My second month in Poland is winding to a close, so it’s time to check up on me again! Have I got homesick yet? (Spoilers: Maybe.) How’s Krakow treating me? Has Tinder offered to sponsor my life yet?
This is a series in which I chat about my life abroad as a Finnish expat and talk about the cultural differences I encounter, difficulties of moving out of my home country and anything else that goes with being a stranger in a strange land. You can read the first part here.
March 4. Sunday – Bye Bye Prague, Prague Goodbye
Leaving Prague today to go back to Krakow. I must’ve been the only traveller in Europe who’s never been to the city, but now that feat can be added to my CV, too. And I loved it – the city is so beautiful and full of quirky, bizarre things. I could’ve photographed every single building there. Next time I need to drag an Instagram hubby with me so I can get some of those fashion shots of me, too. You know the ones: girls posing head sideways in front a colourful wall, ever so slightly holding onto their hat.
Read more: 5 Bizarre Museums in Prague, Czech Republic
Confession, though: Poland has absolutely ruined me.
The Czech Republic, as most Central and Eastern European destinations, is dirt cheap compared to Western or Northern Europe. (Will never not feel those 13 euro airport sandwiches in Stockholm in my soul.) However, it turned out to be slighly more expensive than Krakow. And by slightly I mean – What do you mean dinner costs five euros here, in Poland I can have that for three! Plus the admission fee to pretty much anywhere is an abdominal six euros! How’s a girl gonna live like this??
I only realised how warped my sense of money had become on my last night when I enjoyed three courses and a beer in a local restaurant. The 400 coruna end bill had my poor heart in pain until I did the math and realised it all came to 16 euros. 16! In Finland you’d be lucky to get just the main course for that price.
Next weekend I’m off to Zakopane in the Polish Tatras with some newly-made friends, and the weekend after to Budapest. After that, a friend from Finland is coming to visit for the weekend, and after that I go spend Easter in Lviv, Ukraine. No rest for the wicked and the wandering, aye?
March 10. Saturday – Sí sí Zakopane
So it turns out that the only other non-native Spanish speaker who was supposed to tag along on the weekend getaway can’t come after all, and I am just left to my own devices in the wilderness with nine Spanish people. Some of whom don’t really even speak English. Is this gonna be FUN or what.
This time our destination is Zakopane, a base for exploring the Polish side of the Tatras mountain range. Since it’s just two hours south from Krakow, technically you could visit it in a day, but that involves getting up at 5 a.m. so uhh, nope. We managed to score a rad apartment for two nights, and even though tensions ran high last night when we struggled to find a restaurant that would seat ten people (I get very cranky when I am hungry, and Spanish are very, very slow at walking & making decisions at the best of times), we’ve managed to survive together so far. Tonight we’re actually throwing a tiny house party at the apartment. Boy oh boy am I looking forward to never have I ever in Spanish. It’s awkward enough to have to ask someone to translate for me all the time anyway – I’m sure it’s not gonna be any better when they have to explain never have a I ever done coke in an intercontinental jumbojet orgy to me.
To be honest, though, a part of me is glad that I am forced to speak Spanish all weekend. I have actually studied it for many, many years, but since my learning has been very inconsistent, I keep losing my Spanish skills at frequent intervals. Maybe I should try and practice a little more diligently, not only when I’m locked up on a mountain with no other option. All Spanish and no English makes Jack a dull boy.
March 13. Tuesday – Is Krakow home?
Here’s the thing about Krakow.
Krakow is a really cool city. I love how many things there are to see and explore (even though I still haven’t really done anything – oops), and because it’s cheap, I can focus on my favourite kind of sightseeing. That’s cheesecake, folks. And anything with peanut butter, really.
I’m also glad to be living in such a huge Erasmus city. When I did my actual student exchange last year in Brazil, the receiving univeristy only had a tiny international department – there were only six exchange students in the whole damn place. I feel like I’m having my true Erasmus experience now, despite being less of a student than I have ever been in my life. And that’s great.
But from the get-go, the city hasn’t felt like home. You know how some places you just feel. I know I felt right at home in Australia and South America, and in a few other places too, but Krakow didn’t evoke any special feelings in me. I don’t know exactly how to explain it. It’s like all the pieces of the puzzle are there, but then you start putting them together and notice that they just don’t form a coherent picture.
I went out with a Canadian today. He’s got funky hair and mad guitar skills, and best of all, he can (mostly) keep up with my rapid-fire chit-chat. He really hates this city. I almost want to defend it against him but I don’t really have any ground to stand on. He says he doesn’t feel comfortable here, like there’s a dark energy to the place. You can’t blame the poor boy, though. He got followed with some guys in hoodies when he went out to get food at night. As much as I joked to him about being on the Polish mafia hit list, frankly, that is scary as fuck. I think he just got unlucky, though. If there’s something I can say in Krakow’s favour is that it’s an incredibly safe city and I have never felt any kind of discomfort or threat, even walking alone at night.
So while I don’t completely agree with his doomsday mentality, I have to admit that he might be onto something. Maybe it’s just the city’s dark history haunting the streets. It almost feels like something is simmering right underneath the surface.
I’m glad I got the opportunity to come here and live here for a bit, but after my four months is up, I’m fine with moving somewhere else.
March 14. Wednesday – Are you happy yet?
