Cultural Musings, Poland

30 ways you know you’ve been living in Poland too long

When you live in a foreign country, you sometimes don’t realize the effects it has on your daily life. When I meet with my American friends nowadays, they think I talk funny. Poles have their own way of speaking English and when you hear it all day, every day, it starts to wear off on you as well. For example, I say “for example” way more than I used to or I use “this” in situations when I know I should use “that”. Polishisms. But there are innumerable other ways in which Poland rubs off on you. How? Read on.

  1. You start to complain more than you’d like to because you know it’ll be awkward when you ask „how are you?”
  2. In fact, when you go back home, you’re annoyed by how often people ask „how are you?” in public and that you actually have to talk to strangers.
  3. You recall some words more quickly in Polish than in English and end up with some crazy mixture of both languages in one sentence.
  4. You can’t live without fresh bread every day.
  5. You wait for summer all year just so you can pick mushrooms and make pickles.
  6. Every time you see your Polish family members, you receive 2-3 jars of various items including jam, compote, or cabbage.
  7. You don’t even mention the word sex, even to people your age and who you’re close with, as you know it’ll be met with cringe-worthy discomfort and you feeling like a vulgar beast.
  8. You can actually tell the difference between Polish and Silesian.
  9. You realize that it’s not appropriate to act easy-going, casual and friendly in all contexts, e.g. at city hall or at university, because recognizing power distance is an important and necessary sign of respect.
  10. You know you have to offer someone to eat something on the table, otherwise they’ll never touch it. And if there’s only one item left on the plate, no one will dare touch it.
  11. You have so much Bolesławiec stuff that you could open a museum.
  12. You keep a box full of empty jars ready for when the summer comes and you want to can all your favorite things for the winter.
  13. You bring cake to the office for your birthday instead of the other way around.
  14. You’ve been to more European countries than States.
  15. You’ve stopped being shocked that people get married to their first and only boyfriends/girlfriends. (but still don’t really get how so many people can make the right decision so quickly and easily).
  16. You currently own more jackets than most Floridians will have in their entire lifetime.
  17. You kiss on the cheek instead of hugging but each time you go into it, you’re not really sure how many there will be.
  18. You prefer eating your big meal in the afternoon and a small meal, or supper, in the evening.
  19. You know that if you don’t stand as close as physically possible without touching the next person in line, other people will think that you’re not actually in line.
  20. You call your partner „kochanie” more than some English pet name.
  21. When you’re in public with your partner people can’t figure out where the two of you are from.
  22. You dread leaving a place because you know it’ll be a big to-do. You have to kiss everyone at the party goodbye (even people who you never spoke to), the host walks you to the door, you have another 5-minute conversation there and then finally you can leave.
  23. You often agree to be the designated driver so no one will pressure you to drink vodka at parties.
  24. You prefer reading menus in Polish even when there’s an English menu because „kotlet mielone” sounds more like a dish than than „ground pork”.
  25. You’re pissed off if you forget to go to the farmer’s market down the street for fresh eggs and have to buy them from the supermarket.
  26. You’ve slept on a futon more times than you can count.
  27. You’ve stopped using English slang because you know you’ll just have to explain it anyway and then it’s not funny.
  28. You know that Sundays without family dinner aren’t proper Sundays and that no family meal is complete without soup and cake. And cake is eaten before dinner for birthday parties.
  29. You’ve started calling soccer “football” and actually going to games.
  30. You have to stop yourself from saying things in Polish to your friends back home who definitely don’t know any Polish…

Ok, so that was more than I thought it would be. Anything I missed my fellow expats?


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  • Reply Ola 8 December 2015 at 21:16

    Hehe I can’t agree with 10th point 🙂
    Damian never asks ! 😉

    • Reply Leah Southers 8 December 2015 at 21:46

      Ola — hahaha thank God for Damian. He’s the only one who eats the way I want them to – without me having to insist!

  • Reply Ann 8 December 2015 at 21:26

    Great reading from the perspective of Polish girl 😉 So many points were too obvious for me so I even haven’t noticed them as an effect of being Polish… 😉

    • Reply Leah Southers 8 December 2015 at 21:45

      Ann – I’d love to hear from other side you know? What Poles think of Americans when they move there. There’s so many things you just don’t notice because they’re a normal part of life.

      • Reply Jakub 15 December 2015 at 14:20

        What Poles think of Americans? I’ve been living in New York for a few weeks and I’ve been shocked that so many people wanted to help me with finding a way somewhere, which subway line to pick, etc. I’ve been walking down the street with a small city plan and four (!) persons asked if I need a help. And even if I told them that I’m fine, they gave me directions to my destination. Amazing and (sadly) impossible in Poland!

