Cultural adaptation of foreigners living in Poland in the light of empirical research

In order to achieve the aim of the work, which is to determine the influence of cultural differences on the process of cultural adaptation of foreigners living in Poland, a questionnaire survey was designed and carried out in the form of an internet survey. The thesis is theoretical and empirical in nature, focusing on questions related to interculturalism.
Cultural adaptation of foreigners living in Poland in the light of empirical research


Research methodology used in the study

In order to achieve the aim of the work, which is to determine the influence of cultural differences on the process of cultural adaptation of foreigners living in Poland, a questionnaire survey was designed and carried out in the form of an internet survey. The thesis is theoretical and empirical in nature, focusing on questions related to interculturalism.

The questionnaire consisted of 21 questions, including 14 closed questions and 7 open questions. It was available for filing from January 27 to January 30, 2022. The study was aimed at foreigners who speak English and who live in Poland on a daily basis. The survey was conducted via the Internet on a social networking site, making the Google Form available on regional groups for foreigners living in Polish cities (Warsaw, Kraków, Poznań, Wrocław, Bydgoszcz, Tricity) and had nationwide coverage.

The research sample consists of two hundred and sixty people who voluntarily participated in the study within the above-mentioned period. The participants were selected on the basis of their ability to use the English language, originating from a country other than Poland, currently settled in that country. The characteristic features of the research sample are presented in Figures 1-11 and in Tables 1 and 2.

Characteristics of the research group

Figure 1 shows that the number of men and women is very evenly distributed. The female gender constituted fifty percent, i.e. one hundred and thirty of the respondents, and the male gender one hundred and twenty-eight, while two people preferred not to disclose their orientation. Due to the regular breakdown, the following data will be presented in such a way as to show both points of view.

In addition, the questionnaire was sixty-five percent completed by people over the age of thirty (Figure 2). A minority, i.e. thirty-five percent of people, declared their age below. A positive effect of such a data structure will be to show a diverse spectrum of adaptation to Polish culture, both in the case of young adults and mature years.

Moving on to the characteristics of the research group in terms of origin (Figure 3), it is worth noting that the largest number of respondents (eight and a half percent) come from the United States, Great Britain (over seven percent) and South Africa (17 people). Other countries from which the groups completing the survey came: Algeria, Australia, France, Ghana, Greece, Spain, Netherlands, India, Ireland, Malaysia, Germany, Pakistan, Portugal, Russia, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Italy , Zimbabwe. Single units were from Albania, Angola, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burundi, Chile, China, Cyprus, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, Georgia, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran , Israel, Jordan, Canada, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Colombia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Morocco, Mexico, Moldova, Mozambique, Nigeria, New Zealand, Pakistan, Palestine, Peru, South Korea, Romania, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Sweden, Taiwan, Tunisia, Hungary and Vietnam.

Analyzing the reasons why the respondents moved to Poland (Figure 4), as many as thirty-eight and a half percent of them indicated work as the reason, and a quarter motivated the change of the country due to a partner (girlfriend / boyfriend, fiancée or wife/husband). In addition, the most frequent answers were also: student exchange, family, full-time studies (bachelor's or master's), internships, coming as part of the European ESC volunteering program and curiosity. There were also such justifications as This is my favorite country, so I decided to live here, Future prospects for children and work prospects for myself and my husband, “Early retirement and lower living costs, access to Europe and travel.

Additionally, as shown in Figure 5, fifty percent of the respondents were people staying in Poland for one to five years. Their number was one hundred and thirty people. Almost thirty-three percent of the respondents chose the more than five-year period, and forty-six respondents in the group with the shortest duration in Poland.

According to the data presented in Figure 6, when asked about their place of residence, the majority of respondents indicated the capital city (over forty percent). The second city from which most people participating in the survey come from is Wrocław. Eight and a half percent of people currently live in Poznań, while almost eight percent in Krakow. There were also respondents from Gdańsk, Gdynia, Sopot and Łódź. Only fifteen people declared themselves residents of Bydgoszcz. One person indicated that he moves between Warsaw and Gdańsk on a daily basis. Foreigners also live in smaller towns, such as Konstancin, Skierniewice, the village of Baszkówka, Kaputy, Kwidzyn, Niemcz, Starogard Gdański, Mińsk Mazowiecki, or Niepołomice, which are not far from larger towns, but are smaller centers of life. Other places are Mostowice because of the proximity to the Czech border, citing: “(...) delicious beer and in case of political turmoil - changes in location, away from crowds and big metropolises”.

