Pavel is a Russian software delivery coordinator. He is 38 and lives in Slovenia with his family since 2015. When Pavel and his wife Ana had their baby, they decided to leave Russia and come to Slovenia for quite a long time. Since 2015, they spent about 4 years in the country. They started new studies in Slovenia and Pavel found a job in Information Technology, as he works remotely for a global company. Pavel has accepted to share its Slovenian journey with you.
Slovenia was a great fit for Pavel and his family. Pavel will explain how he managed to study, find a job, and learn Slovene. He will give you some tips to have the best Slovenian experience, and inspire you with its story. As a Russian expat, he will also explain the particularities experienced by immigrants coming from outside of the EU.
If you are thinking about moving to Slovenia, this insider’s opinion will surely be interesting. Pavel’s interview may convince you to take this important step!
- How do you feel about living far from your family and friends?
It’s not a difficult question. Our family is here (my wife and kid), we are still in touch with our family in Russia through WhatsApp so it’s not too hard. We talk with them daily so it is really not that difficult, we do not miss Russia much.
- Did you meet many Slovenians or more other expatriates?
We met mostly Slovenians because we live in a city, not Ljubljana, where there are not many expatriates. It’s half an hour from Ljubljana, it’s quite a big city by Slovenian standards (7000 people), but we are probably the only foreigners there. I studied in Maribor, and my wife too, so we were able to communicate with Slovenians.
- Did you learn to speak Slovene? If yes, did you speak Slovene before?
I communicate in English and Russian for work but I speak Slovene outside of work. It took a while, we invested quite a lot of time. It’s easy to learn Slovenian from Russian, our languages have some similarities, it’s easier than for Germans or Italians. It is and is not necessary. It is not necessary to speak Slovenian: for example, when I had to find a data center for my job, it was very easy without speaking Slovenian, it only took me two hours.
This is a small country so it is easy to live here compared to bigger countries. But it can be necessary for other aspects because it helps to become a part of the community and get along with locals, to learn a new culture, and to make Slovenia a home. It is important if you do not want to be a foreigner anymore, language is a key thing here.
- Do you often go back to your birth country/former country of residence?
Usually, we go back to Russia once a year. This year it was not possible because of Corona’s restrictions.
- How long do you plan on living in Slovenia? Do you think about going back permanently to your birth country/former country of residence?
If the situation continues like this we would like to stay here because my son speaks Slovene fluently, better than Russian, my wife studies here, we have friends here, we all like to live here and want to stay here.
- Do you call yourself an expatriate, an immigrant, or a Slovenian?
I call myself an immigrant. I never call myself an expatriate, I do not understand this word, immigrant is better. I do not think I will call myself a Slovenian because I am still Russian, Russian is my mother tongue, my parents are Russian,… but I don’t really know. I don’t know where I will be in ten years, but I know my identity, I will always be Russian.
- Do you feel like you are totally integrated into the country’s life?
I think we are pretty much integrated. Living outside Ljubljana is really helpful to integrate the local environment. You have to move out of big cities, you really don’t know a country if you live in capitals and big cities. It is also cool cause it is cheaper.
- Was it easy to find a job? How do you feel about work/working in Slovenia?
I am self-employed, so my employers are actually my customers. I will not work as an employee anymore. I have several customers, small and big customers.
My wife works for a Russian company and studies at the University of Ljubljana (first, she studied at the Novo Mesto University), and wants to become a health professional. Before, she was an event manager, but she chose to work in a different field in Slovenia, in the health industry. She decided to go in a different direction
- Do you have children? If so, what do you think about the Slovenian school system?
Yes, it is less demanding than in Russia but it’s a good thing. It really focuses on the personal development of the child, growing a personality, it is not just about knowledge. In Russia, the system is more traditional, not about character development. There, the ideology of the educational system is that it is better to be a happy postman than a sad academic or unhappy sales manager.
- What do you think about Slovenia’s healthcare system?
I’m comparing the Slovenian system with Russia, so of course. I know that a lot of Slovenian people may complain about their system and say it is expensive, slow, and bad, but for me, according to our experience here, it is great compared to developing countries, like Russia. I also lived in Africa, India, and compared to the systems I’m used to it is great.
- Have you ever bought a property in Slovenia? If yes, was it easy to buy property/buy a restaurant/buy a store….?
I only bought two cars, I do not have real estate here and I do not think that foreigners can buy, are allowed to buy real estate, even if it is easy to do when you buy it for your company. I’m 38, so I think we will move to our own place in 5 or 10 years.
- Would you recommend moving to Slovenia?
I recommend it to everyone. I really like this country because I think it has the best combination, the ratio between life quality and price of this life in Europe: it is not as expensive as the other countries of the area like Austria or Switzerland, and it has many highlights: health system, safety. There is almost no crime here.
- Do you have any advice for someone who would like to move to Slovenia?
I think the best thing to do before moving to Slovenia is that you should live here for maybe two or three months before. People come here for only two or three weeks, so they cannot stop being tourists. It is really important to get a feeling about how things are done here, see that the people are quite relaxed compared to other countries of ex-Yugoslavia or to the East. That would be my advice, it is really beneficial to do that.
- What have been the upsides and downsides of Slovenia according to you so far?
About the worst things, I can say that Slovenians basically have quite a small market. It means that there is not much competition, financial services are quite disappointing. There are not too many companies, and competition, so you cannot really fight for your clients in the local market. It also works in many other areas. It is difficult to grow a business and to develop.
The best thing can be that there is a lot of trust between people. We know that people in the streets only do not want to make us anything bad, which is not the same in other big cities. The best thing here is the level of trust. It is a good environment to live in.
- Is there a lot of paperwork to move to Slovenia? If yes, have you ever felt discouraged because of it?
Yes, but public services systems in Slovenia are good even for foreigners. It is good even if you are from small cities. If you apply for residential permits if you need something for your company, etc. They always give you second chances if you make mistakes in your forms or documents, they create a really good environment for business here. They are not very fast like in every country but they are really friendly. Also, you can do a lot of things from home, online, or by phone especially.
- Did you choose to move to Slovenia because it is part of the EU or for other reasons?
It was important for me because the European Union is like a big country for me. There can be some tensions but like in every region, every country. Slovenia being part of the EU is an important thing. Also, it matters because it is the same market in Slovenia, and bigger and richer countries like France, Germany, Spain, etc.
- If you had to start over, would you move back to Slovenia? What would you change?
I would go back to Slovenia for sure, it was one of the best decisions in my life. Maybe I would have applied for extensions of my documents earlier.
Discover Other Stories
As French students who recently arrived in Slovenia, the story of Pavel comforts us in the thought that it is really simple and worth it to settle in Slovenia for a long time. The country has a lot of rare upsides, such as great healthcare and educational systems, efficient public services, and it provides an unparalleled quality of life as well as reasonable costs of living.
If you are still not sure about moving to Slovenia, check our other interviews. Let’s discover the story of numerous other expats and their vision of Slovenia.
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