Gosia: greenvana - living green
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Berlin, etc.
My name is Gosia Julia Kozlowska and I come from Warsaw, Poland. I've been an expat for over 10 years. After six amazing years that I had spent in London, I decided to follow my teenage dream of learning German and living in Berlin, and moved here in 2009.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
While living and studying in England, I wrote my first blog that was largely influenced by my Media and Communications studies and travels from, back to, and within London. I was blogging for myself and for friends back home. My current blog (greenvana.eu) started off in Berlin and is a totally different story. As much as my lifestyle changed from studying and partying to practicing zen meditation and yoga, cooking healthy food and doing sports, greenvana is about my biggest passion – a healthy lifestyle. Due to my international experience the blog is written in English, Polish and partly in German and I try to write about each of these countries to some extent. By blogging I would love to connect with other expats that might have lived in two or more foreign countries as well as with those who enjoy an active and healthy life. Each country is a new adventure and a new lesson. It is Berlin where I discovered the field I want to work in, so it plays a huge role in my life.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Sure. There are some topics that I enjoy writing about the most:
- Sport - Preparing for and running my first half marathon
- Active travel – A trip to the wild Polish mountains with my mum
- I adore sharing my health & beauty tips
Tell us about the ways your new life in Berlin differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
It was 2003 when I moved to London from Warsaw. Even though these are quite different cities, the culture shock, if any, happened on the first day only at the Heathrow Airport. The place was extremely busy, loud, and full of different cultures and languages. I've always been very open and even more curious, meaning that I adapted very fast in this new reality. Moving from London to Berlin on the other hand, felt almost like moving back to Poland - right side of the road, similar architecture, normal taps… :) In my opinion, the only culture shock is the foreign language. Once you've grasped it, the world is yours! ;)
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Berlin? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I wasn't well prepared at all when I moved to Berlin. Other than with my decision of going to England, which had been planned a year in advance, going to Berlin was more of a spontaneous and crazy decision. I also could speak English prior to moving to England. After six years in the UK, I simply felt like one chapter was about to end and I wanted to move on. I did attempt learning German while studying, however, that one hour a week where everybody had a different level of language skills didn't help me much. It feels like I started here from scratch. Even though it was quite stressful at the beginning, I probably wouldn't have changed anything. It's hardships that teach us the most. Oh, yes, I remember what I would have changed actually! Back in 2009, I didn't know that the German job market was not fully open to Poles, as well as to the other nine countries that joined EU in 2004. I started off with a European exchange program called Leonardo da Vinci and that was fine. Afterwards, I simply wanted to apply for a job here and only then I found out that it wasn't that easy at all. This was very disappointing and stressful and I had to be very creative to find my way around here.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Oh, yes, there were plenty of such situations! But funnily enough, I can only think of such stories in London right now... One of them was when I and my Italian flatmate couldn't get into our flat, because the lock got broken. We were both tired after work and just wanted to get inside a.s.a.p. We went into a random high-street shop and asked where the nearest locksmith was. The shop owner advised us to walk approx. 200 yards down the road. We kept on walking and after some 15 minutes I asked her how far 200 yards actually was. She looked at me puzzled and replied that she had no idea and figured it out that I must have known it. We then asked a passerby who instructed us that we had surely walked passed that shop long ago as 200 yards are less than 200 meters. There have been way too many funny stories to fit them all in here :)
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Berlin?
- Learn German - even though you can get on with English, knowing German will open you many doors.
- In case you are moving here with a hope to find a well-paid job, beware that it might not be that easy. More often than not you will have to accomplish one or more internships before you will find your dream job. Germany, and especially Berlin, is known for endless internships. However, if you're an artist or a student who intends to party a lot - you'll be more than fine in Berlin.
- Buy yourself a bicycle - it's the most pleasant, and often the fastest, way to commute in the city.
How is the expat community in Berlin? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Berlin is a very multicultural city and I don't think that it's difficult to meet new people here. In my opinion, it's only a boyfriend or a girlfriend who might get into your way and make you spend more time with them rather than meeting new people :D
How would you summarize your expat life in Berlin in a single, catchy sentence?
Life is like riding a bicycle: To keep your balance, you must keep moving. (Albert Einstein)