The Pains of Moving to a New City

Today’s topic is a bit different than what we have usually been posting. This time it’s not related to English learning but rather something that every young adult experiences at some point in his/her life, moving to a new city. 

Now, I have moved to different cities a couple of times now. Although the first time, when I moved to Sopot, it was a bit different because I saw that move as a short-term move and as an adventure. Everything was easy-going, no rush, just taking in the moment(1.), savoring every step(2) I took, and trying anything new I could get my hands on(3). So as you see, very pleasant! However, this second “big” move was to Denver, Colorado.

My boyfriend, Sean and I decided to move to Denver. We rented a uHaul truck, packed all our belongings and drove to Denver from Florida. It took us a whooping(4) 30 hours for me and for Sean around 36 hours. Although the drive was exhausting, mentally and physically, it was well worth it. Even the move-in was worth-it (bums(5) included). 

Now that we are all moved in we are each experiencing some frustrations that happen to every one at some point of their big move - challenges. As an adult, you obviously have to figure these things out on your own, some will be constant others you’ll have to figure them out once and you’ll be done with them. This a list of those challenges I’m experiencing:

    • Transferring Driver’s License - I’m not sure how many of you know this but when you move from one state to the next permanently you have to transfer your driver's license, which means you have to go to this thing called DMV (Department of Motor Vehicle). Like any governmental office, it is inefficient and it has its handful of bureaucracy. The first time I went there they asked for documents that I was surprised of hearing, such as your birth certificate, passport, S.S.N (Social Security Number), and two proofs of residency. Now, I know people that have changed states and haven’t had to deal with this many documents. Usually it’s good enough to have your driver’s license and two proofs of residency. But in Colorado it’s a whole list of things, which truly is pain in the neck(6)
    • Getting to know the city - Another irritating aspect of moving to a new city is getting to know the city. For now I keep using google maps to get me everywhere. Which in and of itself(7) is a bit annoying since I’m certain people around me probably see me as the “new kid on the block(8)”. However, this is something that will change the longer I stay, so that’s comforting. Right now, even finding a gas station is a challenge! Thank goodness for Google Maps and technology itself! I must admit, something really awesome about moving to new city is trying out the new restaurants and discovering those little gems. 
    • Making friends - This is currently my biggest frustration. Making friends as an adult is really difficult! I would even go as far as saying that making friends is harder than finding a date. So as you guys know, I work from home, which means there’s no way I can meet new people. My only options in a world with no technology would be to actually go out…eeek! I’m joking, but really, it would mean I would have to go to cafes, bars or clubs in order to meet new people. And as many of you know, this is definitely not my strong suit(9). Thankfully, we have technology! Although, I must say I thought I was going to be a bit more successful with technology on my side. So this weekend was rough. Sean was working, basically all day on Sunday, which meant I didn’t have anything to do, other than run errands(10), clean, do laundry and cook. So I figured, why not try finding friends? So my hunt for friends began! I did a quick google search for best apps to find friends and I got a list of ten different apps. I read each summary and then picked by downloading them the ones I thought were the best ones. I must say, a lot of them are similar to tinder and it is definitely difficult to find a normal person. However, I did download Bumble (which is normally known as a dating apps, but apparently has the option to find, what they call it, your “BFF(11)”). As soon as I downloaded Bumble, I was pleasantly surprised with the “results”. All of them were women that seemed to be incredibly interesting! Can you imagine, I swipped right, I would say, 95% of the time. That’s how cool women are in this city. However, (not sure if it’s me) I’ve gotten three matches…which is kind of depressing! We’ll see how it goes within a few weeks. 
    • Parking - So I have lived downtown before, but I have never had a car when I have lived downtown. And so this is my first time living downtown and having a car. And it has been such a trial for me. First of all, I had to learn how to parallel park. I know, I should’ve learned this when I got my driver’s license, but in Florida, we don’t need to parallel park so it is hardly taught. Thankfully, because I have a great teacher, Sean, I was able to pick it up pretty quickly(12). Then there’s the little problem with parking…we have one street where we can park our cars for 72 hours, however, I would say 5/10 ten times I am successful at finding a parking spot. When I can’t find one, then I pay for parking which costs for 6 hours anywhere from $10 to $12 dollars, that’s what I call highway robbery(13)

All in all, it’s truly been a great experience moving to a new city with my partner. And although we have stumbled upon(14) some frustrations, it has been overall rewarding. Not only did I learn how to parallel park, but we also get to go to the mountains every weekend. 

 

1.  To take in the moment - it means something like “slow down and smell the roses”. Enjoy the present.
2.  To savor something - to enjoy something as much as you can.
3.  To get my hans on - when you want something very badly and want to get involved in it or to obtain something you wish to have.
4.  Whooping - can mean two different things, depending on context. 1) to give a cry of excitement. 2) used as an adjective and used when something is unreal or great.
5. Bums - another term for homeless people (informal).
6.  A pain in the neck - when something is annoying you.
7.  In and of itself- an expression used when we are trying to relay something alone. 
8.  New kid on the block - an expression used when you are new at something or somewhere.
9.  Not my strong(est) suit - an expression used when you’re trying to explain that something is not your greatest talent or skill.
10.  To run errands - and expression. When we “run errands” it means you have to take care of a “to-do” list but outside of your home, this can be as silly as going grocery shopping to more serious matters, such as interviewing different lawyers.
11.  BFF - an acronym for “best friends forever”
12.  To pick up something quickly - we use this when we are trying to relay that you want to learn/understand something in a quick manner.
13.  Highway robbery - an expression which is used when something is very expensive when it shouldn’t be.
14.  Stumbled upon - we use it when you find/meet something/someone by chance/coincidence.

 

 

American Edition: Top 5 Favorite American Idioms

Lots of people want to speak English fluently, but they’re missing one key ingredient - idioms. 

As we mentioned in our last blog post, Top 5 Favorite British Idioms, idioms are indispensable to any language. They are able to exude the essence of a country’s culture, traditions and history; in this case - the United States. 

Below are the top 5 most popular American idioms that you’ll hear left and right on the streets, TV or simply while on vacation.

  1. Up in the air - when something is uncertain.
    So are you moving to Paris this Fall?”
    “Not really, everything is up in the air still. I first need to hear whether I got the job” 
  2. Beating a dead horse - when you continue to talk about something that has no effect on the outcome.
    “John keeps applying for Google, but I think he’s beating a dead horse”
  3. To stab someone in the back - when you hurt someone close to you by either lying to them or deceiving them in any way.
    “Did you hear what Jane did to John?”
    “no, what happened?”
    “Jane stabbed John in back by cheating on him”

    “oh no, I can’t believe it! I thought they were the perfect couple!”
  4. Sit tight! - when you need to wait penitently for something or not do something until you are told so.
    “I wonder whether we got the house!”
    “Well, we’ll have to sit tight until the end of the week for the results” 
  5. Bite off more than you can chew - when you have taken up too much work/responsibilities/etc.
    “Jen usually takes 10 projects per month, but this month she bit off more than she could chew by taking 20 projects for this month”

Of course, there are way more idioms in English but these are just some of my favorite. Want to share yours? 

Brit Edition: Top 5 Favourite British Idioms

Did you know there’s approximately 25,000 idioms in the English language? 

That’s a lot of phrases to learn, right? Well, don’t worry, even English natives don’t know them all. So you’re off the hook*. 

Saying that, idioms are a very important aspect of any language. They add colour and character to the language, rooting it in historical, cultural and geographical relevance.

Therefore, if you want to get closer to British English, becoming familiar with local idioms is a great place to start. 

I’ve picked out my favourite quintessential British idioms for you to learn.

Top 5 favourite British idioms

1. Everything but the kitchen sink – almost everything has been included.

“When we went on holiday, Sarah took everything but the kitchen sink.”

Origin: According to Eric Partridge in Dictionary of Forces' Slang, this expression was first used in a military context, describing a violent bombardment where everything is fired at the enemy "except the kitchen sink" or "including the kitchen sink." It’s first usage dates back to 1918, in printed form, in a newspaper called The Syracuse Herald. 

2. Once in a blue moon – something that happens very rarely.  

“I exercise once in a blue moon.”

Origin: This expression has been in usage since the 1800s. It’s a development from an earlier expression, once in a moon, meaning once a month (occasionally). It first showed up in The Breviary of Health (1547), by the physician and author Andrew Borde (circa 1490 – 1549).

3. Bob’s your uncle – meaning there you are, as simple as that.  

“Just turn the key all the way left and bob’s your uncle: the door is open.”

