It was hard work, manual labour actually
I did not speak Dutch in the beginning, so I found a job working with flowers. Every few months, I changed positions, because the conditions were so difficult.
My colleagues were from all over the world: Europe, Africa, Russia, Philippines, Indonesia
Living abroad exposed me to a different way of thinking. I began to admire people from different corners of the world. To be in touch and learn from these cultures was very special to me.
Some people put me down; they let me feel like I was an unwelcome stranger
But it wasn’t everyone. The reaction was varied. Overall, I really liked Dutch culture. I got a lot of support to grow as an individual in The Netherlands.
Dutch culture showed me what it was like to be treated as a human being
It was a completely different experience from living in Slovakia. It changed my point of view, in terms of how I think about life. Of how I think about people and myself.
My understanding of happiness and self-confidence also changed
Slowly, I started earning more money. I could travel and I even began to take up various hobbies. I stopped worrying all the time. Even though it wasn’t perfect, I just started to enjoy my life.
I discovered something inside of me
A skill, or a strength, that I didn’t even know I possessed. I am now able to manage things on my own; I am surprised by what I can do.
What matters is how you feel, not what others think
Today, I do things because I want to, not because others expect me to do them. Not even for my friends, not even for my family.
When I see a problem, I try to find a solution
Abroad, I was really challenged. There were so many times I wanted give up. I couldn’t speak Dutch. I couldn’t get professional work. I was cleaning toilets and picking flowers. But I persevered. My experience abroad taught me to keep trying and to never give up.
What do I offer Slovakia? The Dutch language
I use both English and Dutch in my work daily at IBM. Over 90 percent of the emails I write are in Dutch. In fact, half my team is made up of Slovaks that came back from Holland.
The situation has changed; foreigners now come to our country
There are many international workers in Bratislava. The city is a lot more cosmopolitan as a result. I meet many creative and friendly people.
My colleagues come from all over Europe
Many are from Italy and Spain. I remember the times when Slovaks used to go to their countries for seasonal work. Today, they come to ours. Here, they gain a stable job and a good salary, about €1,400 a month.
I can see a return trend, but maybe it is because we are now in our thirties
Today, more and more young people are crossing the borders.
There are many Slovaks all over the world
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 http://thegreatreturn.eu/.
20. May 2019 at 8:45 | Zuzana Palovic