As shown in Figure 7, when asked about the ability to communicate in the local language, over thirty-five percent of the respondents answered yes, but only basic phrases. The second result with the highest number of responses (eighteen and a half percent) were two categories, namely yes, I understand this language, although it is worse when speaking and no, but I plan to learn the vocabulary and communicate in this language in the future. As many as fifteen percent of people are fluent in Polish, and twelve percent of respondents declared they were reluctant to learn this language.

Figure 8 shows that the vast majority of the respondents were a group that came to Poland individually. Their number was almost seventy percent. However, as many as thirty-two percent of those surveyed traveled with their family. Loneliness, isolation, and the lack of established relations in a new country will have a huge impact on the further judgment of a given place. Your loved ones make adaptation to a new culture much easier, because you can talk in your native language, support yourself in everyday adaptation to the new environment, in building a community and in formalities taken care of in offices.

After a preliminary analysis of the data presented above, it can be concluded that both the origin of the respondents and their purposes for which they came to Poland are very diverse. On the other hand, Warsaw is the place where most respondents currently study, work and live. Half of them are only between one and five years of residence in Poland, which may affect the acculturation phase in which they are currently. The structure reliably reflects the real situation of foreigners in Polish society.

Evaluation of the cultural adaptation of foreigners living in Poland

Moving on to the interpretation of the second part of the questionnaire entitled First steps in Poland and the adaptation process, at the beginning a question was asked about the satisfaction of respondents with living in Poland (Figure 9). The answers were superimposed on a scale of 1 to 5, where one meant that the unit didn't like it at all, and five I like it very much (I love it). The mean of all two hundred and sixty responses was 3.75. The most frequent answer (almost fifty percent) was 4.0, which can be read as the overwhelming pleasure in living in the current location. Only five people said that they did not like living in Poland very much. The results confirm that the vast majority of respondents are at least satisfied with their stay in Poland, and only a small percentage of the surveyed group is not satisfied with this fact.

Moreover, when analyzing the data presented in Figure 10, it can be seen that the respondents evenly answered the question related to obstacles during the move. Where less than fifty percent confirmed the appearance of problems, on the other hand, almost fifty-one percent of the respondents denied it.

Some of the reasons mentioned that made traveling to Poland difficult were the language barrier, and also the reluctance of Poles to communicate in a foreign language other than their mother tongue, communication challenges in offices and other government institutions. What's more, the difficulties related to the formalities, e.g. very long visa process, which took up to a year for some foreigners, different rules for European Union citizens than for non-EU citizens; a different tax system, government bureaucracy and the lack of digitization of processes, which meant that everything had to be printed and signed by hand, which significantly extended the circulation of documents. Another obstacle noted by many respondents was the problematic and protracted application for a residence permit, application for a PESEL number or application for universal health insurance.

Cultural differences, and in extreme cases, racism, prejudice, discrimination, racist violence and ignorance had a significant impact on the difficulty in moving to Poland. In addition, significant difficulties were the lack of social interaction (especially during the pandemic) as well as loneliness and isolation. For some respondents, the barrier is the climate in Poland, characterized by changeable weather, cold winters and insufficient sun.

One of the objectives of the study was also to obtain information on the greatest, in the opinion of the respondents (compared to their cultural environment) behavior causing culture shock, experienced in Poland. Many negative as well as positive comments have been raised to this open-ended question. Starting with bad experiences, the answer that appeared most often was that Poles are not so open and friendly, and sometimes even intolerant towards strangers from other cultures. Many people emphasized that Poles do not smile, are not kind, they lack facial expressions (facial expression), which means that they are cold in their interpersonal communication. Sometimes people are very direct, rude and reluctant to help others. In addition, the reply was that it is normal conversation here to complain, and it is not natural in America to complain”. Another respondent shared a similar comment, commenting that: People are not open to strangers, it is difficult to see a smile in the elevator or say hello without embarrassment, they have no idea that I am a stranger, because my Good Morning greeting sounds like I'm from Poland. Besides, most people avoid eye contact when it's not necessary, it makes me smile and to be honest at such moments I look deep into their eyes to make them uncomfortable :D.

