Cultural Differences: Slovakia, a few reflections…
I was just on a project in Slovakia, specifically Bratislava. I had been there before so I felt rather comfortable getting around the city, sight-seeing, and finding my way to shops, restaurants and a nice gym for a few workouts. (a rarity on the road) Again, people were generally very helpful, efficient, and service-oriented. Not necessarily always friendly but not unfriendly either. The hotel was an Austrian brand and the rooms were really nice, but I’ve never had such bad-tasting food in a hotel in my life! Luckily there was a little Italian place across the road that served up pasta arrabiata, pea soup, and rocket salad that became my staple for the six days I was there.
In speaking with the locals, the consensus was that people were selfish in Bratislava. Meaning, the culture is such that people only looks out for their own good and most individuals strive for their own piece of the pie. This isn’t easy in Slovakia, because although there is some global expansion and new shopping malls as well as hotels, the average person makes 700 Euro per month and the price of goods is comparable to Austria where the average salary is 3500 Euro per month.
Additionally, although not as extreme as in some places, “corruption” or “gift-giving” – depending on how you look at it – plays a role in getting daily, basic needs met. Paying “tips” to the doctor, pharmacist, insurance agent, teacher, etc. is not unusual in Slovakian culture if you want or need special treatment.
Generally, I found that the Slovakians were curious about the world, many had been outside of Slovakia, had impressive cross cultural skills, and most spoke English and German quite well.