        • Reply Leah Southers 15 December 2015 at 15:31

          In New York?? I’m absolutely shocked. New Yorkers are notoriously rude and in too much of a hurry to help you. But you know, everything is different from a foreigner’s perspective. I find Poles to be extremely helpful.

          • Adam 15 December 2015 at 19:12

            I’d say – from a tourist perspective. New Yorkers are known to be helpful and kind toward tourists (why? Total visitor spending from New York City tourism in 2014: $41 billion) – that’s why I always wear shorts and sandals during summer NY visits 😉

          • Leah Southers 15 December 2015 at 20:21

            Really? Generally the American stereotype is that Southerners are friendly and Northerners, especially from big cities, aren’t. You wear shorts and sandals to look like a tourist? 🙂

          • Adam 16 December 2015 at 00:14

            then I have met other tourist dressed in disguise 🙂 Every “true” Newyorker were out of the city or at Flashing Meadows…
            Here’s 31 – You’ve stopped to call food “artisanal”.
            BTW – have you been to the local market at Lipowa Str?

          • Leah Southers 16 December 2015 at 06:35

            um, of course! I live down the street so I go there once a week if I can manage it!! i love it there but after 12 when almost everyone is gone and I don’t have to elbow my way through all the old people 🙂

          • Jakub 16 December 2015 at 00:44

            “But you know, everything is different from a foreigner’s perspective.”
            And that’s a clue. The grass is always greener on the other side… 😉

          • Leah Southers 16 December 2015 at 08:47

            no właśnie 🙂

  • Reply Jakub 9 December 2015 at 00:24

    It seems your Polish family is more Polish than mine! Most of the points I can relate to, though.
    Also, I often use some slang (mostly British) and no-one understands me; unfortunately, my English superiority usually ends when I need to explain what I meant! 🙂
    Keep up the good work with the blog, I really like it!

    • Reply Leah Southers 9 December 2015 at 08:22

      Hey Kuba – How do you know British slang? Have you ever lived there? My British slang is abysmal. Sometimes my British friends have to translate things into American English for me and I feel so stupid. I never have to do that for them!

      • Reply Ola 14 December 2015 at 14:49

        Most Polish people who speak English use British version. It’s probably because the Great Britain is simply closer than States. We learn it at school and I think that many people just don’t notice differences between British and American English. They think that ‘football’ is always ‘football’ 😉 For example I usually mix British and American English because I don’t really wonder if the word I’m saying is British or American 😉 And many Polish people actually live or lived in GB, so that might be a reason too 🙂

        • Reply Leah Southers 14 December 2015 at 14:52

          Ola – oh yeah for sure. You make some good points. British English of course is taught in schools cause, well, we’re in Europe but you hear AmE used in pop culture. So yeah definitely a big mix of everything!

      • Reply Jakub 21 December 2015 at 00:48

        I’ve never lived there, it’s just from watching some British shows and working with British people. When you speak a foreign language to a native, or just listen to it being spoken, you pick up their accent and vocabulary usually follows; you wouldn’t like talking to me after I got a full season treatment of Peaky Blinders in one seating! 🙂

        • Reply Leah Southers 21 December 2015 at 08:34

          Jakub – yeah I have the same problem. I find myself picking up people’s mistakes in English – even though I know very well they’re mistakes. It’s funny how that works.

  • Reply Kat 9 December 2015 at 10:21


  • Reply Justyna 14 December 2015 at 21:49

    Do you actually kiss your friends and sleep on futons? I never do and neither do my buddies.

    • Reply Leah Southers 15 December 2015 at 15:29

      You really don’t kiss your friends? I thought everyone did that. Maybe we’re just old…

  • Reply 30 ways you know you’ve been living in Poland too long | Polonization | fasolazpuszki 15 December 2015 at 13:31

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  • Reply AvantaR 15 December 2015 at 14:06

    “You can actually tell the difference between Polish and Silesian.”
    Point for gryffindor! :)))

    Proud Silesian

    • Reply Leah Southers 15 December 2015 at 15:30

      Any Potter fan is a friend of mine 🙂

  • Reply ormek 15 December 2015 at 15:29

    22 =] good catch

  • Reply Chris 15 December 2015 at 17:18

    When you hear 3-room apartment and know that means 2 bedrooms and a living room where someone is expected to sleep…probably on a futon 😉

    • Reply Leah Southers 15 December 2015 at 17:32

      hah exactly. this situation exists in my family even!