Moreover, according to several respondents, Poland is not adapted to foreigners, because all messages (e.g. in public transport or offices) are provided in the local language. This is also confirmed by other responses, which indicated that sometimes local residents were rude to a given person due to his inability to communicate in Polish.

In addition to the above-mentioned issues regarding communication in Polish, there were also unanimous voices regarding the strong influence of religion on the politics of the country and its inhabitants. In other areas, a lack of social culture regarding food has been noted, including the lack of a fixed time for lunch and the time for eating the remaining meals. The thing that was not obvious to all respondents is the fact that shops (including grocery stores) and shopping malls are closed on Sundays and public holidays. An important issue raised by some interviewees was that people 'stare' at them because of the difference in skin color or show surprise when they move around in public spaces. This is mainly due to the homogeneous Polish society, where only in the capital and large metropolises the view of people with different complexions is something more natural than in smaller towns and villages. In addition, the problem highlighted by the participants of the research sample was the consumption of large amounts of alcohol by Poles, and even the statement that all social meetings focus on spirits. Individuals indicated the greatest cultural shock as the lack of daily physical interactions, i.e. silence in public transport (where e.g. in Spain people talk a lot), lack of respect for private space (e.g. not respected as much as in the UK) and inappropriate clothing of girls during summer period (situations indicated by a South African person).

However, on the other hand, the research sample also includes people who have not experienced negative situations and behaviors leading to culture shock. They were most often people from culturally related countries such as Ukraine, Belarus, Russia or Hungary. One Azerbaijani native replied: I had lived in Russia and Georgia before, so I was not exposed to many cultural changes related to the change of country to Poland”. One of the people from Russia indicated the cleanliness of the city, streets, roads, etc., kindness, understanding and rational attitude of people (as opposed to the place where she previously lived). A commensurate reaction was shared by a person from Italy, who considers Warsaw to be very open, animal-friendly and clean. Adding to that, My shock was only positive! A woman from India spoke from a different perspective, noting that she came from a country where “(...) women are not allowed to drink or to gather in such places. But Poland is completely different. I love it!.

It is worth mentioning that the fact that there are many people in Poland who do not eat animal products (vegans) and a large selection of places with a wide range of vegan dishes was a positive factor in the study. Interestingly, there was also an answer that a person coming from a Mexican-American Catholic family feels much safer when using public areas (as well as in terms of the safety of their children) than in the United States.

In conclusion, it is worth noting that there are many factors influencing the intensity of the experience and the final emotional impression that will be produced by the culture shock in Poland. People who previously traveled and / or were surrounded by friendly Poles have much better memories of their move. There was even an answer that in Poland it is much better than what he heard about this country before relocation (a person from Bulgaria). Nevertheless, it should be noted that Poles are perceived by many foreigners as a society that is not very friendly, gloomy and alcohol-abusing, not open to international contacts.

Another question asked to the participants of the study concerned the frequency of their interactions with various cultural groups living in Poland on a daily basis. The results are summarized in Table 1, using a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being little contact and 5 being a lot of contact. The results concerning contact with the local community and people of nationality other than one's own are at a similar level in the entire study group (the average answer was 3.3). This confirms that the respondents contact both groups in a similar frequency. The data obtained in the study show that the respondents have the least contact with people from their country of origin (average 2.58), but it is not an extreme phenomenon. A noticeable phenomenon is the differentiation in the frequency of contact with people of another nationality to the responder. In this case, the female sex, whose mean response was 3.49, is characterized by a greater frequency of making contacts than the opposite sex (3.15 on average). Interestingly, the diversification of the answers can be noticed between the answers concerning the group before the age of 30 and the elderly. From this difference, it can be observed that younger people in Poland more often spend time with people of their nationality (average 2.92) than the more mature generation whose average response was 2.44.

