Expat life can be tricky. You have to deal with a lot of tough stuff that you normally wouldn’t. Language barriers, obtaining residence permits, trouble meeting friends, lack of familial support, cultural misunderstandings. Phew! That’s a lot for us expats to handle. So, how can you survive all that? Read on to find out.
Start taking Polish lessons.
Even if you can’t speak very well or you’ll only be in Poland temporarily, you’ll feel good about yourself for trying. A great place to find a teacher is e-korepetycje.com if you’d like to learn via Skype or face-to-face, however some schools also offer Polish for foreigners classes. Many people are also willing to do language shares, so if you prefer to have lessons for free, that’s a great option. In that case, I’d recommend posting something on an expat Facebook page.
Get your Karta Pobytu as soon as possible.
This tends to be a pain when you first arrive in Poland, one of the worst things you go through as an expat in Poland. The whole process can be very confusing and even once you think you’ve figured it out, they tell you you’re missing a whole list of documents you’ve never heard of. Be sure to take a Pole with you to navigate these muddy waters and stay calm. You’ll get it, it might just take a while. For more information, I have a whole post about Getting a Karta Pobytu in Poland. Also, this Just Ask Poland article should help as well. Generally, it’s a very useful site for Poles with all info about official stuff.
Look for Expat meet ups in your area.
There are plenty of these and Facebook is the best place to find them. I’d also recommend InterNations, a site with special pages for the biggest Polish cities where you can ask questions, find out about events and meet people like you. If you live in a big city you won’t have much trouble, if you live in a smaller place then you might just have to start your own.
Put yourself out there.
Don’t make the mistakes I did. Whenever I move, it always takes me forever to find friends and to assimilate. That’s because I’m introverted and don’t put myself out there. I always preferred to suffer in silence, alone, because I was embarrassed of my language skills. Don’t let yourself fall into those traps – the only way to meet people and improve your skills is to get out there. No one else thinks you’re lame if you’re not fluent – that’s your own projection! The sooner you meet people, especially those you can commiserate with, the better you’ll feel as an expat in Poland.
Find a job you enjoy.
Many foreigner teach English, but that’s not the only option nowadays in Poland. There are plenty of opportunities for foreigners in Polish companies, especially if you can find one that needs your language skills (e.g. German, French, Italian based companies), the key is finding the right one for you.
Find a hobby that helps you survive the weather.
You might consider picking up a winter sport or something you can enjoy indoors as the winter tends to be long. It’s not as bad as you might think it is, but it can be quite grey for an extended period. You have to find your own ways to get through it. We all do. Check out my post about How to Survive Winter in Poland.
Explore Poland and get to know the culture.
The more you travel around the country, the more you’ll understand Polish people and the more you’ll have to discuss with them. Sometimes I’ve been to a place that one of my students hasn’t and that’s an interesting point of discussion. It’s good to see all parts of Poland – the seaside, Mazury, the Tatra mountains, etc. because then you’ll know what people are talking about when they make fun of Krupówki Street in Zakopane or the terrible weather they had at the seaside this year. But not only traveling, spend time with Poles in their homes. Spend some holidays in traditional homes and meet people of all generations to really get a feel for Polish culture. The sooner you do that, the sooner you’ll be able to assimilate.
Are you an expat in Poland? Do you have any other recommendations for expats looking to assimilate in Poland? Be sure to leave your ideas in the comments below! Thanks!