Get To Know Stockholm Guide Polina Savitskaya

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Polina is an authorized guide in Stockholm, a language teacher, and an interpreter. But more than anything else, she is a person in love with Stockholm.
How did you get into your field?

I started my career as a teacher of foreign languages, the job I loved. A few years after that my partner and I decided to move to another country. That’s how I found myself in Stockholm, Sweden. There I got an opportunity to start over if I so wanted. I spent the first year or two perfecting my Swedish and widening my knowledge of the culture. One day I sat down and reflected on what I wanted to do that would perfectly match my personality, was it really teaching or probably something else…? Something that would include talking to people, speaking the languages I already mastered and feeling happy almost every moment? Guiding tourists came to mind almost at once. Stockholm is a beautiful city. To find more information on the topic I turned to The Visitors Board of Stockholm. On the page it said: “Stockholm, the capital of Scandinavia”. That was so well put, I was speechless! I immediately wanted to be a part of this beautiful concept. To represent Stockholm and share it beauty.

How did you make the transition to becoming a tour guide?

The profession of a tourist guide is a popular one. So I realized that I needed to be a very good guide, if I wanted to be at the top segment of my field. I needed a proper education, so I contacted the only school who “made guides” and the process began! That was harder than I had expected, because being a guide is not in all aspects close to being a teacher. I studied the history of Sweden, its social system, environmental policy, traditions, cuisine, the service aspects of guiding a group, even the way to hold the microphone in the bus! When I got my diploma, I began my first season and it went really well.

What does a typical day look like for you?

On the days I don’t guide I wake up at about seven and if it is my turn I take the kids to the day care. Then I sit down to go through the most recent Swedish news and the events that are going to take place in Stockholm in a few days. You wouldn’t want to miss some prince or princess’ birthday or a demonstration in the middle of the city, especially if they happen to be on your route. When I can I head to town and visit a new exhibition or a place I was meaning to explore for some time.

If I have a guided tour that day, I begin by checking the weather (it changes fast as the sea is not very far) and making sure I have all the necessary contacts on my list: usually the driver and the sights. Then when I have gathered everything necessary for the tour (my wits included), I head to town, a port or the airport to meet my guests.

I feel a bit nervous just before I meet them, but then we are all swept into action and I feel just fine. When I have seen them off, I usually spend a few minutes reflecting on the day. I prefer to sit in my favorite café and let the thoughts run: did everything go as planned, what ideas popped into my head while I was telling a certain story, a turn of a phrase or a fact I forgot I knew.

Have you got a certain style of guiding, or do you just run with it on the day?

My style depends on how many guests I have as at a time: if it is a bigger group of colleagues or a family for example. In the latter case my guiding is more like a conversation, and minor changes can be added at the last moment. While guiding for more people means a little less interaction and more organizing. Though we sure interact much in every kind of group, just on different scales.

What is the best part of your job?

Seeing how people are pleasantly surprised, and sometimes outright shocked, by the beauty of Stockholm. Certainly when people come to me and compliment me on my guiding or say something like “Stockholm is the best city on the cruise program” – it just makes me so happy. It is a proof that I made a right decision all those years ago.

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had on a tour or trip?

Once in my carrier I got a huge French speaking group, 55 people. The number of people was a total surprise! We had a good double decker coach, but when we were walking, I had no equipment for them to hear me properly. I hadn’t known I possessed such a loud voice, it seemed that half the city could hear me! It went well despite the size of the group, but now I know my limits.

Every job has its ups and downs. Are there any aspects of your job that you don’t like or aren’t that keen on?

When it is raining and the particular tour is mostly out-of- doors.

In your view, what makes a good tour guide?

Being an approachable person and having your facts straight. Tales and legends are a very good thing when they are presented as such. Being a good listener makes a difference too.

As an experienced guide yourself, can you explain what the benefits of hiring a guide are?

A guide knows small things that can make you tour special. They can arrange their tour the way that lets you save time and the best sights. An experienced guide can alter the route depending on the client’s needs, makes everything much smoother.

Without giving away your secrets, tell us the types of things about your area/activity that only a guide would know.

As Stockholm’s history begins during the medieval times, there’s a lot about how and why different houses are built in the old parts of Stockholm. Or where the first defense wall should be situated. But also the best meat balls and viewpoints, of course!

And finally, have you got any tips for people who are interested in booking a guide like yourself, but aren’t too sure what to look for?

It is safest, of course, to look for an educated or certified guide, if you have doubts. Then decide for yourself how much time you would like to spend touring. About 1,5 hour walk in the Old Town is just fine, but if you want to drive around the city, add at list 1 more hour (better 2). Stockholm offers plenty and it is impossible to even try to cover everything. If it is your first time in Stockholm, you could visit the City Hall and the Vasa museum, for example, and then have a nice walk in the Old town. I know those are really tourist places, but they are my favorite points for the “newcomers”. You will see why.

 

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