Cultural Musings

If you don’t like this one thing, you might not want to move abroad

Are you thinking about moving abroad? It can be a tough decision. It all depends on your situation. When I moved abroad I was 23, had just finished college, and was in love with a good-looking, mysterious foreign man. I had nothing to lose, frankly, and I’m so glad I took the plunge now. But it was hard for me for a long, long time. Why, you ask? Read on to find out.

Uncertainty. Living abroad is rife with uncertainty. The whole thing is just one big question mark. One surprise after another. And I effing hate surprises! I like knowing what’s where, what’s in the box, what I have to do/say next. And living abroad, there’s so many unknowns. How many times is this person going to kiss me on the cheek? Do I call this person Pani or “ty” because, hell, we’re the same age? Who goes first at this fucking intersection?!” 

I’m a terrible expat. I mean I just suck at assimilating. I was wondering why some people seem to manage so well and why it took me so damn long to feel comfortable here. I realized recently that I’m terrified of uncertainty! I hated being single. I hate driving somewhere new. I hate going to institutions I’ve never been to before and speaking Polish. I don’t like parties with a bunch of new people. What’s wrong with me?!

I’m sure it all comes down to being an introvert. Oh, the struggle. But for sure it’s also the fact that there’s a high degree of uncertainty because I like to be prepared for whatever is going to happen. I don’t know where to go, who to ask, what forms to use, maybe some thing will come up that I don’t understand, whatever. This one shitty character trait has been holding me back for years! The crazy thing is that I can speak Polish now. I know how to ask the questions I might have to ask somewhere and STILL it makes me uncomfortable just thinking about going to some new place! 

Honestly, I think that’s why I haven’t changed cities in Poland. I’ve always lived in Gliwice and I don’t have much interest in moving. The thought of having to figure out where everything is, find a new dentist, new neighbors… no! I just can’t! I finally feel like I’m relatively comfortable here and I just want to keep that for a while longer 🙂 My husband’s dream is to move to the mountains though so I guess I should start getting used to the idea if I wanna keep him 🙂

Strangely, I love traveling and experiencing new places and cultures, but it’s the everyday life situations when I prefer certainty. So, if you think “hmm, those things sound really simple. Leah’s making a big fuss over nothing!” Then you’ll probably manage much better as an expat than I. 

Are you an expat? Do you struggle with the same things as I do? Or maybe you’re a badass expat and the lifestyle suits you perfectly. Lucky you! Leave me a comment and let me know. 

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  • Reply Jake 24 June 2020 at 00:57

    >I mean I just suck at assimilating.

    Says the woman who learned near-perfect Polish in just a few years 😛

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 24 June 2020 at 09:07

      Hah! Well, I’ve been in Poland 10 years in December. I’ve been speaking Polish about 7… and I can communicate, sure! But near-perfect? I wish… I will never be able to speak grammatically correctly! It’s impossible 🙂

      • Reply Eliza 24 June 2020 at 17:06

        Don’t be so strict to yourself! If it makes you happy, some Poles don’t speak grammatically correctly too 😉 I have never heard how you speak polish, but I am proud of you that you have made an effort to learn this beautiful language 🙂

        • Reply Leah Morawiec 2 July 2020 at 09:19

          It doesn’t bother me so much anymore… I just say what I think is right and ask people to correct me. I mostly talk with my parents in law in Polish and they definitely don’t mind!

      • Reply Kamil 25 June 2020 at 12:33

        don’t worry, our soccer players will never reach you level. Take care 😉

  • Reply Ronald 1 July 2020 at 18:31

    Hello Leah!
    Nice to see you blog post again, in these strange COVID times. Hope you are all well and junior too! ( 9 November)
    Well, I am an expat from Australia. Thing is, my ancestors from way back came from Malaya and are of Chinese stock-so something I came to realise is that as a non-white person, it does not matter if I lived all my life in Australia I would feel ike an outsider… need to get the violins out, its just a fact.Ii’m afriaid there is a real block with most Poles- they simply cannot conceive of anyone non-white actually being Australian. So I simply have got to be Korean, Chinese or something else…..oh well….. but the ones who know me Get It. Life goes on.

    The thing about living ‘out in the bush’ in Tarnów (to use an Australianism, which is ridiculous in Poland is you really stand out- but having said that, I have yet to feel hostility or any negative. I do notice the different feeling in more cosmopolitan countries like Netherlands or Ireland though. not saying its better, just saying…..

    Speaking Polish or at least making an effort really helps. Remember I’m the guy who passed the B1 exam YAY!!!!!!!! However…there is always a but….passing a single exam does not mean i speak decent Polish and the main reason is that I work 100% in English ( and ,no, I am NOT an English teacher, not that there is anything wrong with that!)

