So as many of you know, I recently moved to Poland to teach English. It was a job I accepted many months ago, but if someone had told me a year ago today that I’d be teaching in Poland, I wouldn’t have believed it. I had always envisioned myself teaching in southern Europe, China or Mexico. However, now that I’ve been teaching nearly a month, I find the Polish context to be rewarding and challenging. I teach children, teenagers and adults, and because I haven’t taught kids before, this adds to the challenge.
I live in a small city near Warsaw off the tourist path, which many consider to be traditionally Polish. The language barrier can be an issue, but I feel as if I’m getting to know the real Poland. Because it is small, I don’t have to deal with long commutes to work everyday. Interesting fact about the city: it has a few McDonalds but there’s not a single Starbucks!
During my first month here, I’ve taken note of a few things I’ve noticed about the culture:
- shopping at the local supermarkets can be challenging, especially at the big chains. Aisles are often crowded, and if you want something from the deli counter, be prepared for long lines. In Poland, supermarkets are closed on two Sundays of each month, so grocery shopping on Saturdays can be particularly challenging. I’ve found it’s best to get groceries before or after work.
- highways in Poland aren’t what they are in North America; they are more like country roads, so a 60-mile journey often can take two hours!
- public schools are referred to as numbers, rather than names. In other words, a student will often say they go to School Number 39.
- Men will often come out on their balconies shamelessly in their underwear. Not a pretty sight for me as my apartment faces an eleven-storey block apartment, where this often is the case. Luckily the colder weather is settling in.
- older women will often try and bud you in the line at the grocery store. They seem to resent the shift from tradition as well as the presence of foreigners in their country.
- bookstores and small shops are open from ten in the morning until three in the afternoon on Saturdays in the city I live in. If you like hanging around a bookstore late in the evening, this can be frustrating.
As challenging as these things can be, I am enjoying the experience so far. I’ve always wanted to live and teach abroad, and now I’m doing it. When you live abroad, there are always challenges. I’m glad I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and embarked on this life-changing journey.
Thanks for reading this post!