I'm spending my birthday this year in Warsaw. That's a first!
Wszystkiego Najlepszego to me!
Thanks very much to our most kind Eastern European team for the balloons and the festive rendition of "Happy Birthday" as we kicked off our meeting this AM.
I would try to say "thank you" in Polish but I don't think I've quite mastered that one just yet.
When our team was last in Eastern Europe, it was the middle of winter in Prague and there was ice and snow on the ground.
Though the winter has long since thawed, the economic challenges here continue to hold firm, and yet when speaking with the team on the ground there seems to be plenty of optimism about the road ahead.
Though the expected GDP growth in Poland is expected to be zero in 2009, according to Fitch Ratings, the Polish economy depends less on foreign trade than many other E. European countries and the Polish banking system remains strong.
Euro adoption here is still well off, at the earliest 2013, but increased integration with the EU as well as anti-crisis funds carried out by the government (like so many countries around the globe) are helping Poland weather the economic storm better than most.
In terms of Internet use, it is without question becoming more and more mainstream here.
According to my colleagues on the ground, 48% of Poles now use the Web, and the typical business user ranges from 30 to 45 years of age (although a number of my colleagues were well below that age, so I suspect there's a demographic that needs to be better counted!)
The use of social media here is now widespread, with Google dominating in search and Nasza Klasa (think Classmates.Com) and Goldenline (think LinkedIn) leading the way for personal and business-related social networking.
Of course, when in Rome...or Poland...I much prefer the face-to-face networking to the virtual kind, and look forward to learning even more from my young peers about their respective markets.
In the meantime, please, no gifts...but birthday and Facebook comments are certainly welcomed (especially since I'm on the road and won't be able to celebrate with friends and family).