Table 1. Foreigners' contact with other cultural groups in Poland

Questions AllWomenMenPeople under 30 y.o.People over 30 y.o.
Local people. 3,273,313,233,23,3
Other people of your own nationality. 2,582,552,632,922,4
Other people of other nationalities than your own. 3,323,493,153,513,22

The data presented in Table 2 indicate answers to a series of questions and issues concerning the cultural acculturation of the foreigners surveyed in Poland. The scale was from 1 to 5, where 1 means disagreement with the given sentence, and 5 means complete agreement with the given sentence. The mean of the answers of women does not differ in most of the questions from the mean of the answers of men. The biggest difference between the genders occurs in the context of homesickness, where the average result for women is 2.71, who miss it much more than men (average 2.29). The greatest extremes can be seen when analyzing and comparing people in terms of age. In the vast majority of areas, both these groups have a considerable discrepancy in their answers. One of the biggest differences can be found when asked about the difficulty of finding a regular rhythm in everyday life. The elderly are much more troubled by the problem with arranging the daily routine. The mean score for this age group was 1.91, while the score for the younger generation was 2.74. Another statement that has been interpreted differently is treating living in Poland as an adventure. Where people under 30 years of age agree much more with it, supporting it with an average answer of 3.38, while for people in their thirties this result was much lower (average 2.79).

Table 2. Cultural acculturation process of foreigners in Poland

QuestionsAllWomenMenPeople under 30 y.o.People over 30 y.o.
I was adjusting well to Polish culture (1st month). 2,832,92,782,762,86
I feel lonely.2,532,612,472,732,43
Contact with people from Poland helps me understand Polish culture and the people better.3,613,613,633,623,61
I fear going to offices and/or to public places here in Poland.2,28 2,38 2,16 2,57 2,12
I take more medication than I used to do at home.1,69 1,82 1,57 2,09 1,47
I have been easily upset since my arrival.1,77 1,89 1,66 1,92 1,69
Being in Poland seems to be like an adventure to me. 3 3,05 2,97 3,38 2,79
I argue a lot with the people around me, more often than I am used to at home.1,64 1,59 1,7 1,57 1,68
Everything seems to be interesting to me. 3,05 3,13 2,99 3,13 3,01
I sometimes have the feeling that I do not understand what is going on around me here in Poland. 2,77 2,83 2,72 3,11 2,59
I have problems finding a regular rhythm in my daily life.2,2 2,34 2,08 2,74 1,91
At the moment I feel excited about my stay in Poland.3,03 3,05 3,03 3,12 2,98
I feel homesick. 2,49 2,71 2,29 2,6 2,43
My mood changes very quickly from excitement to sadness, to a higher degree than it used to do at home. 2,1 2,17 2,05 2,43 1,93
I am happy here. 3,373,35 3,39 3,323,4
Even though I get enough sleep I feel tired. 2,482,592,37 2,8 2,31
I have many ideas and plans about what to do but I get nothing done.2,41 2,36 2,47 2,55 2,33
Upon my arrival, I felt rejected by the Polish culture.2,18 2,24 2,12 2,51 2
Upon my arrival, I felt curious about Polish culture.3,66 3,67 3,66 3,54 3,73
I felt like I wanted to go back home immediately after my arrival.1,64 1,75 1,54 1,88 1,51
I feel adjusted to Polish culture (now). 3,27 3,31 3,26 3,15 3,34

The survey included a question about what foreigners most appreciate in Poland and its inhabitants. The respondents repeatedly stated that despite the initial cold and rough approach, Poles after breaking the ice are incredibly warm, generous and helpful. Character traits such as courtesy, hospitality, modesty, and at the same time honesty and directness in verbal communication were praised. A person from Malaysia confirmed it with the words: “I like that Poland is much more open than my country. I like that Poles are helpful and always try to help”. Another answer was shared by a man who previously lived in the USA, explaining: When you meet Poles, they are more nice and loyal than in my culture. I love a free and honest work culture, being in Central Europe is very convenient for me”. Interestingly, a woman growing up in Asia noted that: “People look aloof because they don't express their feelings like Koreans, but Poles are very nice inside. First I misunderstood that they don't like me, but now I know it was my misunderstanding”.

Foreigners in Poles also value their respect, good upbringing, family orientation, the importance of friendship and are proud of their country and nationality. At the same time, many “(...) are not afraid to consider themselves Poles (and not to be racists at the same time)”. Attention was paid to how the younger generation becomes more open and tolerant of international contacts. Respect for the personal space of others (for example compared to people from Bulgaria) was also perceived as positive. A unit from the United Kingdom of Great Britain confirmed this with the words: “I like that people leave you alone. They would help if you needed it, but generally don't bother you. (..) I like that people are always nice (in shops etc.)”. The foreigners' responses indicated not only character traits, but also physical conditions. According to them, Polish women are characterized by exceptional beauty.

