Who are you?
My name’s Leah and I’m an American from Orlando, Florida living in Poland for the past 6 years.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
I moved abroad after doing a 2-month volunteer program in Poland where I met a guy I liked. I decided to move to Poland to be with him and see what would happen. We were together for a few years and then I met my husband and that’s when I decided to live in Poland permanently.I’m happy with my decision because I enjoy our life here but sometimes it’s still overwhelming.
What challenges did you face during the move?
The most difficult challenge for me was language. Polish is difficult and most young people speak English, which makes it hard to motivate yourself to learn. Aside from that, there are different ways of behaving here than in the States and sometimes that can lead to uncomfortable situations for both sides. Not only that, moving abroad can be very lonely. Sometimes you feel like a total outsider and that no one understands you – both in your home country and your new home country.
Are there many other expats in your area?
There are some but just a handful. For that reason, I don’t really have many expat friends. It’s good for me in some ways because I have less competition in terms of work but also fewer people whom I can fully relate to.
What do you like about life where you are?
I love that in Poland you can experience various seasons and that we have mountains nearby. We have no mountains in Florida so I had never really spent time in mountains before I met my husband. He showed me how incredible it is to spend time in the mountains and forests and I’m really happy that the nearest mountains are only about an hour away.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
Probably being away from family is the hardest thing about expat life, except language of course. I don’t like that I can’t easily see my family if I need to and that I can’t spend many holidays with them. I know that it’s really sad for them as well. Now I’m having a child and I know it will be even harder for them. So I guess what I dislike most is that in this way I feel guilty about moving abroad, which conflicts with my positive feelings of pride of having successfully moved abroad and assimilated well.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
I’d say the mentality of Poles and Americans is quite different. Poles tend to be more negative and like to complain and we tend to be more positive, perhaps to a fault. Sometimes that positivity is nice though and I miss that. Poles are also much more traditional and family-oriented, which is an aspect I surprisingly enjoy very much. I wouldn’t have expected that of myself before coming here.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
I’d say start taking Polish lessons as soon as possible because it will dramatically ease your transition and you’ll feel much more comfortable in social situations. Otherwise, travel as much as you can and enjoy living in a place with incredible history.
What are your plans for the future?
My plan for the near future is to stay in Poland, at least for the next 5-6 years. Perhaps we’ll consider moving to the States if one of us gets a good job offer or we think it would be good for our child but at the moment we’re happy where we are 🙂
You can keep up to date with Leah's adventures on her blog, Polonization.
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