Photo: Jure Frelih
Karin Geršak lives in Ljubljana, Slovenia. She studied Translation Studies in English and German at the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana and also speaks Italian. She has had a varied career, including working as a croupier while studying. She has worked in tourism and the HRM department. Recently, she has been a freelance translator and tutor, mostly working on translating English texts into Slovenian and proofreading Slovenian texts. She has developed her own method of language tuition. She says she has a peaceful lifestyle, following the principles of Ayurveda every day and loves travelling and dancing.
Perhaps because of following these simple and balanced principles, or not watching the news, Karin is more hopeful for the future of Europe than my other interviewees so far.
1. Please tell me where you are from and where you currently live and work.
I was born in Slovenia, where I have been living and working for all my life.
2. Which European languages can you speak?
Besides my mother tongue, Slovenian, I can speak English, German and Italian.
3.Would you describe yourself as European? If so, is this part of your identity, or just a fact of geography?
I would describe myself as European. I wasn’t aware of this fact until my husband and I spent half a year in Sri Lanka and India. We liked the countries, the culture and the people very much, but we realized that our way of thinking and functioning was different from theirs. It was European.
4. When you think of the European Union, what is the first thing you think of?
I am not patriotic when it comes to being Slovene or European. I would maybe like to be but we were raised this way. Travelling around the world I notice that other nations are much more patriotic and proud of their countries. I would say that the first thing that comes to my mind are all the European countries.
5. Do you feel that living and working in Europe has made a difference to your professional career? How?
I don’t have much experience with living outside my own country. The only experience I have was working in Germany during my summer holidays when I went to the secondary school. I gained a lot at that time, I became more confident, I learnt to work and communicate with people and I improved my German language knowledge.
6. Do you feel as though the European Union is beneficial to the arts and creative industries? Can you support your answer with examples?
As a lay person in this field I would say that it is beneficial. Because there are no boundaries and not so many administrative procedures the flow and exchange of cultural heritage is easier.
7.Does Europe inspire you professionally or personally? If so, how?
It inspires me in the sense that I feel a certain security here. Everything is well organised, the system is stable and everything is known to me, which makes my everyday life easier.
8. Were you interested in the recent Referendum on EU membership in the UK? What do you think of the result?
I was no more and no less interested in this Referendum as I am interested in any other political and economic events. My husband and I haven’t had a TV for two years. Therefore, we don’t follow the news.
9. Do you think the EU helps maintain peace?
This is a difficult question. Maybe I have a feeling that it does but I don’t know the truth. Learning and reading about European history, though, I must admit that I am not too fond of the things that our ancestors from Europe did in the past, e. g. colonizing other countries, stealing their natural wealth, trying to the customs and religion.
10. Do you feel as though you have a lot in common with people from European countries other than your own? Can you give examples?
By all means. Food, clothes, architecture, law system. Sometimes I have a feeling that we have more in common with other European nations than I would maybe want. I think the boundaries between European nations regarding the above mentioned characteristics are vague. I am not totally aware what is genuine Slovene and what comes from other countries. If I compare Slovenia to countries like India and Iran, there is a big difference. People in these two countries live their tradition and culture every day. The women have their own unique fashion (e. g. sarees in India), they mostly eat their dishes (e.g. kabab in Iran), whereas in Slovenia we rarely eat our old traditional dishes nowadays and all Europeans dress the same.
11. Do you think it is good for the country where you live to be part of the European Union?
I think it is the same as with any other thing. On one hand it is beneficial and it has its advantages, on the other hand it has its drawbacks. The first thing that comes to my mind about disadvantages is accepting the Euro as our currency because everything became much more expensive, whereas our salaries weren’t simultaneously increased. As far as I know, the prices in Slovenia are European, however, the salaries are not.
12. How would you feel about ‘ever closer union’ or a ‘United States of Europe’?
Merely expressions or names don’t mean a lot to me. I don’t identify with them. The only thing that matters to me is the way I, or we, live our simple everyday life.
13. Do you have a favourite place in Europe? If so, where is it and why do you love it?
Yes, it is Slovenia. I love it because it is beautiful. Small but diverse. And from a logistical point of view it is easy to live in Slovenia, to travel around the country and do everyday errands.
14. Which European national stereotypes are true, in your experience?
Every person is unique and has individual characteristic. But there are for sure some characteristics that are collective, and therefore, each individual that comes from a certain surrounding has some of these collective characteristics. On the other hand, we have to distinguish the true characteristics from the perception. I can’t say whether stereotypes are facts or just perceptions. But let me answer like this, I think that all the European national stereotypes are true to some extent otherwise these images about nations wouldn’t be developed in the first place.
15. Where is the best place in Europe to drink coffee? What would you order?
I haven’t been to all the European countries but I would say that the Italians know all there is to know about coffee. I have tried it many times in different places in Italy.
16. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Europe today?
Maybe not to fall apart.
17. Name a place in Europe you have not visited, but would like to. Why?
I would like to visit all the European countries that I haven’t visited yet.
18. What do you think is the most significant moment in European history? Why?
Maybe the industrial revolution because it completely changed our life-style and unfortunately not in a positive way. By having jobs communities fell apart and people started to live alone.
19. Do you think Donald Trump’s election as President of the USA will have an effect in Europe?
Of course, every event in the world has an effect on our future. Whether this fact will have a good or bad effect will be seen and felt in the future.
20. Are you hopeful for the future of Europe?
Yes. Because I believe that everything that happens is good in a way. Even if something happens that most people perceive as bad at first, it is beneficial on a long-term. The old and useless patterns have to be changed and upgraded with new ones. Though, it is good that some traditions are maintained.