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Canadian moving to Poland...any advice?

24 Feb 2007 /  #1
I am a Canadian and I will be moving to Poland in the late Spring. Does anybody have any advice for me on how to deal with the culture shock. I have visited but that was 8 years ago. My languages are English and French and a smattering of Polish, so I am aware of the language problem. I am also moving with my 4 year old who also doesn't speak Polish.
Kamyk 2 | 61  
24 Feb 2007 /  #2
It seems like it's not going to be just a culture shock for you but also for yur child. I figure that you must have some serious reasons why you want to move to Poland. Anyways, It's so hard to advise someone but I would strongly suggest checking "Articles about Poland" section of this forum. They have some stuff you could benefit from knowing. But in generl after coming to the country you should enroll in some polish language courses as English IS NOT widely known, young people know it but it will not be fluent among all and Polish is the key to communicate.
OP tekoa  
25 Feb 2007 /  #3
Thanks for the reply. Obviously the language is going to be a huge hinderance, unfortunately I have not been able to find any place to get lessons before I go. Besides language though, are their any cultural quirks that I may have as a Canadian that would be important for me to know before I go there and make some huge faux pas. Or are there any quirks about the Polish culture that I should know that would make me better understand where the people that I am trying to get closer to are coming from.
Kamyk 2 | 61  
26 Feb 2007 /  #4
You will notice lots of differences, for instance:

1. You do not say hi or smile to unknown people you walk by on the street (that's something we're used to do in Canada).

2. When greeting with friends and relative there is lots of bear-shakes or kissing the cheeks (even for guys) and so on .. whereas in Canada private space is considered much bigger :)

3. Vodka/beer is sold in grocery stores next to bread or deli (dont have to look for that LCBO store that closes so early :)

5. If you will be driving a car, watch it ... roads and drivers are far different from Canadian conditions (much more aggressive)

6. Poland has a huge percentage of practising catholics .. therefore very religious country. Try not to talk about religion or politics with the person you dont know well yet as these are a two very sensitive topics.

7. Customer's rights and privilages in stores are much more limited in Poland. Remember that it is not easy to return purchased merchandise. (return policy is different from store to store)

8. Dont assume anything whilke being in the foreign countyr. Things aren't done same way as in Canada.

One may identify lots of similarities when comparing Polish culture to the Canadian one, however you have to equip yourself with a lot of patience and traveller's wisdom :) Although lots of things may seem difficult to understand at first, I am sure you will quickly find out that Poland is a great country and you will enjoy learning about its culture, customs, and history.
lef 11 | 478  
26 Feb 2007 /  #5
Watch out for thieves, assault merchants and con men/women.
26 Feb 2007 /  #6
It all depends on how long you are intending to go there for. Are you of Polish origin? Do you have family there? Are you there for just a couple of months? If you are going there for good, one thing you will notice is that there is a very limited wealfare system. Compared to the U.K. where we are used to getting things, especially for children for free on the National Health service you will be expected to pay for everything in Poland. Medicines can be expensive. The Poles are not generous, they give nothing away. Language is something you will have to pick up. If you are in a big town there may be classes run by a private language institute, you may even try the local university, if there is one. A language student will give lessons in exchange for a fee though as I have already said a Pole does nothing for free you will be expected to open your purse and wallet.
Kamyk 2 | 61  
26 Feb 2007 /  #7
thieves, assault merchants and con men/women.

This sounded like from a horror movie :) ... just watch yourself and what you do and I'm sure you'll be fine :P
krysia 23 | 3,058  
27 Feb 2007 /  #8
And unless you have a satelite dish, there is nothing good on TV, specially if your child likes cartoons. There are nice toys, clothes for children tend to be more expensive, the fruits and vegetables are very tasty. There aren't any malls but they have large grocery stores like Tesco where you can buy everything, and open markets.

You pay "abonament" for your TV which you can pay at the post office.
When in a crowded bus make sure you got all your belongings safely stored, there are pick-pockets who operate on crowded buses and if they they hear you're a foreigner, you are in double trouble.

When in restaurant, they don't follow the policy "customer is always right" like in the US and some waitresses won't even smile.

But overall, people are very polite.
OP tekoa  
27 Feb 2007 /  #9
Thanks for everybody's advice it was sounding pretty optimistic until that last reply. How will Poland crush me?
To answer Michal's question, no I am not of Polish origin. My in-laws live there and we will be going to run the family business and set up our own by extension. We intend to go there permanently, however that is up to me and how well I adjust and learn the language.

I used to manage a cafe that employed mostly Polish kids and the clientel was mostly Polish and Ukranian, most of my friends are Polish, so I am not completely ignorant to the Polish ways, however I am sure there is a big difference between Polish people in Canada and Polish people in Poland.
krysia 23 | 3,058  
27 Feb 2007 /  #10
it was sounding pretty optimistic until that last reply. How will Poland crush me?

