve also experienced that, which to me is weird because you only get four months maternity leave here whereas in Sweden you get a year and half. This is one of the major barriers in finding work and I think it is easier for a woman to find work in Sweden than in Spain. Here the work situation is not very secure. You can get a fixed, short-term contract, but they can sack you easily, which is not the case in other countries. Employers issue such contracts over and over again for as long as they can without specifying what it is for. Now I work as a customer service representative, which basically means that I take care of customer queries, distributors and orders. The company is a multinational organisation working

I was lucky when I first moved to Barcelona because I knew people from Paris so they helped me, especially to find accommodation. It was also much easier than in Paris where you need a carte de séjour (residence card) and you can’t get that unless you have a job but you can’t have a job unless you have a residence card. I didn’t really speak Spanish when I first arrived although I had taken a few classes in Paris. It was a bit difficult during the first few days of my internship, some people even hung up on me because I kept saying “perdón”.

[ 63 ]

in the gas industry. I’ve been working here one and a half years but I’ve been in Barcelona for seven years.

Quality of life
Barcelona is really the perfect city for me. It is not as stressful as London or Paris but it offers the same things. I find it very relaxing and I have a good quality of life, for example, I walk to work – that’s quality of life for me. I don’t like public transport. 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 shopping, 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.

I won’t say that I’ll never go back to Sweden but I have been away 13 years and I’m not really thinking about going back at the moment. When I go back to see my family I say I am going home 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 definitely have Swedish roots but I also feel partly French and partly Spanish because I spent so much time there. I just try to take the best of each place I’ve lived in. I go back to Sweden regularly, especially now that I have a nephew. I still manage to stay in contact with my friends especially those I went to school with from the age of seven. Most of them live in Malmö so I often to fly to Copenhagen and spend a night with them before travelling on to see my parents. They have also travelled, in fact girls from the south of Sweden often travel abroad at a young age to be au pairs for a while.

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. Whenever I get nostalgic I have to eat something Swedish. It’s just a feeling I have when I miss home. I went through a phase of craving Swedish hotdogs – something I never ate when I lived back in Sweden!

When in Spain
People are really friendly even if you don’t speak Catalan or Spanish. Having a few friends here before I arrived made it easier for me to meet people and integrate into Spanish culture. Medical 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 staying 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 country – growing as an individual because of everything you experience. Having to overcome difficulties on a daily basis such as arriving 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 communicate 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 differently!

[ 65 ]

Jean-Marie Valencia

“I have no time for people who live with regrets. I live for today.”
an-Marie Name: Je Berthoud zerland From: Swit Spain Valencia, Works in: er rty Manag Job: Prope Age: 48

I come from a small village in Switzerland. For a number of years I worked for the Canton of Freiburg in helping unemployed people find

to think about moving there permanently. Slowly I saved enough money to buy an apartment, I continued to take regular holidays here and then I started looking into the job prospects.

work. I believe in changing for the better and learning new skills, hence the fact that I’ve never stayed in the same profession for more than five years. My very first job in Switzerland was as a blacksmith but I also worked as a lifeguard in Lausanne. Then I did an evening course in occupational psychology and was a human resource manager for a time. Finally, I got the position with the Canton before moving to Spain to set up in Valencia. I’ve been living in Valencia for the past one and half years and I am really happy here. I don’t think I could go back to Switzerland.

In the beginning
I worked for the Americas Cup when I first came to Spain. The Swiss Alinghi team had won in New Zealand in March 2003 and it is always the winners who organise the next Americas Cup. But since Switzerland doesn’t have a port they chose Valencia for 2007. So I was lucky enough to find work with them. I then moved quickly to set my own property management business. We currently have seven holiday homes that we rent out. We also manage eight other properties for people who live abroad, which entails stopping by once a week to check that everything is all right, water plants, mow the lawns and so on. Normally, such properties are owned by Spanish people who have emigrated and who have bought homes with the idea of retiring here. Of course, with increased mobility and cheap flights these days other nationalities also buy homes in Spain. We manage properties for Swiss and German clients

Love at first sight
I first discovered Valencia over twenty years ago. I was tutoring a young Spanish person who was living in Switzerland. His parents invited me to stay in Valencia, where they were from and I fell in love with the region the moment I stepped foot there. I went back for holidays several times and started

[ 67 ]

for example. During the holiday season we are very busy with holidaymakers arriving and leaving at the weekends. For the moment there are just two of us in the company but we enlist extra help when needed. For instance, when holidaymakers leave on the Sunday we have someone who helps with the cleaning.

Making friends
Before coming here I knew a couple of people but not that many. On the whole, the Spanish are very approachable. It’s easy to strike up conversation in a bar or restaurant with a perfect stranger but it takes time to be considered a ‘real’ friend and be invited to dinner. The Spanish are very family orientated and so often don’t mix as much as you might think. I noticed that it was much easier to make friends with other foreigners. For instance we have French and German friends. It is only now we have started to make Spanish friends and this is nearly always with people

who have lived abroad themselves and are therefore are more open to foreigners. There seems to be an air of distrust for foreigners in Valencia. There is a general feeling that foreigners come to make money but often, what they don’t realise is that 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 to an apartment; they might drink a bit too much and be a bit raucous and the locals find that difficult to accept. As far as I know they’ve never caused any trouble. I personally didn’t have any problems settling in Valencia. Speaking the language also helps you to get to know people. I didn’t speak a word of Spanish when I arrived here. But reading it was never a problem as I had studied Latin so I already had a good basis, which helped. It didn’t take me too long to pick it up. I know people who have spent 18 years in Spain and they still don’t speak the language. It’s a shame as they miss out on a lot.

[ 68 ]

Cutting the red tape
The only problems I experienced were administrative. I bought a house in the country, which had been newly built. The address was not recognised by the computer for some reason and it created 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 fine.

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 atmosphere; and ask yourself if it is really for you.

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 projects 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 enough.

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 stepping 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 prospects. 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 ]

Lionel Galway

“With enough preparation everything comes right in the end.”
nel Zeba Name: Lio ium ssels, Belg From: Bru eland Galway, Ir Works in: pment ess develo Job: Busin specialist Age: 34

I was born in Burkina Faso, West Africa but left when I was very young. I have lived most of my life in Brussels. My father was a diplomat, 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 future. 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 survive outside of the comfort zone. I got in touch with the Brussels Chamber of Commerce, and I remember in particular the managing 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 information 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
I had no definite idea about the people or the place I was moving too but I was very open-minded and very curious. When I first arrived, I shared a house with a few other people from the same company, which was good because it was very close to the office. Once I had started working, two people from the company helped all the newcomers to find permanent accommodation. We were well looked after. There were no real administrative problems. We knew what forms to provide so there were no surprises. There were two other French-speaking people with me and so our three brains were better than one. It is easier to deal with everyday life when you are not alone. Of course the downside is that we spoke French a lot so I had to make an extra effort to improve my English. The Irish don’t fall in love with foreigners very quickly. They are quite guarded when it comes to making friends. It is difficult to share things with them in Galway. They tend to stick together. I’ve had to try hard to integrate. In fact, I have more contact with people from other countries, than Ireland. I’m making an effort but it’s not easy…. Fortunately, I like to 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!

Looking ahead at the open road
I left Burkina Faso when I was five years old so I consider myself more European than African. I am still very attached to my African roots though. There are not many Africans in Galway but people are very open and I can’t say I have experienced anything negative while being there. There is a lot of ignorance about Africa, its people, traditions and culture but that’s true of most places in the West. I often find myself having to explain the geography of the African continent but often people are more intrigued than anything else. I think my dream job would be promoting the differences between Africa and the West. In fact, I recently attended a conference organised by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development. I’m glad to see that things like that exist. I don’t miss Belgium because I am looking straight ahead at the open road. I wouldn’t go back to Brussels unless I could go one step higher in my career. In the meantime, I am learning a great deal from the outside world. For the moment it is Ireland, but I would move to another place in Europe without hesitation. It would depend on the job, the salary and whether the company was open to accepting foreigners.

