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Culture Shock Since Moving to Poland - Anybody Dealt With This Before?

ianaus 8 | 20  
20 Apr 2009 /  #1
Hey guys,

Kinda a depressing post this one...

A quick story... I arrived in Poland about one month ago. I am originally from the UK but it has been many years since I have been there as I have lived in many different countries over the last few years. I always thought I was not too bad at adapting.

Anyway, when I arrived here I really loved it, you know, everything is new and curiousity levels are high. But then over the last week I seem to have really sank down and I can feel a depression coming on. I am disabled and have been having a lot of pain problems which is probably adding to the stress. I am trying to cope with feeling like this but I am really struggling. I am wondering if I am starting to go through the dreaded culture shock again. I went through it once before when I went to live in Costa Rica and it took about 6 months until I started to settle in there and the feelings of stress and depression started to dissipate. Does anybody here have any experience of culture shock since moving to Poland, and if so, what was it like and how did you deal with it?

Thank you in advance,

krysia 23 | 3,058  
20 Apr 2009 /  #2
It's culture shock

I was 8 years old when I moved to Poland.
It was HARD!!!!! The teachers were mean! People in the stores looked mad all the time, had to pay for using the toilet, people kiss you on the cheek, no corn flakes, etc. But I adjusted after a few years.

You will either have to get out of there fast or accept it and start living, breathing and acting like a Pole and get into the groove, man.
Calicoe 2 | 133  
20 Apr 2009 /  #3
no corn flakes

Very cute. I could see this being a major complaint for an 8-year-old, lol - or even some adult expats on this forum!
wildrover 98 | 4,451  
20 Apr 2009 /  #4
how did you deal with it?

Like you i consider myself adaptable , always try to make the best of whatever situation i am in....I had all kinds of problems since moving here over five years ago , all made ten times more difficult because i don,t speak a whole lot of Polish...Sometimes i would struggle a week to sort out something that would have taken me ten minutes to do in the UK...

Slowly though i made friends with some Polish people that spoke enough English to comunicate with , and i learned to do things the way Polish people do them....

Its not enough to be adaptable , its no use whatsoever trying to live like an Englishman in Poland , because if you do you will find constant problems , situations that are alien to you...!

The only answer is to be as Polish as you can be , learn from them how to live in this country , and you might start to enjoy it....

I am not asking for sympathy , but i have had all kind of problems that most Brits don,t have to deal with , and i am sure that many who complain about Poland wouild have given up and gone home if they had half what i had to deal with...

I guess being stubborn helps me a lot , i made my mind up that i was staying in Poland no matter how tough it got , and i kept telling myself that many Polish people have a tough time here , so why should i get it easy....

I am living in an old run down farm , totally alone , with very little money , a far cry from my life in the UK , but its what i chose...

In the winter life is hard for me here , but sitting in my garden in the sun , listening to the birds , and watching the deer feeding in my field makes it easy to forget the winter.....

I hope you get over your depression , stop feeling sorry for yourself, ok you are disabled , but you ain,t dead , learn to live with what you have , look at all the good things in your life , and stop worrying about the things you cannot change , or those that do not matter..

I like to think that if things got really bad for me i would not moan about them , i would either shoot myself , or sort it out....

Get out with some friends , have a good time , and be part of the culture , its not so much a shock then.... name is Ian too...but everybody calls me Jan....
krysia 23 | 3,058  
20 Apr 2009 /  #5
stop feeling sorry for yourself, ok you are disabled , but you ain,t dead , learn to live with what you have , look at all the good things in your life , and stop worrying about the things you cannot change , or those that do not matter..

I like that, wildrover. :)
BevK 11 | 248  
21 Apr 2009 /  #6
My (now definitely) ex in the UK took it badly that I wanted to come teach English after years in a miserable but well paid job came to an end when I was made redundant, so given how much he has been unpleasant (with a range of things from threats of suicide, threats to kill me if I ever went back and getting himself into a situation seeing not one but two girls behind each other's backs - not his normal, he was trying to make me jealous so I will come back) I'd say my bridges are pretty burned in the UK. Knowing that was pretty scary, and I am worried about money but overall the advice given is good. The Polish way is very different and very defined: learn to live Polish :)
magdalenaG 2 | 67  
21 Apr 2009 /  #7
i get depressed living in this country every winter , 4 months of hardship as far as i'm concerned . my depression seems to lift at the first signs of spring & the ability to look forward to the summer months & what they may hold .
wildrover 98 | 4,451  
22 Apr 2009 /  #8
i get depressed living in this country every winter

Oh , its not just me then...?
krysia 23 | 3,058  
22 Apr 2009 /  #9
You fit right in wildrover. You do what everyone else does in Poland. Good job :)
Qacer 38 | 125  
22 Apr 2009 /  #10
Winter depression? You might have SAD - seasonal affective disorder.

