American-born Joy Ludwig-McNutt moved to Poland two years ago with her husband, and now runs the food and travel blog My Traveling Joys…
You’d previously spent years living in Istanbul. Warsaw must have been a bit of a culture shock…
The weather was the first problem. It was April 1st, 2013, and we left Istanbul on a beautifully sunny day. When we landed in Warsaw it was in the middle of a giant snowstorm. I wanted to cry! But you have to get used to it. The weather is what it is, you can’t change it.
How do the two cities compare?
Obviously they’re hugely different in a historical and cultural sense. Beyond that, the Turkish people are so much more hospitable, and of course I miss the spices. But everywhere we live I always end up leaving a piece of my heart and Warsaw will be no different – after two years I’m fully settled!
What did you expect to find in Warsaw…
I did not picture a modern city. I thought it’d be cold, grey and full of depressing communist buildings. All I really knew about the place was WWII. But it was a case of either moving back to the States or giving Poland a try so my husband and I went for it. The city did play up to stereotype initially, but then it’s a place that takes time. It’s not a city that will immediately blow you away. You have to explore the city, try and find its meaning.
How do you feel about the city now…
I don’t fit in here, but it’s become my home – I feel a bit of an outsider now whenever I return to the States. Warsaw’s an interesting place, not only because of its history but because of its future. It’s got so much going for it. I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy a 100% connection with the city, but that’s not to say I haven’t taken advantage of my time here. I love getting out and about with my camera. You have to explore. Nowadays I love Warsaw, I love it for the friends that I’ve made, both expat and Polish.
Is there anything that drives you mad…
Communication can be frustrating. Even though most young people speak English, and most people are accommodating when they hear your trying to speak the language, there’s always that one person who refuses to listen and just responds with a ‘nie ma’. And there’s public transport – it’s always about pushing, never an excuse me. But that’s a European thing in general!
You blog prolifically about food – what are your thoughts on Warsaw in that regard…
As a pastry chef food is my life! Back in Turkey the restaurants were obviously great at Turkish food, but here it feels definitely more diverse. I love that there’s so many restaurants here, there’s always something opening or closing. Of course, I love the local markets and the emphasis on local produce. But if there’s anything I miss about the States it’s a slice of New York pizza after a big night out!
You also travel a lot across the country – what do you think?
Poland is so underrated by the outside world and I don’t think enough is done to promote it. For example, I was blown away by Wrocław. It’s so much more genuine than Kraków and yet there’s hardly anything online about it.
What advice would you give to newbies moving to PL?
You can’t live in a bubble. You have to get out there, find your place, learn Polish. It’s not been easy, and I’ve shed a lot of tears in the process, but you have to get out of your comfort zone to bring the most out of this country.
My Traveling Joys