Origin: In 1887, British Prime Minister Robert Gascoyne-Cecil appointed his nephew Arthur James Balfour as Minister for Ireland. The phrase ‘Bob’s your uncle’ was coined as it was believed it’s easy to become a minister when Bob is your uncle. Although this is not origin is confirmed, it is widely regarded as correct. 

4. Costs a bomb – something is expensive.

“Wow your watch is so nice –  it must have cost a bomb.”

Origin: It’s believed the term came around during the WW1 

5. Give a bell – to call someone or notify someone 

“I’ll give you a bell when I arrive home.”

Origin: Unknown. 

 

*off the hook is an idiom meaning not to blame or no longer in trouble.

Top 5 Grammatical Mistakes And How To Avoid Them - Part 2

A lot of you guys liked my first post regarding grammar, so I decided to write a second part. So I hope you guys will find it useful! 

1. Not knowing the difference between “you’re” and “your”

So this is another one that people make mistakes in. The difference between “you’re” and “your” is actually fairly simple, so there is no need to sweat! 

  • You’re - is a contraction of “you are”. For example:

 “You’re a great player!”

  • Your - is a possessive determinator. What does that mean? It means that it’s something that belongs to you. For example:

“This is your car, not mine”.

2. Confusing “lay” and “lie”

This is a bit tricky, but hopefully with this explanation you’ll understand it.

  • “lay” - we use lay when we are talking about direct objects. Remember, direct objects! For example:

“I’m going to lay this book on the table”

  • “lie” - we use lie when there is no direct object. For example:

“I’m going to lie down, I have a headache.” 

Here comes the tricky part: What I just said is true when we use this in the present tense. However, if we were to use the past tense, then things change because the past tense of lie is lay. For example:

“I lay down on bed yesterday because I had a headache.” 

Having that said, a great way to remember this is by thinking in these terms: You always lay something down. But you lie down by yourself

3. Not knowing which to use: “me”, “I”, or “myself”

I have a few students that confuse these three words, so I decided to write about it. And it’s pretty easy once you read this (hopefully!). 

  • “me” - we use “me” when someone does something for you. For example:

“John bought this dress for me”

  • “I” - we use “I” when you do it on your own. For example:

“I bought this dress yesterday”

  • “myself” - we use “myself” if you’re referring to yourself because “myself” is considered a reflexive pronoun. For example:

“I bought this dress for myself” 

4. This, that, these, those?

Another common mistake is confusing these four words, however, once you understand them, it’s super easy! 

  • “This” - is a singular pronoun and we use it when something is near us. For example:

“This is my phone” 

“This pub is great!” 

  • “that” - is a singular pronoun too, but we use it when something is far away from us, it’s at a distance. For example:

“That cat is beautiful” - while you’re pointing at a cat across the street. 

“Did you see that car? It was a new Lamborghini” - we are talking about a specific car and it was at a distance. 

  • “these” - is a plural pronoun and we use it when something is near us. For example: 

“These puppies are so cute, I want them all!” - meaning you are interacting with the puppies, so they’re near you and there are puppies (plural) so that’s why we use “these”.

“these are my friends”

  • "those" - is a plural pronoun and we use it when something is far away from us. For example: 

“Those cats are beautiful” - the cats are across the street, so they are at a distance and there is more than one cat. 

“those are my shoes” - you say this when you’re pointing at your shoes from a distance. 

5. Not knowing the difference between “nor” and “or”

Last but not least, difference between “nor” and “or”! 

  • The easiest way to remember is we use “nor” when we use “neither” + negative sentence.  For example: 

“Neither John nor Bart know where the bar is located”

  • And we use “or” when we use it with “not” + negative sentence. For example:

“John is not good at math or science”

 

Hope you liked it! Comment or give me some suggestions on what to write about next!

2018 World Cup: Words You Need to Know by Yasmin Benn

Right now, we’re in the thick of the World Cup craze. You’ve probably seen (and heard) people celebrating in pubs, homes, bars – pretty much anywhere that has a TV screen to gather around. It’s here where they pray, with their fellow supporters, that THIS year will be their year to take the cup home.

Sport, particularly football, has an extraordinary power to bring people together. It has the power to bring even the toughest men to their knees when their country gets a win. It gives people a moment of escapism, to forget about their troubles, about political conflicts dividing nations and to be united together in that moment, focusing on one thing: the game.   

But with this special event, comes very special vocabulary. Here, I’ve listed a few of the key phrases you should know when you’re watching the World Cup this year. 

  • Underdog – a competitor who’s thought to have little or no chance of winning.
    • “Tunisia goes into the game against England as the underdog.”
       
  • It’s anyone’s game – a game that anyone could potentially win because neither team or competitor has an advantage. They are equal footing. 
    • “Spain play Germany tonight. It’s anyone’s game.”
       
  • Make the cut – to be selected to go through to the next round of competition, thus avoiding elimination. 
    • “Hungary didn’t make the cut this year.” (meaning they didn’t qualify to play in the World Cup)
       
  • Back of the net – often shouted, with joy, when your team scores a goal.
    • “Ronaldo hits the back of the net!” 
       
  • Sore loser – someone who is easily angered by losing a game and complains or blames others for their loss
    • “Joe is such a sore loser. He plays the referee for losing.”

Now that you’re clued up on some of the most popular football phrases, get out there and support your team in the World Cup. Let us know who you’re supporting. And, remember, nobody likes a sore loser. 

Check out the official World Cup song to get you in the mood.

Top 5 Grammatical Mistakes and How To Avoid Them

Who likes grammar? No one does, but if you make silly grammatical mistakes you can end up looking badly or you can miss out on a job. I decided to compile the top 5 grammatical mistakes natives and non-natives make time and time again. 

1.  Not being able to distinguish “there”, “their”, and “they’re”

This is one that drives me absolutely nuts and it is so commonly misused by many. Yes, these three words sound the same. However, they are used in completely different ways. Thankfully for you, it is easy to learn how to differentiate them. 

There - is an adverb. And you should keep in mind that it literally means “in or at a place”. Here’s an example:

“My phone is over there” (Pointing to the desk)

Their - is considered a possessive noun. What the heck does that mean? It means it is someone’s (in this case, it’s plural because their is considered plural) possession. Here’s an example: 

“They forgot to pay their bill”

They’re - is a contraction of “they are". That should be enough of an explanation, right? Here’s an example:

“They’re not coming to the party this Saturday”

2.  Not knowing the difference between “number” and “amount”

This is all about whether you can count something or not. 

Number - If you can count the noun, then you use “number”. For example:

“I own a large number of books” 

Amount - if you can’t really count something, then you use amount. Some things are considered “uncountable” like: liquids (water, juice, milk), hair, money, etc. Here’s an example:

“I spilled a huge amount of water on my laptop”

3.  Not knowing the difference between “fewer” and “less”

This is one mistake many make and are completely unaware that they’re making. So next time you read someone’s post on Facebook, keep a close eye! 

Fewer - we use “fewer” when we are referring to countable objects. Here’s an example: 

“I have fewer books than my friend, John”

Less - we use “less” when we are referring to uncountable objects. Here’s an example:

“I have way less money than you” 

4.  Not knowing the difference between “it’s” and “its”

This one is also pretty easy to distinguish after you read this short summary of it. 

It’s - is a contraction of “it is”. For example: 

“It’s a beautiful day!” 

Its - is a possessive noun. For example:

“The dog is chasing its tail”

5.  “You and me” or “You and I”?

I wanted to save the best for the last and I often hear it from both, native and non-native speakers. So if you aren’t a native speaker and you make this mistake, don’t be too ashamed. 

Non-natives - One rule to remember is that we always say “you” and then “I”. Why is that? It’s because we are being polite. Try to not say “I and you” or “Me and you”. It can be taken as arrogant, inconsiderate, or simply offensive. 

“You and I”

Now, let’s get down to business. The easiest way to know which one to use is by composing a sentence in which you have to use “you and me” or “you and I”. For example:

“You and me are going to the cinema” - this sentence is incorrect. Why? Because you cannot say “Me is going to the cinema”. You say “I am going to the cinema”. So the correct way to say this sentence is: “You and I are going to the cinema” 

“You and me”

Let’s move on to “you and me”. So here’s the interesting part…you and me is never correct. I’ll give you this example:

“John will come to the cinema with you and me” - this is incorrect. You might think that the only way you’re going to correct the sentence is by changing it to this: 

“John will come to the cinema with you and I” - but this is still incorrect because you cannot say “John will come to the cinema with I”. You should say “John will come to the cinema with me”. However, we are talking about two people, “you” and “I”. In that case, the correct way to say this sentence is:

“John will come to the cinema with us” 

Voila! Now you’re done. You can now start judging people who make these mistakes, while being proud of yourself for knowing these grammar rules!