It depends on your attitude. If you believe it's the end of the road, think negatively, looking for bad things in Poland and not willing to open your eyes to the beauty of Poland, you will be crushed.

But if you come to Poland with the willingness to explore and learn, there is so much history, architecture, beautiful scenery, culture, people, you won't be crushed.

There is this story of two people who were put in jail. One only saw the bars, the other looked up and saw the stars.
arabesca - | 2  
22 Mar 2007 /  #11
In general, life in Poland will be much harder for you.
Grzegorz_ 51 | 6,161  
22 Mar 2007 /  #12
How do you know that ?

Geez after such advices she should commit suicide...
4 Oct 2007 /  #13
There aren't any malls but they have large grocery stores like Tesco where you can buy everything, and open markets.

oh really?? no malls?? I don't know what village you are refering to, but in Szczecin (pop 400,000) there are a few.

Carrefour Turzyn>>

Galaxy Centrum

there are many more around the city as well.

And unless you have a satelite dish, there is nothing good on TV

oh really?? i have 60+ channels on cable. lots of things to watch. you do not need a dish.
bookratt 6 | 85  
5 Oct 2007 /  #14
Where will you be living?

They have a big mall in Krakow and on Zakopianska there is a small plaza with a Carrefour food/variety store, Empik for mags, books, etc, , there's a food court--with a KFC--, several clothing stores, phone stores,wine shop, sweets stand, etc--with a toy store, pet shop and movie theatre nearby. They have Costarama--like Home Depot in the states. Tesco--like Aldi or Meijer at home-- is further in toward the city and Ikea is somewhere south.

Prices are higher for everything but the food. Quality of clothing, electronics and towels, kitchenwares, etc is poor unless you're willing to pay big bucks. Rents are very high. Taxis and buses are cheap.

I've been here one week and already go shopping on foot, have ordered kebabs and pizza, been to the park with my son, have enrolled him and arranged for taxi bus service for him at ISK school, take taxis by myself all over the place, opened a bank acct in the city, etc---and I do not speak Polish and this is my first time living abroad.

Many people speak English with you when asked and if you try Polish with them first, they are very happy to try and help you.

True, my German, French and Polish neighbors don't say dobry or hello to me yet--but I am starting to get little head nods from the dog walkers I see regularly and I got a small hand wave from the older woman across the street and a nod, too. No smiles yet, though the cashier at Lewitan grocery now says "hello" and "ok, thank you" to us when we shop there. I even got a "you're welcome" from the deli counter girl yesterday.

My satellite tv--a leftover from the previous renter, a consulate employee, apparently---is some weird Austrian budget lineup, all in German---but with our residency permits coming soon, we will soon be able to sign up for something better and get a better home phone situation. I borrowed a phone from a friend, switched out the cards, loaded it up at PLAY, a phone store, and started using it the same day. A Polish friend did go with me there and I bet you can find the wife of your husband's co worker to help you, too.

Just write stuff down and show it to them in the shops if you can't be understood--many who will not try their English with you may be able to read it and understand what you want. They'll say "ah" and get it right away.

I did this when I wanted 1/2 kg of gouda cheese, sliced. I wrote "gouda, 0,5 kg" then made the motion for chopping to her. She smiled, said "ok", got it and off I went.

We bought Rosetta Stone software for Polish instruction--the home school edition---off ebay and are using that to get some familiarity with the language, but I will sign up for Polish lessons soon. I have seen signs for Glossa here and that language school seems to be popular w/foreigners.

When you get here, join IWAK or a similar group (like an int'l women's society, arts club, etc) or sign up at your child's school to be a PTA rep for his/her grade. Many expats do speak English and you should be ok.

Good luck and have a great time in Poland.

PM if you'll be in Krakow and we'll try and meet up
9 Oct 2007 /  #15
There's nothing wrong with Polish TV. And you'll find malls in the major cities, along with plenty of small stores and open markets. Krakow has Galeria Krakowska with 270 stores.
plk123 8 | 4,148  
9 Oct 2007 /  #16
don't wear a t-short that says USA on it. lol
randompal 7 | 306  
10 Oct 2007 /  #17
there is lots of bear-shakes or kissing the cheeks (even for guys)

kissing on the cheeks (guy kissing guy on cheek) is generally reserved for family, if friends do it it means they are very old or maybe from the countryside - in the cities this isnt done..but beware Polish guys are enthusiastic handshakers, whereas Amerciancs and Canadians not as much

There's nothing wrong with Polish TV.

yes there is, it sucks and the commercials are broadcast at a louder volume than the actual program which forces you to keep the remote handy so you can mute

