When I first arrived in Kraków about three years ago I wanted to know the truth about Eastern Europe. I also got sick of living in London. This may surprise some people, but it’s true! On arrival I remember feeling very excited about the prospect of finding new friends, of learning about a new country, and at the same time getting some teaching experience. Of course, I wanted to do this in about nine months, because I fully intended to go back to England the following summer. I had come as one of a group of around thirty young lecturers who were going to work in different university departments throughout the country, and none of us really knew what to expect. After a couple of days in Warsaw, we all went off to different cities. And when we met again after the first semester some of my friends had many complaints. They were asked to teach business English instead of economics, some departments were disorganised and accommodation was a real problem. Those who managed to survive the culture shock of the first few months soon began to get a more balanced picture of the country. Many of us decided that, compared to the English especially, the Poles are more friendly and sociable people. In my experience, there are two main types of long-stay foreigners in this country. First, there are business people who are simply abroad for work, but often live as if they were still at home. They keep doing the same things. The second group are those who love learning new things about other countries. I would count most of my non-Polish friends in this group. Sometimes we meet in a pub to discuss our different experiences of living in Poland, and try to get explanations from Polish friends when we don’t understand something. Recent topics of discussion? ‚Why do Polish people love animal jokes so much and why are they only funny for Polish people?’ Of course, my friends are not the ones who I first came to Poland with three years ago. They have all moved back to the UK or gone elsewhere. So I am the only one left to answer the most common question that the Polish people ask foreigners. The question is ‚how is your Polish?’
(adapted from Yes!, 1996)

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