Wrocław welcomes a Turkish delight

Relocating from the Mediterranean seaside to a Polish city presented a set of challenges, but with a growing business and recent nuptials, the Turkish native is here to stay.

What did you know about Poland before you came for the first time?

We learned world history in school and I remember reading about King Sobieski. I knew Poland and Turkey had a good political and historical relationship. There is a Polish village in Istanbul called Adampol where around 5,000 Poles live. There is a statue of of Adam Mickiewicz and you see signs written in Polish.

Why did you decide to come to Poland for Erasmus studies?

When I came in 2008, Poland was still a new member of the European Union which was an interesting subject for me. I wanted to research how Poles were living and ‘life in the EU ’ because Turkey also wanted to join and it was a case study at my university.

What were your first impressions of Poland?

I first arrived in Poland in February and to be honest it was a hard winter compared to Mersin where temperatures don’t drop below +15 degrees so imagine how hard it was to adjust to -10 degrees and lack of sunshine in Poland. Apart from the weather, I was impressed by the architecture in Wrocław and the greenery – the city’s character made me feel happy to live there.

What are the cultural similarities between Poles and Turks?

Poles are as hospitable as Turks – they don’t let their guests leave their home without eating something. One more similarity is that old ladies wear scarves like Turkish old ladies. I see them a lot in small towns, even where I live now. Maybe it is a symbol of their morality, religion or ethics and it makes me feel like we are similar.

Did you have any strange experiences in Poland?

When I was a young and beautiful student (laughs), I had long hair and looked like the famous singer Shakira. While I was walking, everybody was looking at me and one day, two women stopped me and asked for my autograph and a picture with me. I didn’t speak Polish so I couldn’t ask what was going on but I agreed to pose for the photo. That was really funny and I’m still searching for those ladies with my photo.

Was it difficult to learn the language?

Before coming to Poland, I only knew how to say ‘hello’, ‘good morning’ and ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I think Polish is one of the most difficult languages in the world. I didn’t need to learn Polish until I worked for a Polish bank as a sourcing manager and needed to do tender requests for Polish providers so I took a six month language course at the University of Wrocław. After that, I met my husband who didn’t speak English and because of him, I really had to learn Polish.

Why did you decide to leave the corporate world to start your own business?

I travelled to 25 countries during the eight years that I was working and in each country I visited, I saw different ideas but one of them, which is my lovely product, was not in Poland. This idea – Wet Wipes with own logo – was totally missing so I decided to create this kind of advertising medium, a gadget for hotels, restaurants, transport companies, catering companies, wedding or event organisers. Now we are in a time where hygiene is very important, so we combine hygiene with advertisement.

Was it difficult to start a business in Poland?

My company, Gazi Marketing, is a marketing and advertising company and it was difficult at first because it is a new idea, and Poles don’t know what it’s used for. In Turkey, every kebab shop and restaurant gives customers these wipes with their own logo to add prestige and cut costs of cleansing products. Most places don’t have bathrooms for customers to wash their hands so this would be a great product to have in such shops.

Besides business, is there anything keeping you in Poland now?

Of course, I can say love. I have a Polish husband and in the middle of September we got married with a wedding reception in Turkey and then we will return to Poland to have the wedding in the Catholic Church. So apart from business, love keeps me here.

Elvan Gazi was born in Gaziantep, Turkey and spent most of her life in Mersin, a seaside city in southern Turkey. While earning bachelor’s degrees in business administration and public administration, Gazi spent six months of Erasmus studies at the Wrocław University of Economics where she later earned an MBA. After working as an analyst at Hewlett Packard in Poland and then Euro Bank, Gazi decided to start her own marketing business in Wrocław where she’s been living for over 11 years.

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