Hello and happy fall! I met Martyna a pub quiz this summer and her spunk and enthusiasm made a huge impression on me right away. This is a women who set goals for herself and makes sure they happen. She also has an honest, giving spirit and is always willing to help and make sure people around her are comfortable and happy. But she will also always speak her mind. I hope you will enjoy hearing the story of how Martyna came to join us here in Vienna!
The story starts in Poland in a small town called Ostroda with around 40,000 people in the Polish lake district. I grew up with beautiful surroundings, lots of lakes and forests, spending a lot of time with my parents exploring, fishing with my dad and so on. I lived there until I was twenty-three. I studied and graduated with a degree in teaching English as a foreign language. After my last year, I really needed a break. I had two jobs and had to commute to school, do my dissertation and it was really intense. After that I thought, I need a break. Why not?
At that time a friend of mine was in Amsterdam. I went to see him and kind of stayed for six months. I didn’t expect to stay that long. I stayed with him for three or four nights and in the meantime I walked to pretty much every hostel in Amsterdam. The trick is that sometimes you can have you accommodation and breakfast for free if you work for them for a couple hours a day. Housekeeping or something like that.
After those six months of absolutely loving Amsterdam- cycling everywhere, getting lost in those little streets, exploring the bridges and cafes- I thought, ”Ok, it is December, it’s getting cold and rainy. I can go home.” So I went home. After a few months I realized there is no way I could live in Poland anymore. Seeing how people live, what life was like living with my parents again after six months of being completely on my own. It was like, “There is no way this is going to happen”.
People’s mentality is what made me want to leave, I would say. For a lot of people there, especially in my home town, once you get a job you kind of get stuck with it. And you work it for like thirty years. Simply because the market isn’t good so once you land something, you don’t give it up.
It was the third of March, 2006 when I moved to the UK. It was two days before my birthday, that’s why I remember. I was thinking, maybe a year, maybe two. Six years later, I thought “Ok, six years is definitely enough to experience a country and their language and their people and their weather”.
During those six years of doing so many things really- I also worked in cafes; I worked in a drop-in center for Polish people who don’t speak English. There was one year of interpreting during my last year there for NHS, the national health service in the Southampton area where I was staying. Then I started looking for work as a teaching assistant because I thought I should get back to teaching. At least something in that environment. I started applying for jobs outside the UK as well. Thinking that “Ok, the UK isn’t the end of the world; there are more beautiful places out there, time to start exploring”.
It was really funny because one Friday afternoon I got three job offers. Two of the jobs were in the UK as a teaching assistant and the other was to be an English teacher in Brno, the Czech Republic. I thought,” Martyna, you have been here for six years. What else can happen here? Come on! Let’s just do it!” So I took the job in the Czech Republic and moved there in three weeks. I had to finish everything, my whole life, in three weeks.
Again, the Czech Republic was only supposed to be for a year or two- I always say a year or two- but I stayed there for almost three and a half years. It was one of the best times of my life; Brno is a really, really nice place. Czechs, once you get to know them, are really nice. They are a bit reserved at the beginning because they are really family and friends orientated. Even living in Brno or Prague or Ostrava, every weekend they would go back home and spend time with their family and friends from primary or secondary school. They don’t build new friendships so much anymore after they’re twenty-five or so. Some of them keep friends from the university, but that’s about it.
I really enjoyed my time there. I had great students and a great school which looked after me. I really appreciated it. So that was the Czech Republic. When the third year came I was like, “Martyna, you still like the place so maybe now is the time to leave. Because then when you come back you are really going to enjoy it rather than feeling like oh my God I’m here again”. That how I felt about the UK before I left, I wanted to have all those nice memories and no bad ones.
I was actually thinking of going to Asia to teach there simply because my parents are still in good shape. They’re healthy so I thought if I do it now for a year or two then I won’t feel bad. Because in a few years they will need me near. I would need to be a phone call away and pretty much one plane trip away. But now would be a great time to explore and I know the conditions for teachers in Asia are great. They cover a lot of expenses and so on so you get to travel a lot within Asia. And then, I met a man.
The decision was made and he asked me to live in Vienna, so I said ok. You know, you don’t turn an opportunity like that down. Funny thing, Vienna had never ever, ever, been on any of my destination lists. Yes, to come here and see the beauty of the country, the beauty of the city, definitely. But never to move here permanently. After Asia there was Spain, Greece perhaps, Portugal, the southern countries. But not this part of Europe anymore. But there you go. Here I am.
I officially moved here on the first of July this year, so it’s been nearly four months. I’ve started learning German again. It was the timing in my life that helped me decide to settle down. All the other trips and places were about me moving on my own. Yes, I met men there, I was in relationships, but I had never, ever in my life before Joerg, moved to a different place, to a different country for a man. It was always just me and my books.
I guess reaching thirty, thirty-one, you kind of start to look at your life a little differently, seeing what you’ve achieved, who you are, and at least you know what don’t want. You may not know what you want, but you’ve at least got the list of things you don’t want. I guess the other thing was that Joerg was- I have a little image of the man I would like to be with, the man I imagined being with- and Joerg broke all the rules, or rather I broke all the rules for him. Every single one of them.
First age, I never expected to be with a guy that much older than I am. There’s nine years difference between us. I really wanted to be with an English speaking guy, or Polish. Someone who I would share a native language with. No, he’s from German speaking country. And many, many, many other things. But then perhaps what you think is best for is not actually what’s best for you. So why not see what will happen if you follow a completely different path, which is completely new to you? You kind of explore together, discover things as they come.
