Things I’ve started doing since I moved to Poland

I’ve had a lot of firsts here and started a few good habits. Here are a few:

Driving a stick shift. Manual transmission. Whatever you wanna call it, I can drive it. This is one of my biggest accomplishments since moving to Poland. As an American, it was pretty strange for me to spend the first 1.5 years of my life here not driving, especially since I’ve been driving since I was 16. It’s possible to buy an automatic but the difference in price is so big that it’s just not worth it. So before I bought my car, one of my friends gave me driving lessons in the middle of the night. I couldn’t imagine something more stressful.

Using both feet while driving? And both hands?! Don’t get me started on hills. I avoided streets with hills for like 2 years. Driving a manual is so much harder that people in Poland actually have to take driving lessons before taking the exam. I mean this is an actual law, not just recommended. In America you just get in the car and take the exam, which, by the way, takes 10 minutes and you’d have to be a moron to fail it. Luckily for me, to get my Polish driver’s license I didn’t actually have to take the practical exam in Poland, only the theoretical (which I took twice). Now there’s really no difference for me between manual and automatic, however I think if I had the choice I’d still choose automatic. My life is complicated enough, you know?

Using different forms of measurement. A.m./p.m. or the 24-hour clock. Celsius and fahrenheit. The imperial system vs. the metric system. Why in god’s name we use those things in America, I have no idea. The a.m./p.m. thing isn’t bad but fahrenheit? Come on. Freezing is 32 degrees F. That’s not a very round number. A mile is 5,280 feet. Also not very easy to remember. Children in the third grade in America have it so hard. I agree, the metric system makes more sense, fine, but still to this day I have trouble asking for things like deli meat by weight. And the worst when Americans ask me, “what’s the temperature there?” or Poles tell me “he’s almost 2 meters tall”. I suck at math so forget formulas. The key is to remember a few measurements like how much you weigh or how far in kilometers something is from your house and then use them to judge everything else. Works for me.

Continuing education. I’m a teacher, so I know how popular it is for people in Poland to continue learning in their adult lives. I’ve had students who were well into their 50s and 60s. The desire to improve oneself is something I’ve always admired about my students. For that reason, I committed myself to taking Polish lessons and also why I decided to get a Master’s degree in Poland. And lately taking some amazing workshops in Gliwice from Good Cake and Pani Kwiatkowska. Not only does this improve my quality of life, but I really enjoy the learning process… on my terms.

Eating more bread. Nowadays there are more and more bakeries in the States. It all depends on where you live, but when I was a kid, all we ate was that horrible white bread from the supermarket that didn’t go bad for weeks. Here, there’s a bakery on every corner. Seriously I can buy fresh bread at like 5 places within 10 minutes of my flat. Not to mention cake, cookies and everything else you can imagine. It’s kind of a love/hate thing.

Enjoying seasons. We have two seasons in Florida – fucking hot and not so fucking hot. Not complaining, our winter is typically like 15-20 degrees celsius (65-75 F for Americans) so it’s lovely. But Floridians are really missing out on spring and fall, which are the best seasons for me. When the one depressing gray cloud lifts from above our heads around March/April, everyone is brimming with delight. When the trees change colors and chestnuts fall in autumn (more importantly, when you can start drinking spiced wine again), it’s joyful.

Drinking tea. I was always an avid coffee drinker. Tea is not a very American drink, unless it’s iced with 10 spoons of sugar per glass. I’m talking about hot tea, the kind you drink when it’s cold and it makes you all warm and cozy. Before I moved to Poland, I think I’d drunk actual hot tea a total of 3 times. Here, it’s normal to drink tea after dinner. Babcia says: water after dinner isn’t good for your stomach. There is something magical about a nice cup of tea.

Sunday dinners. I have some friends who do this in the States too and I think it’s brilliant. I’d never pass up the opportunity to eat delicious Polish food (usually rolady, or stuffed beef rolls, and kluski, or potato dumplings) and stuff my face with cake (in my family, usually multiple types).

Walking somewhere. If I can manage the time, I always try to walk. That’s actually possible here given the layout of cities, with everything concentrated in the center. So if you live near it, there’s plenty to do on foot (plus, that way I can get away with not exercising). Sadly, because of the sprawl of cities are where I’m from, it’s rather impossible there.

Using the heater. Ok this probably seems ridiculous, but again, I’m from Florida, so the weather here is a big change (read: winter sucks). I know all my Floridians feel me (hello to all my friends who live in NY where it’s much colder!). I think this is one of the hardest things about moving for us. You have to change your tires in winter? (Never heard of it.) Scraping the snow and ice off your windows in the morning? (Huh?) Boots are not a fashion statement but a necessity? Who knew? Floridians are really a special group of people.