[ 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 serious 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 groundwork 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 necessary 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 ]

Lourdes Paris

“We are European nomads!”
inez urdes Mart Name: Lo Sancho ao, Spain From: Bilb ce Paris, Fran Works in: an factors Job: Hum engineer Age: 30

I was born in Bilbao and lived there until I went to university in Barcelona. I spent three years there doing my Bachelors degree in physiotherapy. It was a four-year course and I got an Erasmus grant to go to Aalborg in Denmark in my final year. It was originally supposed to be for three months but I ended up extending it to the whole year and then spending another six months working in Denmark. That’s when I met my French husband. My Erasmus grant changed my life! I have been in France for five years now and in my current job in the car industry for the last three. I am a human factors engineer, which means I am responsible for the safety of machinery and reducing the risks for people working on the production lines. Engineers tend to focus on mechanical and technical aspects and they forget that humans operate the machines. As humans we make mistakes, so I ensure, for example, that any error and warning messages are correct and in place. I go to work by bike and train. I have two bikes, one for each end of the train journey!

Studying and working in Denmark
When you are a student it is easy to find your way in a foreign country. My first six months were really great. I enjoyed the international environment of Erasmus and made a lot of Danish friends too. All the lectures were in Danish and my Danish friends helped me a lot – there was always someone next to me translating everything into English and I had individual tutorials with the lecturers too. When I finished studying I thought it would be easier to find work in Copenhagen, since it’s a bigger city than Aalborg. By then I had learnt some Danish but it was not very fluent and interviewers often made an issue of it. I felt I just needed some time and I knew I would improve quickly if I could use the language at work. Another problem was having a home address in Aalborg. Some employers wouldn’t even look at my CV because of it. I finally got a breakthrough when a woman at a hospital called me. They wouldn’t offer me a permanent contract because they thought I might not stay in the country, but I did get some short-term work to cover people on holiday. The woman who hired me had worked

[ 75 ]

abroad when she was younger so she understood 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 experience in Denmark on my CV.

Validating my qualifications
I had to go through the process of validating my physiotherapy 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, and going through seven years of notes and papers took three months. I had a huge file by the end of it! When you are a health worker you need an official paper from the ministry to be able to practise. You also need official translations of the documents and these are expensive. It helped that I had already been through the process in Denmark when I validated my physiotherapy 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 spend a year in France studying a lot of subjects I had already covered for my level to be recognised.

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 understood a word! When I first arrived in France I did 90 hours of intensive French but only learnt the basics. I remember the first day of my new job. I stood in the waiting room calling the names of my patients. Nobody responded and I went away thinking none of them were there. It turned out they just hadn’t understood my accent! We pronounce every letter in Spanish, which you don’t do in French. But they just laughed about it. People there were very friendly. I think in general it’s easy to be Spanish in France. They like us and associate us with holidays. People used to say that I brought them the sun! My husband was strict with me. Once I visited him at the weekend, looking forward to being able to speak freely in English at last, but 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 France to be closer to my husband. We knew it would be easier for me to find a job in France than for him in Spain. I decided I wanted to be alone at first though. I got a job as a physiotherapist in a village in Normandy. There is a huge lack of physiotherapists in France and I could have found something closer to Paris, but I felt this would help me integrate.

Sometimes you have to approach people
I think I have come across two kinds of people in France. A lot of my husband’s friends have travelled and lived abroad so they know what it is like. They have always given me a lot of encouragement and praised my progress in French for example. Others 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 helpful. I think in Spain we always try to make foreigners feel comfortable. In France, sometimes you have to approach people, they won’t come to you. 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. Once, when we had run out of salt, I suggested that we ask the neighbours for some but my husband said that people don’t do that here. In Spain you would open the door even in pyjamas. Here it’s very formal – you have to be invited. Making a phone call is different too. You can call people at 11pm in Spain but in France you can’t call anyone after nine. France is an old country and an old democracy. They are traditional, feel secure and don’t want to change. Spain is the opposite, it has only been a democracy for 30 years. I think I tend to see the bad things about France when I’m here and feeling a bit homesick, but when I’m in Spain there are things I really miss about France. In France, nobody cares about who your parents are or how much

money you have. I also think the job market is more open to foreigners in France than in Spain. In Spain you often need contacts to find a job and salaries are low. Many of my friends back home are 30 and still living with their parents.

A new start in Italy
My husband has been offered the opportunity to work in Rome for three years, so we will go there in December. Neither of us speak Italian but we don’t see that as a problem. I may have to change job and start all over again and I know the first six months will be difficult. But we’ve done it before and we know how it works now. One thing I have learnt is that smaller companies are more wary about hiring foreigners even if your profile is perfect. The bigger companies are the ones that tend to hire more people from abroad. Once I get a job in Italy I know I will have a great time there. I remember how exciting my first year in France was. I hope in the future that administrative systems will make it easier for people to 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 different to going on holiday. You integrate, 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 ]

Magnus Stockholm

“Staying away is not a usual story for an Icelander.”
agnus Name: M n sso Saemund land kjavik, Ice From: Rey , Stockholm Works in: Sweden r of a ct manage Job: Proje ork school netw Age: 56

I was born in Iceland and grew up there. When I finished high school I worked as an art teacher for two years in a small town on the western coast of Iceland.

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 having 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 college 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 have had free movement of labour since 1954 in the Nordic countries. Moving to Stockholm was as easy as moving within Iceland. There was no need for a work permit. So the situation then was a step further than where the EU is right now. It’s very easy for someone from one Nordic country to settle in another. The cultures are very similar. The social system is more or less the same and schools and what you learn there are similar. Coming to Sweden from Iceland you are not really considered a foreigner. I’m not seen as an immigrant in Stockholm, people never think of me as a non-Swede. I speak Swedish with an accent but people have great difficulties working out where I come from. They think I’m from another part of Sweden. When people know I come from Iceland they find it quite exotic and positive. Our kids learned quickly that if they told people they were from Iceland they would get an enthusiastic response.

[ 79 ]

A special way of looking at life
Iceland is a very modern country with a very developed education system. But it is a very small country – only 300,000 people all in all. So a lot of students need to go abroad for higher education – postgraduate and even graduate studies too. Many go to Scandinavia, some to the UK or the US. Most of them move back though. When my wife and I went to Stockholm in 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 back to Iceland. So staying away is not a usual story for an Icelander.

Iceland has changed a lot. Even the language has changed. I notice it especially when I hear young people talk. Society has changed a lot too in 30 years and, of course, I notice it more than someone who lives there all the time. 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 a town in the country before. Everything is happening in Reykjavik, there’s nothing outside in terms of culture. It’s an affluent society. Iceland has one of the richest average incomes in the world. Unemployment is 0.2 % or something like that. Really amazing. There are more foreigners in Iceland now.

I miss my family. People have very strong family ties in Iceland. I think that’s common in island cultures. A strong sense of family and 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 special way of looking at life. In bigger countries it’s different.

I think they find the long, dark winters and our rather archaic language quite difficult, but they integrate well because they find jobs.

Working for Nordic cooperation
I’m the project manager of the Nordic Schoolnet. Looking at the bigger picture, it’s based on a cooperation that dates back to just after the Second World War. It is not political but cultural. Scandinavian languages are mutually understandable, which makes it easier. Since 1954 a lot of money has been invested in different cooperation efforts. In the 1980s people started to get interested in ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) in education. That was the beginning of the Nordic Schoolnet. The important thing now is the cooperation between schools and teachers, the exchange of ideas and teachers and pupils. We have

Visiting ‘home’
When I go back it still feels like going home even if I have been 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 similar to the moon in places. We’ve been playing with the thought of getting a flat in Reykjavik, 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 are much cheaper now.

[ 80 ]

partner-finding forums, community tools and so on. There are grants too. Pupils see another side of countries because they make contact on a personal level – they get to know other people. And teachers gain experience by working with teachers in other countries. Most of them find it very exciting to work in different school environments. Even if Swedish and Danish school systems are similar, experiences and perspectives can be quite different.

get them in cities with international institutions but you notice it more in Brussels because it’s not such a big place. I really liked being there. It was a great three years but I left for family reasons. I became a grandfather! For me it was important to be close to my children and my grandchildren too, and they are in Stockholm.

A new perspective
Travelling can be a bug. My son has travelled a lot. He’s in his early thirties. He’s been to India and lived in Tanzania and other countries in Africa for four years. He can speak Swahili. When I was younger I thought about working in some other countries too. I nearly accepted a teaching job in Gaza for example. It never happened but it would have been interesting. I don’t have any plans to leave Stockholm. Even if I miss family and the nature in Iceland, I probably won’t go back to live there. In any case Sweden has great nature too and Stockholm is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. When you go to live in another country, you come with the luggage of your upbringing and your own culture. You integrate into another culture and see the good and bad of both. One of my friends grew up in Congo Brazzaville. He is a writer and says that many writers gain from having more than one perspective. I think that living abroad does give you a different perspective on life. And I enjoy that!