    Being an expat is good thing- in my case, you get used to the feeling of not really having roots anywhere and that can be good too.

    Poland is wonderful- the people are fine people, the culture is wonderful, the history is eventful and tragic….I’m not making plans to move anytime soon



    • Reply Leah Morawiec 7 July 2020 at 21:56

      Ron – we’re all good thank you! Well, you certainly can’t make any plans to move especially after passing your B1 exam! Now you have to stay 🙂 That would just be a waste otherwise! I’m still so impressed by that. Being an expat is fantastic in so many ways and it’s also just so bizarre in so many ways. I feel like I’ll always have one foot in each place.

  • Reply Ron 8 August 2020 at 10:25

    Dear Leah
    Better write a reply-enjoying the warm weather here in Tarnów as I’m sure you are in Gliwice…..I repeat: passing B1 does NOT mean I feel any more competent as a Polish speaker, I am 120% positive because you use the language all the time you would be way more capable. Its all to do with usage……I’m off to Ireland in September to study for a Masters but we are not moving ( Ireland is sooooooo much more accesible than Australia, let me tell you 🙂 ) But I appreciate your comment,s most times when I say this to Poles there is a mixed look of incredulity, disbelief, and respect- much like announcing I just soloed up E l Capital Alex Honneld-style without ropes- crazy achievement but admirable. I guess its pretty unusual amongst Anglophone expats in Poland but pretty common amongst Ukrainian and Belorussian folk as they MUST get B1 to stay in Poland.
    I’m procrestinating here- I am getting bored shitless right at the moment working my way through the drivers licence questions. I decided to apply for my POL dirvers licence for shits and giggles- its like the B1 exam. I didn’t have to do it, but you know what they say about a challenge…I’ve got my theroy test in Kraków in a weeks time. I might write a blog for you about the process- reliable informatino is quite hard to find , for some reason on You Tube there are a stack of videos uploaded by Indians ( I presume) with pictures and Bollywood music ( just to get you in the mood I guess) but NO information!

    OK…back to the …’ you are driving forward, do you give way to the blind, handicapped old man who is waling across the road with sa white cane…” As an Aussie the way I would at home, i.e. , I answered NO, hit him with the door if you can, and I failed…..why?

    🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 12 August 2020 at 14:38

      You’re taking the theory test in Polish?! You know you can do that in English to right? haha good luck! Let me know how it went!

  • Reply Ron 8 August 2020 at 10:26

    Typo= El Capitan, not El Capital!

  • Reply Ronald 12 August 2020 at 15:53

    Hi Leah! Yes I’m doing it in English- if I had to do it in Polish I would need 3 hours for the 30 minute test……I’ll send you a blog on ‘getting your theory test done’ when the dust settles ( and only if I pass) . To be honest, its a bit of a lotto and requires you to relearn all that shit you never remember and never use, i.e.
    How far in front of a motor vehicle can carried objects protrude when taken from the driver’s seat….


    How far do you have to put the safety triangle behind the cart…..

    Mixed in with ‘gimme’s ; such as:

    …”You are driving past a children’s crossing, childtren are playing, should you
    a speed up
    b Exericse caution being watchful for children OR
    c Call someone on your mobile phone. whilst driving past. without stopping…?

    and LOTS of trick questions!

  • Reply Ron 19 August 2020 at 18:11

    I passed YAY…..!

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 20 August 2020 at 10:12

      Hooray! On the first try?!!

  • Reply Ron 21 August 2020 at 17:32

    Yes, 1st try- but note, its not that I’m brilliant, the exam is actually a bit of a lotto. The trick is to get onto one of the websites, pay a small fee, and do all 2200 questions- they are the same as the ones used at WORD ( WORD= Wojewoda driver testing centre). Want some details? I’ll write something if you like……

  • Reply stephen earl 25 October 2020 at 18:22

    Hi Leah, Reading your blog is very interesting,i think i have read all now!!! On the subject of speaking Polish,well i have been married for 12 years to my Polish wife and still don’t speak a word! My daughter who is 12 also doesn’t speak a word! You would have to know my wife to find the reason for this? I am annoyed that my daughter cannot speak Polish because it would help her in the future some way or another i think? Anyway if we move to Poland in the next 3 or 4 years my daughter doesn’t want to come so we have to buy her a flat and take it in turns to stay with her until she can look after herself and get a job?

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 27 October 2020 at 20:38

      Aw, that’s too bad your daughter doesn’t speak Polish – it would have been easy for her to learn it as a young child. Oh well! Perhaps one day she’ll see the value in it 🙂 I recommend learning a word or two before coming – it’ll make your life easier – but get a teacher who is not your wife! That never works 🙂

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