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Nov 11 2014

Settling in to Expat Life: One Month On

I thought it’d be worth giving you an update on expat life, having worked for a month and received my first month’s salary.

When I first moved to Poland, at the beginning of October, I had no idea what to expect because I had never lived nor worked abroad before. This really was a whole new experience for me.  The thing is, it really isn’t that much different to back home. I have a job, so I go to work.  I have taught English to non-native speakers in language schools in the UK, so the work is similar. There are slight variations, mainly in the working hours. We work 6 days a week and have split shifts to fit in with the local businesses and the school children who are studying English. Alongside trying to keep my blog up and running, I have little time and energy to get out there and explore, which is a shame.  It’s only the first month though so, fingers crossed, things will improve on that front.

I’m ready for my first lesson: pre-intermediate teens. #esl

A photo posted by Teresa Keane (@indtravhelp) on

The first month is a period of adjustment when you begin any new job or move to a new place, regardless of whether it’s in the same country or not.  You have to get used to how things are done, where things are, get to know your colleagues and neighbours, learn how things work, and sort out things such as bank accounts.  

It’s great having the time to learn more about the place as well as Polish life, culture, and cuisine.  It’s like having the information drip-fed over a period of time rather than being bombarded with a lot of information in a short period of time before moving on to the next destination.  We have spent most of our time working, but we have had some time to explore our immediate surroundings and our nearest city, Krakow.  We visited our local cemetery one night time, which isn’t something I would have ever thought of doing, we made pierogi for the first time with the help of one of our Polish colleagues, we have been getting acquainted with the shops in our town and in Krakow, and have seen some of the sights.  There is so much more to discover, but the great thing is, we have until the end of our contract to do that.  

Our first attempt at perogi. It’s time to cook them. #expatlife A photo posted by Teresa Keane (@indtravhelp) on

Life in this small Polish town is interesting.  This isn’t a town where people from other countries come on holiday, so it isn’t geared up for non-native speakers as Krakow is.  I like that because it means we have to use the few Polish words we know and try to learn more. Going shopping is always an experience, but we have managed to get most of what we have gone out for, although sometimes it has taken a couple of trips. Oh, and trying to find out the most cost-effective Pay-As-You-Go SIM which includes a decent amount of data has been… interesting.  Google Translate has come to the rescue on a number of occasions.  I have generally shown the text to the shop assistant, although the other day I listened to how the word was pronounced and repeated it to the shop assistant.  I was very proud of myself when I got what I had asked for because I did it in Polish.  Being as there are so few non-natives in the town, people are getting to know us in the places we frequent.  I like that because it makes me feel at home.

When I started travelling, I got out of the habit of buying stuff, but I have been buying a few things to help me settle and make me feel more at home.  It’s the small things like an Italian stove-top coffee maker, a pair of slippers, a throw for my bed, some warm clothes in preparation for the cold weather, smart clothes for work, and getting a Polish bank account so I can get out money and pay for things without worrying about the exchange rate and the added cost of doing so from a foreign bank account.

My latest purchase – a pair of slippers to keep my tootsies warm! #expatlife

A photo posted by Teresa Keane (@indtravhelp) on

Have your say

Are you an expat?  If so, what helped you to settle in to your new environment and what advice would you give someone who is thinking of becoming an expat?

About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.

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