Owen Williams: Hello Pedro, thanks for joining me today. You’re the founder of the online meeting place for the foreigners living in The Meeting Place – Wrocław Expats Facebook page. When and why did you start it?
Pedro Gomes: Before I moved to Wroclaw in 2008, I was living in Prague. I was an active member of the Prague Expats FB page and it was thanks to this group that I was able to know the secrets of that city. When I settled down in Wroclaw I realized that there was no similar group in this city; that’s why I decided to create a Facebook group for Expats in English.
How many members did it have at the start and did you imagine it would grow to the 10000+ membership it has now?
Well, in 2008 online social media wasn’t so popular and Polish people were still using Nasza Klasa. For a long period of time the group remained small, with less than 500 members. The initial administrators spent plenty of their free time helping the new comers. Thanks to them we become more and more popular, also among Polish people. Some of them created companies such as language schools in order to help the foreigners.
With the growth of foreign companies in Poland and with the investments in Wroclaw, more foreigners saw an opportunity and more here and so moved to Poland. Then we saw a significant increase in members, then, with the turmoil in Ukraine we noticed that our group had another boom.
Does it take up a lot of your time? Who helps you administrate it and what are the general rules/guidelines of usage?
Since the beginning we have always had more than 4 administrators that are always keen to help, despite it being an unpaid job/hobby. Guidelines are clear; fake accounts and spammers are blocked before they enter the group. Just to give you an idea, there are 1500 blocked members. Basic rules are: Before posting use the search bar, post in English, do not spam, and respect others.
Wow, that’s a lot of blocked people! You’re also the owner of Pan Pedro in Hala Targowa, was it your intention to start a shop when you came here?
I came to Wroclaw like most of the Expats, to work in a corporation. I decide to create a company when I become unemployed, that was in 2012. I started selling tea, coffee and Portuguese products.
With the opening of Wrocławski Bazar Smakoszy in 2013, I become a regular seller there too.
By the end of 2016 I had opened a stand in Hala Targowa. Bigger than the last one and right now I sell a wider range of Portuguese products. You can also find them on my internet shop: panpedro.pl
Sounds tasty. What do you do when you’re not creating FB pages or working in your shop?
I also have a full time job in IBM. As a distributor and seller of Portuguese products, part of my day is spent preparing orders.
I see you’re a busy man in the city. How would you describe Wrocław in five words?
Evolving, creative, liberty, welcoming, home.
Is there anything you think needs to be improved in Wrocław?
For those who drive, synchronized traffic lights. More green parks in the center. Working in a corporation, I can see that the majority does not respect the environment, when the workers leave the office, they don’t turn off the lights or the air conditioning. Watches are cheap, I don’t understand why the church bells ring every hour.
Yes, I wish people would be more environmentally conscious too. Finally, do you know the English & Polish equivalents of your name and does my name (Owen) have an equivalent in your native language?
My name’s easy: Pedro, Peter, Piotr. I think yours in Portuguese is Eugénio