Tuesday, March 5, 2024


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Memento Mori

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Exploring state of mind in Poland

Tamara Cicic is a Serbian film producer from Belgrade, who’s been living in Poland for almost 2 years now. Even though coming to Poland wasn’t something she had considered before, it brought her the change that she really needed.

Before you came to Poland, you had quite an experience abroad.

I lived in Shanghai for 4 years and then a few months in Vietnam. Afterwards I went back to Belgrade but as it turned out, home was something completely different from what I remembered. I was in a sort of ‘exploring state of mind’ and even though after Asia, I spent some time in my home city, I felt the need to move back abroad and leave my comfort zone behind. It was like I never actually got back. While being back in Belgrade, I was lucky enough to work again with some truly amazing people and even though at home, surrounded by family and friends, it felt cozy, my gut told me I should try out my luck somewhere abroad again. Frankly, Poland was never on top of my mind, but I started following Papaya Films, my current employer, on LinkedIn, and the rest is history.

How did you go about it?

I’ve bumped into a post that Papaya is opening offices in Lisbon. As I was connected on LinkedIn with the CEO, I decided to reach out directly, even though we have never shared any messages, ever. I sent my CV and got a call! After a casual phone interview, he asked whether I would be ready to move to Warsaw? He told me that Poland could be gray and freezing during the long winter. /laugh/ As I recall, my response was that I didn’t care that much, as after Shanghai everything seemed easy. /laugh/ After another interview, and a few more emails, I got an official offer and that was that!

Was coming here difficult in terms of formal requirements?

Thankfully, all of this was taken care of by the employer. With my Serbian passport I can travel within European countries, and stay in the EU up to 3 months. When it comes to working here, a work permit, followed by a residence permit, is mandatory. During my past job interviews with various companies, I was always emphasizing my Serbian citizenship, so they were aware, if for some reason, not ready to support the work permit procedure. Luckily, with Papaya Films this process was really easy going, and the requirement for visa and work permit was never an obstacle. So, I felt this is the right place to be – where nationality and passport are of no importance. They also offered full support throughout the whole process and made sure I felt secure throughout the journey. Once the paperwork was done, I moved to Warsaw!

You said Poland was never in your plans. What did you expect before you came here?

My brother lives in Poland. His wife is Polish and they both lived in different countries for some time too. During one of their vacations in Europe, a hurricane destroyed their place back home where they previously lived, and they decided to stay in Poland. So, I knew a thing or two about Poland, and obviously I knew at least one Polish person. /laugh/ Having them here was a huge upside for me. My brother was so excited, he couldn’t believe we were going to live in the same country again, after 12 years of being on different continents. This also made my mum very happy – having both kids close to each other once again!

How would you compare 2 very different experiences of moving to Shanghai and then to Warsaw?

Moving to Shanghai was a huge, sort of an extreme decision. It wasn’t only due to the fact it’s very far away from home, but because it changed my mind set. 30 million people city, huge expat community, constantly moving, vibrant and massive… And especially in our industry, it almost felt like you were never home – there were always drinks or dinners to attend. It’s a very business-oriented city and after a few years, I simply got tired. Nevertheless, it was an amazing experience that changed my way of thinking and the way I work. I learned to listen, how to be better, more courageous and more curious. It taught me patience. But when I went back home, I was a bit lost – after years of challenges, success, constant buzz. I felt the urge to be somewhere else again. And out of the blue, Poland appeared on my radar, which was exactly what I needed. I was super excited and ready to move. The main difficulty here for me though, is of a different nature. While in Shanghai everyday life could be exhausting but functioning within the community is quite easy, in Warsaw it’s the other way around. Everyday life here is easier, but for some reason, it’s tougher for me to adapt and embrace a completely different lifestyle, different to one I had in Shanghai.

How so?

Huge expat communities in some cities and small ones in others, make a difference when it comes to relocation, building new relationships, and starting everything from scratch. And it’s never easy, no matter where you relocate. I believe Serbians and Poles are very much alike, but may differ in styles of communication and approach. I can be very straight forward, and from time to time, it may appear as unusual with some Poles. I should definitely improve my Polish though, as the common language always brings people closer. After 2 years I’m still learning how to navigate. /laugh/

But you did find friendship here?

Yes, I have a couple of very dear Polish friends and one of them easily became my emergency contact, always being there for me. Luckily, I’m here with my husband. We decided that whoever goes anywhere, the other one follows. We went to Shanghai together and he joined me in Warsaw.

And how do you find Warsaw?

The best thing about this city is how green it is! I was surprised by that. Warsaw’s full of parks. On my way to work I can pass through at least 2 beautiful ones. When I compare Warsaw to other places I visited and lived in, it’s the greenest city! I really needed that change. Air here is so much better from what I’m used to, leading to my health improving after I moved.

What would be Belgrade’s advantage over Warsaw?

I miss traditional Serbian home-made dishes. The local ones, that can’t be really substituted with anything else. There are some places here that serve meals similar to those at home, but it’s not the same. I also miss Serbian socializing culture. Belgrade is full of bars and restaurants but in a different way than Warsaw. I would say it’s about the way those 2 cities are built. Warsaw’s architecture is very ‘wide’ – places are quite far away from each other. You don’t have consolidated areas with bars, where you can just spontaneously go across the street to talk to a familiar face you saw at a different coffee house. Maybe that’s why Poles schedule social meetings, rather than letting them happen spontaneously, while a simple coffee grabbing is just built right into the DNA of Belgrade. I also miss my family and friends – all those life-long connections, but that goes without saying. Luckily, it’s only a short flight away.