There is a common expression “to find yourself”. Everyone interprets this metaphor differently. However, instead of understanding themselves, people tend to make things even more complicated. They try to find answers in a new place rather than deep inside their own feelings. Our today’s guest shows the perfect example of how to live with yourself in an ideal balance despite any life challenges.
Shakhsanam is an Uzbek who moved from Kazakhstan to Slovenia, with two children, to obtain a new profession. Already sounds interesting? In this interview, she reveals the essential parts of feeling good in a new country and dealing with any life challenges.
Read further to get to know about:
- How to listen to your heart and choose the country of your soul
- Should you change your profession or improve already obtained skills?
- What’s the most important thing for your children?
- The differences between men and women relationship in Slovenia, and post-Soviet states
- and much more.
Our project about relocation is dedicated to revealing stories of expats living in Slovenia. We ask them to tell us how they ended up staying here about the country’s positive and negative sides, so we ask you.
Yes, I spoke with a lot of people here, from both English- and Russian-speaking communities, too. Everyone has an interesting story, and I noticed that everyone is satisfied with their decisions. As for me, I’m happy to be here, even despite some difficulties. You know, it’s life, and it cannot be all smooth.
How did it happen for you to live in Slovenia?
I moved because of my studies. I enrolled in the university to the faculty of tourism. This field was very interesting for me at that time. However, if I have to start from the beginning, I moved here in 2018 with two children. I had a period when everything was going wrong, so I decided to change something. In general, I felt like I was not living my life.
I moved from Kazakhstan. No complaints about it. However, in the life of each adult, it happens that we need to proceed further. I still love Kazakhstan and have a lot of friends there. Miss them all. Moreover, I moved to Kazakhstan as well. It happened 11 years before I moved to Slovenia. Originally, I’m from Kyrgyzstan, but I’m Uzbek myself. We have a big diaspora in Kyrgyzstan, and all my family lives now in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan).
We moved to Kazakhstan with my husband because of work. Very unfortunately, my husband died in 2013. So, during the next four years, I had a pretty difficult period. Getting used to my new life, adjusting to the consequences, searching for myself. These things happened in that timeframe. Thus, I decided to change the field of my professional skills.
In that period, I was traveling a lot. That’s how I visited Slovenia. I lived in Bled for approximately a month. Terribly beautiful place! Also, I visited Italy, Austria, and more places in Europe. However, in that month in Slovenia, I fell in love with this country. It’s not an exaggeration. I even felt like I lived here in my previous life. It happened on the way from Bled to Mount Mangart. We stopped to take some pictures. I remember that moment so well. Somewhere deep inside me, there was that feeling that I lived here previously.
After that, I couldn’t escape the thought that I needed to live there. Despite the fact that I’m Uzbek, I was born and raised in the USSR. My native language is Russian. It’s the language I speak most of the time and watch my dreams in. The Slavic culture is close to me incredibly. And the Slovenian one attracted me as well. People, nature, music, food. In the next year, I continued to travel, but Slovenia stayed my favorite one.
That’s how I was assured that it is my karma. (Laughs). One day, I found an advertisement of a company that provided help in relocation due to educational purposes. So I risked. There were a lot of fears and hesitations involved back then, but one argument won. If I hadn’t tried, I would regret it a lot more!
Was it hard to move?
It was hard, but I didn’t have any illusions. I had a precise plan and realized the amount of hard work coming next. Furthermore, I became a student, so my status “lowered” a bit. There was even a period when I worked in a pizzeria. But it was on purpose. I wanted to dive into the Slovenian-speaking environment and escape my comfort zone. By the way, it helped a lot.
How did your children accept the fact of moving to another country? How old are they?
Actually, I took them for traveling before the relocation. They liked the country so much, so they agreed to move here. Now, the children are 10 and 14. Of course, it was hard for them to adapt to the new place, new language. My daughter had no problems at all; she found a lot of friends immediately. She was seven when we moved here.
My son was 11 at that time. He ended the fifth class in a school in Kazakhstan. However, here they decided to put him in the seventh grade because of the age. Fortunately, there were no problems with that, because my children were studying at Nazarbayev Intellectual School. It is a network of schools in Kazakhstan, using Canadian and European programs of education. Those schools are for exceptional students. So, my son didn’t feel much pressure.
I even noticed that my children were overloaded in the Kazakh school. They were studying from 8 am until 5 pm every day. This system could lead to collapse. We raise our children already with neuroses and psychological problems, having such a workload. This leads to the point that a child doesn’t have a childhood as they work like adults. Moreover, they didn’t foster talent development but only required fulfillment of the extra-hard study program.
Here, I saw that children have support; they are satisfied and want to return to school every day. Yes, the program is easier. The knowledge is delivered step by step, not as a big pile of complicated material.
