Lois: Polish Housewife
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Poland, etc.
I’m an accountant, married to a retired USAF pilot. Since my husband’s retirement from active duty, we have been living in Tucson, Arizona. That’s where we raised our three daughters. They’re all adults now and haven’t moved to Poland with us. My husband has been working with the Polish Air Force since 2009 – helping them establish an F-16 training base.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I have written a food blog for several years, so blogging was a format I was comfortable with to keep our friends and family informed about our life in Poland. I started my blog once I told my employer I was moving overseas.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Staffers at the City of Poznan became aware of my blog and invited me to a workshop they were hosting for the media on a local pastry. We were in the bakery kitchen with the head of the local bakers’ guild learning to make St. Martin’s Croissants. It was a real treat for me. My Polish blog has posts about the workshop and a link to my interview as part of the TV coverage of the day. I also wrote about making the pastries at home (on my food blog).
Tell us about the ways your new life in Poland differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I’m not working here (it’s not permitted in the terms of my resident permit), so I’ve had to look for other activities to fill my time and make social contacts in Poznan. I participate in the expat women’s group, volunteer in a ministry coffee shop run by American missionaries, took up bicycling, and have enjoyed getting reacquainted with my husband since I’m not SO busy anymore.
We have only one car, which my husband drives to work and we take on trips. Almost all of my travel is by public transportation – usually trams, occasionally a bus or taxi. At home, we drove everywhere. Using public transport takes more planning and involves more walking, but there is something kind of freeing (emotionally and financially) about not having to deal with traffic, parking, filling the tank, and car maintenance.
As a military family, we have lived in Europe before, but we’ve enjoyed the slower, “stop and smell the roses” lifestyle.
Because we have lived abroad before, I was surprised that I felt somewhat disoriented being immersed in a foreign language – not being able to read the signs or understand what people were saying. I now understand a few words and can make out some signs; tuning out what I don’t understand has become habit again.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Poland? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
We were both surprised by how nice and how modern Poland is, but I can’t think of anything I wish I had done differently. We are living more simply here (by choice). We try to embrace Polish ways. I take pleasure in find ways to “make do.” When I can’t make do, I find what I need on amazon.co.uk
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
We had a terrible storm recently which blew away some laundry that had been drying on our balcony. (See embracing Polish ways in question 5.) I could see that it had landed on the balcony one floor below us, but they weren’t at home when I went to retrieve it. We were leaving on vacation the next morning, so I left a note on their door. When we checked into our hotel two days later, I had an email from our neighbors saying they had found us on the internet (via my blog) and that our laundry had been washed, dried, and was waiting for us upon our return. It’s an unusual way to meet your neighbors.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Poland?
- Make use of technology – Bring an iPad, and set up your iTunes account before you leave the States. It is possible to find or order English reading material, but sources are limited and expensive. I used the zinio app to get magazine subscriptions, iBooks and my Kindle app to download books. We don’t spend a lot of time watching TV, but it is nice to stay up to date with local news and favorite programs. We have a Slingbox connected to our DVR and the internet, stateside. By signing into our slingbox account, we can watch our local cable and control the DVR (record and playback).
- I moved to Poland (a place with real seasons) from the desert. I bought a down parka, gortex (waterproof) hiking boots, and some really thick wool & silk hiking socks. I haven’t minded the cold so much because I’m dressed for it.
- Make sure you bring papers such as marriage license, and birth certificates (for children). It was necessary to have an official translation of these documents (done in Poland) to obtain our resident permits.
How is the expat community in Poland? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
In our city, we have an English speaking, expat women’s group, although most of the women are younger than I – busy raising their children. We also have American missionaries, an English speaking, international church with a women’s Bible study.
For an introvert, I have had more than ample contact with English speakers. Many Polish people in Poznan speak English; however, it is more common with younger people.
How would you summarize your expat life in Poland in a single, catchy sentence?
It’s a European vacation every day!