Working and Living in Slovenia: Erman’s Story

Promotion at work is one of the popular reasons for internationals to relocate abroad. This is a great chance to develop professional skills in collaboration with other nations and to learn about yourself in unusual situations in a new environment.

Erman had been living in Turkey and for some time in Sweden before he relocated to Slovenia. The man came to the green country due to his work in the energy sector, and it has been almost 7 years since he arrived. Erman’s wife joined him after some time too, and later, the couple gave birth to the son in Slovenia.

In this interview, Erman shares his unique experience and gives advice to those who are considering relocation to Slovenia.

Keep reading and find out:

·         how to do business with Slovenians

·         what is a Blue Card and who can get it

·         life of the Turkish family in the green country

·         commentary on Slovenian education

·         how does childbirth in Slovenia work

·         and much more!

Hello Erman! Thank you for your participation in this interview. Before, in our short chat, you introduced yourself as a family man of late thirtieth who has been living in Slovenia for almost seven years. How did you end up in this country? Have you planned to move abroad or was it a random decision?

To be honest, Slovenia was not planned. I didn’t have much knowledge of this country, but I found out about it due to my work in the energy sector. Seven years ago, when I worked in Turkey, I negotiated with several companies abroad. The option in Slovenia was the best for professional development, so I came here. The company where I work now is a good partner of my company in Turkey. So, I actually just switched the place of living.

You have moved with your family, haven’t you?

At the time when I moved, I did not have it. I came to Slovenia alone. In 2013, I was constantly moving between two countries. In 2014, I eventually moved to Slovenia, and I got married to my wife in Turkey the next year. We were thinking about where to go and decided on this green cozy country. This is how our Slovenian journey began.  

On the one hand, it was easier for our family that I moved to Slovenia first. In some way, I was a pioneer who had studied the environment of the unknown place a little in advance. But on the other hand, it was quite difficult to do it alone. Coming to a new place, you have to adjust to it and learn lots of new things, and it is way much easier to do it with a partner. Support matters a lot.

Was it difficult for you and your wife to relocate in terms of the migration process and all the paperwork?

From the perspective of the migration process, there was an advantage that I had relocated before my wife joined me. There was no problem concerning documentation because we actually applied for the reunion of the family. I think, if we would have decided to move together from Turkey, it would be a bit more complicated. But I am sure, it would be possible.

Coming back to me, I have got the Blue Card, a special kind of residence permit for qualified workers in the European Union. It is valid for five years, and there is a rule that one who gets it, should work at the same company for two years. I would say, this is a good way for the country to get talents and ensure about the time that new workers contribute to companies. It is interesting that at the year when I applied for this type of card, there had been just one like that issued (I checked reports). So, in Slovenia, there actually was no competition because many people simply did not know about this kind of visa. It was a bit challenging for me and my company too because we did not have enough experience with such type of paperwork. But we succeeded. Furthermore, the number of issued cards increased afterwards. It means the Blue Card becomes more and more popular.

How did your and your wife’s adaptation in Slovenia pass? This is quite a stress for the body and for the mind to change the environment and culture fully, and it varies how people get used to the new place. How was it in your case?

Because I had lived in Sweden before, I had some understanding of what relocation means and how it works in my case. I think the key idea to consider is to keep expectations low. We are used to specific things in our own culture, and it is important to understand that those things are not going to be present in everyday life abroad. I mean, you should keep the expectation of these things low.

Having little expectation does not mean that your experience will turn out as bad. It is just going to be different, and you should be ready to accept these differences and appreciate them. In Slovenia, life is different; that’s the fact. People have a certain way of living and thinking here. But there are reasons for it, and there are outcomes of it.

I had the experience of living in different cities in Turkey, and I got used to them being noisy and populated. In contradiction to it, Ljubljana and Slovenia, in general, are much smaller. I mean, even the neighbourhood of the place where I lived in Istanbul had more citizens than entire Slovenia has. But again, to some people, a calm environment can be perfect, while others may look for something bigger. You just have to try it for yourself.

I am lucky to have a good social environment at my working place. My adaptation passed quite well thanks to the welcoming attitude of my colleagues. I just had to adjust to some cultural differences and try out a new way of lifestyle.

In the case of my wife, adaptation passed even more smoothly because she learned Slovene much faster and much better than I did. But her conditions were different from mine too. Coming here, she did not have a job, and she had to learn Slovenian in order to find it. Besides, she spent a lot of time learning Slovene. While I was spending 4-8 hours per week on this language, she was actively studying it devoting from 20 to 40 hours a week. At the moment, she is doing the PhD, and even though it is in English, she needs Slovene in her daily life.

