Blog: Tea house owner can anticipate what's to come after working abroad

Marian Polak spent four years looking at Excel sheets all day before opening a tea house, inspired by his time in Dublin, in Slovakia.

Marian PolakMarian Polak (Source: Zuzana Burdanova)

When I came back to Slovakia, I started working for a large multinational employer.

They hired me LARGELY because of my English

After 5 years abroad, I was happy to continue working in an international environment. I was also hesitant to work for a Slovak employer.

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Working relationships in Slovakia are very personal

On the one hand, it is a good thing. On the other hand, managers have a hard time separating home and work life. They can take their frustration out on their employees. It is very difficult to feel supported in such an environment.

In my corporate job, I just didn’t feel I was living my purpose

Read also: Slovak migrant shares the stories of other migrants to understand her own Read more 

Working as a financial analyst, I spent all day staring at Excel sheets. After four years of doing the same thing, I realized I needed to explore new options.

So I decided to start my own business

I actually brought the idea back from abroad. My brother and I owned a similar café in Dublin.

It’s very important to speak an international language

How else can you communicate with the outside world? Although I no longer work at the shared service center, my language skills have come in handy. The majority of my business suppliers are actually foreign.

Those that return can see a few steps ahead

Coming back with experience from the West, they can more easily identify market gaps in Slovakia. They can anticipate what is coming. At the same time, they are also more inspired to implement change.

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Read also: Blog: Cinematographer experienced a post-communist catharsis abroad Read more 

They can believe in the idea, because they have already seen it work elsewhere

When you leave the country, you gain an experience that the majority of Slovaks do not have, including a very different understanding of customer service. Since being back, I seem to quite naturally gravitate towards other returnees.

They can better understand my needs

In business this becomes really obvious. Those that have returned can better understand my business expectations.

Sometimes, we need to hit rock bottom to discover our own determination and strength

Living abroad can be a challenging experience. You have to face and overcome many tough situations without the support of your family and friends.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

When I came back, I had certain political ambitions. I really wanted to influence change. But I have given up on those since. Now, I mainly focus on myself, my family and my friends. I think if you improve yourself, your environment will also change for the better.

I can see a positive impact in my business

My customers are very happy with the teahouse. They enjoy the service and are grateful that such a place even exists.

It’s such a wonderful affirmation

In the end, it makes all the hard work and risk worth it. Whether this positive impact spills over into the greater society, I can’t really say.

Only time will tell…

This testimony was originally published in Zuzana Palovic’s book, The Great Return. You can learn more about the book as well as Palovic’s own journey as a Slovak migrant that later returned to Slovakia at

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