- -  Day # 262  + +

EU > Slovenia > Maribor


Maribor, SI (View on map)

In communist times, the link between effort and wealth was a rather faint one. Until 20 years ago, any Slovenian would be almost equally rich as his neighbour. No matter what profession either of them had and no matter how much effort either of them put into their jobs. Times have changed. Converting effort into money is now one of the driving forces under the Slovenian society. Slovenes are hard-working, ambitious and talented, but can they cope with the pressure of always having to exceed expectations?

Matej (24):

..only recently sold his shares in former nationally owned companies
Klemen (26) thinks the Slovenians are having a hard time. As an explanation, he tells me that many of them drive cars that they actually cannot afford: `In other countries, you can measure the living standard by looking at the cars. If you do the same in Slovenia, you have to take into consideration that many people bought a big share of the car from borrowed money. The actual living standard is lower than what the cars seem to disguise. People are only little hesitant to get loans to buy consumer goods, up until Christmas presents. Somehow, the only thing people are not willing to do on a credit is studying. But students are usually not the ones who are paying: it`s the parents, possibly in addition to a scholarship that the student may be entitled to.`

Klemen tells me that the Slovenian indifference towards taking loans is contradictory with their otherwise rather rational way of dealing with money. `Slovenians are known to be stingy and they enjoy putting money aside ? no matter whether they have a specific purpose for it or not. In my case, I would like to buy a house in the future, and am saving some money for that now. In the past, I saved up money to buy a mountain bike, which probably cost me about 2 000 euros, making it the most expensive purchase I ever made. The other thing I spend quite some money on is remote-controlled airplanes. The biggest one I have, has a wingspan of 2.80 meters and it has a reach of about 5km.`

Making money
Klemen thinks that finding work in Slovenia is not particularly difficult, `provided that you have a university degree in electronics, mechanics, computer science or pharmacy. Speaking English is an advantage, although it`s not always required. In technical areas, it`s more common for employers to expect candidates to speak German.`

Matej (24, photo) thinks that the best way to get rich is by opening your own company and exploiting a smart idea: `But I also believe that there is a fair relation between effort and money. Simply working hard will also pay off.` Matej explains me that a select group of people got rich when Slovenia became independent and national companies were privatised: `The ownership of the companies was equally distributed among all Slovenians. The number of shares each Slovenian got depended on his age. I was young at the time, and got about ? of the value my parents received.`

Although the distribution itself was arranged on a fair basis, the aftermath still made some people richer than others. `People who were not well-informed tried to sell the shares as quickly as possible`, Matej says. `The people who bought the shares of the others for a small price only had to wait for a few years to convert their shares into a fortune, sometimes earning more than 25 times the orginal value of the shares. I kept mine until quite recently, then sold them at quite a good price.`

Matej further tells me many students in Slovenia have small, irregular jobs on the side: `It`s actually easier for students to find jobs than for those who graduated. The competition is not entirely fair. Students do not have to pay taxes over their income and they usually work at lower salaries than graduates. The best way to find a job after your studies is to gain some work experience during your studies. In that way, you at least know some people who have seen what you can do. Who know that you can do better than some next student they could invite for the job.`

This said, Matej does not have a fixed job next to his studies. He occasionally works as a car driver every now and then: `My parents pay for the rest of my studies. I am quite lucky with that. A few years ago, my father bought four apartments for me and my siblings. Not having to pay rent makes quite a difference, especially when you imagine that the prices of property in student cities have tripled in the past couple of years. For most other students, that simply means: having to stay with their parents while studying, and possibly even longer.`

Miran (23) also accept occasional jobs as a car or bus driver to make some extra money. `My parents pay pretty much everything else, up to money I need for going out or for sports betting. If I go on holiday, I will also ask my parents. I`m quite lazy. When I finish my studies, I will look for an easy job that will make me lots of money.`

Eva (25) has a different approach to financial matters, even though she also depends on her parents to finance her studies: `In Slovenia, it`s common for people to study until the age of 25/26. Somebody who doesn`t finish before 30 is very slow, while I would say it`s impossible for somebody to finish before turning 22. I myself am in the last year of my language studies and whenever I do small jobs on the side, it`s in the same field, usually translating English or German texts into Slovenian. It makes me some extra money and it helps me gain experience. I use the money to pay for my holidays and try to put some of it aside for whatever I may need in the future.`

Anja (21) tells me that Slovenians are not too eager to share their wealth. `We usually buy each other quite kitschy presents, and only whenever there is an occasion: typically at Christmas or for birthdays. There is no tacit arrangement between boyfriends and girlfriends that they need to buy each other a present every now and then to keep each other happy and spontaneous presents to friends and family are not very common either. People prefer to spend their money on their own needs. Spending patterns tend to be rather stereotypical. Women enjoy buying clothes and accessories, men buy things that help them impress others.`

Simona (31) occasionally makes contributions to charity organisations like Red Cross and Unicef even though she is unsatisfied about her salary: `I have a second job to complement my normal salary. I am teaching English in school, and German on the side. I trying to save up money to buy myself a BMW, which I plan to do in two or three years time. I probably won`t have enough money by then, so I might just get a credit for the rest of the purchase price. I have always wanted to have a BMW. I am now driving a Citro?n C2. That`s a small car, but I do have the VTS version. Apart from cars and traveling, I like to spend money on purses and watches. All of those needs are sufficient to keep me working for 12/14 hours a day.`

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