Swedish volunteer Rut spent six months with us. What interested her the most in Malý Berlín?

You could meet Rut at our events for half a year. In addition to her work, the Swedish volunteer also enjoyed many new experiences and surprises that her stay in our cultural center and Slovakia in general brought her. She reveals more in our interview.

Rut, you are were for almost half year. Can You describe this Slovak experience in one sentence?

I would say it has been an incredible experience I never thought I would experience. 

And now – can you tell me more? How did you like it here?

I have really liked my stay here, and It’s been so amazing to see and live in another culture and country I never really thought of visiting before. I feel that I have met a lot of interesting people not only from Slovakia but also other volunteers from other countries which has been very interesting and fun. Also learning more about myself because I have never lived in another country this long before, I think it has been a really cool experience. Additionally, I really loved Trnava as a city, it is so nice, and I really feel a little bit at home here. I love all these beautiful churches, cafés and old buildings. 

Can you compare your expectations with reality? What surprised you the most, in good or bad way?

I think the language surprised me the most in Slovakia. I have never come into contact with this kind of language before and thought it would be easy to learn, but it was a surprise to find it so different. Both good and bad, because the language sounds beautiful when people speak it, but it was really hard to learn. The people and the community also feel much more supportive than in Sweden. People in Sweden are very individualistic and do not talk to anyone unless they have to. Here I have the feeling that people help each other more in everyday life. Even though I have the feeling that people here are a bit shy towards foreigners at first sight, people here are very friendly.

Tell me more about your routine in Malý Berlín. What did you do?

My responsibilities at Maly Berlin usually include helping to take photos and posts on social media for various events, as well as helping to create posters and working around events and activities. For example, we had a Scandinavian film festival at Maly Berlin, and I was able to help select some films and participate in different ways. I also write down interviews with emerging artists and creatives. These interviews are then later published on the Maly Berlin website. During my stay, I also have several projects of my own. For example, I did a discussion with the Malý Berlín team about the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. On the side, I am writing an article about Swedish brands, especially smaller independent design brands, and the Swedish/Scandinavian way of thinking about design.

Which events did You like the most?

Because I have an interest in for example dance and music, these have been my absolute favorite events to experience in Maly Berlin. For example, there was a fantastic dance performance by the local dance school Alegria which I really liked and that just made me want to go take a dance class myself. But also all of these amazing Slovak and Ukrainian bands and artists which I found very different from Swedish artists and music, that was fascinating. 

What was the most interesting experience during your residence here?

I think it must have been going to the High Tatras. Everyone was telling me it was a must-experience and that I just had to go. It was, I think, the most amazing experience. We were hiking in these incredible mountains, and I feel like I got to see the other side of Slovakia, the more eastern side, which I never visited before. I was for example taking a bath in this hot springs, which was amazing, and I didn’t even know they had this in Slovakia.   

What did You learn? What have these six months in Slovakia taught You?

Well, I have learned a lot about working in a cultural space and center, and how much people appreciate visiting it. It is so incredible to work with all these different artists and see what they are so passionate about. I feel like every event or workshop I have been to was very inspiring, and it is amazing that there exists this kind of space for everyone to showcase their art or music etc. Also, I learned a lot about Slovak culture, food and language. I have tried halušky for example and even made it when I was visiting High Tatras. I feel like they have a lot of good liquor, and wine here, and also great honey and cheese. 

How about the Slovak language? Did You learn some phrases, words, maybe sentences?

I really tried to learn as much Slovak as possible during my stay here, but it is a really difficult language because of differences to my own language. Swedish is much more similar to, for example, German language, so this was a totally new experience for me too. But I learn the basic phrases, for example when I go to the shop and ask for something or say „here is my card“. Of course, I can say things like goodbye and the different ways to say it, like „Čau“ or „Dovidenia“. And also „Dobrý deň“ and more different greeting phrases. 

Did You reach your goals You wanted to reach before You came?

Yes I think so, my goals for this stay were basically to try something new, and learning about new culture and also working within cultural organization. I think I got the most out of my experience here, and I feel very happy that I could do all my projects and work here that I really like.  

Can You tell me three things You will miss the most from Malý Berlín when You will be home?

Of course the biggest thing I will miss is probably the team of Malý Berlín, I feel like I’ve gotten so close with everyone during my stay and I will miss talking to everyone, and also I will miss helping with all the events and meeting Slovak people in this cultural space. But I will hopefully visit again in summer!

Ján Janočko

Photo: Petra K. Adamková