Great people, sports culture, pierogi and Zakopane. Find out what Mohamed from Member Relations & Operations Department thinks about living and working in Poland.
How did your story with Poland start?
I firstly visited Poland in July last year on a holiday. I had an ex-colleague who was working in HR recruitment job, and they were looking for French speakers, so he referred me and after my holiday I gave it to go, and I moved to Poland a month later. It will be exactly one year at the end of August since I live in Gdańsk.
What were your thoughts on Poland prior to moving here?
Mostly I was able to meet many Polish natives in the previous countries that I lived in, realizing they were quite friendly. Usually, when you hear thoughts from their perspective it seems like they don’t always think highly of their country, but otherwise, I didn’t know that much about Poland itself to be honest.
How does it compare to how you see it now?
I’m actually really impressed at how modern it is and how much it has to offer. Some countries have more job opportunities, but their weather is tougher to handle. Here, it feels like you don’t have to make any sacrifices: you get the beach, the mountains, and the city. The local job market is really diverse and limitless. I’m also fascinated at how much people are athletic, like with very specific sports like boxing, basketballa and volleyball. Overall, I really find people to be dynamic and very engaging, whether it’s a first-time or regular interaction.
You lived in several countries. Could you tell me more about it?
I grew up in the south of France. I’ve lived in Greece, the UK and in Malta as well, always moving for my career. I will definitely stay in Poland for a while as I am very content both personally and professionally, right now.
What surprised you the most in Poland?
I think the sports culture I mentioned earlier, it helped me adjust to the country’s dynamic. I also noticed there is a large Hispanic/Latin American culture and I’ve met people from outside Europe as well. It’s been interesting to meet everyone, but also to understand what brought them here. A lot of people come here for studies and end up staying longer which I think is a beautiful thing. From a professional perspective, I was really surprised that a lot of international companies have their headquarters based here in Tricity.
You had some idea about Poland from your friends. Did it turn out to be true or false?
For the whole year I’ve been here, the experience has been very positive and I’m saying that as I count many Polish friends as well as fellow expats. I really feel included. People often invite me to “domówka” and are always hospitable.
What about the language barrier?
I start by taking into account that not everyone will have perfect English skills, it’s just about finding ways to make yourself understandable and try to pick up as many Polish words as possible. Bureaucracy here feels a bit challenging at the beginning when you don’t master the language and adjust to a new environment.
Polish language is one of the most difficult languages in the world. How do you deal with that?
I haven’t put too much time into it yet to be honest, but I am trying my best to surround myself with as many locals as possible. For example, in my team most of the girls speak Polish, and I again do have a few friends in our circle that are also Polish, so we have private jokes like “siema mordeczko”
Being fluent in 5 languages already, I just aim to incorporate Polish into my daily life and I am confident that it will improve eventually. I know I need to learn but I’m giving myself time to gain the exposure I need to feel more comfortable.
How did your family and friends react to your move to Poland?
My family was happy as they knew that I had exciting opportunities waiting for me, leaving my already entertaining life in Malta behind.
Have they visited you here?
My family has yet to visit. As for my friends, they are super happy they loved Gdansk and Baltic countries in general.
What do you miss most about your home country?
As I became an uncle just a couple of weeks ago, I definitely miss my nephew, but I was happy to meet him recently, for the first time.
Do you have a favorite dish you can tell us about?
It’s an easy answer – pierogi except for the ruskie flavor. I usually pair it with żurek and sour cream. I know not everyone does and surprisingly I always enjoy having it on a Sunday evening.
Which Polish customs are either incomprehensible or surprising to you?
I was surprised that here it is mandatory to wait for the green man when crossing the road, especially when no cars are passing by.
What are your favorite places in Poland? Did you get a chance to travel around the country?
My favorite place is Zakopane over anywhere else in Poland. I know other people prefer to go to cities like Poznań or Toruń. Traveling to the snowy mountains helped me realize I am just as attracted to colder climates than other Mediterranean countries like my home country of Lebanon, for example.
Any other places?
The Masurian Lake district, Olsztyn, Kaszuby because it’s one of our closest areas to nature, there is a wide range of activities there. I haven’t been yet but would highly enjoy a kayak/sup paddle adventure anytime.
What about Polish people? How do you find them?
I was pleasantly surprised at how engaging they are. E.g., I was mentioning ”domówka”. In France people usually ask you to join them at the club or for coffee or a place like that, while in Poland people really want to have you at their house, sometimes even until very late hours. I rarely felt that there were any barriers or that I was not fitting in.
What about your team here at Arla?
My team is just fantastic! Our project is brand new actually. We all joined just a few months ago, we didn’t know each other before, most of my colleagues are Polish, but some of us are Swedish, Danish and French. We already had several opportunities to travel across other Arla sites in small groups which really contributed to building the team’s dynamic.
We have our jokes, WhatsApp group and have so much fun all the time J. We also know how to be very professional and collaborate with one another in a very productive way. I also love our ability to share when something doesn’t feel right, we have so much power in expressing ourselves in our big family-like division.
What have you learned while living in Poland?
I think I learned to be more open-minded and to forge my own opinion out of things rather than listening to what I hear from my social circle. If I go back to what Polish people used to tell me when I was abroad… now that I have my own experience of living here, I can start to identify some things in Poland that perhaps feel more challenging to me without disregarding all the positive things it has brought into my life.
It’s been a fantastic day-to-day process so far. That is the main motivator for me here. In other countries that I’ve lived in this adjustment took a lot more time to happen, but in Poland I feel that everything clicked from the very beginning.