Dear readers, in this article I would like to share my views on pros and cons of emigration to Poland.
There are two sides to every coin, and similarly, it is possible to find both positive and negative aspects of every new situation. Where should I start? It may sound banal but we should remember that we live in the era of globalization: the world is shrinking, the boundaries disappear and electronic networks allow people from different continents to communicate.
The decision about emigration is usually well thought over. However, according to the proverb “Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched,” obtaining a visa, getting on a plane and believing in a miracle are not enough. The problems arise after many years.
From the sociological point of view, the emigrant of any origin has four different options in a new country:
- Assimilation or total rejection of their former language, cultural experience and communication with former compatriots. Completely unconditional acceptance of a new culture.
- Separatism or the desire to preserve as much of the traditions and values of their homeland as it is possible. Living in a foreign country in their own small community.
- Integration or the attempt to combine the best features of the culture of their homeland and the culture of their new country.
- Marginalization or rejection of both cultures, gradual degradation of a person(1).
It is believed that the first 3 years of the adaptation are the most difficult, especially for caring people. … They might think that they should go back home: that people, culture, food, even air are foreign here – they are not what they used to be like at home. For such people, it is extremely difficult to acknowledge a new country as their new home. This is true especially for the older generations. Living under stress, they cannot find their place and adapt to the new situation, because they are still attached to their former habits, which often no longer match their new living conditions (3).
Separation from the family might even result in the end of the marriages. According to some experts, the reason for the divorces among the immigrants is their social or professional unfulfillment. In most cases the divorce is initiated by a man. The reasons are obvious. In their homeland people can easily find a job and determine their place in the society. And everything changes so quickly once a person finds themselves in a different environment. They become “the other” they feel helpless and unwanted, their life becomes uninteresting; sometimes it seems a failure. Such a person loses their interests and hobbies. Their plans often do not apply to the reality. These negative reasons lead to numerous conflicts among the family members, which then leads to the complete breakdown of relations (4).
People in the West are believed to be “cold,” focused only on their personal interests, and polite in order to get rid of another person. I think that this opinion is mistaken. We should remember that in some cultures, people live in conditions of social collectivism, whereas other cultures can be characterized by individualism. It is necessary to adapt to the new situation and to assimilate some values that are important in a place where we want to build our lives.
I remember the first time when I went to Germany to take part in an international conference. The meeting was to take place in Mainz. I came to Berlin, and then … I did not know what to do next. I do not speak German but I am a communicative person and I know that I do not come from another planet. I approached two people speaking Turkish and asked them where I could get on the train to Mainz. It may seem strange, but ”my brothers in culture” pointed me to the right direction using hand. At the railway station I met two Poles who were very happy to meet an Azerbaijani speaking Polish. They saw me to the right station, helped me buy a ticket and in the end they sang “JeszczePolskaniezginęła” (“Poland has not yet perished,” the first line of the national anthem of Poland, “Dąbrowski’s Mazurka” – translator’s note). I got off the train in Mainz. There another difficulty arose – how to get to the building where the conference was held? I must have seemed lost because I was approached by a German woman with some health problems. She was limping. She had a beautiful face and a nice smile. She just came to help me. She asked if I needed help. She did not speak English, she addressed me in German. I showed her the conference programme. She told me to follow her and in silence we were looking for the building. Mainz is a nice city. I was admiring its monuments and my guide was smiling at me. She was moving with difficulties, she was limping and just kept telling me to follow her. On the way, I told Helena (that was her name) that I came from Azerbaijan, that I was a journalist and I studied in Poland. She was just smiling but I felt safe with her. In silence, she led me to the hotel where my meeting was to take place. I was very happy. As farewell, I raised my hands and told her that I would pray for her soon recovery. She seemed moved. With tears in her eyes, she hugged me and quietly walked away. I have had many similar experiences in my life. I have been to almost every European country and everywhere I encountered nothing but kindness. It is important to be moderate and respect a different culture and, of course, the law of a different country. Also, the stereotype that people in Western countries are cold is false. In my opinion. And the West is not a different planet, although it strives to explore some of them.
And now – Poland. The “brothers from the post-Soviet region” have to take into account that this country really understands our problems. It understands what we are facing, it understands our common language, Russian (the language of “our older brothers”), it understands our fashion, culture and history. After all, in the times of Stalinism thousands of Poles were sent off to the countries of the USSR. As far as 25 years ago Poland was facing similar problems. And it regained its independence. Although some countries of the post-Soviet region are thought to be building democracy, the truth is different. But it is a topic for another article.
It is believed that Poles love complaining. Always and everywhere. But I am happy. Let them complain, because my daughter, a Pole, can live in this country. Thanks to that complaining, Poles have accomplished many beautiful things in their (contemporary) history, which we did not manage to achieve in our countries.
It is all about the minimum of what every human needs – about the freedom of speech. Every day it is possible to hear both good and bad news in the Polish television. I think it is normal, because the country is alive. The newscasts are the best source of information, since they report the most important events at home and abroad.
There is also the possibility to enter free of charge various interesting attractions which exist only in the European countries: famous museums, the monuments of the European architecture, or churches. For instance, during so called NocMuzeów (Eng. Museums at Night), all universities, museums, palaces, and even PałacPrezydencki (Eng. The Presidential Palace), are open for visitors.
What should be also taken into account is that each year there are competitions for the foreign students held in Polish universities. After graduation in Poland (which helps to get accustomed to the European culture) it is possible to enter every European university.
I would like to share one of my discoveries, something that I call “European aesthetics.” This means that after crossing the border between Poland and other post-Soviet countries, one can feel the difference. Drivers do not use horns and they let pedestrians to cross the street, people do not talk loudly and say hello and goodbye to each other in a lift. They do not paint trees blue and white or build high fences in front of their houses, they protect flora and fauna. There is no need to buy a lot of things in a shop – because it is possible to buy fresh products on the next day. Anyway, while staying in Poland, one braces oneself in a way, one does not want to stand out. Maybe that is why some people in the post-Soviet countries change their behaviour or even the style of their clothes after their return from Poland.
To conclude, I want to give the last piece of advice: before making the decision about emigration one should visit a country and get to know the two sides of the reality.
1) Emigration Is Not Limited To the Question of How to Do It, 18 December 2013, http://btimes.ru/emigration/problemy-emigrantov-za-rubezhom
3) The Question of Immigration. The Complexity of Adapting to the New Environment, the article based on the materials by Yuri Burłan: http://sashpsy.livejournal.com/20914.html
4) See: The Problems of the family on emigration, http://www.psychologskype.com/article/74-familie
By Dr Hijran Aliyeva-Sztrauch
Translation: Alicja Kosim