Three years in Brussels
I came to Brussels to work with school networks at a European level. It was very different to coming to Sweden, and very exciting too. It was 2000 and Sweden had joined the EU about 10 years before. Brussels still seemed quite exotic. There was a feeling that it was a political centre. Brussels is a strange town, very different from Stockholm or Reykjavik. It was much harder to settle there. I never managed to learn French though I did get to a point where I could understand Flemish. If you don’t speak the local languages you are on the outside all the time. For the first and second year it wasn’t a problem. But in the third year it was. You realise you are living in a kind of bubble. A lot of expats in Brussels are there with a particular mission for a few years. Everybody is eager to get to know new people but it’s difficult to build friendships on a long-term basis. The people I knew were the people I worked with and people from the same countries. The expat circle was a strange one. You always

[ 81 ]

Miha Gössendorf

“Differences come in personality, not nationality.”
iha Fras Name: M enia ribor, Slov From: Ma rf, Gössendo Works in: Austria e for e in a hom Job: Nurs le op elderly pe Age: 25

I live in Maribor, Slovenia but work in Austria. At school, I always wanted to work in a different country. So when I left and was looking for a job, I followed my dream. I registered with 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 people, 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 actually 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 and eat their food, making sure they take their medication. It’s about taking care of them and helping them with their daily routines.

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 this profession work for the love of it and not for the money. Working with the elderly is not like working with babies even though they sometimes behave just like children. Older people have to stay in bed longer, they are often terminally ill and need a lot of care, and constant attention. We can only do our best and be there for them. There are about 55 people in the home at any one time. The building where I work is part of a larger group, operated by the same owner. The people are generally between the ages of 60 and 90, occasionally we have centenarians. 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 care. The work is hard and physical. You need to live with older people somehow, to be able to bond with them. If someone says on the street, “Oh, that’s an easy job.”, I say, “Go and try it for yourself”. It’s very hard, you have to be gentle, very patient, and often do and say the same thing a hundred times. I am used to it – it’s no problem for me.

I like helping people. I work for eight hours with half an hour’s break, beginning at 6am and finishing at 2.30pm, then I drive 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.

Cross-border commuter
I wanted to stay living in Slovenia because things are generally cheaper and the quality of life is good there. There are plenty of opportunities in Austria and most of these are just a short drive away. I know people who drive two or three hours back and forth to work, so 65 kilometres is nothing for me. My cousin and my girlfriend’s father also work in Austria. From the northern part of Slovenia, it is easy. I wouldn’t think of living in Austria. I am used to living in Maribor. It’s a small city, everything is in the centre, my family and friends

are there. I have no wish to start over, I want to build on what I have. If I go out and I want something, I think, why not? That is one of the reasons I work abroad, to have this choice. When I retire after 40 years work – provided retirement age is not extended too 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 someone 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 workplace. After work, I go home, back to my girlfriend, to my environment. 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 ]

Mike Ipswich

“I’ve really opened my eyes to the world.”
ike Rizzo Name: M da, Malta From: Msi K Ipswich, U Works in: ltant oms consu Job: Telec Age: 36

I was born in Malta, which has a total population of about 400,000 and is, I believe, the smallest country to have joined the EU. I first came to the UK in 1990 to do my postgraduate degree in computer science at the University of Kent based in Canterbury. It was a great opportunity for broadening the outlook of a boy who came from a small town in Malta. I spent six very happy years immersed in my studies and UK student life. The idea was always to go back to Malta afterwards. I had found an academic position at the University of Malta but I soon realised that I wasn’t really cut out for life as an academic. I was also a bit restless and found it difficult to get back into the way of life after living in the UK for so many years. I found Malta a bit too disconnected and missed the excitement of meeting so many people from all over the world. So I started looking for a job back in the UK.

wasn’t part of the European Union and so everything took a lot longer to sort out. In total it took about a year from the time I was offered the job to the time I got my permit and could move over here. There were a few administrative blunders along the way and I think the application sat around on various desks before it was finally processed. But these things can happen anywhere. It is just the luck of the draw. However you look at it, administration the world over is a nightmare!

Culture shock
It seems funny to say this given the historic links with Britain, but there are still some quite striking cultural differences. The Maltese, for example, are more open about everything even when it comes to discussing personal issues. Whereas the British are much more reserved and don’t give very much away. It makes it harder to get to know people, especially as a foreigner who doesn’t know the correct social codes. Obviously, as a student it was fairly easy because I just mixed with other students. So my social life was great. But when you work it is much more difficult and you really have to make an effort to go out and socialise. I don’t think it helped that when I first joined BT in Ipswich I still had a Maltese girlfriend, who was based in Kent so I spent every other weekend there. The downside is that I never really built a network of friends or had the chance to ‘settle’ because I was always thinking about leaving for the weekend. During the week it was hard as I felt there was a real vacuum that needed to be filled. I started a few evening classes and took up sailing. I also joined a European Club where I made a number of friends.

Back in the UK
I was lucky enough to find a position with British Telecom (BT). Though I had to start on the graduate programme, which was a bit frustrating in the beginning as I was much older than those who had newly graduated with first degrees. I already had a postgrad and a few years experience behind me. But it was an opportunity, and looking back I am glad now that I took it. Finding accommodation before moving over here was easy enough particularly as I still had friends here who kept a look out for me. The hardest thing was sorting out the work permit. When I came over to the UK eight years ago, Malta still

[ 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 influences 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 diving. 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 customers 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 opportunity 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 ]

Miroslav Halle

“Just try it, you have nothing to lose!”
fan iroslav Ste Name: M h gue, Czec From: Pra Republic any alle, Germ orks in: H W ist sthesiolog Job: Anae Age: 32

I’m an anaesthesiologist. I studied medicine in Prague and worked there for five years at the university hospital. Then my wife and I decided we would like to try another country, new experiences. My wife was on maternity leave so for her there were no risks. For me too, there was nothing to lose. There are a lot of vacancies for anaesthesiologists both in Germany and in the Czech Republic. I sent about 10 or 12 CVs by email to various hospitals in Germany and got five or six interviews, so I could choose where to go. For me it was simple, but I think for other professions it’s more difficult. Here we need a work permit, but for doctors it’s not a problem. We originally wanted to go to England because we wouldn’t have needed a work permit at all, but it was too far away. Our families are in Prague and it’s just three hours drive away, so we can easily go back to visit. I only studied English at school, so for me German was more difficult. To start with, I didn’t have the courage to come here as I didn’t think my German was good 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 told me I had to improve it. As an anaesthesiologist I don’t have to communicate with the patients so much, but of course I need to talk with the other doctors. The language was hard at the beginning,

but I followed an intensive course and within three months it was much better. Now I’m more fluent in German than in English!

Doing it the old way
The first obstacle I faced was bureaucracy and getting a work permit. I came here two months before the Czech Republic joined the EU and after that it was much easier – but I had to do it the old way. I had to wait two or three months for all the formalities. But I got a lot of support from the hospital’s human resources department, who wanted to get things done faster. The positive side was the friendly welcome I got here at the hospital. I have very good colleagues. Without their support, it would have been much harder. In general, I feel people are warmer here – for example, they greet us in the village in a way they don’t do in the Czech Republic. This gives a positive feeling – people smile more. Of course, they also say negative things – they’re more direct. But my personal impression is positive. On the whole, Czechs are more distant, but they become friendlier once they get to know you. Although unemployment is very high in this region, they need doctors. People who know me, know that I’m a doctor and that I’m not taking a ‘German’ job, so I haven’t experienced many negative attitudes. In any case, people from Eastern Europe are not allowed

[ 91 ]

to work in jobs where there are a lot of unemployed German candidates. We had a lot in common with the old Eastern Germany. We weren’t allowed to travel much, and nor were they. East Germans could only travel to Czechoslovakia, as it was then. This means they know Czechs very well, so I feel I have been accepted very warmly. There are also some West Germans living here and sometimes there is a certain animosity towards them from East Germans. Personally, I haven’t experienced anything bad, although some-

Now my wife is starting to look for work. She is in human resources 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 integrated. She probably has more friends than me, as I work a lot. Before we came here we didn’t know anyone. Most of our social network is through colleagues at the hospital and friends of my wife. My daughter goes to kindergarten here and my son will start in September. Living here has its advantages especially for my children. My daughter speaks very good Czech and German. Perhaps that’s

times it’s clear they don’t know much about Czechs – for example, where Prague is. They ask very carefully if we know this or that, for example: “Do you know Mickey Mouse?” – but of course we do! I think this is a fairly typical problem in big nations, like France or Britain. In general though Germans travel quite a lot and are geographically close to the Czech Republic.