The World Happiness Report 2018 was released today and, as my social channels have relentessly been telling me all day, Finland is number one. I am so proud of my small little country. U go Finland. U go.
Related or not, seems like absolutely every travel blogger on my Instagram feed has just been to Finland and they are now posting pictures from there, and although it’s the regular Helsinki-Lapland axis, I’m still drinking up their stories to the last drop. It is strange, this little tingle of homesickness; I’ve never missed Finland much on my travels, but this time it must be different since I have decided to not go back after my internship. I think being abroad just makes my native land seem all the more special to me.
Not a lot of Finns move abroad – I mean, there’s only 5 million of us, not enough to share with the world – so out here I’m unique. If you forgot my name, you could just call out, ‘Yo! Finland!’ (Although I’d be more likely to be referred to by my red hair since my British accent still confuses people enough to make them doubt whether I just made up Finland altogether.) I am so proud of my little country that I just want to tell everyone I’m from there. It’s like those jokes about how to spot a vegan. All you need to do is mention anything slightly related to Finland and even despite my bad hearing, I will pick it up from miles away and come running like, ‘so me being Finnish…’ Anything does it, from Sandstorm to Nokia. If you haven’t heard me explain how Cillian Murphy & co. were rescued by Finns at the end of 28 Days Later, have you even met me? The other night I squealed over an Angry Birds poster.
I actually heard Finnish spoken live for the first time in weeks while I was in Prague. I asked a man in the park to take my picture and he asked me where I was from, and turns out he’s from Helsinki. There were so many Finniah people in Prague. (There were four in the sex machines museum. I low-key followed them around hoping to catch somethign embarrassing.) Every time I heard Finnish, I whipped my head around faster than that girl in The Exorcist. I am happy with my life abroad – I am more than that, I am so glad I am able to make this life for myself whatever way I want, but Finland is my home. It is only natural that I miss it and all the unique things that come with it.
March 16. Friday. ‘Give me one good reason why I should never make a change…’
Budapest is my fourth trip in as many consecutive weekends and I can’t help but feel that it’s time to brake down a little. I’ve stayed in Krakow for almost two months now, and I’ve never even seen the inside of St. Mary’s Church. I decided to take Budapest easy: get to know people from my hostel, pub crawl through the famous ruin bars, just in general not stress about life or travel that much. It’s my second time in the city anyway; first time I came here seven years ago with my family, so I’ve already seen most of the important sights.
The weather added to my sluggishness. It rained for two days, although lucky enough the nights were dry, which made going out a lot more pleasant. I can’t wait for proper spring. It’s like the whole Central European weather is going haywire at the moment. Just earlier this week Krakow had 17 degrees Celsius, and now we’re dipping back below zero for some more snow. Game of Thrones is not even relevant at the moment, the winter can stop coming now, please. Winter, you’re making yourself look bad.
I think I probably wasted too much money on food and drink in Budapest. I had a great hamburger, though. No ragerts.
(Sidenote: I only realised after I had already got back from Budapest that I totally forgot to listen to George Ezra’s song Budapest while I was there and felt bad.)
March 19. Feels like Monday (because it is)
I’m back in Krakow! As work’s starting later today, I went grocery shopping in the morning and realised that I still get lost in this same damn supermarket I’ve been coming to for six weeks now. They actually moved their stock around some a while ago; now pasta is where cookies used to be and I can’t find anything anymore. Even basic stuff like soy sauce is hidden in specialty shelves by the bacon fridge! And what’s up with this ever-changing stock? I bought Reese’s cups a few weeks ago but now they don’t have those anymore. Are they just stocking up random things they find in the storage? ‘Oh, look, mystery groceries! Let’s sell those!” Where them Reese’s though?? I WANT MY PEANUT BUTTER FIX.
I think this just goes to show that Poland and me are simply not made for each other. I really, really like this country, but maybe in the future I will have to focus on travelling it, not living in it. (Just a few weeks earlier, the corner shop by my place closed over the weekend without any warning. I came home one day and it was just gone.) I’ve been thinking a lot about the future, or more like the lack of it. I know I want to travel this summer – which reminds me, anyone out there wanna hook me up with a cheap tent? sleeping bag? motivation to hit the gym? – but after that, I just don’t know.
I’ve applied for a translation internship at the European commission in Brussels but so far no word from it. I check back on my application regularly. If I got it, I’d be moving to Belgium for five months, which would be absolute ace in terms of my career and future plans since then I’d have a life plan until next February. But a part of me is kinda sceptical I’d actually get the internship. So many people must apply for it, and let’s be honest, someone who knows French or studied politics is way more likely to get picked.
The best thing would be to find a part-time job somewhere cheap and warm (or a full-time one since after the summer, I’m probably gonna be hella broke… again) to earn me some sweet sweet cash, and then spend the rest of the time focusing on building a life as a freelance translator and a writer. And I’d really like to give the blog some more love, too. South and Central America are reaaaally drawing me in… But I’m not sure I’m done with Europe yet. There are so many cool places to live here. Spain? Croatia? Greece? Who knows. It’s gotta be warm this time, though. (Says she, applying for an internship in Brussels.)
In the meantime… Anyone know where I could score some Reese’s cups?
That’s all for now! Check back in a few weeks to see if a) I’ve been murdered by the Polish mafia or b) they have made me their queen and now call me Godmother.
How’re all you doing? Any exciting plans coming up ahead?