It may be that you have only recently come to Warsaw with your family, you don’t know Polish and are wondering how to cope with all the things you have to do: how to choose an interesting place to live; where to send your children to school; how to take out health insurance for the whole family; how to obtain a Polish driving licence so that you can drive your children to school; is it necessary to get a babysitter for your child, and if so, where to find her; where to buy fresh vegetables; where to enrol on Polish language classes, and, most importantly, how to get in touch with people who speak your language or at least English?
First of all, it’s important to find a support group, a group of people whom you can trust because they speak your language and have been in a situation similar to yours; people who could give you some advice, drawing on their experience of coping with similar problems, and share their practical knowledge with you; people who would like to spend some time with you, even though you don’t know each other well. It’s really important to find your own „flock,” a person or a group of people to whom you can entrust your problems or with whom you can just talk. All beginnings are difficult and frequently accompanied by frustration. That is especially the case when you have to use a dictionary or an electronic translator in order to communicate basic needs. The good news is that there are several such groups in Warsaw.
I am going to give some examples. Be sure that you will easily find your place in one of them or maybe even more than one. You may also want to attend meetings of different groups interchangeably, taking what is best in each of them.
I recommend the Mum's and Tots of Warsaw Group to mothers with small children as a place where they can get answers to many questions. The group brings together mothers and fathers (not many of them, unfortunately) in order to enable them to spend some time with their kids and other parents. It is an international group, but there are also many Polish mothers, who have been attracted by the possibilities of meeting interesting people and exchanging valuable experience and information. The group meets once a week and organises various charity events, workshops (for instance, music classes, walks with or without prams etc.) or interesting information exchange programmes. On the Facebook profile of the group, you can buy and sell things for children. It is an important space for non-working mothers who speak English and would like to do something together with their children or are looking for a babysitter, a pediatrician, or specific services and goods for their kids.
Membership is free. In order to get further information, go to the Facebook profile and website: http://www.mumsandtots.pl/.
International Women’s Group is another group addressed to women. It is a closed group set up by women from all over the world. It has been operating in Warsaw since 1982 as one of many similar local groups spread all over the world. It brings together nearly 200 female members from 59 countries.
In order to be admitted to the group, you should pay an annual membership fee of 250 PLN, which entitles you to take part in weekly meetings and language mornings with coffee (there are meetings of discussion groups in Polish, English and Spanish at the moment). The group also organises walks, wine tasting, workshops, meetings about cuisine and many more. The group is perfectly organised; it has a regularly updated Facebook profile page, a monthly newsletter and its own website http://www.iwgwarsaw.eu/
On the website, you will also find important information concerning the city where the group operates. The group is made up of different subgroups, for instance International Women’s Working Group Warsaw, a group of women who work in Warsaw, have no time to meet during business hours, so instead have supper together after work. IWG is a dynamic and diverse group bringing together women of different ages. What they share is that they all live in Warsaw. They meet to share their experiences and spend some time together.
If you work, you may lack time to have a morning coffee with your friends. Consequently, you may feel like going for a beer with other expatriates, who could share with you information concerning work opportunities and offer new contacts. If so, The Professionals In Warsaw group is for you. The group has profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn as well as its own website: http://www.meetup.com/Professionals-in-Warsaw/.
The group brings together nearly 400 people from all over the world, including Poland, various specialists working in different fields of business: in services, finance, PR, HR, also lawyers, designers and many others. The group members go for a drink every Wednesday evening. From time to time, there are also weekend meetings (when the weather is fine), mostly for people with children and dog lovers. The Facebook profile offers a possibility of exchanging important information. On the Facebook wall, group members can post up-to-date information concerning job offers, property rental, sale and purchase.
Last but not least, there are lots of groups addressed to specific circles of people. For instance, the community of Spanish women has its own group in Warsaw, Wassap, Varsovianas. In order to join it, you should get a special invitation. Further information on the group is available in Spanish on the website http://warsawexpats.com/. Italian women have a similar group, DIVA, quite active on Facebook and its own website http://donneitalianeavarsavia.weebly.com/. The group is part of Italiani in Polonia, one the oldest associations of foreigners in Poland. The association organises monthly meetings, so-called “aperi-cena,” a combination of aperitif and dinner, as well as special events, for example charity carnival balls. The association publishes its own magazine, Gazzetta Italia, the only magazine published both in Polish and in Italian. You can contact the group via Facebook and its website http://www.italianiinpolonia.org/.
If you want to meet people and have no Internet access, there are still many opportunities to strike up new friendships in Warsaw. Many countries have their cultural centres here. There are also such organisations as the Spanish Instituto Cervantes, Italian Istituto Italiano di Cultura, German Goethe Institute and The British Council as well as many other institutions operating at embassies, consulates, churches, mosques and other temples. They offer language classes, meetings and discussions, film festivals, workshops, recitals and many more. Warsaw hosts various cultural events. Even if these are not the events you expect, coming from other EU member states (there are no famous museums), there are still various possibilities of spending your free time.
If you’re a night owl type, you should visit clubs, restaurants, tasting rooms, discos, coffee bar clubs and others similar places.
If you’re a sports fan, you can take up yoga, climbing, rowing, polo, cross-fit or squash classes or go to one of the modern swimming pools. The city offers a variety of classes in different languages as well as classes for children.
If you’re more of an intellectual type, you can look for trainings, workshops or discussion groups. There are two famous film festivals and other, less popular ones, known mostly to local connoisseurs as well as music classes and festivals organised. The list of events organised in Warsaw is a long one and shows that all have a chance to find their own “flock” here.
Most importantly: never say die, stay logged in, search!
You can certainly devote yourself to your old hobbies in the new place. Don’t give up your interests and favourite activities! Create a circle of interesting people around you to support each other and share your experience.
This may help you to feel at home in the new place.