Passport problems
I have a four-year old daughter and a son who was born here – he’s one year old. My wife and daughter came here a little later, once 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 Czech, but couldn’t get a Czech one either, as we needed to register the birth in the Czech Republic. To get a Czech passport we had to travel to the Czech Republic, but to get there we needed a passport from here! After lots of work, we found a solution in the end.

what I would have liked for myself. Now there are international schools in Prague, but there didn’t use to be. We children from the Eastern Bloc lacked that cosmopolitan lifestyle available today – it was an opportunity we didn’t have. I think that’s why many people now go abroad to try it. Many go back home too, as it’s not as great as they expected. After the revolution, people felt that everything was wrong at home, but it’s not true. For example, the education system in the Czech Republic is very good, like the medical education I followed. Many people think it’s better to study abroad, but that’s not necessarily true. In Prague now, people come from abroad to study there, like Canadians and Greeks.

New ideas
I think I’ve brought several new ideas with me from my medical education in Prague. In general I felt that I had to integrate, rather than change things here. But in terms of different approaches, I think I’ve been able to make some contributions. For example,

[ 92 ]

during a lung operation, one lung is operated and only one is ventilated. During this operation there can be a lack of oxygen, but 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 that we used it in Prague and now everyone is using it here. It’s too early to say if we’ll stay in the long term or not. I love Prague and miss my friends there. But we go back very often to visit as it’s close by. I also miss the architecture there and going out to the theatre, as we have no au pair or babysitter here – in Prague we had

family to support us. Sometimes we also feel a little bit culturally ‘starved’ here. On the whole it’s been a positive story for us. My goal was to learn 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 England, that it’s better there. But she doesn’t know why – it’s just because of an idea she has about the country. Most of my old colleagues and friends are happy at home in the Czech Republic. They 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 happen. 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 ]

Pirjo Brussels

“I decided to come for two years… and I’m still here!”
n jo Hir vone Name: Pir d oo, Finlan From: Esp Belgium Brussels, Works in: e mer ser vic Job: Custo manager Age: 44

I was an au pair for a year in Italy in 1985 and I thought it would be good to go abroad for a real job one day. Four years later, I started working for 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 experience living in another country again – I didn’t want to go somewhere 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 employees and offices in several European countries. The headquarters are in Espoo, Finland and there are around 60 of us in Belgium. Apart from Belgians and Finns, we have Greeks, Danish, Swedish and Germans working here. I am a customer service manager for a Finnish forestry industry customer. We monitor their production and sales servers. I am responsible for ensuring that the customer gets what was agreed and what they are paying for. I’m based in Brussels but I travel quite a lot. It’s difficult to say whether it’s a cultural or a personal thing, but I think I’m a very disciplined worker and I like to plan and work to a schedule. That can be difficult here, where nobody seems worry that much about schedules. I think the work ethic is a bit higher in Finland and sometimes I get a bit irritated when things don’t get done. Maybe because I’ve worked for the company for a long time, I am more used to the company’s working culture than the people hired here. I hope I bring something of the culture of the company here but I have learnt to be more relaxed in Belgium too. You don’t have to be so strict. I really like working in an international environment – and living in one.

Belgium was completely new
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 in Latvia, but I preferred somehow to stick to Western Europe at the time, so Belgium seemed the obvious choice. Eight years ago it sounded a bit too exotic, but I’ve visited Riga now and it is a really nice city. I don’t know what it would have been like to live there though.

[ 95 ]

My company provided temporary accommodation while I was looking for a flat and the Finns in the office advised me on the best areas to live. It was quite hard looking for flats after office hours and some of them were terrible – at least by Finnish standards – but I found a nice place and I’m still living there now.

married and have kids. We are still in contact, of course, but if I was still there they wouldn’t be so free to go out in the evenings. Brussels is an easy place to live because it’s very international. 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 the cultural events for the Finnish club here. There’s a big Finnish community in Brussels – around 3000 people I think. People say Finns are quiet and distant, but maybe those who go abroad are different from those who stay home. All the Finns I know here are very sociable.

Mission Impossible
English is the working language in my office but I studied six months of French in Finland before I came. It was Mission Impossible to learn it in Finland – I didn’t hear it, didn’t use it and couldn’t pronounce it – but I do like the language. I could speak Italian after my year in Italy and I thought I would come back with fluent French after two years in Brussels. Eight years later I’m still here and am still not fluent! My company had language courses in the office at first. At the beginning a lot of people participated, but then there was too much work and little by little people dropped out. I like languages and went to all my classes, but eventually I was the last one there and the classes stopped.

Foreigners together
It’s easier to get to know foreigners because we are all in the same boat. It’s easier to widen your group. I seem to know mostly Finns at the moment because some of my friends of other nationalities have left in the last three years. We stay in touch and it’s nice to go and visit them. In eight years I haven’t made any Belgian friends and I’m not the only one. They are friendly at work but vanish home at the end of the day. In Finland I used to go out for dinner with my colleagues at least once a month. I think Belgians are more family orientated. 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 places like Barcelona because flights are more expensive and you are further away. It’s easy to get to other places from Brussels.

There is a lot on in Brussels
I didn’t know anyone when I came here. But I immediately made a lot of friends from the company. There were people from South Africa, India and Finland too. We went out a lot and it was a lot of fun. I think I have a better quality of life here. I’m single and a lot of my friends in Brussels are too. In Finland most of my friends are

[ 96 ]

I’ve been on trips to the Champagne area of France and wine areas in Germany. My friends at home are envious that I can do things like that.

No reason to go back
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. My parents would prefer to see me in Finland, but my friends are happy because they like to visit me here. After eight years it would be a big step to return. I never say never, 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. I don’t know if I would move to another country now. It takes years to build your life and it would be like starting over again, at least 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 don’t miss the Finnish winter
I’m happy here. I like the way buses and trams are packed with different people and different colours, sometimes with someone playing the accordion. In Finland people sit as far from each other as they can and look out of the window! Traffic is my favourite subject! Even if the traffic lights are working you see policemen controlling the traffic here because otherwise it would be chaos. People like to drive everywhere with their own cars. I have to drive to work but I always go to the centre by tram or bus. 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 somehow. 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 person, 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 afternoon. It would be difficult to go back to that.

[ 97 ]

Rainer Warsaw

“I only came for six months, but I met a girl…”
aak iner von D Name: Ra ny rt, Germa m: Frankfu Fro land arsaw, Po orks in: W W nager l sales ma b: Interna Jo Age: 40

One morning as I was driving to work past Frankfurt airport, I saw a plane take off at sunrise. I said to myself, I should do something. Really, it was like that. Within three months I was in Poland.

time. It was incredible. Poland was not in the EU then. All the documents were in Polish and I couldn’t understand anything. My girlfriend was from near Poznan so I decided to move there afterwards. I found another job in the electronics field but after 14 months my old company offered me a job in Warsaw. It appealed to me because I thought Warsaw would be the closest thing to Frankfurt in Poland. 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 much. But coming to Poland was something I had thought about.

Poland isn’t my first experience working abroad. I was a cook on 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 had a Polish wife before I moved here. But we had hardly seen 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 international 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 weekend 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
When you go to a country you have to speak the language. Two months after I arrived in Poland, I got sick and couldn’t explain what was wrong. None of the doctors could speak German or English. So even if I thought I was only staying six months at that time, I decided I had to learn the language! My Polish is quite good now. At least, I have no problems speaking it but writing is difficult. I’m a bit too lazy to improve my grammar. Polish is a difficult language, even harder than German! I use all my languages at work – Polish, German and English. I’m an account manager for three big customers abroad and speaking languages makes my job a bit easier.

Europe! A lot of people want to work for the parent company in the US and I know people who have gone to Australia or Singapore. I think people are afraid to come to Eastern Europe because the salaries are lower. But I can recommend working in Poland. It’s a good experience. There are jobs here and a lot more people can speak English these days. The working culture is different though. People are not so punctual and projects tend to start at the last minute. I think Germans like to be ready in advance. You can be a German-style manager and push everyone hard or you can be a friend. People don’t take things from your experience. They have their own way of doing 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 really hard for a manager. Polish people are really smart and Polish universities are really good. You see this in the field of electronics. International companies come here to hire Polish developers. Poles are very inventive. They haven’t always had access to parts so they improvise and look at things differently.

