The Monty Python refrain ‘Always look on the bright side of life,’ written over 30 years ago, remains one of the best pieces of advice ever given, but sometimes it is easier said than done, and especially when you are far from home and living in a foreign culture.
I asked Krakow expats to share their thoughts about how they cope with life’s adversities while living away from family and old friends. Michał, an Englishman with Polish roots, was one of the first to answer: “Expats tend to look out for each other, they exchange stories and offer advice and support each other,” he said.
There are more and more social groups and initiatives that can help foreigners feel more at home in Krakow, including the Krakow Expats group on Facebook, InterNations, the Krakow Post’s own social events, and the International Women’s Association of Krakow, which has over 100 members from all over the world and meet regularly to socialize, exchange skills and enjoy themselves.
According to Spanish expat and friend of mine, Javier, this may not be enough for less sociable personalities: “If I seek counsel, I turn to friends, but for people who happen to be more introverted, counselling sessions and workshops might be a good idea.” None of the more than 20 people I spoke to had heard of such services being offered in English outside the corporate world, but they do exist.
According to Joanna Satuła-McGirr, a psychologist, psychotherapist, and a former expat herself, people who move to a new country often suffer from ‘adjustment difficulties.’ This term describes a reaction to a stressful event or change in circumstances, and is characterised by a depressed mood, anxiety, problems related to job or school, physical complaints and social isolation.
The most vulnerable expat group is made up of spouses or partners who gave up their professional careers, or whose life role changes significantly because of the move. “Men usually comes here following a career path, and with a new, exciting job comes stress but also structure and work colleagues, whilst the wife often has to put off her own professional development. Initially, she is faced with social isolation and may struggle,,” said Joanna.
Moving to Poland can feel like landing on a different planet, with its language regarded as one of the most difficult in the world, poor customer service and the need to relearn the simplest things, from finding a doctor to finding brands of food you are used to. A counsellor can make dealing with such huge life changes much easier.
But workshops, trainings and coaching are not only there to help you when you are up to your ears in problems. Even if you consider yourself an expert at overcoming difficulties, there is always space for personal development, improved relationships, a better connection with your inner-self, more peace of mind and deeper self-acceptance. Karla Peronio, who is leading a transformational Heal Your Life® workshop in Krakow in July, describes it as: “a life-changing experience to support your growth and enhance many aspects of your life so that it can be even more prosperous, wealthy, abundant, happy and healthy.”
If you feel like you could use a professional helping hand to overcome difficulties or simply enrich your life, below is a short list of English-speaking professionals who will be happy to help.
Joanna Satula-McGirr is a psychologist, psychotherapist and counsellor specialising in depression, stress, anxiety, phobias, eating disorders and adjustment difficulties. Having lived and worked in the UK for 10 years, she has first-hand experience of expat life, and feeling like an expat in her own country (www.krakowcounselling.pl).
Karla Peronio is a certified and licensed Heal Your Life® teacher who leads Heal Your Life® workshops (based on the work of Louise Hay) internationally. Her next workshop in Krakow is on July 6–7 (www.magicallife.fi).
Celestyna D. Osiak is a success coach for women entrepreneurs. She also specializes in Soul Coaching®, which is intended to help you discover your purpose and align it with your life so that you can experience fulfilment and happiness (www.celestyna.pl).
Magdalena Skomro is a Gestalt counsellor and Nonviolent Communication specialist with a deep knowledge of multicultural working environments and broad experience of working with foreign clients (www.egestalt.pl).
Jack Panster is a certified psychotherapist from the Gestalt Institute of Toronto and runs individual therapy sessions and group workshops in Poland and abroad (www.gestalt.haller.krakow.pl).
The PraPełnia personal development centre offers both individual sessions and workshops conducted in English. They have an upcoming event, called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, to be led by Michael Sanderson this autumn (www.prapelnia.pl).