You may want to try light therapy. It works for some people.
BevK 11 | 248  
23 Apr 2009 /  #11
I was about to say this too. There are light boxes available which you can use every morning when you get up for about half an hour if you sit close to them. They are safe and don't have any side effects except you don't want to sleep all day and eat three loaves of bread all the time like a hibernating bear!
cjj - | 281  
23 Apr 2009 /  #12
Does anybody here have any experience of culture shock since moving to Poland, and if so, what was it like and how did you deal with it?

I'm not sure about culture-shock, but I miss
.. speaking English at anything near native-speaker speed
.. being able to understand people around me in the street
.. being able to talk to my children's teachers
.. Irish bacon
.. people with a similar outlook on life to mine
.. working with people who had similar attitudes to their career
.. being able to make jokes and have people understand them without killing them by explanation
.. having any sense of shared history and culture with my neighbours
.. friends with whom I could just sit and chat
.. places to go in the evening like gyms ... sports complexes ...
.. shops that are open on Saturday afternoons
.. being able to read the instructions on medication
.. being able to talk to my doctors in good English
.. being able to walk into a bookstore and just browse ...
.. long Irish evenings at mid-summer ...

ok - that's me started - how about you? what culture shock are you experiencing ?

PennBoy 76 | 2,436  
23 Apr 2009 /  #13
Does anybody here have any experience of culture shock since moving to Poland,

Everytime i go back to Poland it takes me 2 weeks to fully adjust, everything is different than in America, air smells different, streets are narrow, cars too, but then i like it so much i don't wanna go back, but i'm Polish, it must be harder for you.
mazzy_mc - | 4  
23 Apr 2009 /  #14
I've been in Poland for almost 2 months now and I have to admit to hitting a pretty big low about a month ago. I've lived in several countries overseas before and although I'm sure I struggled with it initially, I don't seem to recall it being quite as difficult as this.

For me I think the main difference is that my previous countries of residence have been places where I speak the respective languages. I don't however speak Polish. I'm learning, but it's disimilar to any language I know. My culture shock realisation point arrived one weekend when I was with friends (all Polish) and they spoke more or less for the entire night in Polish. That in itself wasn't my problem - I'm in their country. They are more than allowed to communicate in their own language, and I welcomed the listening practise. However, as the night when on my brain switched off from listening, as it would, and turned to thoughts of "what on earth am I doing here?!"

I had been so happy and mesmerised by my new country for the few weeks after arrival, I hadn't had a chance to take heed on the enormity of change that I had thrown myself into. I had hit a low and I couldn't even talk for want of not crying, although I cried anyway. I just didn't want to cry more...!

The real depression part of it thankfully didn't last all that long and on the whole I am now generally moving past it. As I understand it though, these things are entirely person specific. No time frame can be put on how long it will last or if you can get passed it.

My only advice would be keep yourself busy. I have now managed to find a job and I am taking Polish classes a few nights a week. In all honesty, I don't really have time to think about how difficult things are sometimes. Stay positive. Poland is wonderful and I really believe that it has a lot to offer. I hope you get through it soon and start to enjoy your new country.

Good luck :)
Seanus 15 | 19,706  
23 Apr 2009 /  #15
I am also adaptable and I see things as an adventure. Trust me, Japan was much more of a culture shock than Poland. In most ways imaginable. Still, I sympathise with the gentleman. We are not robots and cannot stride into new situations willy-nilly without finding your feet and learning the ropes. No offence to Poland but things were picked up rather quickly for me. It works both ways. Still, Poland does offer novel approaches to certain things and this can spark interest rather than trigger the blues.

To the author of the thread, keep an open mind and try and use your options to the maximum extent. Poland can be stale if you make it but life can have punch here.
mazzy_mc - | 4  
23 Apr 2009 /  #16
Whilst I don't deny that living in Japan is a huge culture shock, I don't think it's possible to underestimate the effect living overseas can have on a person, not matter how temporary it may be. Like I said before, it depends on the person. It's great that you managed to settle into Poland quickly, but I suppose if you were comparing it to your experience in Japan, I imagine the culture is more somewhat European and what you know, making it easier.

The point is though, culture is to be expected. I know this now - it would have been helpful if my brain had given me a heads up before I came here. It has to be said that when I was feeling miserable intially I had no idea what was wrong with me! Acceptance of the whole thing seemed to help though.

In essence it sounds trivial, but for each person it's different and holds varying levels of importance. Wherever in the world you choose to live however, the same rule applies: life is what you make it!
BevK 11 | 248  
25 Apr 2009 /  #17
I was initially looking at going from home in the UK to Chicago, that was based on a relationship which has at best had an interruption and may not be recoverable. However, I found AMERICA a culture shock, even given the (sometimes arguable) same language. I wasn't there for long, and if I'd gone for a holiday and been a tourist it would have been great but I was already viewing it with the eye of "could I live here".