Valentine’s Day - A Guide to Surviving it

I’m assuming all of you are being bombarded (willingly or unwillingly) with advertisements  reminding you that Valentine’s Day is not so quietly creeping up on us. Yes, it’s that time of the year again. The time of year that you’re either happily trying to predict what you’ll receive from your significant other or you’re telling yourself that it’s just another day. 

Of course, Valentine’s Day is a highly commercialized holiday not only in the US but also in other countries, including Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary. Now that I am living back in the US, as soon as I enter any store, I am greeted with Hallmark cards, heart-shaped candies, and lots and lots of bouquet of roses. 

I, for one, am not a fan of Valentine’s Day. I’ve always thought that you don’t need to express your feelings for someone on a specific day, you can certainly do it any day you’d like. So I just don’t get this holiday. However, I’ve decided to write a guide to surviving Valentine’s Day if you’re single or in a relationship. 

If You Are Single

If you’re single on this day, you certainly avoid anything related to Valentine’s Day. You avoid it so much that you get irrationally angry at love. I have been there. But don’t sweat it too much! Here’s a list of things you can do to maximize your single-styled Valentine’s Day! 

  • Say screw it and treat yourself - You know all those couples are going to get each other something nice. So why not say “screw it!’ and buy yourself something you’ve been wanting for a while or even do something you haven’t done in a while. This can be as simple as buying yourself a fancy face mask and wearing it with your amazingly comfortable fuzzy robe. If that’s not your thing, get yourself a massage and invite a friend that’s also spending this time of year alone. 
  • Drink moderately - Be spontaneous and do something out of your character - purchase on a Wednesday night a bottle of wine or whatever alcoholic beverage you enjoy. Again, invite some friends over and have a grand time chatting the night away. Don’t do this if you are going to be all alone, that’s just a bit sad! 
  • Binge watch - As soon as you get home, take a hot bath while listening to your favorite music artists or while you read your favorite or current book. And then once you’re nice and clean, just binge watch whatever TV show you’re currently watching. If you don’t have a TV series you’re obsessing over, then binge watch on your favorite rom-com (romantic comedy, aka “chick-flick”) movies.
  • Buy yourself flowers - If you’re feeling extra confident buy some flowers for yourself and deliver them to your office. Even if you are not getting flowers from a significant other, those flowers (I guarantee) will put a smile on your face. And while you’re at it, why not purchase flowers for someone you admire and love, like your Mom or best friend. 

If You Are In A Relationship

First of all, you’re probably feeling a huge sense of relief because you’re not going to be awkwardly be spending this day alone, but rather with someone who you (hopefully) love. Or perhaps you are freaking out because you still don’t have a gift for your significant other and you’re frantically searching the net for something easy yet romantic but not too cheesy and hopefully cheaper rather than expensive gift idea. Whatever your feelings are about this holiday, I believe it’s safe to say that most women do expect something from their man (Sean, if you’re reading this, I really don’t need anything!).

Anyway, here are some ideas for those that are in a relationship but haven’t bought anything from their significant other. 

  • Simple yet thoughtful- I know most of us already have everything we may need. However, try to remember the little things your significant other may have wanted a while back or may actually need. If you’re a man, you know that purchasing flowers will do. I don’t know any woman that gets upset when flowers are given to her. And women, purchase your husbands/boyfriends/whatever something they like…even if it is their favorite beer bottle or a book they’ve been wanting to read. You don’t need to spend loads of money. Just be creative and remember write a nice letter attached to the gift, it will make it even more special. 
  • Get dressed up - For sure anywhere you’ll go it will be filled with couples and you will probably not find a good restaurant by this point. So why not stay home, cook a nice dinner together and get dressed up for each other! Enjoy each other’s company and drink a glass of wine together. 
  • Do something unusual - This year Valentine’s Day is on hump day (on Wednesday) so why not try something new together and break up the week a bit? Perhaps you’ve never gone bowling with your significant other? Or you’ve both been dying to try out tennis, so why not sign up for lessons on this day and laugh at each other’s lack of ability to hit the ball? 

Whatever you’ll end up doing on Valentine’s Day, try to have fun and remember, there’s always next year!

Perks of Teaching English Abroad

Many young adults that are still attending the university always have an escaping thought that crosses their mind, “Should I teach English abroad?” 

I was one of them. I was curious about teaching English abroad, but I never went for it. I only did it when I was denied for an MBA program in Germany. And that is when my journey began. 

After I graduated the university, I immediately started working for a company named Gartner. After a year of working there and knowing that I absolutely was not meant to work for a corporation, I decided to apply for an MBA program. The program that I was interested in located in Germany. I thought why not kill two birds with one stone? I could get a Master’s degree along with learning another language. Anyway, once I applied for the MBA program I was confident that I would get accepted. Throughout my life I had been a decent student, so my arrogance definitely got the best of me. Putting all your eggs in one basket is probably not the best idea, however, there was a silver lining to this. Once I got painfully denied, I, nevertheless, decided to move somewhere in Europe. The country I chose was Poland and the initial idea was to live there for 6 months and then reapply for the same program. 

When I finally landed in Gdansk my heart was racing with excitement and a hint of fear. Moving abroad is definitely one of the biggest thrills in your life. And once you do it, then you can start your journey of teaching English wherever you decide to move. Here are some reasons why you should definitely consider moving and teaching English (or whatever language): 

  1. Living in an unknown country: Obviously if you do decide to teach English abroad you will have the opportunity, most likely, to live in a country you have never visited in the past. While living in a different country is exhilarating, it can also bring lots of new challenges that you have never experienced in the past. For me, living in Poland brought me tons of joy because everyday was like an adventure. However, like I mentioned earlier,  it also meant facing challenges. One of the biggest problems for me when I moved to Poland was the language and the bureaucracy. As some of you know, Polish is considered one of the most difficult languages to learn. So I would definitely advice getting a Polish teacher if you want to move. Learning it on your own is next to impossible. However, I do have to say that I know a couple of people that learned Polish by just listening, but literally a COUPLE of people. And then comes the bureaucracy - it is just painful. That has to be the worst part. I know that every country has some level of it, but Poland is high in the list. For me it was frustrating that the foreign’s office was always full of people and not enough employees, employees didn’t speak English (unless they were young), and you always had to wait at least 5 hours for your turn. Of course, not all challenges are this complicated. Some of them are day to day complications, like trying to find a place where you can get your passport pictures taken! Nonetheless, living abroad keeps your mind young.     
  2. Traveling: One of the many perks of moving somewhere in Europe or any other continent is the ability to fly! I know this definitely applies to Asia, not sure about South America though. When I lived in Poland it gave me the opportunity to be able to explore other countries in Europe. One of the great things in Europe is that they actually have budget airlines, like Ryanair and Wizzair. For example, I was able to fly to Bergen, Norway for only $25 dollars - roundtrip. These budget airlines give you the opportunity to fly cheaply, as long as you don’t mind taking with you only a small backpack. 
  3. Emerging yourself in a new culture: Obviously if you move abroad you will be able to emerge yourself in a completely different/new culture, which is so fun! By living in Poland I was able to experience so many amazing things related to the Polish culture. From drinking vodka with a friend’s grandmother to experiencing a traditional Easter dinner. There may be things that you don’t agree with, but that will always be the case no matter where you live, right? The point of it all is that you become more knowledge of those cultures and/or traditions and thus making you more tolerant. 
  4. Becoming independent: I believe that the only way you will truly become independent is by moving abroad. When you live in an unfamiliar country you call all the shots. You’re the one that takes care of business. You certainly don’t have Mom or Dad to help you out. However, I do need to say that being independent doesn’t always mean not asking for help, it means getting enough courage to ask a complete stranger for help. You may be independent, but you will need help eventually. I know that when I moved to Poland my parents warned me not to trust people too easily. And I have to say, I threw that advice out the window. I have always been the kind of person that believes in humanity. And I did just that. By trusting in humanity, I met one of my best friend’s in Poland and I can honestly say that I never had a negative experience. In general, people are willing to help you, just have a little faith :)
  5. Meeting people from all over the world: The best part has been saved for last! By moving abroad, it opens up a whole new world when it comes to meeting people. I cannot express the number of incredible people I have met in my travels, by teaching them English, and randomly in the streets, bars, etc. If and when you do decide to move abroad, you will most likely travel alone from time to time and there is nothing wrong with that. Have an open mind and you will meet amazing people. I remember my first solo trip to Berlin. I was completely lost and I had to ask a complete stranger for help. That stranger was Imran, an immigrant from Pakistan. He not only helped me get to my destination, but offered his help. Although, we have lost contact with each other, I do have fond memories of his helpful nature. Moreover, these moments make anyone more tolerant towards others that come from other countries, practice different religions, and/or have different views. I want to also add that I do consider many of my students friends. They have invited me to their weddings, they have visited me, and they have helped me when I was in need for a translator. All in all, Europe is a considered a small continent so take advantage of it and start a conversation with a stranger. 