My daughter is doing great in school. On the other hand, my son has some problems. Mainly, it’s because of the language barrier. He was older than his sister, and his second working language is English. He’s fond of computers and wants to become a programmer in the future. He reads a lot of English books on programming. Of course, he moved aside from the school program, but for me, the main point is for him to be happy.
What I like here is that they pay attention to the psycho-emotional state of children. For example, they found out that my boy needs additional classes to fulfill some gaps in the school program, so the special commission gave us an additional pedagogue for this purpose. Even for us, foreigners! They support children, as I said.
Let’s switch to the language topic. How was it to learn Slovenian for you?
At first, I had a 100-hour language course before coming to Slovenia. It took one month. In general, I started to understand the sense of a speech. I got my basis. The only complicated peculiarity of Slovenian is the dual grammatical case. However, my teachers recommended changing this structure to the usual plural for facilitation. After half a year, I could communicate properly in Slovenian.
My Slovenian is not ideal, but the level is enough to have messaging, reading short texts, and everyday communication. Also, it very depends on your emotional state. If you are tired, foreign languages go bad. Oppositely, you can speak almost like a native speaker when full of focus and enthusiasm.
As I understood, you know quite a lot of languages.
I speak Russian, English, Turkish, Uzbek, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Slovenian is the newest one. Now, I would like to study Italian. I visit Italy from time to time, so that could be one more benefit.
What do you do in Slovenia now?
I’ve started by studying at a university. It was a Bachelor’s degree. However, my language level wasn’t enough to pass all exams successfully. Teachers helped me, they accepted answers in English, but still, it was hard, taking much intellectual energy. Then, I switched faculties. In the end, I became a solo preneur and changed the type of the temporary residence permit. So now, I work for myself in my usual sphere of activity. I finally realized that it’s my thing. I like it.
What is it [your occupation]?
I’m a fashion and dress designer. I’m making custom clothes to order and actively promoting my Instagram page. Also, we have an art community here, where we’re improving drawing and modeling.
It’s interesting that you’re a creative personality but tried yourself in the field of tourism.
In fact, tourism is an exciting topic. I’m still planning my trips, dealing with visa issues, creating tours for myself. And there is a group of friends of mine that are creating small tours, so I help them sometimes. However, I needed to switch to my usual activities.
What do you think about the Slovenian healthcare?
Here, everything is more complicated. You cannot get an appointment with any doctor so easily as in Kazakhstan. Firstly, you need to visit a general practitioner, then get a place in a queue for a specialist, depending on your level of urgency. I visited only the dentist and did an x-ray once.
Do you use insurance?
Yes, as I’m self-employed, I’m paying basic insurance, plus an additional one for covering more services in the case of an emergency.
Have you found any differences between Slovenians and people from post-Soviet territories?
Definitely, they are! One of the most important differences is in the system of values. For example, family values and relations between man and woman. In our countries, men are not used to doing chores and other home duties. Of course, there are exceptions, but I’m talking about the majority. In Kazakhstan, it’s usual that a woman cleans the house, cooks for the family, and raises children, even if she’s working. European men are independent and autonomous. They look after themselves. They cook deliciously. They know how to do laundry and other things.
That’s why they don’t hurry to marry somebody. Plus, I know a lot of men who raise children 50/50 with their ex-wives. And in that period, they don’t call to ask anything, and they know what to do. This shows how everything is equal. Also, this allows the Slovenian women to be independent. They don’t have that infantile approach that a man should solve your problems. It’s normal here to split the bill in a restaurant.
Oppositely, our mentality is still different. For example, there is a category of women who date men only for presents. After that, they require to support them in marriage. Here, partners are equal. That’s why they are called “partners”. I like it because it gives freedom.
Can you recommend Slovenia? And what do you advise for people who wish to relocate?
I would recommend those people to think consciously, realize your possibilities and perspectives. The new place will be totally different from where you live now. So, don’t compare or criticize. Also, don’t expect everything to be easier. Better be prepared for challenges.
The most important is to be respectful to that country that accepted you. And this includes local language, culture, people, traditions and other things. Usually, people look for a better life, so they move. That’s why they start to compare and criticize. However, those people don’t want themselves to change. You should understand that you need to adapt and adjust a lot if you’re going to relocate.
The second my advice is to integrate. Don’t communicate only with expats from your country. You need to search for friends from the local citizens. This would help you to integrate fully into the new place. Slovenians are nice people. They know how to be friends, but you need to do the first step.
About the country itself, I cannot recommend anything. Slovenia was chosen by my heart. So I recommend others to do the same. Choose with your heart!
It’s the perfect ending for the interview! Thank you so much, Shakhsanam, for the pleasurable talk.
Thank you, Nazar!