In addition, the entrepreneurship, punctuality and diligence of Poles deserve recognition. The rich history, delicious cuisine (including dumplings) and cultural events were complimented by the respondents too.

Another element in Poland that was described by foreigners in superlatives is nature. Mountains, lakes and the sea were mentioned, as well as traveling all over the country and visiting beautiful monuments and nature. Additionally, it has been observed that everyday life in large cities is well-organized and comfortable. There is a good public transport system and it is very safe. Delighted with the number of open green spaces and parks in urban spaces, it was especially noted by the respondent from South Korea. Despite the fact that in the earlier part of the questionnaire, the complaint was perceived as a big culture shock - “Polish society likes to complain and this helps them to release the pressure. At first it struck me as strange that people would find anything to complain about, but then I realized that for them it was the best way to feel relieved, to just let it out”.

Another question that the respondents answered in the questionnaire concerned what they do not tolerate the most in Poland and the Polish community. The problem that often appeared in the responses was related to the bureaucracy in Poland. Associated with both the long process of obtaining a temporary residence card, the reluctance of some employees to help in offices for foreigners or the failure to provide information about integration packages. The difficulties in this area have already been mentioned in the earlier question about culture shock and relocation difficulties.

Moreover, The procedures for taxing, registering a place of residence and doing anything government related in general are out of date and archaic”.

Attention was also paid to the old-fashioned education system, which, according to many foreigners, requires changes. Then, too much influence of religion on society (Catholic culture), nationalism and arrogance (concerning a part of Polish society), and in extreme cases fear of being attacked for being a foreigner or from the LGBT + community. There are also noticeable racist, homophobic and xenophobic behavior (for example, mentioned by a man from Spain much more [racism] in more than in my country), a lack of respect for women's rights and a proposal to tighten the rules on abortions in Poland. A similar comment was shared by a person from Morocco: I am married and I have two children born in Poland. I cannot get a permanent residence card just because my language is not good enough. I pay the government more than 40% of taxes per month and I contribute significantly to the growth of the economy. but I still have to stop for a while without stabilizing”.

Moving on to the next area that foreigners do not like, these are some of the characteristics of Poles. Despite the identified many advantages which characterize the Polish community, there are many negative features. Generally, people do not seem approachable or friendly. It is very difficult to integrate into the local environment because they seem closed to others and show no emotion. They often look grumpy, frustrated and not smiling. In addition, Polish people too often say that something is impossible when it is only difficult, new or unknown. According to the respondents, Poles tend to look for problems more than solutions to them. The tendency in society is to look at a given situation from the negative side. They are selfish, stubborn, jealous, and they often compare themselves with each other. Moreover, foreigners believe that older people do not accept foreigners and have a conservative mentality. Compared to Spanish culture, “They don't spend as much time in bars or playing outside as we do”, one commented. However, many have pointed out that this does not apply to society as a whole, but to individual cases.

With disgust, people filling in the questionnaire also mentioned the harmful way Poles drink alcohol in far too much and persuading them to drink alcohol using the characteristic issue: You won't drink with me? as an argument. Apart from the disposition of Poles, another topic that the respondents indicated as negative was pollution and poor air quality, visible in a large part of the country.

In addition, there were also responses related to the quality of the service in the country on the Vistula River and the long waiting time in queues. An example comment was: “Service is not good here. You should be able to repair your own electronic devices, and the supplier never brings heavy things inside, only leaves them in front of the house. I don't understand something, so I ask for help and if they speak English, then the friendly smile they had before disappears and they stop talking to me, they ignore me”. As in the previous parts of the questionnaire, respondents complain about staring at them and asking inadequate questions (...) as if I were an animal in a zoo because of the color of the skin (people from Ethiopia and Mozambique).

In response to this issue, there were also neutral comments, which did not complain about anything in Polish culture, explaining: “In Poland it is the same as everywhere. Few people who spread ignorance and hatred” and I don't like anything. People are almost the same all over the world. Poles complain a lot, but for me it's not that annoying”.

As shown in Figure 15. Almost eighty-five percent of respondents admit that there is something they miss from their previous place of residence. However, more than fifteen percent of the respondents think the opposite, that is, they do not miss anything from their previous location.