Hope you liked the post and I hope this will encourage some of you not necessarily to move abroad or teach a language abroad, but to keep an open mind.

My First Polish Christmas 

As you all know, Christmas is quickly approaching and instead of continuing to procrastinate, I finally went shopping with my mom.  In the past, I have always tried to do all the purchasing ahead of time to avoid last minute shoppers. However, this year, I just haven’t gotten into the Christmas spirit (or known as “madness”). So, as I was following my mom, I started remembering my first Polish Christmas. 

In the four years that I lived in Poland, I only celebrated Christmas there once, with good reason! My first Christmas in Poland was immediately after I arrived there in December 2013. At that time, I had only been in Poland for around 5 months, perhaps a little less. So I still didn’t have many friends to speak of. As Christmas was approaching then, I was getting more and more nervous about spending this time of the year alone in an unknown country. And I was secretly wishing one of my new friend’s would pity me and (hopefully) invite me for Christmas. I remember it was 3 weeks before Christmas and finally a guy I knew through another friend asked me if I wanted to travel to a city named Opole to spend Christmas with him and his family. Since I didn’t have any options, and beggars can’t be choosers, I obviously thanked him and accepted his proposal. I was trying to hype up the trip by selling it as “a new city to visit in Poland!” And so, I purchased my ticket and waited patiently for the journey ahead of me. Finally, the day arrived and I made my way to the Sopot train station sometime before or maybe a little after midnight. The journey took a grueling 10 hours. The guy, who I will name as Przemek, waited for me at the train station and we finally met. *

So we made our way (walking) to his dorm-room, since he was still attending the university. The whole time, I thought we were going to spend the night at his family’s home, boy was I wrong! Przemek, proceeded by showing me his room and telling me that his two other roommates had left Opole because they had family elsewhere. He also showed me the bathroom, which I was thunderstruck - the bathrooms were shared by both men and women. In the US, when it comes to bathrooms, it is almost always segregated based on gender, so I found it unusual. Once he showed me the rest of the dorm, we went back to his room and I finally asked him where I was sleeping. His response shocked me to my bones - “You’ll be sleeping in my bed with me.” I must’ve given him a look, since he immediately followed by “or you can sleep in one of my roommate’s bed.” And so, we agreed that I would sleep in one of his roommate’s bed, but I felt incredibly uneasy after that conversation. 

As hours went by, dinner time was closing in, we started making our way to his family’s home, to be more precise, to his grandparent’s flat. We finally arrived, knocked, and his grandmother opened the door. I was expecting a welcoming hug and instead I was greeted with a cold look. I was so confused and, again, justified this strange behavior by blaming myself. Perhaps I was dressed incorrectly, or maybe I gave her an add look. But as I walked inside the flat, it was obvious that it was not me, it was the family.  They all acted strangely cold towards me. As I sat by their dinner table, I inconspicuously asked Przemek what was going on. He then told me that he hadn’t told his family that I was coming and that his grandparents actually hated Americans.** Can you imagine how I felt after learning this? The whole situation was absolutely dreadful!

As I sat there, trying to be polite, smile, and try to make some kind of conversation, I knew that everything I did or tried to do was hopeless. I was an uninvited stranger invading their home. Thankfully, I was able to get a glimpse of what a Polish Christmas looked like. 

Today, I am thankful that I went, even though it was such a grim dinner. I got to see the Polish Christmas traditions. The ones that stick in my mind the most are the following:

  • Washing/cleaning windows - something that is EXTREMELY Polish is the fact that Polish women always wash or clean their windows before a big celebration - such as Easter or Christmas. I remember going for a run and would politely smile at the women who were climbing their homes so that they would be able to wash/clean their windows. 
  • Tangerines and Oranges - I guess during the Communistic period exotic fruits such as tangerines, oranges and even bananas were a rare commodity. So many would get them during Christmas since it was considered a treat. However, many Poles still purchase these “exotic” fruits during this time of year. 
  • Wafer or “Oplatek” - Something that I remember vividly is the tradition of sharing the “oplatek” which is a wafer that is usually taken during your First Communion. This I remember incredibly well because of the awkwardness of my adventure. You are supposed to cut out a small piece and share it with each member while also wishing them well.  Unfortunately, Przemek’s grandmother, didn’t share any of her wafer with me. Later I realized what that signified….lol!
  • 12 Dishes on Christmas Eve - At Przemek’s grandparents’ home, they had 12 different dishes. This is a common tradition in Poland. I need to add, that these 12 dishes do not contain any meat, everyone needs to eat them, and the main dish represents Jesus. The dishes represent Jesus’ 12 disciples. From all these dishes, my favorite one is called “barszcz.” I had to google it because I can never remember the name, but it is beetroot soup which contains little ears or “uszka” in Polish. They’re like baby pierogi, filled with mushrooms…yum!
  • An extra dish - According to the Polish tradition, a place is always left empty at the table for an: 1) unexpected guest, 2) to commemorate a dead relative, or 3) for a family member that was unable to attend. For me, this was the best tradition I learned. Leaving an extra plate for a person that may not have a family or someone who is hungry and can’t afford a meal is something incredibly honorable. I am not sure whether Poles ever encounter this, but nonetheless, it’s the thought that counts, right? :) 
  • Midnight Mass - So Poles only open presents after eating their full course of meals and once that’s done they like to finish off Christmas Eve by attending Midnight Mass. 

That’s basically all that I have been able to take away from my first Polish Christmas. I finished off by going back to the train station instead of going to Midnight Mass. I felt utterly out of place and made the rushed decision to go back to Sopot and spend Christmas on my own. From that time on, I made the decision that no matter where I’ll be, I will always go back home for Christmas. Many times we get annoyed with our parents or siblings, but at the end of the day, they are the ones that count the most.

 

 

* I want to add that I hadn’t met this guy in the past, I had only spoken to him. He was the one that helped me at the very beginning with my legal paperwork since he had experience helping someone else in the past

** He had dated an American young woman in the past who broke his heart.

Reverse Culture Shock - Moving Back to the US

Last week I wrote about the culture shock I experienced when I first moved to Poland back in 2013. And naturally, I need to write about the reverse culture shock when I moved back to the US earlier this year. 

Taking the decision to move back to the US was extremely difficult for me because I loved living in Poland so much. Not only that, but I was able to meet incredible people, who I now call friends, I got to experience, for the most part, how wonderful different societies are, and of course, I got to travel a whole lot! So imagine a mid-20 year old woman moving back to her home country. Before, when I visited my family in Florida, it was like a vacation, so things don’t really bother you. But now that I have been living here for 6 months (time flies!!!!) there are things that definitely would be considered as reverse culture shocks. Here’s my list:

  • Food Portions - One of the things you immediately notice when you move back to the US or if you visit the US for the first time is the food portions. It is quite incredible, even for me now. The portions are enormous, and it’s not only with food but with drinks! One of my students and I used to go out for lunch for our lesson every Friday. Right after lunch, we would get something sweet because, thankfully, we both appreciated such things in life! In the summer, our favorite spot to go to was this little ice cream shop named Bacio di Caffè in Sopot. There we would get a small ice cream cup. For me, the size of it was perfect. It wasn’t too small or too big - just perfect. Imagine, I moved back to Florida and the first thing I want to do is go to the beach and what do you do after beaching all day?! Get some ice cream, of course! And so, that is what I did. Got some ice cream. I ordered a small ice cream up. And to my amazement the portion of it seemed equivalent to an extra large portion back in Poland. One American cup would be equivalent to at least 3 Polish cups. And that’s certainly not exaggerating. 
  • Obsession with Guns - I am completely biased with this because I have never been a fan of guns. But the thought of gun ownership evaporates from your mind after living in Europe for so long. And that’s exactly what happened with me. Anytime I would go to a movie theater in Poland, I never thought about a crazy man coming in the theater and start shooting randomly at people. A situation like that was non-existent when I lived in Poland. Sadly, this is very real in the US. Even though I haven’t been living here that long, there has already been several mass shootings, that I’m sure many of your have heard. These situations are, I hate to say it, common here. What frustrates me the most is the lack of action within the government, leaders, and gun owners. After the Las Vegas mass shooting, the President of the US, Trump, instead of tightening gun laws, he instead loosened them. You can read more about it in this article.  
  • Vehicles - Another thing that shocks you as soon as you arrive is the size of cars! When I was living in Poland I was planning on purchasing a car. Then, I was in a serious relationship with someone and we had a dog together, Frankie. Frankie is an extremely friendly Rottweiler, which weighs a hefty 53 kilos. Thanks to Frankie, we were considering purchasing an SUV. Every summer, we would drive to Finland and we also planned on making lots of road trips all over Europe with Frankie in the backseat or trunk. In our hunt for a car, we were seriously considering purchasing the BMW X1, the smallest SUV BMW offers. To me, at that time, it seemed pretty enormous. That I was persuading my ex-boyfriend to perhaps go for something smaller. The reason for my persuasion was simply because I was going to be the main driver, and honestly, I already had trouble parallel parking with a regular sedan. And so, when I moved back and started driving again, I came across a BMW X1 and it seemed so small! The cars around it towered over that car. It amazes me how much Americans love big things. Go big or go home, right? 
  • Smiling Faces - Even though I lived in Poland for almost 4 years my habit of smiling at others never disappeared. But I have to say, I did get used to people not smiling back at me or even smiling at me before I had a chance to smile at them. So the first time I went shopping with my mom I experienced something that I would have never imagined - I felt “Polish”. Let me explain what that means. While walking around, I noticed people smiling at me. And it felt weird. I eventually started feeling confused and even annoyed. For some reason, their smiling faces seemed artificial. Something they do to everyone, it felt un-genuine. However, I have gotten used to it again :D 

I hope I didn’t miss something else! But for those first timers in the US, what are some of the things that shocked you when you first arrived? Did you have a similar experience than me? 

 

Culture Shock - Poland

As some of you know, my employee, Mike is leaving at the end of December. Due to that, I have been hunting for a new teacher. In my hunt for a new teacher, I was able to talk to an Australian  woman who has lived in Canada and the US and now is living in Gdansk. So of course, we immediately hit it off because when I first moved to Poland, I moved to Sopot (close enough!).  Subsequently, we started talking about the cultural differences and so many memories started to rush into my memory. The strangest part of our conversation was that we were able to name the same exact things. Here’s a list of those cultural differences:

  1. “Angry” Faces - The first thing we spoke about was the “angry” faces which so many people apparently have. As many of you know, I come from Florida and Florida is known to be weirdly friendly to everyone, even strangers. As any Floridian will tell you, it is perfectly normal for us to wave at people that come to our neighborhoods and of course, flash the big American grin! I moved to Poland in the summer of 2013, so as soon as I arrived I was excited to explore Sopot. In my first trip, I was walking alone, when I saw a grandpa coming my way. My first thoughts were “Aw, what a cute Grandpa. Maybe I should wave. Wait…is that normal here? Maybe a smile will be enough.” And so I smiled at him and to my surprise, his response was an angry stare. I justified his reaction by telling myself that he’s probably just a grumpy old man. As I walked a bit farther, I stumbled upon a grandma. Again, I flashed a smile, and again, I got the same reaction. After that I quickly learned that smiling at strangers in Poland is not really a thing and most likely they will think that you are suffering from a mental illness. So I stopped doing it. However, I did notice that Polish people change their demeanor on “Fat Thursday.” If you walk around, you will see people smiling and, in general,  in a good mood. I guess all you need to do to make Poles happy is give them their traditional paczek (doughnut) :D 
  2. Cashiers - Another topic that was brought up was Polish cashiers. It may come as a shock, but Polish cashiers are not very friendly and they hate to give you your change back. Again, when I first moved to Sopot, I went to a nearby shop because I wanted to purchase some sweets. I only had a 50PLN bill. So I went inside the shop, grabbed the sweets I wanted and proceded to the check out aisle. I put my things down for the cashier to scan them, she gave me the total, and I handed her my 50PLN bill. She fussed about it and I said “I don’t have more money” in English. After puffing and huffing, she finally gave up and gave me my change back. Another instance was in good old Carrefour. Again, I went into the shop to purchase something small. And again, I only had a 50PLN bill. Of course, this time, I was preparing myself mentally for a battle with the cashier. I waited patiently for my turn and it finally arrived. The lady scanned my things and the total came out. I handed her my 50PLN bill and she literally did not do anything. She stared at me blankly for what seemed to be hours. I was amazed by her reaction and this time, she won. I just walked away and left the things I wanted to purchase there. 
  3. Street Names - Honestly, I have never visited a country with such a lack of imagination when it comes to street names! It is kind of hilarious when I look back. I can recall when I was fresh in Poland that my friend, Paweł invited me to his home. So as a lazy American, I called a cab (to my defense, it was winter too :D). I showed the cab driver my cell phone screen in which showed Pawel’s home address. The cab driver took me to the address. I paid him. Got out. And called the telecom to Pawel’s flat. A lady answered in Polish and I was baffled. I thought, “how could this be? I am in the right street, right flat number.” Of course, I immediately called Pawel. He asked me where I was and I told him “Sopot.” He laughed at me and said he lives in Gdansk. Later on I noticed that it was crucial to inform the taxi drivers the city in which the address is located. I mean, I have to say…in Florida at least, sometimes we get carried away with our silly street names - I mean you can find street names like Pancake Street or Fluffly Landing Street. 
  4. Standing in line - I don't know how but I almost forgot this point! Standing in line in Poland is extremely different than in other countries, especially in the US/Germany. When you are waiting in line here (in the US), you give the person in front of you at least three feet of distance. There is such thing as a personal bubble, and that bubble gets even bigger when you're paying for something. But not in Poland. First of all, Poles are terrible at making lines and also, most of them are unaware of this "personal bubble." My initial experience was when I was waiting in line at a pharmacy and then trying to get in the train. So I went to the pharmacy to purchase some vitamin C (you can never have enough in Poland, especially if you come from Florida). I was waiting in line and as usual, I gave the person in front of me 3 feet of space between me and her. Suddenly the door swings open, a granny walks in and gets in front of me. I let it slide, since it was a grandmother, after all. There was another instance in another pharmacy, in which I actually got yelled at for not standing in line correctly by a grandpa. Thankfully, there was a younger woman who defended me. The story about the train I only realized after I had visited Germany. In 2014, I decided to meet my cousin in Cologne. While visiting,  we were taking the train quite often to get from one place to another. There, I noticed how orderly Germans were at making lines. Once I got back to Poland I literally started laughing out loud because the contrast was so huge. People in Poland don't make a single line. They instead just try to get in through the door all at once. I have to add, it does seem that Poles are changing this behavior, so perhaps in 5 years this will not be the norm. 

I hope I am not offending any readers. This is after all, why I loved Poland so much, this is what makes it charming. These quirks the country has makes it somehow colorful. And honestly, many foreigners that live in Poland will find it funny because we have all experienced something similar. 

So if you enjoyed the post, please write a comment. Or if you have similar experiences tell me about them! It would be fun to compare and contrast cultural shocks from not only Poland but from other countries too. 

A First, Teaching English in China by Ryan Armstrong

I was on the last leg of my 6 month trip home. It started in New Zealand, where I had just spent the previous 6 months on a work visa. I had a friend living in Shenzhen, China and decided this would be one of my last stops on the way home. After spending a good four to five days hearing stories of his new life in China and his experiences in the classroom, I decided teaching abroad might be something I would like to do. I went back to Canada and got an accounting job, but it wasn’t much more than a year before I was headed abroad again.

After a year back in the office I decided I wanted to give teaching a try, but wasn’t sure I wanted to spend the time and money to go back to University without being 100 percent sure I wanted to change careers. It was obvious then that I should explore teaching abroad. I won’t get into too much detail in this post, perhaps we can do another later, but I was able to find a job relatively quickly that met my contract length, salary, apartment and classroom expectations. After working out the visa and flights I was off to a new city, Langfang, to teach for the first time in my life.