Since we are slightly moving to the matter of language, could you, please, comment on your experience with it?

I speak Slovene a bit. I took some courses, but unfortunately, they were not designed for business needs. Also, Slovene in younger companies looks more like slang, and it is totally different from what you learn in the classroom. So, I think a course with a different direction would help me more. At that time, our company did not have a language learning package. Everything was new for both the company and me. In some way, I was an international who had to discover things by myself. I proposed to take special courses, and that became the company’s starter. So, these days, whenever an international comes, he or she takes this course. 

Compared with German, Spanish, and French, Slovene is quite a difficult language (probably, like all Slavic languages). Once, I even checked how much time one needs to learn Slovene to reach a well-advanced level, and it was something like one year of full-time dedication to the language. But again, it depends on the abilities and needs of the person. If one needs the basics only, it can be done quickly. However, a more serious and professional level would require more time and motivation.

It is also important to admit that conditions play a huge role in the speed of foreign language learning too. It is the fact that motivation to use the language is going lower when you are able to handle your life in English. It is probably my case. People speak English quite well here, and therefore, the situation which you first consider as desperate does not seem to be such anymore with English. Yet, it is still good that the majority of Slovenians speak English fluently. It makes the country suitable for tourists and for people who are staying here for a short time.

Thus, to learn Slovene quicker I have one good tip. You should be exposed to Slovenes and surround yourself with Slovene speakers or language partners in all possible situations. I would even formulate it differently: you would be able to buy bread in Slovene if you have to buy bread in Slovene (laughs). Besides, Slovenians love when foreigners speak Slovene. When they hear your initiative to talk, they become very joyful and friendly.

And also, it is important to understand that it is going to take time to reach intermediate and advanced levels. So, do not give up beforehand.

How is it to work with Slovenians and what do you think about business in this green country?

Focusing on the example of my current working place, I would say that Slovenian business is quite similar to German and Austrian. Yet, the country is still on its way to establishing an international atmosphere fully. Because Slovenia is small, there is a specific business culture developed here, and it is quite hard to be 100% effective as a foreigner among Slovenians because you can be left out of many things. This is the reason why you have to be innovative and why you often have to do business with Slovenes in the Slovenian way.

How different is Slovenian culture from Turkish? What differences amazed or disappointed you?

Slovenians are very connected with nature, and therefore, work and life balance are much more different from the one we have in Turkey. For example, let’s go back to business. In Turkey we used to work extra hours: even though the work is until 5 p.m., nobody leaves after this time; we would stay until 7-8 p.m. It is more or less a local custom. In Slovenia, everybody runs home at 4 p.m. I mean it literally. Everybody actually goes out running to nature. During the first year, it was a problem for me because I simply did not know what to do after work. This was something I was not used to. I used to come home, eat, watch something, or do little tasks and go to sleep. But here, personal time is valued a lot.

This is actually what I meant by keeping expectations low. You will be disappointed or shocked in a new environment, but this is actually a very good thing because you can discover something new about yourself and your own lifestyle.

Another unusual thing for me was that people are used to living in small communities here. And again, this feature is caused by the small size and little population of the country. In Slovenia, your friends from your hometown are your friends for your lifetime. People coming from towns and villages usually come to Ljubljana and go to more or less the same university (because there are three of them here). This way, people stay friends, and this is how Slovenes are connected. In some way, they are growing together as a big family.

In general, I would call Slovenian life very comfortable and convenient. We have a kid now, and it appears that children can enter kindergarten at the age of 11 months, which is right after maternity leave. The kindergarten is approximately 100 meters from our house, and my work is about 1 kilometre away from my home. This convenience is somehow appealing. I practically do my duties in a little triangular: to drop my son to kindergarten, to go to work and back to my home.

We can see that your family has some experience with Slovenian education: your son goes to kindergarten, and your wife is doing her PhD. Can you tell us a bit more about these experiences?

Slovenian education is very good starting from the very beginner level, as my son’s, and finishing with the higher ones, like my wife’s. The university where my wife is getting her degree is very well respected, and I can tell that not just as a witness of the person who is currently studying, but also from her classmates, who are now working in the Central Bank of Slovenia and other Balkan Banks. University graduates are very competitive when applying for jobs, and they are also very competent. So, the level of Slovenian higher education is very good, but it is challenging too.