Did I miss anything? I’m sure there’s a thing or two. Let me know if you think I left something important out.

All in all, I’d love to say I’m a flexible person. Living in another country, you have to be open to change… but I can’t lie. Some of these things were a struggle for me. I still struggle during the winter (doesn’t everyone?) and sometimes I just want to feel normal. Then I eat żurek and I feel fine.

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  • Reply Kat 20 October 2015 at 23:56

    Hi. I love ur blog. I’m a Pole living in UK so understand some of the cultural changes one might experience when settling down in s different country. Driving on other side of the road and the imperial system do my head in in UK! Grrr
    I also just got back from my Florida road trip 3 week ago and seriously can’t get my head around that you swapped that for Polska!;) take care Leah

    • Reply Leah Southers 21 October 2015 at 07:45

      Hi Kat!

      I’m so glad you like the blog. Driving on the other side of the road? I don’t think I’d manage! Oh you were in Florida? Where exactly? I’m from Orlando. Thanks again and take care!

  • Reply WojciechT 21 October 2015 at 12:34


    My friends from Katowice have recently moved to USA (Michigan) and some of the things that you’ve mentioned were strange to them as well – but of course in the opposite way. Especially the tea thing – “how people can leave there without everyday’s cup of hot tea”? 🙂

    I’m waiting for Your another post 🙂 It’s always interesting how people from abroad see us, our culture and such.

    • Reply WojciechT 21 October 2015 at 12:35


      Sorry, stupid autocorrect.

    • Reply Leah Southers 21 October 2015 at 14:11

      Michigan, huh? I don’t know what life is like there but I suppose some things are similar, like the weather. Yeah definitely the tea selection is greater in Poland 🙂 Thanks so much for reading and I’m glad that you’re enjoying it!

  • Reply NieMamPomysłuNaNazwę 21 October 2015 at 17:29

    Don’t worry! I live in Poland since I was born and even though, when I get up and see that it’s snowing outside, all I want to do is go back to sleep. But I think it would be much worse to live in a place where it is always hot. Frankly, I hate high temperatures.
    In addition, I really enjoy reading your posts! It’s not an usual phenomenon that somebody from US moves to Poland, as you wrote in one of your previous posts.
    I’m doing my driving licence right now, so I understand your struggle! Btw. I have no idea how driving may look in US, where it’s all mechanical in the car.

    • Reply Leah Southers 21 October 2015 at 20:18

      Trust me it’s much easier to drive an automatic! But manual is also fun 🙂 You’ll manage I’m sure. I’m glad you’re enjoying reading and that you understand my struggle! I really appreciate that.

  • Reply Nancy Southers 21 October 2015 at 20:58

    I remember when I bought my super beetle VW back in 1971 and a friend had to drive it off the lot for me! I am so proud of how you have managed to plow through so many changes and still want to learn new things…that’s what makes you so special! Enjoy reading your thoughts and adventures in Poland:)

    • Reply Leah Southers 7 November 2015 at 20:38

      Like mother, like daughter 🙂

  • Reply Wiktor 21 October 2015 at 22:40

    You ask if everyone struggle with winter. One I know for sure – kids do not. 😉 Riding a sleigh down the hill, building a snowman… those are the thing Floridian children miss out fo sho’ 😉 And as an adult you can still go skiing or snowboarding. Also, large trees look beautiful with white cover on their branches. 😀

    Keep writing, I really enjoy reading your observations and thoughts. 😉

    • Reply Leah Southers 21 October 2015 at 23:00

      Hi Wiktor! You’re so right about Floridians – I didn’t even know how to make a snowman when I moved here! They always look so perfect in movies.

  • Reply JJ 21 October 2015 at 22:45

    Hi Leah, I love your blog! It is just amazing how you’re coping with everything out there and I know it can be tricky sometimes, even for Polish people. And I can relate as I live in London (now, in Duesseldorf , Germany as a part of my studies…) and my boyfriend is from Hungary.
    Anyway, I’m waiting for the next post, and good luck!

    • Reply Leah Southers 21 October 2015 at 23:02

      Hi JJ! So you guys understand the expat lifestyle. Glad it’s not just me 🙂 I wonder what it’s like going the other way? I’d be happy to hear your observations. Thanks for reading and for the kind words!

  • Reply Diva 1 November 2015 at 03:20

    Hi!! Loved reading your post. I’m also an American from California (born and raised) living in gloomy Katowice for a few years to study. Poland life in the beginning was difficult but once I started driving my stick shift car, the independence I gained was unmatchable. Now I just sometimes wander centrum and explore. Life is so different compared to California, but I’m learning to appreciate the seasons as well! And the adorable bakeries, local stores, farm fresh veggies at the corner street. Looking forward to reading your other posts! Seems we have a lot in common ?