Work permits
There are still a lot of countries in the old EU that stop Poles and others working freely there. While this exists I have to fill in forms too. But it’s a revenge measure – how many people want to work in Poland compared to those who want to work in Germany? A lot of Poles are working in Germany anyway. Some have service contracts and are hired in Poland so they pay into the Polish social system. But I work here and pay into the social system here. We should lift the barriers and have a really free market.

Immigration, emigration
It’s amazing how many Poles are leaving the country. I think they leave 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. I heard that there are only 33,000 foreigners in Warsaw. I had expat friends in Poznan but all left because they felt too isolat-

Working in Poland
All my colleagues here are Polish. In my company, I’m the only foreigner in Poland, and also the only one in the whole of Eastern

[ 100 ]

ed. Poles don’t know what it means to have foreigners – and conflicts about integration – in their country. Foreigners go to other countries but it will change. Prices are going up and salaries will rise too.

My parents were reluctant to visit too. In the end I had to buy their tickets and just tell them to come! They really enjoyed the last trip. Now they say it’s an amazing country and they are coming again soon.

Friends and social life
When you come as a tourist, Poles are the nicest people ever and as a guest they will drink with you. Later it’s hard to make further steps. It took so long for me to meet people who I could really consider as friends. Social life is different here. I live in a nice area with a lot of balconies. But I am the only one who enjoys it and has breakfast out there. Polish people close their doors and live in a private way. I play football. I play on Sundays in summer and twice a week indoors in winter. It’s a great way to meet people. Sometimes I just go where people are playing and ask to join in. It’s my favourite sport, even if I have suffered some bad injuries and I’m getting slower! I’m a big fan of music. Polish people are amazed when I tell them what I know about music from their country. I even know some of the musicians personally. I contact them and they’re often open to meeting me, maybe because I’m a foreigner.

Going back to Germany
When I lived in Breslau, just two hours drive from the border, I went home and came back with a full car every time. I missed certain things, like German sausages and some cheeses. It doesn’t make any sense for me to shop in Germany any more. You can get most things here and prices are the same. When I visit my parents, they organise a big party together with my two sisters and I feel like I’m home again. I still call Germany home.

Thinking of the future
I won’t stay in Poland. The company is big and always looking for people in Asia or America. My dream is Japan but I don’t think I have the patience to learn the language at my age. It’s different in the offices in India or Thailand where I would just need English. I could work in the Netherlands too where I have had some offers. 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 hairdresser! I was born in Germany and love Germany. But I was there for 35 years and for me it’s enough. Maybe I will feel different when I’m older but as long as I still have the chance, I want to continue discovering other countries.

Friends and family at home
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 it’s not as attractive for them. I offer to show them the country because I know it well. But even my best friend hasn’t come here once.

[ 101 ]

Robert Warsaw

“There was no real plan, each step made sense at the time.”
bert Foley Name: Ro fax, UK From: Hali land arsaw, Po orks in: W W sh teacher Job: Engli Age: 43

Living and working abroad is not something I planned to do. One thing just led to another. I had a degree in American history and politics and had spent my junior year in St. Louis. After I graduated, I went back to the States to do a doctorate in Argentine politics. I planned to be an academic at the time but not any more. I needed to learn Spanish, so I did a teaching qualification. I taught in Venezuela for seven months, then in Spain for a year. I was in Krakow, Poland for a year then back in Spain for two years. After that I was in Argentina for two and a half years. Now here I am in Warsaw, where I have been for the last four years. There was no real plan to it, each step made sense at the time. I came to Poland because I used to be married to a Polish woman. I met her in a Spanish lesson in Madrid. We were in Spain and Argentina together. We spent the year in Krakow because she had to finish her degree and we came back to Poland four years ago because that is what she wanted. She’s a diplomat in Spain now, we are still in touch. I already knew Poland quite well when I came to Warsaw because I had lived in Krakow for a year but I came back because of my

wife really. It wouldn’t have been my choice. I like Latin culture – Spain and Argentina. I travelled a lot in South America. I have friends here who speak Spanish and we meet up sometimes. My girlfriend is Polish but she speaks Spanish. And there are events here – there’s a Latin American film festival and a Brazilian cultural festival as well.

Arriving in a new city
Coming to Poland was fairly easy. I had the job before I came. I had set it up from Buenos Aires. A flat was arranged for me too and because my wife was Polish, she sorted everything else out. Coming here and not speaking any Polish would be very difficult though.

Speaking the language
My Polish is atrocious! It’s a difficult language. I had about a year’s worth of Polish lessons and I know enough to go to a shop and get what I need. I tend to speak English, all my friends speak English. At work all the office staff speak English and the majority of people I meet want to practise their English, especially young people. Basically their English is much better than my Polish and you can’t impose upon people. Maybe some time I’ll spend a whole summer learning Polish intensively and try and get to a point where I can have a conversation and not be embarrassed.

[ 103 ]

Meeting people
Poles tell you they are very hospitable but I don’t think they are unless you are a member of the family. My ex-wife’s family were very friendly 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 but if you don’t speak the language, it’s tough for them too. When you go to a foreign city, you are looking to make friends. 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 teachers 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 circles and are more open at that age.

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 Poland is in Warsaw. In Argentina I could go to the theatre.

My students are ambitious
At school where I teach, the main languages are English and German. I think 70% of classes are English, 20% German. Spanish is quite popular too.

Out and about in Warsaw
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 summer, 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. There are a lot of exhibitions and things going on in Warsaw. At the moment they have a free open-air cinema every day in a part

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 reasonably well off. I think Poles are very good at languages. They learn very quickly.

[ 104 ]

They work very hard too. I have a lot of students who work full time, 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 a job with a multinational company, you have to speak English. Not just American or British firms, also Dutch or Swedish or others. To get a good job here you need English. For some of the students, learning English is a means to live and work abroad. Some of them say they want to do that. I have an

I don’t really have a home in the UK
Last year I went back to the UK quite a lot. I went four times because you can get cheap flights now. It’s interesting to go back. It has changed a lot since I was at university. When I left university 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 sad really. 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 sisters 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 teaching 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 assessing 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 practical, I would go to the Middle East and make some money. But I will see, I don’t know. I don’t know where I will be in ten years time, but I won’t be in England!

ex-student, who now teaches nurses and doctors who want to go abroad. A lot of doctors have left Poland because their qualifications are valid now. Before it was more difficult. Poland has a lot of well-trained doctors and nurses, but a newly-qualified doctor makes very little.

[ 105 ]

Rob Kalmar

“I think she forced the manager to hire me!”
b Floris Name: Ro sch, ertogenbo From: ‘s-H nds rla The Nethe eden almar, Sw orks in: K W adviser Job: Eures Age: 34

I come from a fairly big city in Holland, ‘s-Hertogenbosch with 250,000 inhabitants. I studied in 1997 for one year in Sweden on a Leonardo da Vinci exchange programme and I thought, “What a country!”

ager is also a woman but wanted to introduce a greater mix of people into the organisation. She wanted young people, foreigners, and especially men. So I fitted the profile!

Cutting ties
I took the job without hesitation. I had a telephone interview with the manager. I was the only foreigner. Her philosophy was this, if a Eures adviser is going to advise people who live abroad, then the best example is someone from abroad themselves. She offered me the job on 1 August and asked if I could start on 15 September, six 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 situation to my boss and the fact that I had to leave within six weeks. He understood that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and that I should take it. It was really scary because I didn’t speak the language; I had never been to Kalmar; I hadn’t seen my manager; nor my assistant. But I just counted the days before I had to leave. I had to hire a truck, pack my things, give notice on my apartment and so on. You forget at least 50% of the things you need to do when you emigrate for the first time. I was not an exchange student

After my studies, I went back to Holland and worked for the public employment service, five kilometres from Germany on a cross-border basis. I thought it was interesting to work in an international environment and decided to pursue this. However, it was not really easy to find a job in this field as I had only recently graduated.

Networking
I had already built up a network in Sweden with job centres and, in the summer of 2000, I drove to visit friends in Sweden and I also had contact via email with a Eures adviser in Kalmar. She was very encouraging and said: “Just stop by, we can talk about the possibility of you working in an international environment.” We had long discussions and she gave me some advice but when I got back home, she called me and said, “Listen, I am leaving, are you interested in my job?” I said, “You’re kidding, right?”, She said, “No, just apply”. So, I did. There were 119 applicants – I think she forced the manager to hire me anyway. In the south east, where I work, the average age is 60 plus and at work, from among 62 colleagues, the average age is 52. It doesn’t bother me but I was the youngest. On top of this, I was a foreigner, I didn’t speak Swedish and, to them, I was just a boy. Around 70% of my colleagues are women. My man-

[ 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 I was allowed to speak English but my manager told me after this, I had to continue in Swedish. I promised to do the language course immediately, for two hours a week, with a lot of homework because, of course, I was working 40 hours per week as well. Swedish is not Chinese or Arabic, it has similarities with German or English. It is not so much the language skills but to be brave enough to speak it! On the 2 January the telephone rang and I had to really push 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 population, they thought it was rather charming that a Dutch person came to their country and learnt the language.

coming home again after one year. I was actually emigrating this time. I had a six-month contract. I thought, “this is the experience of my life”.

