Stasia Lewicka – A Polish Newcomer’s Perspective in Vienna

Please introduce yourself. Tell us a little about where you are from originally and who you are.

I am Polish from origin, but right now I guess European is better word to describe how I feel about nationality. I was raised in a tiny village in western Poland, spent w few years studying and working in Poznan to eventually leave Poland 5 years ago and start my expat adventure.

How did you choose your career?

The best things in my career always happened by accident- by accidentally meetting the right people or making unexpected choices. I spent some time working in marketing and PR related area in Poland and then I worked as project manager abroad for big IT companies. I have to say that as much as I love organize things- I am trully grateful for all the coincidences in my proffesional life. They all brought me so much experience and lessons. I would probably never be where I am now having planned every sinle thing about my career.

When and why did you move to the Vienna, where have you lived before that move?

I am really new here. I just moved in a few weeks ago with my husband. With him starting his new job here we decided to completely revolutionize our life. We are just starting everything from scratch: new work, new place, new family situation. I guess that’s the thing I like about moving- whenever you are starting in a new place- you have the chance to start everything new. To redefine your needs, priorities, your plans and your idea about life. At least it always works for me like that.

Before Vienna I spent 5 years in Czech Republic. It is probably not in the top 5 coutries people go to for work, but I really liked it there. We lived in Brno, which is second biggest city. It has a nice feeling of multicultural thanks to many students coming for Erasmus programm, is big enough to give you main features you expect from the city (like decent cultural events, social lives, infrastructure) but small enough not to overwhelm you. Oh, and the beer than is cheaper than water in bars… And what a beer 🙂

What do you do after work – if you work, what interests you?

Apart of my proffesional life I always spend a lot of time in the kitchen- I am a real master of improvisation 🙂 I like various handcrafts and I love planning and making trips. No matter if big or small. I guess it would make a very bad impression in a CV, but to be honest- these are things that relax me most.

For more professional topics- my whole professional life was based on communication skills, and how I used or share them. The phenomenon of communication never fails to amaze me. It became even more important to me when I left Poland and faced completely new challanges of cross cultural communication. So as side activities to my regular work I was always around where there was some training to do, event to plan, presentation to deliver. That was a really rewarding work. And as a recovery control freak I am also a restless planner. But- as mentioned above- I am learning to embrace all the coincidences and accidents that happen on the way 🙂 One needs to learn to make more flexible plans. And tons of back up solutions

What is your favorite food?

I don’t think I have a favorite food. I love food and cooking, and I love discovering new tastes and ingredients, but from all the tastes I love- there is no single one I could tell is my favorite one.

Tell us about your family, where are they now?

My family lives in Poland. It was hard especially for my mum to accept the fact that I moved so far away. Even my siblings, altough they are really supportive, probably think I am a bit crazy choosing lonely life far from all I knew.
But it is not a lonely life 🙂 And learning new thing is amazing. I wouldn’t probably do all of this if it wasn’t my great husband, but I am pretty sure leaving Poland was a good thing to do.

Do you try to go back to Poland every year? What do you miss the most?

I visit Poland at least once a year, but there are fewer and fewer things I miss, to be honest. I guess, what I do miss- is the freedom of making myself clear in my own language 🙂 When you are abroad- the new language determines your whole communication. I still remember how hard it was for me before I learnt Czech so I could communicate on decent level. You suddenly miss all the phrases you used to use on regular basis, you need to learn not only new set of words, but the whole culture around that. And yet, even if you are fluent- nothing describes your feelings and emotions as your own language. And so what I mostly miss Poland for is the fact that I can speak there my own language wherever I go.

How do you see Polish being different from Austrians..?

Polish people are I think much more reserved and conservative, while for what I observed so far- Austrians seem much more open minded and tolerant. They might have their own more conservative personal preferences, but as a nation a see thet they are much more liberal and relaxed. I guess it is more of an attitude: live and let live. I can’t understand why in Poland we still try to fix others lives all the time by telling them arbitrarily what’s the best fre them.

When you think about life in Vienna vs other cities you know– did you have misconceptions that turned out to be wrong?

Vienna can be astonishingly beautiful and trully horrible at the same time. Even thou we’ve been visiting Vienna regularly for last couple of years I haven’t really had any picture how it would be to live here, and so my only bias was that it is big and mostly crowded. Which in every day life is also true and it can be overwhelming. But on the other hand- I believe this is one of the characteristic of any bigger city, especially capitals.

I didn’t actually expect so much bureaucracy. And here I was spending the first month in Vienna running from one institution to another to formalize my stay here.

The nice thing is that there is so much going on all the time. Just go outside during the weekend and you’ll probably find – without even looking for it – some events going on: festivals, concerts, parties, exhibitions, you name it.

Who do you think are the Polish the average Austrians or other foreigners may know?

Can’t say much about it so far. I do see however that groups of a similar background tend to keep together. And I believe than in a city so culturally mixed like Vienna there must be for sure some active groups 🙂

How is the Expat community in Vienna?

Most people I have met are great, open minded and tolerant with a desire to learn and explore new opportunities regardless their nationality. I guess I was lucky enough to hang out with the right people. On the other hand I have also met people so totally disappointed, expats – who kept complained about the place they were. I was always wondering- why are they here if they don’t like the place so much? Still a mystery to me.

Would you ever return to live in Poland full-time?

This is not really decided yet. Sometimes I feel this would be the right thing to do, sometimes I’d rather never come back there. But I do want my kids to remember that they are in fact Polish, so I don’t think I will lose contact with my homeland.

If money was not an issue at all – and you could choose to live how and where ever you want, do what ever you want – what would you love to do?

Now that is a tricky question… Honestly, I’d probably move to some place with breath taking landscapes and open a small pension house or a hotel 🙂 A place for people to hide from every day rush, stress and made up problems.

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