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The Benefits and Drawbacks of being a Novelty in Poland

Updated: Aug 30, 2022

I want to start this blog with an early memory here in Poland...

I was at a colleagues birthday party on a beach along the Vistula, we were drinking...there may have been a joint or two, the sun was shining, there was a trace of smoke in the air from a nearby BBQ. I was there with work colleagues who I had known a few months at this point and having a good time, I was still very new to Warsaw and meeting a lot of new people. There was this couple I had got talking to, no idea who they are now, just some of the many random people I would meet, have a long talk with and never see again...

I remember one of them mentioned something about working at a bank and even suggested I could be a good spokesperson for them, I was being stupidly political as I was back then and ranting about Brexit...they said they loved to listen to me speak, having a strong and clear English accent I get this comment quite a lot, but given what I was saying...I had to respond with..."maybe the voice but not the content surely" This was the first time I realised that some people just liked to hear my voice...and didn't really listen to what I was saying...


There are quite a few Brits in Warsaw, I've met a few in a certain region of the city where they always seem to drink, normally around the Legends bar...but still, most people I talk to say I'm the only one they have met (unless of course they lived in the UK for a time). It comes and goes, but certainly certain people want to talk to me just because of where I am from...


One the one hand, it is nice to be found interesting, that people want to talk to me, it's all rather flattering really...though at the same time it can feel a bit hollow, I often get the same questions asked over and over again...the first one being: Why did you move to Warsaw? Often followed by: What do you like about Poland/living in Poland? What are your favourite cities?

9 times out of 10 the people I meet I won't see again, I can feel a bit like an actor, repeating the same lines over and over again for another group of strangers...

These kind of engagements are often at parties or while at work...


Another recurrent line I hear..."You speak very good Polish" (At this point I speak very little Polish, though I am taking lessons), I often get this line when I am in a shop or a restaurant/bar, in these situations I always try to use as much Polish as I can muster, I think so few foreigners speak Polish that when you try it is appreciated...or you are met with a blank look as they haven't got a clue what you just said...in which case I quickly switch to English as a standard reaction.


Being a minority in language, i.e. Being one of the only people around me with English as their strongest language does set me apart, I know that most people only use English when I am around so that I don't feel left out, this saddens me a little as I know they have to go out of their way and it is often creating extra effort on their part, they of course would be much more comfortable speaking in Polish...naturally.


So I would say I am trying over time to stand out less, to be able to integrate more...mainly by learning Polish, the sad thing...it will take me a long time to be fluent, even living in the country for many years, taking lessons and absorbing everything around me it still feels like an uphill struggle...

I think ultimately I want to feel like I belong here without being treated like a novelty, I think it will be a long if ever before that happens

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