Helping people to move around
I am a Eures adviser. I manage 11 offices, which I visit twice a year. Sweden is divided into several regions and I am responsible for the south east. I advise people who want to move in and out of Sweden. This means helping them with their social insurance numbers; tax file numbers; how to apply for a place on a language course; all those practical things. The other part is building up networks with other European countries. At the moment the kind of vacancies we are looking at are plumbers and bricklayers but also more highly skilled people for Ericsson, Ikea, Husqvarna. But we also have a shortage in several other areas, for example, seasonal workers, particulary fruit pickers, and we recruit them from the Baltic States and Poland. Seasonal workers from Eastern Europe are prepared to put in a longer day and earn money. They don’t complain, it helps them

[ 108 ]

Swedish characteristics
People are very closed in Sweden. Even after five years, most of my friends are international. There are some German, French or Spanish/Swedish couples but getting to know Swedish families is 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. Bureaucracy is a Swedish word. I’m sure everyone thinks that about each country but the Swedes have forms for everything. For example, if you come to a country as an employee you need a contract and you can only get this if you have a personal number but you can only get this number if you have a contract! In Sweden, you need at least a one-year contract, but everyone like me who had a six-month contract is paying taxes in Sweden, but is not insured for health care. That is what you have to do in your home country but because you don’t live there any more, you are not allowed to do this. I had to take a global travel insurance to 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!

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 to adapt. Dutch people can be very black and white and call a spade, a spade. When Swedish people say, “maybe”, that actually means, no.

Don’t forget to research the culture
When you move abroad, people often focus on the language and, of course, that is number one priority. But never forget the cultural differences, especially if you move to work in an organisation. I would say, try and find out information about the country’s culture otherwise you will not manage. In Sweden, if you book your presentation for 1pm, people will arrive around 1.15pm. If you do not understand this, you may have to make your next appointment for 2pm but your first appointment will probably run over. In Holland, 1pm is 1pm. My final tip is, of course, to speak to a Eures adviser before leaving. Well, that’s my job, isn’t it!

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 ]

Serhat Brussels

“Take the challenge, move on. Life is not that long.”
rhat Akin Name: Se ey nbul, Turk From: Ista Belgium Brussels, Works in: aller Job: Footb Age: 25

My parents are Turkish but have lived most of their lives in Germany, where I grew up; I feel 60% German and 40% Turkish. We used to go on family holidays to Turkey when I was a child and I always dreamt of playing for Fenerbahçe, the biggest football club in Turkey. It was my father who encouraged me to play football and follow my dream. He saw me kicking a ball at the age of four and enrolled me in the local football club. At the age of 18, I fulfilled my dream, playing for Fenerbahçe in Turkey for five years. I was transferred to RSC Anderlecht in Belgium in 2005.

to pay for their tickets so they want to see more action than here in Belgium, for example. They shout more and they are more fanatical, which makes it more stressful for the players. As a young person, this was not always easy to handle. I was expecting to go there, to sit on the bench, and slowly step by step make my debut as a professional footballer. But a player was injured and I was playing well, so I was put on the field at 18 years old. It was just as if they had put me in a cage with a lion or a bull… all those strong, experienced players and me so young and new to professional football. After five years, I was coming to the end of the contract and wanted 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 wanted to go to RSC Anderlecht, which is the biggest club in Belgium, and has been champion 28 times. The stadium is great and the supporters are a good crowd. When I first came here, I only intended to stay, maybe, a year but I suffered a bad abdominal injury in May this year and have been out of action for a while, so will stay on for another year or so. I always saw the move as a step before moving on to another big European club. I would like to go to Germany or Spain, but I think in Spain the football and the people are closer to my country and my mentality. Barcelona is, of course, a great club but I also think of Madrid, the supporters just make it a dream club so maybe one day….

It was like being in a cage with a lion or a bull….
I seized my opportunity to play for Fenerbahçe and performed well during the time I was there. We became Turkish champions for three seasons, twice consecutively – they had never achieved that before. They hadn’t won for six years even though they had a lot of money and plenty of opportunities to buy good players. When you play for the biggest club in Turkey, which has 30 million supporters worldwide, you are always recognised. People work very hard

[ 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 hairdresser 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 dinner with my sister and then opened the newspaper the next day only to see that she was pictured as my new ‘girlfriend’. It used to be even worse if we lost a game. The supporters took football so seriously and if we lost a match they expected us to stay at home and grieve. If they saw us out they would come up and say things like: “You lost the match, so what are you doing here celebrating?” But here I feel I can lead more of a normal life.

Support is crucial
I have travelled all over the world, sometimes for two weeks, sometimes 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 helped that the club was 100% behind me and supported me in sorting out everything. I lived in a hotel for the first two months but when I needed to help finding accommodation or filling out paperwork, they were always there. I was really happy with the level of support that I received from the club. When you are supported in such a way it makes you feel good, and when you feel good you perform. Football is not easy. To become a champion, you have to play more than 34 games, with the cup matches it may be even more in the region of 40 games. Of course, you need a good team of 30 players but it doesn’t stop there. You need good support services as well. The person who washes my football kit, Monique who does the cleaning, the guy who takes photographs of us at every match, the physiotherapist, the coach and the management are just as important – we are all in this together. The electricity of these people 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 spectacular. 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 more year….”. I was confused so I listened to them and I didn’t go. With hindsight, this was a mistake and the next time I received an offer, I took it. I regretted not going to Spain but I don’t live in the past. I learn from it for the next time. My advice is, learn and look to the future. Even if you make a mistake, say, “I’m taking the opportunity while I have it, even if it is the wrong decision I will live with it and move forward.” If you think like this, you can only gain from the experience.

Home is where I am
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 Germany where my parents still live, so they visit sometimes. I can invite my friends over for a weekend as well. Culturally Belgium is very different from Turkey but quite similar to Germany, so it wasn’t hard for me to get used to things. I think it would be much more difficult for a Turkish-born player who grew up there, to transfer here. I think the people are really welcoming here, for instance my neighbours 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 ]

Sophie London

phie Sea Name: So s, France From: Pari K London, U Works in: manager Job: Band Age: 46

“I had no preconceptions of what life would be like or how it would work out.” shell
I went to the French Embassy to get my identity card and papers sorted out. I find the English systems a lot easier than the French. I don’t miss the French bureaucracy! I did have to register with the French consulate when I got married though. I had no preconceptions of what life would be like or how it would work out. I think if I were moving here now, it would be more difficult.

I was born in Paris. My father is Togolese and my mother is French. I was brought up in Paris and Normandy in northern France, but in the early 1960s we lived in the Congo in Africa. I lived in Montreal too for a while, so I could already speak reasonable English when I came to London in1980.

Everything is easy when you have youth on your side
When I came to London, I had a bohemian lifestyle and was really into the London subculture. I played bass in a band, which is how I met Martyn – the singer and composer of the Tiger Lillies and my husband. We then moved to Soho, an alternative neighbourhood in central London. I didn’t make much money and was unemployed for a while so I got a job as a waitress to make a living. I still play guitar and write songs and for a while I ran a monthly Cabaret club for a few years. Accommodation in London was, and still is, difficult to find and incredibly expensive. Socially I didn’t have any problems. It’s easy to make friends but I think everything is easier when you have youth on your side. I have a few French friends here but I really wanted to make the effort to speak English and have different friends. The administrative side of things went fairly smoothly.