    • Reply Leah Southers 1 November 2015 at 10:32

      Hi! it’s not to hear from someone in the same situation 🙂 Californians and Floridians have similar problems when they move to other places! Of course now I have a million questions for you! We’ll have to meet up sometime. Your input will be really interesting for future blog posts so be sure to let me know what you think!

      • Reply Diva 3 November 2015 at 11:07

        Yes would love to!!! I’d also like to converse with you about your experience ? Send me an email and we can plan something!

  • Reply volfey 2 November 2015 at 07:45

    Oh my, I’m so glad I found your blog, especially when I realised you live in Silesia.
    How do you feel when people talk to you not only in Polish but also with Silesian dialect? Do you know any words or you just stay confused?

    • Reply Leah Southers 2 November 2015 at 08:45

      Hi there! I know two Silesian words: dziołcha and kusiol. But I have to be honest I don’t think anyone has ever spoken to me in Silesian. If they have, I probably just didn’t realize and thought I was stupid and can’t speak Polish at all. That’s my nature 🙂

  • Reply Natalia 3 November 2015 at 22:02

    It’s a pleasure to read your blog, I need to send it to all my friends immediately!
    Keep writting, I’ll be back for sure.
    And enjoy our beautiful country, I love it anyway !
    Wish you all the best.

    • Reply Leah Southers 3 November 2015 at 22:19

      Hi Natalia! I would be delighted if you told all your friends about my blog 🙂 There’s always something to write about and enjoy in Poland!!

  • Reply Kyle 6 November 2015 at 09:31

    Leah, your blog posts have nailed it – us Floridians have difficulty (at least initially) practically anywhere further North of the FL/GA line. Sandals become boots. T-shirts become trench coats. MPG becomes L/100km. And eventually we figure it out. Glad to see that my ex-pat experiences were not too uncommon.

    Btw – I moved back to the States – and I still use Celcius in weather apps.

    Keep on writing – your posts are really fun to read!

    • Reply Leah Southers 6 November 2015 at 09:35

      Kyle! Somehow I think Floridians have a harder time than anyone else but then again I’m biased 🙂 I always use celsius now too because I feel like I know it better these days but things like kilometres? no idea. One funny thing I noticed is that when we ask how far we actually mean in minutes and when Europeans ask they mean km. Do you have the same observation? Maybe I just have no sense of distance?

  • Reply Jarek 15 December 2015 at 17:26

    Right now, living in Scotland, working in Edinburgh, we miss snow – there is not many days snowing here, and when it finally does – it melts pretty quickly.
    But everything covered in snow is just beautiful view, isn’t it?
    And you’ll get used to lower temperatures, then, when visiting friends in USA, Florida, you will be surprised how could you stand that heat???


  • Reply Laura 22 January 2016 at 23:21

    Boots are not a fashion statement but a necessity?
    Hahaha at home (Mexico) I never actually used to use boots, only in the field but yeah, I was totally worried about my boots resistance to Polish winter. They have worked pretty well. Now I’m most surprised about some fashion polish girls that are using high heels boots even in the snow…how do they manage?
    Love your blog!
    P.S. I find it quite similar your USA (not american (other discussion)) culture with mine, after all, Mexican life style is very much influenced by our northern neighbors.

    • Reply Leah Southers 23 January 2016 at 09:26

      Laura – Girls here wear high heels walking down cobblestone streets, like not a short distance, so they’re pretty amazing. I wouldn’t dare so something like that. Where in Mexico are you from? Is it really similar to the States? I’m very curious to hear what it’s like 🙂

  • Reply Paweł 10 February 2016 at 00:59

    Żurek! This stuff will never let you forget how to Polish 🙂 Great blog!

  • Reply Julia 5 October 2016 at 21:50

    cześć! I’m polish, I cook a lot, I do groceries almost every day and… I still ask for example for 8 slices of ham, not for 20 dg (dekagrams). When I ask for slices I’m 100% sure how much ham I’ll get. Some hams are bigger some are smaller so they weight is different, but a slice is always a slice and I can see that a ham is big so I need for ex. 4 slices instead of 8 😉

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 6 October 2016 at 14:59

      hah this made my day. I’m not the only one… when they ask me how much I always just shrug my shoulders or just say “100 grams” and then when I see that it’s too much or too little I can change it 🙂

  • Reply janek 31 May 2020 at 10:53

    fun fact – did you know NYC is slightly south of Rome (Italy), when it comes to latitude?

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