The three categories that respondents missed the most were family, friends and local food. Behind the feeling of being at home, the awareness of acceptance in the community, as well as the feeling of belonging, where in Poland, as one individual comments, it is difficult to build close bonds. In addition to relatives, there were answers related to the longing for full understanding, coping with social communication, the inability to easily understand cultural references, the certainty of knowing social rules and everyday situations, as well as the lack of language difficulties. Moreover, sometimes the respondents nostalgically mentioned communication in their mother tongue, and even in the case of one person: Lack of opportunities to pursue hobbies due to the language barrier and fear of trouble due to the lack of knowledge of the local language”. In addition, the repeated response was the longing for local food, including Brazilian, Indian, spicy, Asian and more healthy. A person from Zimbabwe wrote that she is very short of corn paste and local stew. Other issues raised by foreigners was the general statement that in their countries “Strangers are nice to each other, friendly and open to others”, as well as friendly towards each other (and strangers). The respondent from Malta pointed out how easy it is to have a conversation with strangers and not have strange looks in his country. What was mentioned in the replies was also the sense of humor of the citizens (which Poles, according to the respondents, lack), slang, or characteristic and understandable references to their native culture. Other elements that caused nostalgia in many people participating in the study were, among others, climate, energy, sun, beautiful weather all year round, warm ocean and wild nature in East Africa, national parks with wild animals, sandy beaches, amazing sunrises, huge parks and a beautiful view of the ocean definitely not comparable to the Baltic Sea . One-time longing for the following things was mentioned: church fellowship and music, delicious French baguettes, my car, fuel prices and good roads and highways (in the US). The differences at the cultural level have been significant for some, such as people of Spanish descent who comment on melancholy: “I miss the calm character of the Spaniards. The way we greet each other by kissing or hugging, not just a handshake, and that when you are new to a place in Spain people would invite you to join at any time right from the start, they will introduce you to their friends immediately… ”.

Nevertheless, on the other side of the scale, a certain person who previously lived in Ukraine commented on this issue with the words: “Wrocław, but also Poland in general, and no other country is worse or better than My Homeland, it is simply different. I miss my friends (closed EU borders affect the number of trips and contacts). Also, Kyiv is much bigger than any other city in Poland, which means more business, cultural events, all kinds of community, nightlife, quality and variety of restaurants, services etc. I miss it a bit, but Wrocław has many strengths of its own”. Someone else mentioned that he had lived in different countries so far, “(...) from different ones, I would say a friendly approach to immigrants, a healthy civil society, the sea, fresh air. However, when I'm outside of Poland, I miss things like easy card payments or flexibility”. In addition, one interviewee who, when asked if he missed something from the place where he previously lived, answered by looking at the question asked in a completely different way: I have lived in many places and long ago I learned not to miss things, but to find my new favorites.

Additionally, the questionnaire asked whether foreigners are planning a short stay in Poland, or rather settle here permanently. Interestingly, almost sixty percent of the respondents (one hundred and forty-seven people) confirmed their willingness to stay in this country for a long time. However, less than thirty percent of people answered negatively to this issue. The number of respondents who preferred not to answer this question was just over fourteen percent.

The confirmation of the answers of the respondents who wanted to live in Poland for many years was motivated primarily by having a family, partner, children, spouse or work in Poland. An example is one of the responses of people who plan their future: “I don't know how long, but until my kids go to high school. At least 10 more years because I have a daughter who is 8 years old, and when she is 18 I would like to come back to the USA. Other responses were It is now my country and the home of my children or I have to stay because we have a child here, but I also want to go to Bulgaria more often. I want to split my time between the two countries. Many people indicated that they intend to stay in Poland only until retirement, while a person from Australia commented I would like to retire here because of the cost of living, my country is very expensive, you have to work for a long time to survive. In addition, the remaining argument that spoke in favor of settling in the country in Poland was a professional career. One person confirmed that her settlement would be long-term as long as her company earns money. The decision to stay in Poland was also in some cases justified by the partner's work, ie I will stay as long as it is needed for my partner and I will live for at least another year, but probably also permanently. It depends on what happens to my husband's work”. Several responses were limited to giving a time interval, for example, at least two or three years; between the next five and seven years. Interestingly, some respondents wrote that they moved here forever, infinitely, for the rest of their lives, with permanent residence and Polish citizenship in mind. Additionally, the area that motivates respondents to plan the future in Poland is the education they have started (higher education). They don't want to stop their studies, just finish them and then decide what to do next. In addition, a touching statement was shared by a person from Kenya, who wrote: “Poland may just become my new home. I already feel at home here. In addition, confirming the previous message, another person replied: “my husband is Polish and I feel at home here, and my children adapt well, so I have no reason to leave. Poland is a beautiful country and has a special place in my heart”.