Starting with the Tiger Lillies seems like light years away
Playing bass guitar with Martyn, meant that I had an idea of how the music business worked from a musician’s point of view. When the band started about 15 years ago they were doing everything themselves and as they got more successful they needed someone to take over. As I was married to Martyn and knew their music better than anyone else it seemed logical that I worked with them. That all feels like light years away now. As a band, and as a freelancer, we just grew together. It was a natural progression from the early days to where I am today, managing the band. I do a lot of multi-tasking from taking care of the bookings, to organising the schedules, administration, finances, doing contacts with the record companies and publishing the catalogue. We’ve been releasing our own music for over 15 years but also have some albums with major record labels such as Warner and EMI. The world

[ 115 ]

of music has changed a lot and we have changed with it. Record and tapes went out and CDs arrived. These days everyone has MP3 players and so we make some of our tracks available for download on I Tunes and Amazon as well as our website. I move with the band whenever 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 comedy 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 show. 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.

club scene is very vibrant here. The young ‘alternative’ person has a much easier time in England’s capital. There is a different attitude. I still try to keep up with the French culture, the films and so on. I like watching other European productions and American films too. I used to miss the food in France but it’s much better now. I remember when I first went to supermarkets here. I was appalled by what I saw. There were three types of Cheddar cheese! In France, fresh food is much more important – there are markets every day, and shopping on a daily basis is a way of life.

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 minutes.

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 Budapest

en Størm Name: Sv Thaulow y o, Norwa From: Osl st, Budape Works in: Hungar y rkets ucts & Ma Job: Prod Director Age: 33

“You need to be humble when you don’t know the country or how the people work.” er

I’ve been in Budapest for exactly a year now. It’s my first experience of working overseas. I have lived abroad before, but it was quite a long time ago. I spent two years in 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 interest me.

another. Of course, we do have free movement of workers in Europe now, but it can still be a lot of work as far I can see.

First weeks in Budapest
I was looked after very professionally when I came. My company helped with everything. I think it’s not hard for an employee to move to another European country when working for a big company. An accountant takes care of the rather complex tax issues and there is someone to help with other administration like extending my work permit. We did have to find a place to live ourselves but we got information for that too and it was easy. I can see how it is for others though. Moving to work from one European country to another isn’t like moving from one US state to

The working culture is completely different
I’m a line manager, running the marketing operation. It’s an important position in a mobile phone company. It’s the company’s philosophy to hire mostly local talent, so nearly all my colleagues are Hungarian. Telenor is a Norwegian company but I am one of just three Norwegians among around 1,300 employees. I connected well with a lot of people straight way. I was open from 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 country or how people work. All nations and their people are proud. If you think you know better than others you will surely fail.

[ 119 ]

The working culture is totally different here. Scandinavia is extremely 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 more formal here and more based on documentation and processes. Decisions are reached quite quickly, but are sometimes discussed afterwards. Hungarian work culture is more hierarchical than in Scandinavian countries, where the structure tends to be flat. I was the first director to give up my office and work in an open-plan office with my colleagues. One of the first messages to my people was to come to my desk and tell me when they disagree with me. And they do!

I speak ‘Hunglish’!
One of my fellow directors told me not to bother learning Hungarian. He joked that you learn it from your mother or not at all! It’s not really impossible of course, but it is a difficult language. I don’t speak Hungarian but I do speak ‘Hunglish’! I used to speak English with an American accent, but when I came here I found myself speaking with a Scandinavian accent again. The next step is that I now speak Hunglish – I sometimes cut out prepositions and speak English in the same direct way as Hungarians. It’s incredible! There are some issues with speaking English at work because it is a second language for all of us. I have learnt that I have to express things in several ways to cover all angles and be sure I am clear. Since I don’t speak Hungarian, I am very much dependent on the people working for me.

Marketing to a Hungarian audience
As director for products and markets, I decide what products we launch, how we sell them, to which segments and at what time. It’s a complex business but I like the academic challenge. We use a lot of local research and I can see that Hungarians and Norwegians are very different in what they want. Most mobile phone companies use the same advertising across different countries, but my company always goes for a local look. It is important for us that if we use a street location, it can be recognised as being in Hungary and not the UK or somewhere else. I look at the visual aspects and so on, but of course I can’t evaluate the use of Hungarian language. Compared to Norway, the cost of calls and other mobile services is almost half in Hungary. The average salary is lower though, so effectively it works out about the same. Hungarians are very good at analysing our offers. When we test a new tariff on young people, they think like a calculator.

My family is happy here
I have a wife and a young daughter. In Norway generally both partners in a couple work, so it’s something companies like mine have to take into consideration when they offer someone a position abroad. My wife was able to take leave from her job, but at some point we will have a decision to make. She’s got her network of friends here now and she’s happy. She’s going to start studying at the Central European University here in Budapest. My daughter is two years old. She goes to an English-speaking kindergarden. It’s a good time to go abroad for her. She’s at an age where she doesn’t have to worry about adapting to new surroundings or leaving friends behind.

[ 120 ]

Friends, free time and travel
I have friends from different European countries – Germany, Switzerland and Italy for example. We were invited to a closed Internet community for expats and met some people there. People communicate, suggest places to eat and organise meetings. 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.

Working abroad is something that I will always remember. It’s something special for people from Scandinavia. We don’t drive across borders all the time like people in continental Europe. It has been great for me to go and live in another country. And I don’t think it will be the last time.

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 ]

Viktor Barcelona

" Visiting a country is one thing, living in it is very different."
uk tor Kravch Name: Vik a, Latvia From: Rig , Barcelona Works in: Spain r rt Manage Job: Expo Age: 24

I’ve been in Barcelona since the 24 August 2005. I never thought I would move to another country to work because Latvia is my home and I love the place and I still miss it a lot. After studying three years at Riga Technical University, I won a scholarship to study in Germany at the Lübeck University of Applied Sciences. It was there that met a very beautiful girl, Laura, who was participating in the Erasmus programme and we started to meet regularly. That was in 2004. I visited her twice in Spain and she came to Latvia several times and we started to think about living together. For her it was not easy to live in Latvia and I liked Spain but that was not my priority – I wanted to be with Laura! In 2005, I came to Spain for six months to work as a volunteer for the Red Cross. I was based in Vilanova, which is about 45 kilometres south of Barcelona. I was here for six months and then I returned to Latvia. It was a particularly important time for me because I got to know Spain better, to learn the language and to see the real situation of the country. Visiting a country is one thing, living in it is very different. When you live and work in a country you see it from the inside.

Finding a job
Although Latvia is part of the European Union it was impossible to work in Spain – I didn’t have the right to work here. Latvians, as new members, could go to the UK, Ireland and Sweden. But Spanish laws are very difficult for foreigners. So Laura and I had to take another very important decision. We got married in September 2005. I then spent two months in Riga and started looking for work in Spain. Infojobs is a very good Internet site for finding work – actually my wife works there! At that point, I would have accepted anything from working in a bar to stacking shelves in a supermarket just to be back in Spain with Laura. But I continued sending my CV to various companies and I received a call for a job interview from a company who needed someone to be responsible for sales in Central and Eastern Europe. I was in Latvia at the time so I asked for an interview for the following month. I could hardly speak Spanish but I still went to the interview and after three interviews and three months of waiting I was chosen for the job from among 139 candidates. I was very lucky to get this job. The company produces plastic cards, chips and magnetic strips for tickets and I am responsible for

[ 123 ]

the sales of this product. So every three weeks I travel to Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Austria and so on. I guess you could call me an export manager. I started at the end of November.

Cultural differences
Spain is very different to Latvia where I grew up but I also spent a lot of time in Germany with my grandmother. She had lived in the former USSR in many different places but, like many people, moved to Germany after the fall of communism in 1991. Every summer since 1993, I visited her and this background of Germany and Latvia makes Spain a very different place for me. It was a huge cultural shock for me coming here. There 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 founded Riga 850 years ago and were very influential in the development of the Baltic States until communism took hold. When Germany lost against Italy in the World Cup, I was very upset! The most difficult thing was getting to know people. Maybe I am too closed with them as that is my nature and then, of course, there is the language barrier. My colleagues tell a lot of jokes, which is difficult for me as you have to be fluent in the language to understand them. I had problems with language in my company at first, as my Spanish is not perfect.

I also found it difficult to get used to the number of people living here and cars on the roads. In Barcelona, there are something like two million people. In Latvia for example there are only 2.5 million in the whole country. The main reasons I came here are because it is easier to find work than in other cities in Spain and my wife also lived near Barcelona, so it seemed the logical choice. Barcelona is a very nice town but it’s too busy for me and is also very expensive 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 because the rent is generally the same as the mortgage payments. In any case, we preferred the coast, so we bought a place there. It was difficult getting used to the working day especially the Spanish timetable. For example, I work until 7pm or later but I have two hours for lunch. I work from 9am to 2pm and from 4pm to 7pm but I am not used to having two hours for lunch. Ten minutes is fine for me. It seems that lunchtime is the most important part in their day as this is when the Spanish meet and talk… and they talk a lot! I get home at 8pm, we have dinner and then go to sleep and that I can’t understand. I’d rather have less time for lunch and more time at home. The pace of life is a lot slower and you need to be patient particularly when it comes to getting passports or papers. There is a saying in Spanish: ‘Las cosas de palacio van despacio’, which means ‘things from the palace come very slowly’.

