Expat life: A day in Minsk with Bernd Rozenberg

By Darya Shakuro, Priorbank Belarus |

A light Austrian breakfast with bread and jam, strenuous work with banking risks, a lunch with lard, running after a working day and an evening with a book by Stephen Hawking. Bernd Rozenberg, board member of Priorbank, told us about his daily routine and life in Belarus as an expat and why there are two swords in his office.

We meet Bernd at a little café across Priorbank’s head office. There is a light breakfast on the table: a cup of coffee and two pieces of bread with butter and jam.

“I usually have breakfast with my wife and children, so this is an exception today. We like eating pancakes and syrniki (in the Ukrainian, Russian, Belarusian, Latvian, Lithuanian and Serbian cuisine, syrniki are fried curd pancakes). I go to cafés mostly in summer, when my family is in Austria, and I stay in Minsk to work”, he explains.

Bernd Rozenberg, board member of Priorbank

Bernd buys food at the nearest supermarket, but there are some things he likes to bring from Vienna, for example Austrian jam. However, the Belarusian honey, according to Bernd, is better, and the choice is greater. As regards prices, many products in Belarus, except the imported ones, are cheaper than in Austria.

Bernd usually has lunch at the bank’s café, together with other board members and the chairman. Often they invite also customers and partners. An unchanging side dish on the lunch table is lard with bread and garlic – a typical dish of the Slavic cuisine.

“It has become a custom. There are “lard-lovers” in our lunch-club. We like tasting it from different regions. The most delicious one was from Gomel”, Bernd explains.

Bernd is a fan of the Belarusian cuisine and likes draniki (potato pancakes) with meat and holodnik (a cold beetroot soup).

“The quality of food at Belarusian restaurants is quite high. Although, the prices are almost the same as at good European locations. Unfortunately, Belarusians don’t succeed in cooking Austrian dishes. For example, I like Wiener Schnitzel at a Belarusian restaurant, but it has almost nothing in common with the Austrian one. The meat in Austria is thinner and the coating looks different. In addition, it is served with potato salad, while there are no places in Minsk where you can have it this way,” he adds.

After breakfast, Bernd asks the waiter to bring the bill and a payment terminal. For paying he doesn’t use a card but his smartphone. Thanks to the HCE technology offered by Priorbank , you can pay in a split second.

HCE technology offered by Priorbank

Together with Bernd, we come to his office on the 7th floor of Priorbank’s head office. In the building we see paintings of Belarusian artists. There are more than 700 items in Priorbank’s collection. They are all over the walls of the head office.

“We renew and expand our collection constantly. Our employees can choose paintings that they like and hang them next to their work places. I like all types of paintings, but my favorites are suprematism and abstractionism. I admire works of modern Belarusian artists”, Bernd explains.

The doors to Bernd’s office are always open: “I don’t close the doors as a matter of principle. What for? I’m open for any question, idea or proposal.”

The office itself is light and spacious, but strict. There are a solid wooden table, a computer, bookshelves, a TV streaming Bloomberg and a mysterious abstract art piece: “I have here three paintings by the modern artists Kroshkin and Sivakova. This art is colorful and energetic, even though it is strange. It makes you think. Anyway, you look at it and get positive emotions.”

There are two swords on the wall — a birthday gift from colleagues.

Bernd explains: “I’m in charge of risk management, so the swords are symbolic. I protect the bank from risks. However, I’m not a big risk taker. I’m a very rational person and always study the pros and cons.”

“I’m in charge of risk management, so the swords are symbolic.”

We notice a photo on the wall. Bernd acts there a new role — as an angler.

“This picture shows me ice fishing with colleagues. We have a lot of similar events at our bank: bowling, snooker, swimming, tennis, the annual camping. It is part of the corporate culture,” he says.

Bernd comes to the bookshelf and shows his library. There is nothing needless: dictionaries, business literature and science fiction.

“I’m a fan of science fiction. For example, I like “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking. As to business literature, I have risk management, marketing and financial books. In my leisure time, I like reading thrillers by Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler and Robert Ludlum,” Bernd adds.

Bernd reads in English and German, because it is not easy for a foreigner to do it in Russian: “I can read a financial report, but it is more difficult with fiction. Some years ago, I read “Harry Potter” in Russian together with my children. It was really complicated. I think I will learn Russian all my life. That is why I have so many dictionaries.”

At the same time, Bernd watches cult Soviet-era movies, such as comedies by Leonid Gaidai (one of the most popular comedy directors): “They are funny. However, I think that the humor in such movies is very much culturally conditioned. I will never fully understand it, because I belong to another culture. Besides, Belarusians also don’t understand typical Austrian jokes.”

After the working day, Bernd goes out for a jog, just for fun and good health. According to Bernd, the best place for it is Park Pobedy in the center of Minsk.  “My distance is about 5 km. I like running during the warm season, in winter I prefer to go to the gym. Jogging is useful because it helps to relax and reboot. I switch off all gadgets and don’t listen to music in order to be in harmony with nature,” he says.

Bernd likes Minsk and considers it very good for work and relaxing: “It is nice, quiet, clean and safe. There are many places to go with a family. I like this city — we became related.”

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