By Vartika Mehrotra Gakhar
In September 2016, I moved to Poland with my husband as he got a better job prospect. For a small town girl like me, abroad meant “America” since childhood. Never in my weirdest of dreams, I thought of visiting Poland but there I was, standing at the Krakow Airport. Destiny, as I call it!
A foreign land where I felt like an alien as I was familiar with neither people nor the language spoken there. As soon as I alighted from the flight, a breeze of fresh air hit my face and welcomed me warmly (read coolly). I would be lying if I say it was not love at first sight. And today, I love everything about Poland – from its rich culture to cuisine to the unpredictable weather and friendly
Moving to a country without the knowledge of local language is not easy. You struggle, you try to figure out ways to express and communicate without getting misinterpreted. I was no different.
The Polish language has special affection with the alphabets Y & Z as these are heavily used in many words and even names.
In a few weeks time, I got accustomed with the words like dzięki (thanks), smacznego (enjoy your meal), witamy (welcome), zapraszamy (welcome), Przedszkole (kindergarten) etc.
The pronunciation was another challenge and we took a few months to pronounce the word correctly as the spelling nowhere matches the pronunciation.
For instance, Dzień dobry (good morning) is pronounced as jane DOH-brih.
Dobry wieczór (good evening) is pronounced as DOH-brih VYEH-choor and Cześć (hi) as cheshch.
In the process of adjusting in the completely new environment, we came across many people with whom we communicated only through two languages!
Those were not Polish or English but the sign language and the language of love. And one such person was the baby sitter of my kids. With two infants in tow, I was going nuts manage everything alone – settling down, household
chores, kids and my job. So, we ended up hiring a babysitter, Kate and then began the real fun!
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Having nothing in common from culture to language to lifestyle, we struggled initially to understand each other till I excelled in communicating in sign language and later google translator came to my rescue. I would give her all the instructions wither by sign language or translating it on the app.
Kate was a Doctor and pursuing a further medical course. A white skinned girl with blonde hair and brown eyes, she looked no less than a fairy. And after knowing her professional background, I felt intimidated and find it quite odd asking her to assist me in household chores while kids were sleeping.
In India, I had always seen domestic helps in an absolute different state so it was never a problem dealing with them and seeking help. Here, it was totally opposite which came as a cultural shock for me.
Kate always insisted to work and offered helping hand in finishing all my chores be it laundry, dishes, vacuuming etc. Soon, I realized the difference and she embraced it. After 3 months, she had to start her practice in another city so it was time to say Bye to each other.
It was then we realized we had one thing in common – the love in our hearts and tears in our eyes.
Stay tuned to read more of my encounters with people in Poland in my next articles.
(An HR professional, travel enthusiast, blogger, painter and a mother of twin girls and author of a travelogue ‘Travel My Way’, Vartika Mehrotra Gakhar is exploring life in Poland. Views expressed are personal.)