May 18, 2020

Who lives behind Ambiente Apartments doors: Lucia from Swiss Re

Who are you Lucia in a nutshell?
Hi, I’m Lucia, 34 years old and I come from Bratislava, Slovakia. I studied University of Economics in Bratislava. I have travelled all around the world, due to being very independent since childhood. I work for one of the biggest reinsurance companies in the world called Swiss Re. I love my job and the opportunities that came along with it. Recently, I have relocated from Cape Town, South Africa back home to Bratislava. I am extremely grateful for the years I got to live there, as it changed who I am today. I definitely learnt what it means to live in the most multicultural city in the world, city with mixed races, with poor and rich, with all the different cultures, with the mountains in the middle, ocean around it, the Mother city. I was always very athletic and competitive and I just love sports. I grew up doing fencing as a sport for 14 years but in Cape Town I was lucky enough to join the best tennis club called Gardens Lawn Tennis Club. Thanks to tennis, I got to know an amazing group of people who became my extended family. I would play tennis almost every day and I even joined the league. Living next to the ocean, I could not have missed the opportunity to learn how to surf. I bought my first surfboard and learnt how to surf. Eventually, I also started to kitesurf which is my TOP holiday sport and I have already kitesurf in Zanzibar and Egypt. My biggest passion nowadays is golf, which I also started playing because I lived in Cape Town and I keep continuing in Slovakia. My life motto is: “Live like there is no other day, don’t regret, learn from mistakes, stay true to yourself and spread positive energy.”

You originally come from Bratislava but now you live in one of Ambiente apartments for a few months, why is that?
Yes, I come from Bratislava. At the moment, I am in the process of looking for new opportunities within Swiss Re and I do not know if stay in Slovakia or relocate again abroad. I’ve decided to postpone making a decision about long-term rental and for the moment rather decided to be flexible and rent for short to mid-term.

The offer of apartment rentals is due to COVID-19 huge, there are literally hundreds of Airbnb city centre apartments available. Why have you decided for the apartment on Janackova street from Ambiente Apartments, what was the key decision maker?
The apartment is located in the city centre and comes with a dedicated parking spot. I definitely prefer new or re-fitted apartments and this one is new, has a lot of natural light, it is minimalistic and turned towards the courtyard which guarantees privacy and peace. A huge benefit is a regular cleaning service provided by Ambiente Apartments and last but not least, communication with Ambiente was quick, friendly and very customer-oriented.

Before living on Janackova street, you were renting an apartment in Panorama city. Can you compare these 2 apartments (Janackova street and Panorama City) and mention both their advantages and disadvantages?
Living in Panorama City was not bad, but how to put it, the apartment was a bit worn-out. The bed was not as comfy as the one I have here on Janackova street and there were some issues with hot water in the bathroom. The temperature in the corridors outside of the apartment started to increase rapidly with the rising outside temperature and there was no aircon. I consider the 24-hour reception to be an advantage, especially now during COVID-19 it was quite convenient for online shopping and deliveries. I am happy I could have experienced living in Panorama City, but at the same time, I know that smaller more family-feel residential buildings are better for every-day living.

You have travelled a lot and for the last few years Cape Town has become your new home. What is the difference between apartments and hotel accommodation in Cape Town compared to Slovak republic? Is living in South Africa in any way specific?
Living in Cape Town is mostly about security and safety. The most important criteria is the apartment location, what is the neighborhood like and how is the apartment secured. As everywhere else, budget plays a big role, but it’s true that in Cape Town you can find a beautiful place to live in the very centre of the city with a swimming pool and terrace or close to the beach for a very affordable price. The apartments are older and original features as old fireplace, high ceilings, Victorian pillars add to their vibe. People have a good taste and the apartments are usually beautifully furnished. The disadvantage is that the buildings do not have a central heating and when the temperatures fall down, the moisture pops up. I have lived in an amazing apartment, but the moisture was killing me. During cold winter weeks, I was fighting against moist and mold. The world climate has changed rapidly in the recent years, and places that have never experienced winter before, have to deal with it now. Properties not only in South Africa, but also in destinations as Spain, Portugal and others start to suffer from a climate change. If I decided to build a house in Cape Town, I would definitely build it with the heating system, because living 2-3 months a year with outside temperatures around 10 degrees without a heating, is a massacre. Some things that are common in Slovakia are still not that common in South Africa, let’s say a dishwasher. The rental conditions are quite strict, especially compared to Slovak republic. To rent an apartment, you need to pay 2 months deposit and when signing the contract, you need to pay 3 months rent in advance. The landlord asks for plenty of documents, including your work contract, bank account statement, police records etc. It looks like if you were in the process of getting visa. It is standard, that people at the age of 35 still share apartments with others. Slovak people tend to take a mortgage and buy their own place, in South Africa it is still more about renting. It depends on the mortgage conditions and interest rates, which are much more favorable in Slovakia (1%), while in South Africa it is around 7%.