I have empathy for mazzy, I'm starting to wonder if any expats actually meet up (in Warsaw, anyway). Would love some female friends, my English friends here are all guys and even the gay one can't really empathise with girly mindset requirements :)

I hit a slump last week when my mother was sent to hospital (she's quite frail, she's back home now). However, there's no point dwelling, the key really IS to keep yourself busy and to throw yourself into things wholeheartedly. It's my birthday today so I am looking forward to the (not mean) streets of Foksal and Nowy Swiat tonight :)

PS look up Homesickness on Wikipedia if you are feeling low (I adapted this article for a lesson the other day). Read that - think "hey this is normal!" and feel better about yourself. :)
Eurola 4 | 1,909  
25 Apr 2009 /  #18
I read the posts and I'm very surprised with all the complaints. I immigrated to the USA and my life wasn't all roses at the beginning (no language, different attitude of people, no family.. etc), but I looked at it more as an adventure not a culture shock. I had enough of an open mind not to expect things to be the same. If I were to move to Somalia next month, I would not expect them to talk or behave the same as people in Poland or The USA. I can accept, learn and do my best to blend in or... go back home. Right?

So, why did you choose to move to Poland? We all try to better ourselves, but if you feel that you struggle so much why not go back where you came from? Why did you leave your better country? What did you expect to find and to accomplish in Poland? Why are you trying to make it in a country you don't really like?
BevK 11 | 248  
25 Apr 2009 /  #19
I don't think people are saying that - they're talking about the same experience as you had yourself in my opinion. I *LOVE* Poland, I am constantly surprised at what I find here etc etc - however, I do miss some things - when I went back to the UK to pack up my stuff I missed Polish things. And actually I kind of wish I'd left everything back in the UK and started over because my belongings made me feel weird, like they were ties to something I wasn't any more.

The thread was started by someone in the throes of a culture shock, you can't berate someone for a perfectly natural human reaction. We're all different - it wasn't a culture shock for me here in Poland at all as I am half Polish and find it quite comforting to be in the culture my Father taught me when he was still alive. Even so, this is the first time I've been out of the country of my origin for a period of time and there is no real "going back" to the life you had because travel and experience have broadened your mind and made you a different (and I'd say probably better for it) person. The people you leave behind can't understand that.

Anyway what I miss atm is a healthy breakfast cereal that's not loaded with sugar - anyone seen Bran Flakes anywhere? :)

(Life IS what you make it)
mazzy_mc - | 4  
25 Apr 2009 /  #20
I read the posts and I'm very surprised with all the complaints.

Firstly, I'd like to point out that I wasn't complaing, but merely sharing my experience, which is what the author of this post was asking for, which is what others were also doing.

I said before in a previous post that I don't deny that someone else's experience may be "tougher" so to speak, and there are those who (believe they) can go to any country in the world without any kind of reaction, but again everyone's experience is person specific.

I have lived overseas enough to know that there are times when you hit a low. It's not necessarily that I miss home, but it's just adapting. This doesn't make me a weaker person for accepting it as some degree of culture shock.

What's more, if you knew anything about me you would know that viewing my native country as "better" is far from what I do. In fact, I have known for a long time that I don't want to live and work anywhere in Scotland or the UK, ever.

I am not naive enough to expect everything in Poland to be the same as the culture I know. That said, I am familiar with several other cultures, so I too see myself as adaptable, despite what you may think. I am well aware of my options and I am living my life. At the end of the day if I weren't such a person I would never have taken the decision to move here. Yes, I now have a job, a flat, friends and am learning the language, but I didn't have any of that before I came here - none of it was guaranteed. I did it because I love my life in Poland and I want to stay here. I don't sit and cry in room everything night and dream about being back home in narrow-minded British culture.

In my post I merely explained my personal, somewhat temporary low seem, but not moaning continuously about how terrible my life in Poland is and how I want to go back home, which couldn't be further from the truth. I love Poland and my life here.

Oh and one more thing, if you name me one person that is ever on a high constantly, regardless of country I'd be more than shocked.

Even if I were at home I would have low moments, because it's normal. Because it's life and it's fecking wonderful! :)
jojospacemunky 1 | 59  
25 Apr 2009 /  #21
Perserve with it you will get there in the end it is hard but go out interact with everyone and it will get easier :)
McCoy 27 | 1,269  
25 Apr 2009 /  #22
Poland is wonderful and I really believe that it has a lot to offer. I

nice to read it mazzy. i wish you all the best. heve you thought about moving to Wroclaw, 3-city or Krakow? They are more user-friendly than post industrial-commie Lodz.