Meanwhile, the respondents who, when asked about their future plans to live, did not have a precise answer, explained it mainly with the uncertain career development in the current job position, the socio-economic situation of the state, as well as the unstable realities caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. The responses also indicated the position that some of them have not yet made the final decision, but they certainly would not like to be in Poland in the long run.

On the other hand, by analyzing the results obtained from people who definitely do not plan to stay here long-term. The most frequently mentioned answers (similarly to the previous issue) included issues related to work, family or children. One person summed it up as follows: I'm going to go back to my homeland, settle down and start a family with more people like me. In addition, another respondent stated that she would like to have children in the future and would rather bring them up in her home country to be close to her parents (Italy). A woman from Singapore spoke from a different perspective and openly announced that she was currently staying in Poland only for her relationship with her partner. However, due to the lack of acceptance of same-sex relationships by Polish law, their stay will be only temporary. In the long run, he sees no future for himself here. The respondents also mentioned work in Poland as an element that ultimately influenced their decision to stay. This concerned both plans to move to another country in search of a better salary or the termination of an employment contract in the near distance and the foreigner's unwillingness to extend the contract. The last category that motivates respondents to leave Poland quickly is travel. A woman from Malaysia before the age of 30 sums up the observation: “I stayed in Poland for almost 3 years, now I would like to try to live in other countries”.

Conclusions that can be formulated on the basis of the analysis of responses to the respondents to individual questions show that foreigners feel well in Poland and are satisfied with life here. Although many respondents faced the difficulties associated with moving and the first steps of adapting to a new culture, ultimately more than half of them plan to settle here long-term. Contrary to their longing for things from their previous place of residence, foreigners appreciate many traditions and values in Poland, which they respect and adapt to their lifestyle according to their needs. The responses described many areas, incl. characteristics of Poles (both positive and negative), politics, nature, attitude to relatives and friendships, education system, food and history. All the reactions concern the personal experiences of individuals who often had a similar, but sometimes extreme opinion about Poland.

Recommendations for foreigners who plan to move to Poland

Moving to a new place, learning a foreign culture from scratch, acclimatization and a new environment are only a small part of the adventure waiting for anyone who dares to leave their safe zone. Experiences carried out along the way to the goal will be individual for each person. Nevertheless, it is worth using the advice of people who already have such experiences behind them and are willing to share their tips on what to look for when relocating.

Foreigners participating in the study also provided subjective advice and tips for other people who are planning to move to Poland. The most frequent hint from the respondents was the compulsory learning of the Polish language. If possible, this should be done before arrival or at the beginning of your stay. In larger cities, there are many language schools that offer Polish language lessons at various levels of advancement, as well as workshops. In addition, online videos teaching basic phrases or phone applications, where you can expand your vocabulary in the dialect you need, can also be helpful. In addition, at the beginning you can always use a glossary or a translator on the phone. Attempts to communicate in the newly learned speech will surely be noticed and appreciated by the locals. It will also help to break down the first barriers in interpersonal relations.

Another suggestion of the respondents is participation in meetings with the local community, participation in cultural events, integration with Poles to create closer relations with them. One of the respondents argues not to stay in the expatriate bubble, but to devote your time to getting to know the local people. What's more, it is worth getting to know someone from the local community to the city where you are going, before you leave, so that your colleague will help with bureaucracy and show the most interesting aspects of a given region. On the other hand, one interviewee warns that a person moving to Poland must prepare for potential loneliness during the initial period of stay.

Another important issue for newly arrived foreigners is to immediately take care of the necessary documents required by individual institutions and organizations. A suggestion for those who plan to live in Poland for more than 3 months is to apply for a residence permit upon arrival. The next advice is to check the socio-political situation in the country, as well as the prevailing weather and restrictions before making a decision to move. What is more, people who already live in Poland encourage people to: “adapt to the local culture, be open and curious, make an effort to understand others and give yourself a chance to establish valuable bonds in a new environment”.