Things I miss
I miss my family and friends but thanks to the Internet I talk to them quite often and I try to visit them once every three months – with the help of cheap flights. I also miss woods and forests. Spain is very hot and dry and there are 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 cultures. They are very open but like many people, 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 important to try to integrate and use the language as much as possible. I would advise people moving 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 integrated. 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 cultures 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 ]

Zoltán London

“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 Works in: r in a café Job: Ser ve Age: 23

I come from a small village in the south east of Hungary. The nearest town is Szeged, which has about 170,000 people. I studied economics and after my degree I decided to travel and experience the world a bit. The general image we Hungarians have of the West, and especially the UK, is that if you are prepared to work hard you can achieve a lot. The UK opened the labour market to us Hungarians and I thought I would give it a try and find a job over here. Actually, it is relatively easy to find work if you are open to anything. I received a lot of help from Action for Employment, which is an EU-funded programme.

Avoiding double-decker buses
I found a flat with a few friends near Wembley and these days I travel by tube. I tend to avoid the double-decker buses. Once, I don’t know why it happened, I fainted on a bus, perhaps because transport here is so crowded and it was a particularly hot day. Everyone was really good. I was taken to the nearest hospital and, I have to say, was treated really well. Some people moan about the health system here but I had no problem whatsoever. The only difficulty in London is getting to see a doctor. You have to book an appointment a week and half in 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 speak in my own language and, of course, it’s a lot cheaper for me.

Finding that first job
When I first arrived I sent my CV out to over a hundred companies. 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 setting 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 suburbs. 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
When you live abroad you start to view things differently. I’ve changed as an individual and my English has improved enormously. I am much more confident in speaking these days. I tend to worry less about the grammar and more about getting my point across, but then you have to speak otherwise you wouldn’t get anywhere. Of course there are both advantages and disadvantages of living in any country. I faced a few problems when I first got here especially when trying to find somewhere to live. There is a lot of red tape to cut through. When I first arrived I didn’t have any money for a flat for instance and it took time for me to save up enough to get a decent place. London prices are astronomical! Registering to 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 anywhere outside the country. But the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

Homesick for Hungary?
This isn’t my first time abroad. I did a fair bit of travelling with my family when I was younger particularly to places like the former Yugoslavia, Romania, which are very close to Szeged. But we also travelled further afield to places like Venice as well. But it is the first time I have ever lived abroad for any length of time. I do get a bit homesick from time to time and of course, I miss my family. I also miss Hungarian food sometimes. British cuisine just isn’t the same. Fish and chips are all right in moderation but it doesn’t live up to my mum’s homemade cooking. I also find the rainy weather here difficult to get used to. It’s the middle of summer and outside it is pouring with rain. Where’s the sun?

Moving on
I’m thinking about returning to Hungary for a while so that I can 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 individual. 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 wander 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 conditions. Sometimes they deliver nothing at all. I would say, avoid this kind of help and do it yourself.

[ 129 ]

Zuzana Paris

zana Fo Name: Zu ca, ská Bystri From: Ban Slovakia nce Paris, Fra Works in: er/Dancer Job: Teach Age: 31

“I was stepping into the unknown and didn’t know what to expect.” dorova
working as an au pair in the Netherlands for three months, then I worked for a while in Belgium. I went back to Slovakia and started teaching English in a grammar school. Then I had the opportunity to go to the UK as part of an exchange scheme. At first I worked in a very posh, private school near Gravesend but it didn’t really work out. I felt like a prisoner because of all of the various restrictions and rules. So I left and moved to another school near Ipswich in Suffolk where I worked as a teaching assistant. It was a great experience because there were a lot of young people from Englishspeaking countries and so I could compare accents, the different cultures and mentalities. And of course, my English really improved. The second school had a strong focus on music and the arts, which was perfect for me. I even had the opportunity to teach some dance classes.

I come from central Slovakia, a town called Banská Bystrica. It’s a fairly large town with around 85,000 people and is surrounded by beautiful mountains. I belong to the new generation of Slovaks who move around a lot from country to country. It seems perfectly normal for us to hop across the border and discover new places and cultures. Of course, it hasn’t always been the case. Before the ‘Iron Curtain’ fell people were too scared to leave Slovakia. I don’t think it was because we were influenced by propaganda though. We were quite aware of the differences between East and West, we just couldn’t talk openly about them. I guess, for many people it was more the fear of the unknown, as well as a lack of money. I was 15, and still at secondary school when the communist government, in what was then Czechoslovakia, was overthrown in 1989. I felt so proud being part of the student demonstrations and the change that followed. I was young and didn’t really fully understand the impact, but it felt right and was a great experience. Things started to change for the better, suddenly we could speak our mind and travel became a reality.

Dancing is part of my life
Dance has always been part of my life. I am classically trained as a ballet dancer but now mainly focus on contemporary dance. I was six when I started studying dance and my teacher wanted me to be a professional. At the age of 10, I was offered a place at a ballet school but my mother wasn’t too happy about it. She worried about the future and didn’t think dance would lead to anything so she didn’t let me take the place. But I continued dancing in my free time at a cultural centre in the town where I lived. At university I taught Slovak folk dancing

Travelling about
I studied English and French at university and always wanted to spend a year or two in France and an English speaking country afterwards. I spent some time

[ 131 ]

to young children between the ages of three and seven. It was so lovely watching them enjoying dance at such a young age. Now that I’m in Paris I still try to find time to dance, sometimes taking the odd workshop or doing some classes. But teaching is a bit complicated here because you need qualifications for everything. Also there isn’t much call for Slovak folk dancing in Paris!

Everything seems to be more difficult than it should be. For example, getting my papers took a bit of time and I still have to renew them every six months. Each time I have to produce a new file with more copies of the same papers. I think it is a waste of time and a waste of paper. I also found it a bit difficult to meet French people initially but I was so busy that I didn’t have time to dwell on the negative aspects.

Paris – big city mentality
I’ve been in Paris for six years now. After Ipswich I went back to Slovakia for a couple of months. Then a French friend that I had made at the first school in the UK found me a position working as an au pair here. When I first arrived I looked after the children in the afternoons and evenings, and the mornings I had to myself. I like being kept busy, so I decided to find a teaching job for the mornings. The first few months were a bit difficult because, although I had studied French and had some knowledge of the culture and traditions, I still felt a bit out of touch. I had more in common with the English-speaking world. There’s a different mentality here. The French are a bit complicated, especially in their daily lives.

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 Avignon at the time and we used to travel back and forth between there and Paris. Contrary to my experience, she found it really easy to mix with local people. We concluded that it was just Paris. It’s the same in Slovakia – people in the larger cities are not very friendly, but outside the city, in the country, people are much more welcoming. I guess it’s the big city mentality.

Immersing myself in cultural life
I love Paris, particularly for the cultural aspects of the city. There is so much to do and see, so many museums to visit. My 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 his dancers! I also like French food and there are some really good restaurants in Paris. Of course, I love the language as well despite having found it tough trying to speak it when I first moved here. Studying a language from a textbook is not the 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 language when you have to.

Of course, I miss my family, my home town and the mountains. It helps that my sister is living here in Paris. We support each other a lot. We usually call our mum and grandmother once a week. So I don’t get too homesick. My home, my roots and all my memories are in Slovakia. English and French will always be foreign languages for me.

Greater self-confidence
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 speaking, I have gained a lot too. Last year, for example, I finished my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course. It would have been more difficult to do this in Slovakia, because I couldn’t have afforded it. I’m glad I have had the opportunities to live abroad. Before I left Slovakia to go to the UK, I was excited but worried at the same time. I was stepping into the unknown and I didn’t know what to expect. I would say to anyone thinking about moving abroad… just give it a go!

My home, my roots and all my memories are in Slovakia
Despite the fact that I like the place, I don’t see myself staying in Paris forever. But I’m not ready to leave just yet as I am quite happy here. Six years is a long time in one place and I have a lot of friends and have built a life here. Each time I go back to Slovakia, I find that I have fewer friends in my home town. So from that point of view, I think it would be hard to return.

[ 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

SALES AND SUBSCRIPTIONS
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 (http://publications.europa.eu) or you can apply for it by fax (352) 29 29-42758. Contact the sales agent of your choice and place your order.

KE-76-06-115-EN-C

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 photographs. Read it and be inspired!

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful