A Polish Expat in England…
“England is well organised and not so bureaucratic like Poland. You have better roads in England. The English don’t have many national dishes, whereas in Poland we have many! England is multicultural, Poland is not! Poland has got better weather. We have a proper summer- England doesn’t not! England has a royal family.
The Polish people are better at saving money… English spend what they have and then complain that they don’t have money!”
Heading off from Poland to England when she was 22, Polish national Jolanta found a job offer online and headed off to England alone in search of something “different and exciting”!
“I had to go to Warsaw to sign a contract and I was a little cautious as I had never heard about that agency and didn’t have anyone to ask.” says Jola.
“I found some reviews about it online, which were positive, so I knew if there were reviews that at the very least the agency actually existed!”
Jola admits though that it was a risk to just sign up to an agency and leave her home country, and of course her parents were far more worried than Jola…
“They worried about me, that the agency could be a human traffic mafia… you never know,” adds Jola half jokingly.
“When I went to sign the contract I had to choose the city I would go to. I had 3 options, 3 cities to choose from. I didn’t know any of them so I chose Sheffield because it sounded nice.
Later on I discovered that there were many agencies out there recruiting Polish young people for work abroad, in countries such as England, Germany, and Holland etc.”
Choosing England because she had studied English and wanted to practice and improve her English, Jola was also driven to move overseas because she wanted to do something different and exciting with her life.
“The most difficult part for me was telling my parents that I was going! They were shocked and I knew they worried about me.
But it was not difficult to get to England. Once I signed the contract with the Polish work agency they secured a job for me, a place to live, and also transport to England.” says Jola.
Arriving in England Jola quickly realised the English she had learned in school, and the English in Sheffield. was vastly different, among some other things that were not how she expected…
“You have two separate taps in one sink, for hot and for cold water, carpets in the bathrooms, no electric plugs in the bathrooms, and English people wearing shorts while I am wearing a coat and hat…Because it is winter!,” Jola jokes.
Heading off to England alone I wondered if Jola ever felt scared or unsafe, and Jola says that while she was technically alone, many other polish people came through the same agency, and there were ten of them living in one house.
“We travelled to work together so I didn’t feel alone. I felt quite safe. Every second week we finished work at 10 pm, so at this time I didn’t feel very safe to travel back home on public buses, but that I would feel in every country I guess.”
At first Jola went to England on a 3 month contract, but returned to England again when she was 23 to stay for 5 months, and then made her final and longest continued stay in England when she was 25, living and working there for 6 years.
“On the first contract I worked a lot, I wanted to save a lot of money. Gradually with time I made friends, people I cared about, so I spent my free time with them. However, I still always counted the days to go on holiday, usually to Poland or Portugal.”
I felt like I didn’t live in the moment but was always waiting for something. The job I had didn’t give me much satisfaction so I decided to do something interesting in the afternoons.
That was when I started Zumba classes, Portuguese classes and acting classes, which was the best thing I did in England.
I love the people I met in England, I loved the freedom and independence I had in England. I didn’t like the weather and there is mould in almost every house.”
I wondered then, once she made friends and had something to feel passionate about, did England ever feel like home?
“I got used to the country and I felt comfortable there, but it never felt like home in England, “ says Jola.
“Maybe I didn’t let myself feel at home there. I knew I went there only for a while. I always missed my family, my real home.”
Jola says that home for her is a place with her family, and after living in England for 6 years Jola returned at the end of last year to Poland, the “place where she feels safe, a place with traditions”.
Moving overseas at the start of her 20’s gave Jola a lot, and changed her a lot, and she is certain she will never be the same.
“ It gave me independence. I have learned many new things. I have met many different people. I see the world in a different perspective. I believe I am an open minded person now.”