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Karolina Figuła


I went to Austria in September 2012. I did not know yet where I would live and work. I went for a job interview. The company, where I had worked in Poland changed its owner, and I decided to look for a new job. I was looking for work in Poland, but my dream was to work in Austria. I thought: "It's the time!" and consciously I started looking for work in Austria.

A mountain trip

I’ve been dealing for several years with tourism. I have the biggest experience in work at travel agencies. I am not Austrian, and I knew that looking for a job in Austria I would have to prove something more than other candidates. That is why in the beginning I decided to look for a job in a hotel. I could calmly start with it. Why Austria? Austria has been always in my life. I have a huge fondness for this country, I wanted to improve my language, and these magnificent mountains, that’s why I was looking for a job in the Alps, not in the lowlands. Mountains is a place for me, where I feel best. My mind and body are free. For me it is something primordial, it's hard to compare to anything else. Being in the mountains triggers in me only positive emotions, it is pure joy. It is something flawless for me, something beyond civilization, something unchangeable. I love the Tatra Mountains, Beskid Śląski and Wyspowy. It is sad that Poles do not really know Poland, the magnificent nature of their country, and they set off somewhere else.

I was looking for a job in a specific region close to the mountains. First, I worked in a hotel in the Gastein Valley. The hotel was only a transitional stage. I told myself that as soon as I improved language and gained experience, I would try somewhere further. There was an offer, I came for an interview and got the job. Now I work in a travel agency in the town of Kitzbühel. The company I work for is a large corporation and mainly Austrians work here, but there are also Italians, Dutch, English. When I came to Austria, I was surprised by the number of foreigners: Hungarians, Serbs. They were everywhere, worked in every sector.

Beautiful beginnings

Upon arrival, the first two weeks were very difficult for me. Everything was new: new people, new environment. You do not know who to turn to, who can help you. I felt the lack of knowledge of Austrians about Poles. Austrians have the attitude: "How poor you are at home, aren’t you?" And foreigners should be grateful to them for the fact that they have a job here. Despite this, I believe that people are the same everywhere. Everywhere you can meet nice and unpleasant ones, no matter in what country you are. In Austria, there is a cultural mishmash. What makes Austrians not work physically, not clean, because it is foreigners who are to do it. I work in an office with people who, it happens, do not even have passed matriculation exams. And they complain a lot about their job. But they have such good working conditions that complaining is the only thing they do and they don’t look around for a new job. They do not have the ambition to have a challenging job.

Kitzbühel is considered one of the most beautiful regions in Austria. What I like in this valley is the space. It is amazing. I hadn’t known much about the city before my arrival here, and it belongs to the most snobbish places, where the whole Austrian upper crust come. Politicians and celebrities have their houses here. Why they come here – I don’t know. Even the locals cannot answer the question why this place is so popular. Kitzbühel has only 8000 inhabitants, and the main pedestrian area is covered with shops such as Louis Vuitton or a jeweler with Swarovski crystals. On the streets you can see luxury car brands (Porsche, Bentley). But the truth is that it is a very charming place, very well maintained, worked out in detail. Austrians make their living from tourism. The Alps are their main source of income, so they make every effort to make it look good. After all, no one wants to come to a dirty town. All mountain villages in Austria look alike.

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Polite distance and a bit of sweetness

Certainly in Austria there are many positive things, which are still missing in Poland. Many amenities and things made for the benefit of the citizen. What I miss the most in Poland, and what surprised me in Austria, is simple politeness, kindness. No matter where you are - in a store, a pharmacy or a bank. The service here is always smiling and very helpful, no matter how long they have already been working. You can always get things done easily. If someone doesn’t know exactly how to do something, the service will explain everything thoroughly, and even draw it up on a sheet of paper. You do not need a countless number of documents. Another great thing is their social policy. It's hard to compare with the Polish one. Unfortunately, in Poland all the time you have to get nervous about something, to fight and quarrel with someone all the time.

The quality of life here is much higher. Even if you earn the minimum wage you can have a comfortable life. It is definitely easier. They care about the employee's holidays. You even get extra pay for vacation and holidays. It also makes the culture of rest different. There is a lot of active people. People spend time actively. Especially that you can do it for little money. Sundays are not working days. The shops are closed and if you do not do grocery shopping on Saturday to 5pm, the only place left is a petrol station. A lot of people leave for two or three-day trips. To relax, they go away for the weekend. In order to walk in the mountains, go to the swimming pool. In this respect, Austria is a great country. There is here the necessary infrastructure and you can do what you dream about.

I miss sometimes food from Poland. There are some things that I just like. I miss the borscht, soups or mayonnaise (I haven’t found here a substitute of Polish mayonnaise). However, Austrians cook very well. In their cuisine there is a lot of meat and potatoes. And also a lot of sweet dishes, which surprised me very positively. They are influenced strongly by Italy. They are fond of the Italian cuisine.

Austrians are very introverted. It is hard to meet with them after work. They need a very, very long time to take someone into their community, to accept someone. They don’t have relationships outside of work. The best relationships I've made with foreigners who have been living and working here for many years. I don’t know the reason for it. Maybe because abroad every foreigner looks for these relationships. They feel a little lonely and it’s easier and faster to relate with other foreigners, because they are as well not exactly at home here. Austrians are helpful, smiling but also very much distanced. To establish a relationship with Austrians it takes several months or even years. About four, five, to feel tolerated, accepted by the society.

Direction: West

I think that in terms of my profession this trip is a great experience. Work in a foreign language itself is a big challenge. Especially for Poles in a foreign country. All the time I need to speak German, all the time I have to try to make what I say sound convincing. It gave me a lot of confidence, also when it comes to contacts with Austrians.

I feel I’m a Pole, I speak Polish, grew up in Poland. But I like to learn new things, new cultures, new people. Contact with another culture allows us to expand our horizons. We get to know ourselves. We notice differences in mentality. When you live in your own country, you don’t notice these differences, basically you do not know the world. You only know what you live in. As long as we do not experience it, we are not able to face it.

I didn’t take many thing here, just what I need. I can buy everything here. Anyway, I learned to take with me only the essential things. I don’t collect things, because they make it difficult to move. When you collect things, you start to soak in the given place. The more stuff you have, the more you have to worry about them. Life here is a little more expensive than in Poland. But once you start to make money here, you don’t think about it.

I recommend emigration to everyone. It is worth facing your fear, your concerns. Learn something new, doesn’t matter if in Italy, Spain or Austria. It is a challenge and a new experience. It gives a lot of confidence. It opens your mind and makes you want more. Now I think about Canada. It's a big challenge but I would like to go there because of the quality of life and nature.