An expat's guide to the capital

Foreign residents in Slovakia, especially those in the capitol, will applaud Sally Williams's guide to expatriate life in Bratislava, which tackles the mechanics of "getting started" from an insider's hard-won perspective while suggesting the city's many unique qualities, along with sympathetic, commonsensical tips to newcomers beset by "expat blues." wo years after Williams, a consultant with the U.S.-funded business advisory foundation Genesis, touched down at Vienna's Schwechat airport, her book, whose idea was originally conceived by the International Women's Club, stands as a testament to the stress and legwork that any long-term foreign visitor can expect from their first year in Slovakia. Williams's text has a lively and no-nonsense tone that newcomers will appreciate, while the book provides a wealth of corner-cutting, labor-saving insights and data that will make expats already here wish they had had the book to read on their incoming flight.

Foreign residents in Slovakia, especially those in the capitol, will applaud Sally Williams's guide to expatriate life in Bratislava, which tackles the mechanics of "getting started" from an insider's hard-won perspective while suggesting the city's many unique qualities, along with sympathetic, commonsensical tips to newcomers beset by "expat blues."

Two years after Williams, a consultant with the U.S.-funded business advisory foundation Genesis, touched down at Vienna's Schwechat airport, her book, whose idea was originally conceived by the International Women's Club, stands as a testament to the stress and legwork that any long-term foreign visitor can expect from their first year in Slovakia. Williams's text has a lively and no-nonsense tone that newcomers will appreciate, while the book provides a wealth of corner-cutting, labor-saving insights and data that will make expats already here wish they had had the book to read on their incoming flight.

"Getting Started in Bratislava" surveys a diverse enough spectrum of common experience to provide sharp insights valuable to anyone without roots in Slovak culture.

As Williams said recently over an herb tea, "Getting Started" took two years to write. The structure of her book reflects her personal experiences. The first section is on customs checks, visa requirements, registering foreign and transportation. This is followed by an in-depth and well-researched section on employment, insurance, services, and housing; then a more leisurely survey of restaurants, schools, shopping facilities and utilities; and a fourth section that pinpoints movie theaters, museums and other local institutions, with a sub-section titled, "Disaster Emergency Services." Chapters of special interest to professionals include weekend getaways to the High Tatras, Vienna and Budapest, and remedies for seasonal blues.

"The first six months I lived here, listening was very important," Williams said, adding that "99 percent of the sources for this book don't know they're in here."

Though Williams updated "Getting Started" two months ago, in her preface to the book she admits that some things may have changed. "Slovakia is a country in transition," Williams writes. "Businesses come and go, addresses and phone numbers change, as do prices and schedules."

The book will be welcome to those for whom fine print on boilerplate items like international wills, insurance policies and marriage certificates may not be readily accessible. Appended to Williams's book are several photocopies of legal documents. "The forms in the back of this book are very important and should be read carefully," Williams said. "Legal matters, for example getting married to a Slovak on Slovak soil," are important, in that children from such marriages are not automatically guaranteed dual citizenship, she illustrated. "The more people send in suggestions, corrections or comments, the better the book will be," Williams said. The book is due for revision again next fall.

Having overcome so many roadblocks producing a guide to Bratislava, the next challenge Williams faces is getting "Getting Started" formally published. A limited edition, sponsored by Hypo Bank, is available from the International Women's Club of Bratislava until a full-time publisher appears.

All proceeds for "Getting Started in Bratislava" go to Slovak and international charities. For more information, contact the International Women's Club (which can arrange free local deliveries) at Hotel Danube, tel. 07/534-0506; or fax inquiries to Williams directly at 07/325-906.

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