A new employee of mine started work this Monday (although he’s been in Warsaw since last Wednesday). He’s from Newcastle, England, UK, British Isles, Great Britain, call it what you will, the far side of the channel. He’s never worked or lived outside the UK, I think he’s 30 years old. We’re lucky, him also, that our work does not always demand competency in the lingua polska (as many of our clients are international and much of the report writing is also demanded in English) and so we were able to consider a recruitment policy that may otherwise appear a little stupid. He’ll obviously be somewhat restricted but what he lacks in Polishness should be made up for with Britishness, which is preferred by some clients even when getting things done overseas.
Can I just make it clear up-front that he’s being paid and treated the same as any Pole would be. No special treatment just because he’s a Brit. We had a vacancy, he was a candidate, all candidates were offered the same deal wherever they came from.
However capable he may turn out to be at work, having a freshman to look after is already bringing back memories of how it was when I first arrived and highlighting just how much trivial knowledge one needs just to survive in a new country, irrespective of work demands. Hopefully he won’t mind me using him as study / blog post material, if he’s at all a writing type we might even get him on here to give us his own “first impressions”.
He’s achieved a lot since arriving. He’s only had since Thursday so that’s what, 5 days not including today and including two days of weekend and he’s already found and moved into an apartment, opened a bank account, sorted out things like mobile phones, cars and stuff at work and fair bit of other routine stuff. He’s also got a good handle on Warsaw nightlife over the weekend as far as I know and has learnt, with a passable accent, precicesly one word a day. I think they are – piwo, dziendobry, dziekuje, tak, nie & prosze.
The little stuff is amusing though, for me anyway. We were at a lunch meeting today with a client called Maciej Kowalski (surname disguised to protect the innocent, but it was pretty close). He asked Maciej if he was Polish. I nearly spat my soup across the table but then I suppose it’s a reasonable question for a freshman. By now I understand Polish, central European, names, faces, accents and demeanour but he doesn’t know a Maciej from a Gabor from a Jaromir at this stage.
During the same meeting it was clear that Maciej was having some difficulty understand him. A bit suprising as he does not have a strong Geordie accent by any means and speaks relatively slowly but when he asked Maciej “Where were you staying in Mexico?” and Maciej answered “Yes, I always catch the tram to work!”, I knew we had communication breakdown. I asked Maciej, nicely, if freshman was understandable and he, of course said “perfectly”. After the meeting I gave freshman the pep-talk on making doubly sure that someone has understood what he said because I’ve never, not once, heard a Pole admit that they don’t understand. They’ll just nod their head, grunt, say things like “sure, yeah” and leave you with the impression that every last word was understood completely. Then, whatever it is he wanted to happen, won’t happen and he’ll be left wondering what went wrong.
Looking for forms of identification in the office for use with ZUS and other such crap, he produced his driving license. Being British that would be the normal way to identify yourself as that’s about all you ever carry around with you in the UK and from that the big-brother computer systems will provide all other data. Here in Poland of course this idea is just laughable, especially so when the license was one of those old paper ones that had most definitely seen better days. Honestly, I’ve seen used toilet paper that was in better condition than this! It gave everyone in the office a good laugh at any rate and a few even took photos of his license to take home and show their families! He’s now applying for a “proper” license.
He’s moved into his apartment but has no crockery, cutlery or any of those other useful items in life. What’s more he has bugger-all idea about where to go and get them and how to get them back to his place. I remember those days well! I also remember my first big party in Poland where I wanted some candles and if it wasn’t for the help of a colleague at the time, my apartment would have looked more suitable for a wake than a dance party! (Those gravestone candles are very attractive though, aren’t they?) Being the all-round good guy that I am, I’m taking him shopping in Ikea tomorrow.
It is very early days for freshman, things have gone suprisingly smoothly so far but we have yet to tackle the tricky things like visas, ordering a pizza, directing a taxi, getting paid, paying taxes, melduneks and all that jazz. Plenty of time for the shit to hit the fan!
Stay tuned for the next episode of –