  • Reply Wojtek S. 15 December 2015 at 18:54

    Don’t know much about US but in England the main subject of small talk is weather. In Poland it is politics. I pressume that if you live in Poland too long you would start conversation with something like: “Have you heard what those stupid politicians just did?!”

    • Reply Leah Southers 15 December 2015 at 18:56

      ugh it’s the same in the States. only weather. I’m so sick of talking about the weather! I’d much rather discuss politics.

  • Reply Michal 15 December 2015 at 22:20

    Oh that made me smile a lot. So down to earth and totally not what I expected. Thanks for surprising me in such a positive way!

    • Reply Leah Southers 16 December 2015 at 08:48

      Hi Michał – that’s a great compliment. thank you so much

  • Reply Papuga z Ameryki 16 December 2015 at 04:48

    I love you already ! 🙂

  • Reply Marcin 16 December 2015 at 09:15

    Leah, I just found your blog and love it 🙂 And you should add one more thing for sure: have a vodka shots with soured cucumbers 😉 BTW, what you’d rather call ‘kiszone ogórki’ – soured or pickled?

    • Reply Leah Southers 16 December 2015 at 12:31

      Hi Marcin! Thank you 🙂 oooh yeah sour cucumbers. That’s the problem in English is that we would probably call everything pickles because most people don’t even know what sour cucumbers are…

  • Reply Magda 16 December 2015 at 21:49

    Great blog- I enjoy reading it a lot!
    What’s the difference between Polish and Silesian:)? (I’m just curious about your opinion! I might know though!)

    • Reply Leah Southers 17 December 2015 at 06:43

      Magda – thanks!! I can’t explain it – I just know it when I hear it. It’s one of those things, you know?

  • Reply Gabriela 3 January 2016 at 14:57

    Wow I have’t known that such cool blog is on web ! All things you have mentioned are true, I’m Polish and I suprised how many things you said are typical for my country ! I like the most 1 and 4 thing – I can’t stand without fresh bread at home, no way, like all my family and friends! And I love complaining like most polish people. 😀

    • Reply Leah Southers 3 January 2016 at 15:07

      Hey Gabriela! yeah who doesn’t like a little complaining? 🙂 When I go back to the States for a visit, I really miss fresh bread but there’s so many other yummy things that I don’t worry about it too much!

  • Reply Jem 9 February 2016 at 15:45

    I came across your blog when someone posted a link to reddit. I am an American who lived in Poland from 1996-2001 for college (after going as an exchange student for 1 year I loved it so much that I stayed!), so this list (and a lot of your blog) really speaks to me. I also taught private English lessons as a “native speaker”, which was very sought after in those days.

    I miss so many things about Poland since I came back to the States after graduating (fresh bread!! walking everywhere!!). Somehow my memories don’t feel like they were from 20 years ago! It’s really interesting to hear about these experiences after having lived through many of them.

    I look forward to reading more!

    • Reply Leah Southers 9 February 2016 at 15:52

      Hi Jem – isn’t it nice when someone totally gets your experience? I always have a special connection with other Americans/Brits who live or have lived in Poland. It’s a special club or something 🙂 You gotta come back for a visit! Things have surely changed a lot since 2001.

  • Reply Alexa 24 February 2016 at 16:51

    Wow, I just discovered your blog and I found out you’re living in my hometown! 🙂 Hello!
    Although I was surprised about the point with mentioning word sex – I have no problem talking about it with my friends or parents ;P But maybe other Poles are more prude than we are haha 😀

    • Reply Leah Southers 24 February 2016 at 22:21

      Alexa – Yeah I think everyone is different but maybe also you’re younger? And the younger generation is totally different than even my husband’s generation. 10 years makes a difference 🙂

  • Reply agnes_adv 24 February 2016 at 20:14

    17. Don’t worry – I’m Polish and I’m never sure how many kisses there will be either.

  • Reply Ada 26 February 2016 at 14:52

    Bolesławiec! My hometown! Greetings :))

  • Reply Magda 1 March 2016 at 17:09

    Annoying annoying simplifications that lead straight to stereotypes. Why don’t you leave the country? Probably no one force you to stay here? regards.

  • Reply Oleńka 8 March 2016 at 18:22

    I’m glad that I’ve discovered Your blog 😉
    About point 17 – I am a native Polish and after almost 18 years I still have no idea how many times I am supposed to kiss people’s cheeks (especially older ladies’)

    • Reply Leah Southers 8 March 2016 at 19:43

      good that it’s not just me 🙂 🙂

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