He first invited me to come to Vienna after talking for three days only. I was about to say yes when he said, “You know, no, let’s do it differently. I’m going to come to your place. It’s your grounds, you feel familiar and safe, I’m going to be the gentleman and come there.” No one had ever done anything like that before for me. Treating me that way, so that was the first sign. That Sunday was really fantastic so I thought, “You know what, let’s give it a go and see what happens”.
We lived in two completely different cities so first we had to see if it would work that way. And it worked out well. He knew about all the doubts, I told him about it. He slowly worked his way through them. Language wise, he was working really hard on improving his English so we could communicate better. And many other little things that made me think, “Damn you. I had such a fantastic plan and there you go, ruining it.”
Also, the fact that he really gets on well with my dad helps. I think he is the first man I have introduced to him where they really just hit it off straight away. The way I see it is as long as I’m happy, they should be happy for me. As long as they’re happy, I’m happy for them, that’s how it works. I guess my parents also know that I can look after myself. They know I would not be the person to just sit down and cry. I would be like “Ok, so now moving on”. There’s nothing to worry about.
My mom had a period where she was worried I would never live in Poland again. My dad would probably kick my ass if I went back. My mom wants her kids as close as possible. She was concerned when I lived in the UK because they hadn’t visited me there. She didn’t really know what my life was like there so she was worried. But when I moved to the Czech Republic she came to visit me with her husband and she realized I can take care of myself. I lived in a nice place, I had a good job, I had nice friends so she was like, “Ok, now I’m good”. After that I think she also realized that there’s no way I can go back to Poland.
I would say a lot of people don’t really like changes. They’re happy once they have their work, their group of friends, their family. They find it difficult to understand that someone would just leave it behind after just a couple years and start over in a completely unknown place. When I moved to the Czech Republic, I didn’t speak the language. I had no idea what it was going to be like, but it sounded good and it was closer for my family.
My mom and sister also aren’t much of travelers. Luckily my dad is the opposite and I am a walking image of my dad. Both character and physically as well, there are many, many similarities. I’m my father’s daughter, daddy’s girl. He encourages me to continue being curious and adventurous.
That’s the good thing about my parents and that’s probably why I find it so easy to do the things I do. I know they would always support me and I can always count on them. I can call them just to chat, to get things off my chest or whatever, they’re there for me. If something happened and I would have to go back to Poland, I know there is space and a place for me there. So I feel secure from that perspective. Always at the back of my head, I know it’s there. I don’t want to go back, but that option will never disappear. It’s always open.
Another point on my old list was I wanted a man who would have a similar job to mine, or at least a job that would allow him to move from place to place. But when I met this gentleman here I said there’s no way he would ever, ever move from Vienna. This is it, this is his place and he’s never moving, damn!
I don’t know what it’s going to be like in a few years, I may change as a person. So far I get my itchy feet after a few years in one place, I want to see new things and meet new people. But once I get a little bit older, perhaps I will start appreciating the comforts of settling down. We shall see. For now we are definitely staying here. Vienna it is. It’s a good place because it’s easy to travel Europe from here. It’s a nice central point.
I guess this is the compromise for me; Joerg is a person who likes traveling as well. Maybe not moving your whole life to a new place, but going to new places once or twice a year. Going to Asia, or exploring Europe more, I know it’s an option.
I’ve been to Asia twice. The first time was last year in December; I went to Singapore with my very, very, very good friend Sabrina who is from Singapore. We went to go celebrate the Chinese New Year. We celebrated with her family so I kind of got to see all the customs and habits for the way they celebrate. And the food. So much food. Amazing food. We were never hungry and were eating just to eat. And the street food is so cheap and so good.
Since Singapore was family time for her I decided I would leave her with her family for a bit and travel by myself. I went to Thailand for a few days. I was in Phuket, which was really touristy, but it was nice because I was surrounded by people. I really liked it. And then I went back with Joerg. Two weeks in Thailand, Bangkok and ten days on the beach. It was amazing. It was just before summer season there so the beach was empty. There was nobody there. We basically had a private beach. We went in December because we both have always dreamt of spending Christmas and New Year’s eve on the beach. It was one of the things we talked about when we first met. So a few months in we said, what the hell, and booked the tickets. It was so worth it.
I would say for me, customer service in Vienna is hard. After six years in the UK and also working in customer service, coming to this part of Europe is a shock. You look around and think, “Is this really happening? What is wrong with you people?” But I think it comes from the language. I always tell my students that English is a very polite language because the people are polite, the culture is polite. I would say Czech and German are really straight forward languages. You don’t use all the coulds and woulds and pleases so much. It just doesn’t sound natural. So when that is translated directly from their language to English, it sounds rude to an English speaking person. I would say that’s still the biggest issue for me .
On the other hand, as I love cycling, Vienna is wonderful. I don’t want to say second best after Amsterdam because I still have a lot to learn here, but I love the fact that drivers are respectful, they pay attention. And you have the island so you can enjoy off street cycling.
I also love opportunities and the amounts of events. Honestly you could make a living out of going to all these things if someone paid you for it. You would never sleep. There’s always something going on. If in the evening you want to go do something, you will always find something. And you get to meet a lot of great people; it’s such an international city. But you still meet Austrian people out on the street; there aren’t many capital cities like that. They call Vienna the melting pot of central Europe.
Seeing the few places I’ve already managed to see, people usually ask me, “So which one was the best?” and my personal thought on that would be, there is no better or worse. Every single place is different because of different culture, different people, and different history and so on. It’s really difficult to decide which place is the best. I can have my favorite, which is Amsterdam, but that is because it’s very personal for me. And travel is continuously helping me to learn to not judge people and be accepting of differences. You never know what has happened to a person or where they are coming from. This is my lesson to keep learning.