My personal comment about your friends speaking polish when you are arround: as your reaction shows, its not really kind and its far from hospitality to use only native language in presence of a guest. imho they should let you feel a part of the group not kind of unwelcomed and alienated stranger in a strange land. as the nicest user of PF i wont call them a bunch of fvcking w@nkers but if i was as mean as for example Shelleys i definatelly would.
frd 7 | 1,401  
25 Apr 2009 /  #23
I agree with the previous poster, Wroclaw, 3-city and Krakow are much more "foreign friendly", more cosmopolitan and multi-cultural so to say. It's really weird for your mates to speak Polish near you, I'd never do such things, ALTHOUGH I remember once having such situation and I had many "non - english speaking" friends with me, I had to use polish to communicate with them, and I clearly stated that to my Swedish mate - he was ok with it, and I was trying to pay as much attention as I could to him. Any person would feel alienated beeing in an alien environment, not knowing the language...
mazzy_mc - | 4  
25 Apr 2009 /  #24
I feel I may have given the wrong impression of my friends. Generally since I've been here they have made great efforts to communicate with me in English - my closest friend (who is also part of the reason I moved here) speaks to me only in English, although now we try and speak Polish for about 15 minutes a day. I understand a little, but speaking always lags behind...

For the rest of them though English is more of an effort and whilst they can communicate to a degree, they struggle. I do get frustrated sometimes when I miss complete parts of sentences and conversations (and don't even get me started on jokes, where I'm at a complete loss), but on the whole it's probably a good thing that my brain is getting used to the language. I know that Poles in the UK are expected to speak English, so in theory it should work the other way around...aah, theory.

As for another city, we'll see. I think I need to give £ódź a chance. I'm getting settled with a job now, which is good so I hope things continue to work out. I will most definitely need to visit Wrocław and Kraków, not to mention Gdańsk.

Thanks for the advice though and I hope I haven't given you too bad an impression of my friends - they're lovely people really :)
theblueenigma 3 | 188  
25 Apr 2009 /  #25
am living in an old run down farm , totally alone , with very little money , a far cry from my life in the UK , but its what i chose...

What brought you to Poland in the first place ?
wildrover 98 | 4,451  
25 Apr 2009 /  #26
I organised and led convoys of Landrovers to take aid to kids in Belarus affected by the Chernobyl accident...later i got asked to help a kids home in Poland , so came twice a year with truckloads of stuff....

Sometime during all this i fell in love with Poland , so wound up buying this old farm here....
theblueenigma 3 | 188  
25 Apr 2009 /  #27
Fair play to you, I sense that regardless of how difficult you may find life in Poland your soul is here ;)
BevK 11 | 248  
25 Apr 2009 /  #28
I have a perfect example of this for those who think others are being parochial (to be nice about it). So it's my birthday - SMS flying in from all sides, my ex tried to get hold of me on MSN when I was sleeping (whoops), I have a party tonight and I am in an excellent mood looking at the beautiful blue skies, the glowingly green grass and the flowers suddenly everywhere. Then I end up in a complete Fawlty Towers a la Communisto farce in Carrefore which was caused by their bar code scanners but was massively exacerbated by me not being able to speak Polish. 45 minutes trying to buy some sprouted seeds (I love these so much!) rather took the shine off the experience and I decided I was going to just go home and chill out, get ready. But ... it made me cry, as soon as I was away from other people's view.

Now I am a fairly tough bird, I am generally the one other people lean on for support, but something so small as that underlines the frustrations that flare. It doesn't matter, I know that the guy in the store didn't mean anything personal it just made me feel very alone in an uncaring universe for a while.

Home now and it already seems a massive over-reaction but it's just part and parcel of adapting. Only been here three weeks really, so no wonder I can't have my usual control and collectedness I'd have either at home or where I have a far better grasp of the language.

I organised and led convoys of Landrovers to take aid to kids in Belarus affected by the Chernobyl accident...later i got asked to help a kids home in Poland , so came twice a year with truckloads of stuff....

I remember every year sorting out things for Xmas present boxes to be sent to Poland. We used to go out with some extra pocket money and a little we had ourselves and buy sweets, colouring books, crayons, hair baubles etc., then make up a "surprise shoebox" with these things in them. I always used to feel really happy as a kid that someone would have a nice thing to open which one of us had made for them. :)
wildrover 98 | 4,451  
25 Apr 2009 /  #29
I remember every year sorting out things for Xmas present boxes to be sent to Poland.

Maybe i took one of your boxes....I took quite a lot of such boxes to the childrens home in Lobez....
isa 10 | 41  
25 Apr 2009 /  #30
Happy Birthday, Bev! Sto Lat!

I hear you, sister. I was equally frustrated during my stint in France. Usually self-assured and outspoken, I was reduced to a crying mess whenever faced with a French bureaucracy, or any French-spoken establishment, for that matter.

You mentioned it yourself, so you do realize that it is a stage that will pass. Not only that, I guarantee you will be able to laugh about it one day.

I do :-)

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