In one of the most pleasant and coolest countries of our expedition To Gibraltar through Nordkapp we met a girl from Slovakia – Katarina. Although her favorite destination is South America and she lived in Argentina for almost two years, since 4 years now she lives in Lisbon. During those 4 years things in her life have changed a lot. She got married and gave birth to a child. She is now fully consumed with the family and busy working in the travel industry. If you want to know the difference between life in Portugal and in Slovakia, definitely do not skip this interview with Katarina.
Vista Travellers: Katarina, you live in Portugal at the moment. Why is it so? I mean, under what circumstances did you get here and why did you decide to live here?
Katarina: Funny enough, it was a coincidence that I got to Portugal. During the Erasmus program in the Spanish Granada we planned with the friends a trip to Morocco. Things got too complicated when we could not find a car rental that would allow its car to travel to Africa. The only possibility left was to change the destination of the trip. And so we decided to go to Portugal. Although we entered Lisbon by the second attempt only the city charmed me immediately. At that time I already had worked as a tourist guide in Spain and after coming back from Erasmus I got the chance to guide tours to Portugal as well. Later I had decided to accomplish bachelor studies in Portugal. I studied subject related to the tourist industry in order to be able to work as a local tourist guide. Honestly, I still was not decided during the studies whether to stay and live in Portugal. However, I soon met my husband and got a child. And so Lisbon has become our home for the time being.
Vista Travellers: How did you meet your husband?
Katarina: Right from the beginning of my stay in Portugal I was struggling with the language. In fact, I tried to learn it on the go. However, it was difficult since I never had problems to communicate with the locals thanks to my fluent Spanish. After some time I just got fed up by the fact that everyone talks to me Spanish in Portugal. I looked for Portuguese lessons and that was how I met David. I was accompanied with my Argentinian friend on our first meeting. I am afraid however, that she knew already how that would end. The whole time she was fully occupied with observing the shop windows and so we had plenty of time to chat. And the end of the story? Apart from improving my Portuguese I got a patient and devoted partner.
Vista Travellers: Slovakia is still very conservative when it comes on international marriages. What were the reactions of your family and friends when they found out that you want to get married? Did they try to discourage you? Did they try to warn you? Or did they support your decision?
Katarina: We did not experience any negative reactions. I had certain concerns at the beginning since my husband comes from Africa. Fortunately, there was no single opportunity to justify them. My parents understood immediately that David comes from a family with high moral values, whose important priorities include education and family. First meeting of my and his parents also took place in a very friendly and pleasant atmosphere. They easily overcame even the language barrier. Of course, from time to time we find ourselves facing some minor cultural differences. We however take it easy and in critical situations always look for compromise.
Vista Travellers: You have been living abroad for a couple of years already. Do you anyway follow the actual political situation and development in the society back in Slovakia?
Katarina: Yes, I do. I use internet in order to stay up to date. I do it maybe because we still consider the option to move to Slovakia.
Vista Travellers: When you now come back to Slovakia in order to visit your family and friends, how do you feel here? Have you noticed any changes – either some positive development, progress or on the contrary, changes that worry you?
Katarina: I still consider Slovakia to be my home. On one hand I have the impression that the country is progressing. There have been opened new creative centers, implemented interesting projects. Unfortunately, the corruption is still present – as it is probably in every country. I anyway have friends who run their own businesses and are successful even without corrupting or cheating. It makes me believe that Slovakia is country where the dreams can come true if you are diligent and patient. On the other hand I am concerned with the activities of various extremists who misuse the philistinism and xenophobia of some parts of the society and spread unnecessary evil among the people. I was especially disappointed by various aggressive reactions of people I used to know and always considered intelligent. I am an optimist however and believe that the generation that grows up in the world of low-cost flights and passport-less travelling will be consciousness enough in order not to judge people on the basis of race or religion.
Vista Travellers: For Slovak people Portugal is first of all a holiday destination. How do you perceive this country from the point of view of someone who lives there permanently?
Katarina: I perceive Portugal as country where you can make holiday the whole year round (lough). I was just kidding. I perceive Portugal as a country with identical problems as e.g. Slovakia has. Neither here the educational and social systems are perfect. Neither here it is easy to buy a 3-room-flat in the city-center. Even here people are often pessimistic. I anyway have the impression that in contradistinction to Slovakia Portugal is country that does not give up. After the crisis breakout they started to massively support the local production, small business, travel industry. And these measures bring the expected results. Portugal for me is as well a country where you get fantastic coffee for 60 euro cents only and where it is possible to wear wedding dress made of cork.
Vista Travellers: What do you appreciate on the Portuguese? And what about them does upset you?
Katarina: I appreciate their respect to the Portuguese traditions and perfect knowledge of their history. I think we still lack this in Slovakia. During my university studies I noticed as well that they are better team players in comparison to the Slovaks. On the other hand, they always start to work on a topic or solve a problem in the last possible moment. And it really does not matter whether it is an essay or a ceremonious museum opening. It is anyway fascinating that despite this fact they always manage it successfully.
Vista Travellers: Is there anything that the Portuguese could learn from the Slovaks and vice-versa, the Slovaks from the Portuguese?
Katarina: I believe we have better organizational skills. We however could learn from the Portuguese to be proud of our history and our roots, to more enjoy life and to be better team players. And we could as well organize flea-markets more often.
Vista Travellers: What do you miss most from your home here? If it was possible to bring anything from Slovakia to Portugal what would you bring?
Katarina: Our mineral waters, poppy seeds mincer and marked tourist routes.