Additionally, the argument pointing to the choice of Poland as a new destination is the fact that it is one of the most developing countries in Europe. Other answers that are worth remembering before a longer stay in a new country (regardless of whether it will be Poland or another country) are: “be open and accept the differences. Stay true to who you are, but also try to evolve” and “Keep an open mind. Take the country to your heart and its culture with it. And most of all, the fundamental advice for anyone planning to travel the world is to first understand what are the differences between their own and foreign cultures, then where they come from, before judging and evaluating a given culture through the subjective perception of an individual.

Regardless of moving to another country for only a few months or several years, it is worth preparing for it mentally and physically. The necessary items of clothing depending on the prevailing weather, the required documents, applicable unwritten rules and traditions are areas that can be read before leaving to reduce the feeling of discomfort and ignorance in the first period of changing residence. Much depends on the people the traveler will meet during the trip. Nevertheless, the signpost that should guide every person should be good intentions, openness of heart and mind, as well as curiosity about the world.

Conclusion

The process of interpersonal communication includes verbal messages as well as body language, including gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, body posture or eye contact. It is an activity that requires energy and commitment from the interlocutors. Adding to this the intercultural context, the flow of the conversation becomes even more complicated. A message that will be understood in the same way by people from the same culture may be interpreted completely differently by representatives of a different society. Getting to know the cultural context of the other party will be crucial to establish a dialogue understandable for participants. It is especially worth paying attention to the standards in force in another country, which may significantly affect the final results of the discussion or negotiations.

There may be various reasons why you move to another country. Regardless of the motives behind the decision, relocation involves getting to know a foreign society, as well as trying to function in it. Is there a chance that the process of acculturation in a new country will be easy and pleasant? Is the cultural aspect of communication an insurmountable barrier? Of course, it must be remembered that errors and difficulties resulting from incorrect verbal and non-verbal interpretation cannot be avoided. However, there are many determinants that can positively influence the quality of intercultural communication. One of them is making contact with foreign environments rather than the home one, which results in increasing skill and practice.

The topic of the work carried out by the author concerned cultural differences, in particular communication, which affect the process of adaptation of people living in different cultural environments. This is a particularly important phenomenon in times of globalization, expansion of foreign markets and the increasing number of international enterprises. In order to achieve the aim of the work, a questionnaire survey was designed and conducted. Carried out in the form of an internet survey. The methods used confirmed the initial assumptions.

The analyzed area is an important social problem that foreigners struggle with on a daily basis. Although, as a result, most of the respondents are satisfied with their life in Poland and plan to stay here long-term, they notice many topics to be updated by the state to the current reality. This applies primarily to bureaucracy in offices, long-lasting processes, the lack of digitization and the deficit of employees who can speak English. Other areas for improvement are the outdated education system and the too much influence of religion on institutions and society. In addition, despite many positive features of Polish society, such as hospitality, punctuality, good upbringing or respect, as a nation, we should work on smiling every day, as well as openness towards other cultures (including people with a different skin complexion). Grumbling, regular complaining and comparing each other make Poles perceived as frustrated people. However, these values can be changed mainly by individuals who decide to modify their way of thinking by opening their mind to others.

As part of continuing to explore the problem in the future, it is worth extending the study to foreigners living not only in large towns in Poland. This will highlight the limitations of living further away from civilization and the associated problems in a foreign culture. The second recommendation is to prepare a questionnaire for Poles who work or surround themselves with people of other nationalities. The study would draw attention to the perspective of the other party. The added value will be to compare their responses in order to verify recurring problems and then find viable solutions to them.

It can therefore be concluded that the main value of this work is the interpretation of issues related to interpersonal communication and interculturalism, combined with the analysis of the questionnaire showing the opinion of foreigners on their cultural adaptation in Polish society. Although cultural background fundamentally influences the prism of a person's observation of the world and his decisions, there are many similarities between people who decided to relocate to Poland.

Author’s credit

Written by Marta Ejsmont for the Uniwersytet Ekonomiczny W Poznaniu‌ (Poznan Economics University)





Poland,  ⏧ expatriation,  ⏧ cultural,  ⏧ adaptation,  ⏧ foreigners

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