After my first 2 years in Hanover, I wanted to gain international experience, improve my English and become more open to other cultures. For this reason, I decided to take on a challenge abroad.
In October 2007, I joined the IT service provider of the Slovakian Savings Bank. I rent a furnished apartment in Mierová Street in the district of Ružinov – about 10 minutes from my office. 2 rooms, 60sqm, constructed in 2000, fully furnished, with guest toilet, bathtub, laminate, walk-in closet, barbecue place in front of the house and secure parking for the small polo for 540€ per month.
I had moved my center of my livelihood to Bratislava. I was insured with a Slovakian health insurance. I had a Slovak mobile phone. I got my salary in SKK and I needed a translater for every little thing. Many Slovakian colleagues spoke German and our project language was English. I had many colleagues who came from Vienna on a daily basis. But I realized quickly that I was very lost without any knowledge of the Slovak language. Twice per week my Austrian colleagues and I received Slovak lessons. However, it was extremely difficult to manage life with a low level of language skills. At the time of the Iron Curtain, there was only Russian taught in schools. I watched “Slovakia is looking for the superstar” on TV, listened to Slovak radio in the morning and understood absolutely nothing. After 4-5 months, I got homesick.
Since January 1, 2004, a single tax rate of 19% (Flax Tax) has been applied in Slovakia. This replaces all previous different tax rates for income tax, corporation tax, VAT, etc.
Value added tax is also 19%. However, certain categories of goods such as basic foodstuffs or medicine have a reduced VAT rate of 10%.
But still: for Slovaks living in their capital is tough:
According to Mercer, Bratislava was ranked 31th in the international ranking of the most expensive cities in the world. The housing prices in Bratislava were ridiculous… Measured in the gross domestic product, my flat was prohibitive for someone with an average Slovak salary!
“Western Europe” was, of course, not too far away: Bratislava and Vienna are the two EU capitals with the least distance (60 km). Within an hour you can go by train in the Austrian capital.
That is why they are called “Twin City Region”. The two centers, which together form an economic region, are often referred to as twin cities, since they have coordinated their development or are planning and operating jointly. The two Danube cities – apart from the Iron Curtains – always had a close cultural and economic relationship.
Here are a few curious facts that I collected during my stay:
• If you buy a cucumber in the supermarket, you have to weigh it. Cucumbers are sold by weight.
• No one is acting on traffic rules!
• On motorways you should only use the left lane, since the asphalt of the right-hand lane has burrs due to trong sunlight and heavy use by trucks (you drive almost like on rails).
• Bus tickets are not sold in the bus but in every newspaper stand.
• Smarties are called Lentilky. Lentilky, however, have the same corporate design as Smarties.
• To write numbers on a Slovakian keyboard, press the Shift key.
• At IKEA, a Hot Dog costs 10 SKK (about 29 cents)
• Germans are considered to be diligent and ambitious, but also humorless and emotionless.
• For Slovakian sockets, a round, approximately 4-5 mm thick pin protrudes in the upper third of the socket.
• You should always have a translator with you. If one wants to make sure that one will understood you (e.g. in police checks), then you should speak English 😉
• There are no licenses for taxis. So everyone can provide taxi services.
• Return trip Bratislava – Vienna (duration approx. 1 hour) costs 292 SKK (8,20 €).