I arrived in Beijing in the evening. I had obviously done some research on where I was headed beforehand. I knew there would be smog, but actually being in it and seeing it with your own eyes is another thing.  That negative aside, I was excited and was pleasantly greeted by two teachers holding a sign with my name. We took the hour long taxi ride to Langfang and in somewhat broken English we got to know one another. 

My first few days were interesting. I got a tour of the school, had many dinners and lunches with new friends, set up a bank account, and got a phone sorted all with the help of my new Chinese colleagues. I had a few culture shock moments, especially after realizing next to no English was spoken here. The food, the pace of the city, the air quality, the customs, and the way of life were all completely different than at home. I had obviously expected this, but only being in the situation can you really grasp it all. I won’t lie; a couple times in during my first couple weeks I was really questioning whether I wanted to be there for the next 10 months or not.

I was greeted at the school by all the teachers, and they were all so friendly. There was one other foreign teacher who was set to leave in a month and roughly 20 Chinese teachers. The students also seemed to be pretty excited about having a new foreign teacher. After settling in at school and shadowing other teachers’ classes I was finally thrown in to the classroom myself. I was extremely nervous and struggled in my first month. I struggled mostly when trying to think on the same level as my students. My students were aged between 6 and 13, depending on the class. After I got settled in to both China and the classroom, I learned how to lesson plan more quickly, maintain a good pace in the classroom and properly help my student improve their English. 

Along the way I had some problem students. Many of the students who attend the schools came from wealthier families and therefor were spoiled in some cases. I also learned that no two student are the same, and need to be motivated in different ways. Over time, I was able to develop better methods to keep the students focused in class. In China, at least where I was teaching, the students responded well to competition in class and a ‘tally mark system’ for correct answers or behavior.

I learned a lot during my time teaching too. I learned how to effectively communicate with those who don’t speak English as a first language. I learned about patience and how important it is; not only in the classroom. I also became more independent than I already was. From buying more power for my apartment, ordering a taxi in Mandarin, figuring out how to lesson plan, or simply living in a new country, it all helped me grow as a person.

During holidays or time off work I was also able to see friends I had made in China, visit other countries and I was even able to attend a Chinese wedding. One big negative about the whole experience would be the isolation. In Langfang it was very rare to come across another foreigner or English speaker. Unfortunately, many Chinese people seemed to be somewhat shy to speak in and practice their English. That said, the positives of the experience definitely outweigh the negatives. I was able to save money, make a lot of new Chinese friends, spend time teaching and hopefully better the lives of my students, and have an experience of a lifetime. 

Honestly, I would consider teaching abroad again. If I were to do it again, I would choose a city that was a little more foreigner friendly. Otherwise, I don’t see the need to change much else. I still have some colleagues and students that I still stay in touch with. At times I was struggling to enjoy the experience, but more often than not I was very happy with my decision to go teach abroad. I will always remember the students’ faces light up as I got into a class, or the hugs and smiles when they would say hello.

Would I recommend teaching abroad? 

100 percent, it is an amazing experience. Just be sure to do your research and ensure you are getting what you are happy with in terms of salary, contract, city, etc.

Why did I choose China?

Firstly, I had been to China before so I figured I would know what to expect, somewhat. Second, I wanted to be able to save money while abroad and China was one of the best options for me.

 

Modern Love aka Millennial Love

Not sure if other mid-20 year olds are experiencing something similar to me or perhaps my mom is simply desperate for grandchildren. However, it is quite interesting seeing the generational gap between my parents and me (Baby-Boomers and Millennials). Certainly, there are a lot of differences, but there is one that is so significant and obvious that I thought it would be interesting to write about. I wonder if Baby Boomers and Millennials from other countries can relate, specifically from Poland. 

Courtship: Then and Now- Something my mom always gives me grief about is whenever I start dating someone she believes that after two dates that that person and I are “boyfriend & girlfriend.” This is so far fetched nowadays that she simply does not understand. She often tells me that whenever my father and her started dating they considered themselves a couple after only a few dates. They dated for a year, they got engaged and later married. All this happened in a time period of about two years. Nowadays, you date for 2-3 years, get engaged, are engaged for 1-2 years, and then you get married. The difference is quite significant, isn’t?! 

Meeting - Thanks to dating apps and websites finding possible “matches” has increased dramatically. Imagine, during our parents’ times they were able to meet someone only through their group of family and/or friends, at school, or in some event(like a party or bar), that is all. Today, we can simply download an app and you’re able to find people 50 or 100 kilometers away. Or if you pay for the app, you can select the location where you’d like to meet someone. Of course, this can only work if people download such apps, which they do! For the past 5 years, dating websites and apps have moved from something taboo to something common. The stigma that was attached to meeting a complete stranger has evaporated and has become “normal.” This turn of events is great and I am happy about it, however does it make things more complicated? 

  • Pros: What I mean is: our potential partners have increased which means we have more options, and that is fantastic. This has opened doors that our parents’ generations never experienced. Now, you can meet someone that you would have never meet in your circle of friends/family. Your options increase from say 5 potential partners to 15 potential partners or even more if you’re a woman. You can even meet someone while you’re on vacation or vice versa. I mean, the options are limitless! Not only that, but you can be as fastidious as you’d like - you can suddenly pick the perfect man or woman. He/she may be a fan of a soccer team you don’t like, so you can swipe left, because you know there are other options out there that are equally or even more attractive and are fans of your favorite soccer team too.

  • Cons: Yes, we have tons of options, but that makes things a bit more challenging, right? Think about it, imagine going to a grocery store because you need to buy cereal, you get to the cereal aisle and it takes you 15 minutes to decide which cereal you want to purchase. There are just too many options. But if you were to go to a small shop, you’d be able to make that decision in a matter of 3 minutes. Is this what’s happening with my generation? It appears so. We tend to meet quite interesting people, but we are extremely picky and have unrealistic expectations. We want to find someone that fulfills those expectations plus more. We can’t realize that whatever we might have found could, with a little more patience and tolerance, be our perfect life partner. I mean, when do we stop searching for that perfect partner? When does our date actually become our partner? 

Love -  Let’s be realistic, eventually you will find a partner and then what? We have to ask ourselves in all seriousness, “Is this the person I want to spend the rest of my life with?” I am now talking about people in my generation (millennials) that are not married. Finding that worthy partner was, is and always will be difficult. However, my generation, that is unmarried, seems to be exceptionally careful about who they want to spend their lives with. The reason behind this might be because we saw our parents and/or our friends’ parents get a divorce. I have met people that have dated their boyfriend/girlfriend for 10 years and finally make that leap from boyfriend/girlfriend to fiancé/fiancee. Is this too extreme? Are we simply afraid of commitment? Or perhaps is something natural, we live longer so we can afford to take our time picking a partner and/or having babies. Whatever the reason or excuse, this is how it is now. Even if it takes us 10 years to decide. Better late than never, right?! 

I would love to know how it is in other parts of the world. Is this happening also in Poland? Do you see the same trend? Or are Americans just becoming stranger?

Family Structures - Polish vs. American

I don’t think many people think of family structures and how different they are from country to country. While living in Poland, I realized it and experienced it. First of all, I have to say that I loved the traditional family structure in Poland because it is very similar to mine. This absolutely made me feel like I was “home.” However, my family structure is not the typical American family structure - the American family structure is a bit more chaotic and non-conventional.  

In Poland - Something that warms my heart is how close family members are to each other in Poland. This may be due to their affiliation with the Catholic church. Whatever the reason, a typical Polish family likes to get together every Sunday for family lunches/dinners and sit by the table for hours on end. Not only that, but children tend to be close their parents and siblings.  Later in life, those children become adults and they have a sense of obligation to take care of their parents once they are unable to take care of themselves. I admire and applaud to this because it is no longer common in the US anymore.  There is a tendency with Polish families to have an open dialogue at all times, so all family members know what is going on with each other (lots of opinions are flying from different directions).  And I assume, this leads to the feeling of keeping up with the Jonases, which is obviously not always an advantage. I am not sure if my feelings are correct, but perhaps this feeling of “keeping up withe Jonases” results in couples staying in marriages because divorce is unacceptable or looked down upon? Whatever it may be, I believe open dialogue is great but there needs to be some boundaries (easier said that done).
Lastly, I want to talk about one of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from friends - Polish mother-in-laws. I’ve heard that they need to know everything and they also love giving their opinion on any and every subject. Honestly, I thought this was a universal problem, but perhaps the Polish mother-in-laws take it to a different level? What do you think?