When travelling, what kind of accommodation do you usually choose (hotel, apartments, resort, small family run pension) and what criteria do you consider?
It depends where I travel, what kind of holiday it is, who is the holiday planned with. I truly love design and architecture and I love to be surrounded by beautiful things, that is why I am not only considering the price but the price-value ratio. I don’t know how long will I be living and that is why I believe that if one travels for a holiday, one should make the most out of it and let the body and mind relax. It does not necessarily mean that I always need a luxury. I have travelled India with a backpack, sleeping in places for 3EUR/night. When I am somewhere for a night, I don’t mind, but when I am on a holiday I do put stress on a quality and overall satisfaction. I prefer beautiful accommodation to expensive restaurants eating. Everybody should indulge himself in what makes him happy.

What do you miss after returning from South Africa the most and what is better here, talking about everyday life of a young active person?
I miss South Africans….people I got to know. They are very good and caring people, good-hearted people who despite the fact that they have much less than we do, always smile and spread optimism. I miss sea, beaches and South African untouched nature. Cape Town is incomparably greener than any other European city, the vegetation is amazing. Their wine, food, service… Everything is cheaper, tastier and better than here. The unemployment rate is very high in South Africa, around 30% and people are thankful for work they have. Everybody knows that there are crowds of people waiting for their work and you can feel that. Customer is the king there. We, Slovaks are way behind that and I ask myself if it will change someday…I doubt it, but I wish I’d be wrong. What we have better is the safety, public transportation, you can ride a bike to work and there aren’t homeless people everywhere. After 3 years in Cape Town, I’ve realized, how worriless is the life in Slovakia. You can go out during the day or at night without worrying, you can drive your car without asking what would happen if the car broke down, would I be in danger? That is a luxury and a dream you do not have in South Africa. Slovaks have summer and winter, mountains and cities, the only things missing are the quality of service and being less xenophobic and we can count as one of developed European countries.

What do you think about current situation? Do you go to work or work from your apartment? When you compare your work efficiency in the actual office with the home office, what do you prefer? Do you think that the work style will change after COVID-19? Will be people working more from their homes?

Our office is closed, so I do work from home.. Talking about Swiss Re, we always had the benefit of “Own the way you work”, which means, that the employee has flexible working hours and he chooses when he works and how long he works. The only thing that matters is, that the work needs to be done. I am happy to be a part of the team, where we do not need to go to the office, and for me nothing really changed with COVID-19. In Cape Town, I used to go to work on a daily basis, because of the internet connection (the internet connection sucked at my apartments, fiber is still not standard) and South Africans prefer talking face to face. Work efficiency depends from each and every single person. Me personally, I am more effective working from home than from the office. There are no distractions, nobody is asking me something and if needed, we can still call each other. Swiss Re communicates through Microsoft Teams, so we also see each other. I am single and live alone, that also plays role, it is definitely different as living with family and kids and working from home. Once the offices are open again, I will be going to the office as well, because what are all my clothes for, if not for showing them around? The commute to work by public transport or riding a bike, having a coffee with friends around the office or going for a glass of wine after work, all that has its charm and I miss it. I think, that many companies that were not that flexible will be forced to reconsider the way of work and I am sure, that the home office will be much more acceptable now than ever before.