April 18 2018
When and why did you move to Slovenia?
2006 My wife is Slovene. We met in 1995 and lived in London together for a while before deciding to quit the rat race for a new life in Slovenia. This was partly about living somewhere with betterweather, amazing nature, mountains, skiing, better work/life balance etc., but also we had started Think Slovenia and quickly realized that we needed to be based here to make a success of it.
What are some of the challenges you faced when you arrived?
Suddenly leaving London, where I’d lived all my life working in a hectic corporate environment, and moving to living in a small village on a mountainside in Gorenjska and running our own business was definitely a culture shock, but a good one. I knew Slovenia pretty well already, so did know what I was getting into, but even so.
And I could speak a bit of the language, but getting to a point where I could operate fully independently in Slovenia was a challenge in terms of the language and understanding of a completely different system, culture and mentality. Working as a couple in our business also had its own challenges, having had very separate working lives before coming to Slovenia.
A wood-clad cottage near the Hungarian border (see more here)
How did you deal with these challenges?
I really made an effort to learn the language, worked our backsides off to build up the business, visited the UK a lot to make sure we didn’t lose contact with family and friends there. and joined various sports clubs here through which I met a lot of people, Slovenes and expats, a lot of whom 10 years later have become great friends. Eventually got a small apartment in Ljubljana, so we were not up the mountain 100% of the time. Nice as it is, it was good to combine with a bit of city life too, especially as Ljubljana was visibly changing and becoming a more enjoyable by the year.
Is there anything you still find difficult?
I think I am pretty much “naturalized” now, and whilst there are pros and cons of living everywhere, I keep any frustrations in perspective and overall love living in Slovenia, and it’s a pleasure to live here at a time when it feels like the country is really starting to live up to its potential, with the steady growth of tourism, incredible success in various sports, better and better food and wine, and various other accolades like the European Green Capital 2016, 1st declared green country, #1 country in the world for bringing up kids, consistently one of the safest countries in the world , #1 female chef in the world in 2017, and so on. Feels to me like there is growing confidence and pride in Slovenia, the country and its culture.
A spacious rental in Šmartno, Goriška Brda (see more here)
Where do you live, and what’s it like there?
A small village half way up Krvavec mountain 40 mins drive from Ljubljana which is beautiful – amazing views, beautiful nature, but still very accessible for Ljubljana, the airport, Gorenjska etc. And in Ljubljana we live on Gornji trg, which is one of my favourite old town streets, with a nice community feel, beautiful buildings, some of the best restaurants in town – like 5-6kg, which makes the best seafood pizza in the universe – and an amazing back garden in the form of Castle Hill!
How do you usually spend your work days?
We sell property in Slovenia to buyers from around the globe, all with individual objectives and preferences, so matching the right property to the right buyer is a challenge, and then conducting the sales process is never as straightforward as you might hope, as often properties here have issues that need to be sorted out during the sales process to ensure a safe purchase. After a purchase we often help buyers go on to renovate and fit out their property, which is a growing area of our business. On top of that we manage around 100 properties for holiday and long-term rental around the country, so there is no shortage of work in terms of trying to keep the properties as good as the owners and tenants expect them to be.
A five-bedroom home in Jereka, Bohinj (see more here)
What kind of things do you do on your day off, and where?
Mainly looking after twin three-year olds. Usually we are in our home in Krvavec, but I try and ski as much as I can in winter, and love hiking in the mountains in the summer.
What parts of Slovenian culture surprised you, and what do you miss about home?
I love how active people’s lifestyles are here in terms of sport and getting out into nature. It just seems to be in people’s blood, which is pretty positive. With regard to what I miss, it’s mainly friends and family. But although we may see them less often when we do it’s for a longer and more quality time, so it’s not so bad.
Would you advise a friend to move to Slovenia?
Definitely, and I’m also hoping to become a Slovene citizen before long.
A holiday rental with pool by Piran (see more here)
Can you say anything about your plans for the future?
We want to carry on being a leading company for non-Slovenian property buyers and owners, helping them with the challenges they face here from finding and buying a property, renovating it, renting out, dealing with maintenance, taxes and so on, and eventually also selling it.
We also try not to say no to our management clients and be there to help with them with whatever issues they face along the journey. We love building our portfolio of beautiful rental properties which are often people’s gateway to discovering Slovenia for the first time. It is quite hard work managing property, as there a lot which can go wrong, but it is great when you hear guests or tenants enthusing about a property or place, and Slovenia in general.
We like to think we are doing something quite positive for the country by bringing in tourists and property buyers, most of whom are in love with Slovenia and try hard to integrate themselves, and often “save” older houses which might not otherwise get renovated. We want to carry on doing a good job of what we are doing, and growing the company steadily with lots of personal recommendations from client to client.
Dan was kind enough to go into a lot more detail about the real estate business in Slovenia, and we’ll be publishing that next week, while you can learn more about his business at the Think Slovenia website.