In the States - The US is considered a melting pot, so because of that, there isn’t a typical family structure. You can find families that are similar to the Polish families or completely different. However, I believe most families in the US are a bit more complicated. The reason for this “complication” could be reasoned by the fact that the US is such a big country that families are inclined to move to different states in search for a better job, life, or new opportunities.  As a result, most of them drift apart from one another. Another culprit why families here are more complex is because of society norms and/or requirements that are basically forced onto us. What I mean is that families absolutely need to work full-time in order to have a family, the work culture is also completely different than in Europe, so families don’t take long and well-deserved vacations. This all results in families having certain types complications, miscommunications, or simply getting a divorce.
Many of my friend’s parents are divorced so they have to share Christmas’ with one parents one year and the next with the other. Honestly, I can’t imagine something like that because my family is amazing and we all get together (still). But who knows what will happen in the future. 

What I am trying to say is that there is no good or bad family structure. There are different ones that we don’t even see from day to day. We should learn to appreciate and accept them, even if they are completely different than ours. I think both, the Polish and American society have difficulties in keeping up with their own families and that is why we should be a bit a more understanding of people’s quirks or personality traits (again, easier said than done!). 

 

Dating - The Pole, The Fin, & The American

So now that I have been single for a while, I have decided to finally start dating. I have to be honest, it has been quite fun yet a bit confusing too.   In this blog post, I want to talk about 3 different nationalities I have dated: Polish, Finnish and Americans. I will write the good, the bad, and the ugly about these 3 nationalities and I hope you guys will find it entertaining. 

The Poles - I moved to Poland back in the summer of 2013 and I had no idea what I signed up for (in the dating scene, at least).  At that time Tinder was pretty popular in the US, but in Poland it still wasn’t. The way I was able to meet men was to go out and do it the old fashion way - looking cute and hoping some guy will strike a conversation with me. Of course, that rarely happened and I actually met guys through friends. 

  • The good: Polish guys are definitely considered gentlemen; they will always open the door for you, let you in the room first, and will fill your glass if it’s half full. I mean, they sound great, don’t they?! 

  • The bad: The thing that disappointed me the most about Polish guys was the fact that a lot of them didn’t want anything serious. They wanted to hang out with me with no strings attached. This can be good for someone that’s looking for such relationships, but I am more of a monogamous-type person….so no thanks!

  • The ugly: Well, I don’t really have anything to say, Polish guys are definitely not terrible. I think I missed out a lot because I was unable to meet people my age (I was 23/24 at that time) that spoke English well. So that’s probably why I never was in a serious relationship with a Polish man. 

The Fins - All right, so this might be a bit biased because I have only dated two Fins. And I must say some people would probably appreciate Fins because they very much see women as their equals, however, if you are a bit more traditional, it may seem rude. I have some stories that Poles will find shocking, Fins will find normal, and Americans will find bizarre. 

  • The good: Something really great about the Fins is that they see women as their equals.  They also tend to be very punctual, which I adore and appreciate. I want to get back to seeing women as equals because it does sound like a dream, but it is not always a walk through the park. I do identify myself as a feminist, but there are times, you gotta be thoughtful and considerate (Finnish guys!!). For me, Finnish men lack this aspect. I’ll explain it in a bit. 

  • The bad: Because Fins see women as equals they tend to (very often) forget that women need help when it comes to certain aspects of life, for example carrying heavy things. Here’s a story: I was dating John (name has been changed), who I met through my co-worker. On this specific date I decided to ride my ex-roommate’s bike (that was way too big for me) because we were moving to a new flat. Anyway, John and I agreed to meet at the train station. And so, there I am, waiting for him and finally he gets off the train and we meet. Since I had dated Polish guys, I immediately assumed that John would offer to take the bike and walk with it, instead he never offered his help and I was stuck - pushing and carrying it up and down the stairs. To this day, I find it surprising that he never did offer to help me, but on hindsight, it makes total sense for a Finn not to even think about asking me if I needed help. Of course, at that time, I let this situation slip because I justified it with “maybe I am being too dramatic.” At the end of the day, we weren’t on the same page and I realized it wasn’t just him, it’s all Fins. 

  • The ugly: Because their society is very rich they are prone to also be quite selfish and this goes with any relationship they have. In Finland, people are proud that they don’t need to take out student loans because education is free, so they don’t need to discuss what they want to study with their parents. They are proud to say that when they grow old they don’t need to rely on their children. This is great but there is a negative side effect to that, which is being too selfish. The Fins don’t think about others, what I mean is that they are not thoughtful or considerate because they are raised to be fully independent. My ex and I (who I hope will not read this blog post) used to get in many bickering arguments regarding this topic - whenever we would cook he would take out one set of utensils, one plate for only himself and he would only pour himself water/juice/whatever. He never thought about me, his partner. I definitely don’t want to blame him because I understand that’s how his culture is. However, no wonder why Fins have one of the highest divorce rates and highest number of suicides within the elderly. 

The American - I should really add an “s” to American because I have gone on a few dates since being back. I have to say, it has been really fun dating men here but that’s because dating apps are so prominent in the US that it enables you to not only meet people that you probably wouldn’t have a chance to meet, but you can also start a conversation before meeting that person. As you know, things in the US are pretty hot when it comes to Politics - trump lovers vs. trump haters (I am a hater in this case). So before I even go on a date, I ask where they stand politically, once I know that, I can decide whether to waste time or not. Not only that, but I can communicate freely with them and that’s really such a refreshing thing to experience once again. 

  • The Good: I have to bring it up again, but being able to communicate freely with no obstacles! It is so rewarding being able to have deep, meaningful conversations on various topics. But you all know that. One of the things that surprised me the most about Americans is that my image of them was completely wrong. For some reason, I thought American men liked to go “dutch” (meaning I pay for my meal and you pay for yours) but to my surprise most Americans don’t do that. The man usually pays, not always, but most of the time. I was also pleasantly surprised with the fact that they open the door for you, like the Poles and are overall considered gentlemen.

  • The Bad: The downside of Americans is that some of them feel pressured into getting married once they’re in their late 20’s, early 30’s. So as soon as they find someone somewhat interesting they immediately believe (after 1 date) you are “wife” material, which for me, it is definitely not the case. There’s the other side of the stick too, you go on dates with guys and you know they are players. They are looking to date around and if they are lucky, get something out of you.

  • The Ugly: So I have nothing to write yet because like I said, I just started dating again. I am assuming the only thing that I would say “ugly” about Americans is that many of them haven’t traveled outside of the US, which is extremely disappointing for me. That means many are narrow minded when it comes to certain topics. But I wouldn’t say that’s an “ugly” aspect of dating an American guy, it is just a disadvantage that can easily be fixed. 

So there we go! That’s all I’ve got. Have you guys experienced something similar to me? What are your experiences with dating guys from different countries? Which nationality is the best? Can’t wait to hear your opinions :)

 

4 Topics That Are Not Allowed at Dinner Table

Many of you guys know, Americans could possibly be the best at chit-chatting. We are the ones who will start a conversation while we are waiting in line, when we know someone is lost,  or just for the heck of it. But there are some topics that are absolutely forbidden at dinner table or just about any setting….

  • Religion - I don't want to say that religion is a topic that is absolutely forbidden. You should judge the setting you’re in. If you are among friends that are open-minded and curious, then religion may be a cool topic to discuss. But for example, if you are at work, it may be better to just avoid it because you don't want to offend someone by something you may say or vice versa. Another thing you may want to avoid is assuming someone’s religion based on their appearance and/or origin (where they come from). A common assumption that Americans make is thinking that people from India are Hindi (Hindi is a language, not a religion). Always keep an open mind, judge the setting and go from there. If you want to ask about someone’s religion, perhaps the best way to go about doing it is in a private setting, don't do it in front of everyone. Sometimes, these discussions are educative and may lead us into becoming even more tolerant! 

  • Salary - All right, so this one annoys me a lot. America is all about money. People like to flash how much they make by showing off their fancy cars, homes, watches, you name it! In companies, money is always a hot topic - budgets, business deals, etc. But for some reason, when it comes to personal finances, it is absolutely, in all situations, forbidden. That is why there is a discrepancy between how much people in the same rank earn. If things were more transparent this wouldn't be an issue. To be honest, I don’t even know how much my parents make and my parents don’t ask me how much I make. This is completely different than other societies that I have been exposed to, for example, the Finnish society. They talk about their salaries because all salaries in Finland are considered public knowledge. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why in Scandinavia might have a strong middle class and there’s not a huge gap between the rich and poor? 

