„Until 2019, I would have had little desire for a business meeting in Warsaw in cold, wet January. Now everything is different. I can’t wait to meet my colleagues live instead of virtually and to travel – to a restaurant and to the hairdresser, because in Rotterdam everything is in lockdown.” Susann Knobloch, EMEA Sales Enabler EMEA Sales Enabler of an Information Management Service Provider
I live and work in Rotterdam and am responsible for the training and onboarding of the European sales teams at an international company. For the new year, new colleagues started working in our company and I fly to Warsaw to welcome a group and host the onboarding kick off live. I already liked Warsaw during the last short appointment. Now I’m arriving on Sunday morning instead of Monday and staying for a bleisure day or two after the meeting – just like I used to do so often on business trips. Back to a bit of normal travel life.
Dziekuje to the colleagues
Since I started at the company in April 2021, I had hardly seen my colleagues “in real life”. I do almost everything from my home office. Yet I am an absolute “people person” and love working with different cultures – live.
This business trip to Warsaw is accordingly a highlight for me. If someone had told me two years ago that I would jump for joy if I could go to Poland in winter, I would probably have said they were crazy. But now it’s different.
On top of that, until recently the Netherlands was in total lockdown. Apart from grocery shops, pharmacies and drugstores, everything was closed. There were no accessible restaurants, no shopping, no museums and for me, especially at the moment, one problem: no hairdresser. The earlier arrival therefore proves to be a salvation – a short video call with the office manager Monika in Warsaw, an understanding nod and two hours later she has organised a hairdresser appointment for me for Sunday afternoon in Warsaw. Monika is the best. “Dziękuję” means “thank you”, I know that by now.
A bit like East Berlin and Rotterdam
I was already in Warsaw last November. But back then I only had the typical airport-taxihotel-office-taxi airport experience. Now it’s Warsaw with a bit more peace and quiet and well-groomed hair again.
From the airport it takes only about 20 minutes by taxi to the InterContinental Hotel, where I check in again. The friendly taxi driver gives me a mini-guided tour of the city in good English, which I had not imagined to be so modern. Behind the many glass skyscraper facades are chic hotels or international corporations. The Soviet-influenced architecture reminds me a bit of East Berlin, the modern skyscrapers in the city centre of Rotterdam. So I feel a bit at home.
Directly in front of the InterContinental Warsaw, where I am staying, is the huge Palace of Culture and Science, a “gift” from Stalin in the 1950s. Today, in addition to offices and event spaces, you can find several educational institutions, a multiplex cinema, various restaurants, cafés and bars, a post office, a shopping centre and more. The huge building is not charming, but it is impressive. And something else surprises me: Poland naturally has a very strategic location between East and West. But rarely have I seen so many business people from such different parts of the world in one hotel, especially now.
At the Bar with a Gamer
The hotel is super centrally located and I discover the city on foot. Later, I also treat myself to the pool on the 48th floor of the hotel, from where I can see the whole city while swimming. And afterwards I go to the bar, where many businesswomen travelling alone sit, while at the tables there are almost only men in groups. I think it’s not quite so strange sitting alone at the bar as a woman, and you can eat here too. In addition, I got into a nice conversation with another single traveller from the US last time.
Sophie came from Boston and is a senior animator at a video gaming studio. Completely without make-up, wearing jeans and a hoodie, piercings and tattoos (suddenly I feel conservative), the gamer was sitting at the bar of one of Warsaw’s classiest hotels, spooning her soup. Sophie had been in Poland for about a week, as her company and a Polish video games studio were merging. “Oh,” I said in surprise. “I didn’t think Poland had so much to do with video games. So your studio is actually buying a Polish one now?” “No,” Sophie said with a smile. “The Poles are buying us.” “Look at that” – that’s what I’m going to learn in Polish next, I thought to myself.
This time I don’t meet anyone at the bar, but that doesn’t matter. The hotel hustle and bustle is already nice cinema for me and in the next few days I talk a lot “in real” with my colleagues. Warsaw in winter – a great start to the travel work year.
Susann Knobloch …
wanted to fly on to Budapest and Bucharest on business in the next few weeks, but the company has currently cancelled all non-essential trips again. Instead, the Netherlands has just relaxed the lockdown once again and opened up hairdressers and the like.
Photos: © Knobloch