At just 23, he already works as a chef and has travelled all over Europe. For him, England is a means to achieve his goal: to return to and settle down in his beloved Poland.
Sat in his place of work, as he tells me his story, Latin music plays in the background. Different cultures intermingle in the conversation on a strangely hot Sunday in Reading, on what turned out to be one of the few days of summer in this rainy land.
Joan arrived in England just one month ago and found work as a chef in Reading, a job that allows him to live and save money to go back to his beloved Krakow. Originally from the Canary Islands and with family from Catalonia, he has always spoken Spanish and Catalan. He later picked up other languages on his travels, such as English, and a bit of Italian and Polish. At just 15 years old, he started studying hospitality in the Canary Islands, at the same time getting his first few jobs.
At first, he recalls, he scrubbed dishes and followed orders, but slowly he began to learn the secrets of gastronomy. He had always enjoyed travelling, and had no problem living in other places, such as Mallorca, where he resided for eight years.
During his stay in the Spanish island, he realised that he wanted to travel round Europe and get to know more of the world he lived in. He chose interrailing as the best option to visit a number of European cities. Warsaw, the capital of Poland, was the big surprise among them.
At the beginning, the city was a great mystery to him, a small place with many traditions, full of students open to Spanish culture and with a highly sociable atmosphere.
He fell in love with all of it. Why would he go back to Spain? In Krakow, he was offered work, and the language wasn’t a barrier to starting a life there.
Despite his love of Poland, he decided to live in Reading, in a small building with several bedrooms, 3 kitchens and 8 shared bathrooms, in order to save up for his end goal: to earn money and continue his life in Krakow more comfortably.
Joan prefers this town to big cities like London that make him feel like an ant. Working for a month in England and earning in pounds will give him triple earnings when changed to zloty. His long working hours, between 12 and 14 a day, are another factor that helps him to save money.
Joan had already been to England, and doesn’t see much change in the country since the Brexit. W vote. He does not feel comfortable here and despite he had originally planned to stay longer, he is now sure that he will return to Krakow sooner than anticipated.
What he really misses when he is in Poland is the beach and the food. Although he is a chef and able to cook for himself, he can’t find fresh produce in Krakow, like fish and seafood, the culinary delights he loves the most. This is due to due to its geographical location. Nonetheless, Joan has no plans to return to Spain at the moment. Perhaps in the future, if he decides to have a family, he will go back. For now, he finds happiness in his life in Krakow, and his dream of returning.
(Translated by Lucy Daghorn)