  • Politics - Another one that never leads to anything but trouble, especially now. There is a huge division between Republicans vs. Democrats, Trump-lovers vs. Trump-haters, and anything else you can imagine. So don’t bring it up, don’t even try to insinuate anything that might be even slightly related to politics. The only way you can bring this topic up during dinner is if you are absolutely sure the people you are with are on your same side. Otherwise it may lead to some heated arguments, someone getting offended, or someone simply walking out out of dinner.  I have to admit though, I’m one of the brave (or stupid) ones that likes to bring up politics whenever I meet someone new. I try to listen to the opposing side and try to understand their point. However, at the end of the day, they will never change my mind and vice versa. For me it’s just fun. 

  • Sex - Oh man, so sex…everyone knows what it is, but in the US, we just don’t talk about it. Yes, we have one of the largest porn industries in the world, but we are definitely considered prudes when it comes to talking about it. Let me start with nudity. Not sure if you know this (non-US readers) but we sensor anything related to sexuality, that includes butt-cracks, which to me is a bit too extreme. We are taught from an early age to hide our bodies. I remember in middle school, we (the girls) would go into individual fitting rooms to change our clothes and this behavior followed all the way into our adulthood. You can see the same tendencies at gyms, people will go to the fitting rooms to change. Why are we so ashamed and why have we sexualized the human body so much? While traveling around Finland I encountered a completely different perspective on the human body - a non-sexualized one. Finland is a country that revolves around saunas. Each home has a sauna and to your surprise, you go into saunas butt-naked with anyone and everyone (no matter the gender, age, sexuality, etc). They don’t go there to have sex with someone, they go there to relax and have meaning conversations with one another. Of course, the first time I went into a sauna naked was with my then-boyfriend, sister and partner. Let me tell you, it was extremely awkward, but after a while, you feel free and actually liberated. So what’s up Americans?! Why can’t we be more open about our bodies? We should learn to accept our bodies and different body types. And sex…well, everyone does it. I’m definitely not saying have open conversations with your grandparents or parents, but we shouldn’t stigmatize it, it’s natural!  

What are your thoughts? What are some topics that are not discussed in your country? 

 

Getting Back Into the Groove

I have been back in Florida for over a month and I have to say it's been quite entertaining! There are a few things that I miss and don't miss about Poland. But regardless of all this, it's been fun getting back into the groove. 

What I miss about Poland:
As you guys know, I lived in Poland for almost 4 years and from the time I arrived I became enamored with it. So obviously, now that I am back in Florida there are things that I miss tremendously. 

  • Friends - While living in Poland I was able to make great friendships with people from different parts of Poland and the world. There are some that I miss more than others, but surprisingly (or not) the ones that I miss the most are my Polish friends. The group of people that I'm referring to are the ones that have known me the longest. They're the first friends I made in Poland and they're the ones that have stuck by me this whole time. Although we are both trying to keep up with each other's lives (via messages and social media) it is not the same. And my fear is that we will slowly start drifting apart. However, one must realize that this is all part of life and we must accept it. 

  •  Restaurants - So I was big into eating out in Poland not only because I hate cooking, but because it was pretty affordable and the variety of restaurants in Gdansk/Sopot/Gdynia area huge! Oh and did I mention it, it's affordable!! Unfortunately, a lot of the restaurants in Florida are not only quite pricey but the food quality is nowhere near the quality in Poland. I feel like the food in the US has too many condiments and it's too greasy. So to be honest, every time I go out to eat, my stomach feels a bit queasy. 

  • Services - Now, I am aware that Poland has not the greatest customer service and I totally agree! It still needs some improvement, however, services in Poland are just so affordable compared to the US! Services in the US are 4X more expensive than in Poland. For example with my accountant in Poland - not only did she speak English and was extremely helpful and polite, but her services did not break my piggy bank! I was paying her (depending on the month) around 170-250 zlotys per month. Now, I have to pay an accountant just as much, but in dollars (and it’s a cheaper accountant). There are some accountants that earn as much as $50 an hour!

  • Health Care - This is another one that is a bit controversial and to be honest, I was one of the many who complained about giving my hard-earned money to ZUS. But now that I can compare, I’d rather give my money to ZUS than give it to a greedy health insurance company. So I'll give you an example - Back in December 2016, when I was visiting my family I had problems with my eyes (common occurrence) so I decided to go to the eye doctor to get my eyes checked. Total cost of this visit: $125 (visit) + $60 (eye-drops, original price was $200, but doctor was kind enough to give me a discount) = $185. In Poland, it would've costed me, let's see, less than 50 Zlotys (granted, I always had private insurance in Poland). 

What I don’t miss about Poland:
As much as I love Poland, there is actually a list of things that I really don’t miss and I’m thankful about being back in the US.

  • Understanding - Many of you know that I started learning Polish a year ago and those lessons have been extremely helpful (I could finally communicate with Uber drivers!). However, I was never to the level of having a full-on conversation. So now that I am back, it is a bit bizarre being able to communicate freely, understand conversations and sometimes even eavesdrop! I mean, it has its perks not being able to understand because you can concentrate on your own thoughts. But being able to communicate is really priceless. Not having to rely on friends constantly, it's so rewarding! 

  • The weather!!! - Of course, the weather! How can I not miss it?! In Florida, the weather now is in the 30's but nonetheless, I love it! Actually every morning when I open my blinds it immediately makes me smile. Every time I go outside in the evening, I am thankful that it is still warm and I don't need to layer up with a bunch of different sweaters, jackets, and/or coats. It is an incredible relief being able to wear shorts and t-shirts everyday. Also, I look healthier having tanned skin versus pale skin.

  • Customer Service - So yes, this is hate/love relationship. I am thankful for the customer service in Florida. Everyone is so cheery and willing to help you that it is hard not to love it. However, it is over-priced and I do hate tipping! For every service one must tip and it really adds up! 

What are your thoughts on all these things? What are you experiences living abroad and/or moving back to your native country? Are you able to relate? 

Moving Back to the US

After living over 3 years, almost 4 years in Poland I have made the decision to move back to my hometown, Cape Coral, FL. I have to say that it's wonderful to be close to family once again, feel the heat and sunshine all around me and be able to understand everyone. However, it does feel weird.  It is a bizarre thought knowing that I won't be returning to a city that I called "home." Knowing that I won't see my good friends located in Gdansk/Sopot/Gdynia. I know that it will take time for me to settle back in, but for now it is an almost uncomfortable feeling. 

However, we'll see how it will go as time passes by! It definitely is easy to get used to the warm weather and the politeness all around me :)

Articles Worth Reading & Podcast Worth Listening to

So I've been wanting to compile a few good articles and podcasts I've been able to find. I'll try to do this each week. I hope some of you guys will enjoy it! 

  • Article - Europe is trying to teach its gender norms to refugees

    • Link: http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21708722-turns-out-be-more-complicated-it-sounds-europe-trying-teach-its-gender-norms?fsrc=scn/fb/te/pe/ed/europeistryingtoteachitsgendernormstorefugees
    • Plot: This article gives you a little glimpse of what some countries are trying to do in order to teach refugees common etiquette when approaching women, conversing with women, etc. 
  • Podcast - What's It Like To Be Rich? Ask The People Who Manage Billionaires' Money

    • Link: http://www.npr.org/2016/10/25/499213698/whats-it-like-to-be-rich-ask-the-people-who-manage-billionaires-money
    • Plot: Gives you a little bit of an insight of what it's like being a wealth manager - what their job entails, challenges they have (morally), and more much. 
  • Podcast - 'Double Bind' Explains The Dearth Of Women In Top Leadership Positions

    • http://www.npr.org/2016/10/26/499409051/double-bind-explains-the-dearth-of-women-in-top-leadership-positions

    • Plot: Gender biases all around! Things we do unconsciously and consciously. Ladies and Gentlemen, I encourage you listen to this! 

How It All Began...

So many people ask me "Why Poland?" And I have to give a long and a bit pathetic answer. 

It all begun in 2013, due to a series of crazy ideas. After working in the corporate world for about a year and half, I started becoming restless, I wanted to travel, explore, and meet new people. So I decided to apply for an MBA program in The University of Mannheim. After waiting for a response (roughly 7 months), I got an email. The email told me that there were only 10 seats for non EU students and that I was number 16. This meant I was in a waiting list, great...Long story shorty, I ended up being denied. That was by far my biggest "failure" in life. 

But as Alexander Graham Bell once said, "As one door closes, another one opens." And that's exactly what happened. I started teaching English to you guys and I love every moment of it. Now I have been here for 3 years and I'm still in love with Polish food, culture and its people.