How to become more European in Poland?7. 11. 13
You can actually say that I’m very close to Poland, because I was born in Warsaw in 1988 when my parents came here for work. Both of my parents are Vietnamese, but right now I almost feel like I’m more European than Asian. Nonetheless I’m still very close to my roots, and I respect the Vietnamese culture and traditions.
In my opinion I know how to cope with two different cultures because growing up I was living in Vietnam and a bit in Poland. But for the most part, my life was attached to Vietnam. Right now Poland is my homeland, and I feel very comfortable living here, although my childhood here was not always bright; there were times when kids were very rude and would mock me because of my race. This was especially the case in the primary school, where children know no limits. I had some very hard times, but I managed to find some good friends who would take my side and protect me.
When I was younger it was very hard for me to understand the other children’s reasons for laughing at me, but now that I’m older, I realize that when I was in primary school, in the early 90’s, it was a time when a lot of Vietnamese were coming to Poland, and we were something totally different to Polish society then. Before that, the Polish weren’t used to seeing Asians on the street, and they didn’t eat in Vietnamese restaurants or buy clothes from Vietnamese sellers. Reflecting back now, the Polish weren’t bad; they just weren’t used to us.
Now 20 years later I feel there has been a big change. Polish people are a lot more open minded, and it is almost as if they learned to appreciate different cultures and are willing to get to know about other individuals’ countries, languages, and traditions. In regards to me, I can say that my Polish is fluent, and when I speak with somebody on the phone at work he or she would never think that I’m a foreigner. It’s always a big surprise to them when they see me eye to eye. But it’s always a good kind of surprise. They start asking me how I know Polish so well and whether I like the Polish people and living in Poland. This curiosity is so much more present now than it was in the past, demonstrating how much the Polish here have changed in their perception of foreigners and how much they like to discover new things.
Even though I’m a last year student of International Relations at Warsaw University, I still feel that there are difficulties in obtaining documents that legalized my stay in Poland. Universities offer very good opinions, and it is worthy to study there especially if you consider your working plans. Studying in a foreign university provides a lot of perspectives, and you can be proud of your diploma.
I started to live alone at the age of fifteen because my family was living in another country in Europe, but I wanted to be here in Poland. At that time, I had many reasons for wanting to stay in Poland. One of them was that I really wanted to study in Warsaw and live here on my own. Moreover I knew that I had many friends here. Another reason was I had a high possibility of working with people whom I trusted and liked.
I had to learn the procedure for legalizing documents, and it wasn’t that easy in the beginning.
Everybody who came to Poland before 2009 remembers what a nightmare it was to wait for his or her turn at the Office for the Foreigners in Warsaw. People would come at 5 in the morning to stand in line because there wasn’t any order in taking numbers; it was first come, first served. Although that method is logical, there were some people who would come before anybody else, take 50 numbers, and then sell them, so the only options you would have were to either buy the number from them for about fifty zloty (about 330 crowns) or arrive to the office at 5 a.m. as well to wait for your turn. I still remember how horrible it was in the winter when it was minus 25 degrees to be there at six in the morning and having to wait until eight.
Fortunately after 2009, small changes were made to the registration system of Office for the Foreigners in Warsaw, and the process is now much better. The most effective change is being able to book the visit beforehand and not needing to wait, so there is no longer chaos in the office. Even so, I think the verifying process is still very complicated, and there are too many requirements. Because I didn’t live in Warsaw for 20 years consecutively, I don’t have a residence card, and every year I have to apply for a new one, which is a big burden for me.
It’s not only my opinion that the system here poses us foreigners a lot of trouble and obstacles. I wish the system could support us better and especially help the foreigner students in more ways because it is we who are willing to bring something good to the country, Also, even though I have good grades, I don’t receive a scholarship the way a European citizen typically would, and it disappoints me that schools judge us based on our parentage as opposed to our knowledge.
I would love to stay here, work, and have my own family because all in all, Poland in my opinion is lovely with very nice and good people, and the country is amazingly beautiful, life is peaceful, and the food is just great. There are things I hope will change in the future for the better, and I do believe they will. As of now though I really enjoy my job, as it gives me a lot of opportunities to develop my diplomacy carrier, travel, and stay in touch with my origins.
Lai 25 years, 10 years in Poland