FOREIGNER IN SLOVAKIA

Blog: The state of Services for expats in Bratislava

Many foreigners will tell you that one of the biggest challenges when arriving in Bratislava is arranging for the variety of services needed to start your life in a new country, from renting an apartment, getting cable tv or a new phone service. 

Foreigners cannot always make their way around without a Slovak speaker by their side. Foreigners cannot always make their way around without a Slovak speaker by their side. (Source: SME)

Arranging these services can prove to be quite a challenge for a non-Slovak speaker as you find out sooner or later that while you can find people who can give you directions in the city or order a meal at a restaurant, many companies do not yet have people or information available in any other language than Slovak.

While we all can agree that living in Slovakia one should know the language (it takes about 12 years to master by the way), arranging services should not be so complicated.  Many times one needs to bring a Slovak speaker to complete any process and even then such transactions are not simple.

A couple of months ago I was looking for information in regards to different types of accounts a bank has to offer, while my Slovak can be somewhat acceptable,  I know that I have a limited vocabulary and would not be able to fully understand financial terms in Slovak so I asked for someone who spoke English at a bank branch.  Half an hour later and about a dozen calls made by the bank manager to different branches, we came to the realisation that I was going to have to bring my wife to help me with translation.

And then we have experiences where people have been told that certain services (applying for a new account for example) can only be done in Slovak not even trying to help the customer at all.  It seems some companies have enough money to refuse a new customer.

Not all is lost when it comes to proactively supporting a customer, many times I've found quite useful and knowledgeable people when I tried to renew a contract with my mobile operator, return a defective internet modem at the internet provider as few examples. 

In the end, all these types of services can be completed if you have patience and have someone by your side who can help you translate.  It's not a perfect system but it could be improved, especially in the areas of manual or financial services where by far one finds the least bilingual information and personnel. Companies looking for new customers should embrace this change as there is a real need for bilingual speaking customer support in the city.

By Diego Loyola - InterNations Ambassadors Bratislava

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