There aren't any malls

there are many, at least in warsaw, and there will be more and more

don't wear a t-short that says USA on it. lol

seriously - what are the chances of a Canadian parading around town with a USA t-shirt? this guy probably wouldnt be caught dead wearing one..
16 Oct 2007 /  #18
ummmm go back and read what i wrote. better yet go back and read what Krysia wrote about no malls. I NEVER said there were no malls, the contrary.

and "remotes" for TV's are called "pilots"
Foreigner4 12 | 1,768  
11 Dec 2007 /  #19
There aren't any malls

drifter - | 8  
22 Apr 2008 /  #20
Well Rzeszow is a smaller city and it had plenty of malls.
Polanglik 11 | 303  
29 Apr 2008 /  #21
I read somewhere that Poland, after Spain, has the most sq. metres of mall space in the whole of Europe.

a Pole does nothing for free you will be expected to open your purse and wallet.

..... a bit like anywhere else in the world !

The Poles are not generous

Maybe not the ones you have met .... but then again it may be something to do with you and not the Poles.

Generally I have found the Poles to be extremely generous and hospitable people :o)

We intend to go there permanently, however that is up to me and how well I adjust and learn the language.

I wish you all the best in your new life .... I hope it all works out for you :o) I will also be moving out to Poland (Krakow) in 2009 , but the difference is that my wife and I already speak Polish fluently as do our two kids aged 6 yrs and 4 yrs; I think that will be the biggest hurdle for you to overcome .... the language !

Let us know how you get on :o)

ps. what line of business will you be in , and where in Poland will you be living/working ?
Andrew78 - | 97  
1 Jun 2008 /  #22
Pls dont move to Poland,it's like me,use to live in Chicago but now live in Garbage UK and dont like at.Anyway

Good luck
22 Aug 2008 /  #23
There aren't any malls? There are tons of malls in Poland, in every big city.
Eurola 4 | 1,909  
23 Aug 2008 /  #24
There are tons of malls in Poland, in every big city.

Yep. Mighty expensive and fancy looking too.
I know... I've been to a couple on my last visit.
benszymanski 8 | 465  
23 Aug 2008 /  #25
and "remotes" for TV's are called "pilots"

Not sure I get your point. In Polish they are, but in English it is a "remote", short for "remote control".

In (British) English, a pilot is the guy that flies a plane. Only other time I can think of this word being used is for a pilot light in a gas boiler.
23 Aug 2008 /  #26
if you don't get my point, toooo bad. It's pretty easy logic to understand. Why are you repeating what I wrote, only reversing it?

oh btw, a pilot is also the person who navigates a ship. And pilots are not only men.
benszymanski 8 | 465  
24 Aug 2008 /  #27
sorry I must have misunderstood you.

I thought that was a captain.
krysia 23 | 3,058  
24 Aug 2008 /  #28
Quoting: krysiaThere aren't any malls

They're there now!
rdywenur 1 | 157  
6 Sep 2008 /  #29
Four years old. Children are more resilient than adults so I think your child will pick up the language fast and acclimate to new surroundings and life. I came to USA when 3 and don't ever remember having a problem with an adjustment. Course that was many moons ago too. :P
4 Feb 2009 /  #30
I would suggest that learning the language is part of the transition that you need to make but beginner level from a phrase book should be ok for your first few days/weeks specially with your in-laws help, until you go to a class. Polish has a lot of consonant clusters & diphongs & nasal sounds, & Polish Grammer is also different from English watches out for noun/adjective cases. Watch Polish TV & listen for words you know/learning but it is in a different language so TV will be boring.

Culturally the Roman Catholic Church & the ex Communist regime has had the biggest effect & there is, of course, a lot of pop Americanism (eg the Mall) with the German invasion of WW2 having left a hint of anti-German sentiment & some terrifying landmarks to Man's inhumanity. So avoid Religion or politic conversation in Public. Pope John Paul was Polish, so praising him as being a great man will win you browning points with any Pole (no matter what their religious beliefs are, HE WAS POLISH). Feel free to wear the Red Maple with Pride, just don't go over board or expect Polish people not to share your sentiment.

Theives/muggers are everywhere in the world so same precautions you use in Canada will apply. Despite general anti-German sentiment, Poland has a lot of Noe-NAZI skin-heads in poor regions specially in £odz & the Northwest, so listen to your in-laws when they tell you to avoid any area but there is areas in Montreal/Toronto which aren't safe neither, so again common sense should prevail in these situations.

They celebrate Christmas on the 24th with a huge meal & go to Mass on 25th. Name days are important, so find out your & your child's name day. Independence Day is 11.11, May day is a bank holiday, all church holidays are important.

Polish "flavoured" vodkas are ok often served cold from freezer looks like sambuca but don't drink "Spiritos" it used very strong.

Poles drive like Italians.

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