The level of kindergartens is good too. In some way, I was surprised with it, and of course, positively. There is no such custom in Turkey and Sweden to send children to he kindergarten before they are at least 3 years old. In Slovenia, the minimum age for a kid to enter e kindergarten is 11 months, and I think that it is very helpful for the development of the kid. We noticed that kids learn much faster from each other, especially when guided. Also, there are no issues with communication because everybody speaks English fluently. We are very satisfied with the kindergarten of our son.

You and your wife were passing one more interesting and important stage of life: giving birth to your son. How was it to give birth in Slovenia?

Again, it was in a Slovene way, and it was totally different than I would expect. In Turkey, hospitals for newborns remind hotels. Also, once a baby is born, the mother hosts relatives who come to visit a newborn from the very first day. And I think it is pretty tiring for the mother to handle taking care of the baby and welcoming relatives. I did not really support such Turkish tradition, and again, I was positively surprised with the Slovene version. But again, some people may say it is too cruel.

When my wife just gave birth to our son, I was in the room with them and was holding him for an hour and a half to get acquainted. After that, I had about two hours to visit them for the whole week. So, it is considered that everything you bring from the outside can be dangerous for the mother and the kid because they are quite weak. The length of the stay in the hospital depends on how well the mother can cope with the newborn and how she feels: it can last from three days to one week. I agree with this approach and I was glad that it was like that in our case.

We were thinking for some time about what hospital to choose because it was my wife’s first experience. But later we realized that it has to be where it has to be. Again, Slovenia is a convenient place, and she should probably give birth in the closest place. Since we live in Ljubljana, we chose Ljubljana’s main hospital as it is the biggest one.

What are two things that you like about Slovenia, and two things that you do not like?

Okay. So, when I came here for three months for the first time, and when I was about to go back to Turkey, I offered my colleagues to come over to drink some champagne and taste some sweets just after a work time. Yet, in Slovenia, you have to be very organized when you do that because it is usually not very welcomed. Firstly, you have to send emails to people with arranged time and place, and only then you can await someone, if they come, of course. Slovenes are not friends with spontaneous actions, and they consider mingling as a loss of productivity, especially in the office. This is something that I did not get into.

Another thing which surprised me is about Slovenian birthdays. When you have a birthday, you have to invite people… with an email (laughs), you have to pay for drinks and food and… that’s it. In other parts of the world, you are usually invited to your birthday which is organized by your best friend, and things are arranged for you. It is funny that in Slovenia you are actually paying your friends to come to your birthday to celebrate it. One thing is to invite friends to your place and offer them drinks at home, but no… You have to go out to the bar or somewhere else. That is very strange to me.

The main thing I like about Slovenia is comfort. And this is not only about infrastructure but also about people. They are very open and direct. There is no greed between the lines when you talk with them. This is what I really like about Slovenians.

The second thing I like is nature. Slovenia has a very well preserved nature. This is the thing I had to rediscover about myself and this is the thing I happily integrated into my life, although I was not used to it. Before, when I lived in big cities, nature was not so much available to me, but now, I can observe it straight from my window. Such things are very important. I mean, in 30 minutes I can go skiing. Slovenian nature is the best treat to me.

What would you recommend to people who are going to come to Slovenia?

Go to nature whenever you can and whenever you feel a need to do it. You can go to the mountains or to the lakes. There is a lot of choice for travelling and inspiration. When you discover Slovenian nature, you will definitely want either to stay here or to visit the country at least one more time.

Discover culture varieties of Slovenia. Even such a little country as Slovenia has a lot of cultures to offer in the region of mountains, and also in the east and west.

If you are relocating to Slovenia, be ready that things will be different from those which you are used to. Be ready for the big change, especially when you come from a big country. Every nation has its own logic to do things. Try to accept them and appreciate them.

Thank you very much for sharing useful information, Erman!

We hope you got inspired by Erman’s story and found answers to your questions. If you are considering relocation to Slovenia, check other interviews on our website. You will be able to find a lot of useful and unique information in the stories of other people. 

Thank you for reading our article. We do our best to provide you with first-hand information about Slovenia and its wonders. We know we are not infallible though. In case you encounter any mistakes in our articles or you have any suggestions, please contact us. Let us know how we could improve. It will help us to keep our information updated and deliver to readers the most valuable possible content.  We will gladly take your suggestions!

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