This post will be the first of a few about dating abroad as a Western woman. In this post I explore the general cultural backdrop of the dating scene in Poland.

Having only lived in two other countries other than the US, this post will be limited in the scope of its observations. I wish I had the chance to live in at least one modern Western country other than the US to draw some true parallels.

But I haven’t, so…let’s talk about Poland.

Poland, all things considered, is not Taiwan.

Warsaw has a huge expat population and with an increasing number of international companies setting up shop in Poland, it will continue to grow. I’m not even going to count all the thousands of kids that come in on the Erasmus program or other educational programs to pursue higher education.

The EU’s influence is slowly expanding in Poland, and with the current open borders, Poland sees many travelers they have not before. They are seeing foreign-raised Poles that are returning home, much like I did, to scope out the scene and the opportunities. More Poles than ever before are traveling and living abroad. When they return home, for better or worse, they bring with them the cultural ideas and influences they have picked up abroad.

Poland is racing to modernize itself and change is in the air. Construction is occurring in every corner of Warsaw, Krakow, and other major cities. Efforts are being made to use EU assistance to improve Poland in a multitude of ways, such as in their treatment of women in the workplace, workplace rights, infrastructure, rights and assistance for the disabled, education, and medical care. Poland looks to the West and it is becoming modern.

But though change is in the air, only so much change can happen in twenty years. It took me a while to put my finger on the issues when I first moved there and longer to understand aspects of the Polish mentality. I assumed, like others with my background have done, that having grown up in a Polish household, I reasonably knew what to expect, culture-wise, when I moved to Poland. Well, that was a big mistake.

I didn’t realize how truly American I was until I moved to Poland. One of the things I embrace about American culture is the culture of feminism. American women have fought the good fight, and continue to do so, to gain equality and acceptance in every aspect of life. From work place rights, diminishing wage gaps, the right of choice and contraception, the rights to equal treatment, sexual rights, the right to not be abused and raped, and financial rights.  The entire spectrum of rights that women in America enjoy…I’m behind it 100%.

So you can imagine the unpleasant shock I got when I moved to Poland in terms of how women are treated.

Poland is very traditional. Poland is very Catholic. Poland is like stepping back into the 1950s in the US. Poland is a land with outlawed abortions, poor sexual education, and limited contraceptive use. Poland still asks women if they are married or planning on having children when women are interviewed for jobs, so that companies can weed out undesirables. In Poland, my students told me, they were blatantly passed over for jobs and job promotions based on their gender and were told that this was why they weren’t hired. In Poland, the issue of fertility treatments is still being debated, with threats from the church being mailed to the government as late as 2011.

In Poland, men are trained to think of women as the weaker sex. They have fancy manners (which I love) when it comes to opening doors, standing when a woman comes into the room, offering her a seat on the bus and all that good stuff.  I have to admit that I, personally, love these types of manners.  I see no conflict with having a man show me the respect I deserve  as a woman, and still treat me like an equal.

Polish men are raised to be the strong silent type to the nth degree. They consider themselves to be providers, heads of the family, leaders in their relationships. Polish men expect to do the approaching when it comes to relationships, they do the courting, they don’t like women to interfere with that role. Polish men are hard.

Polish men can’t give a woman a compliment to save their lives.

In all fairness, not all Polish men are like this. I met plenty that weren’t. I met plenty that I respected, that I thought were not just good human beings but also good men. I met some guys that loved to cook, and I met guys that treated their women like princesses. I knew several Western women personally, that dated or married Polish guys and were happy about it.

So that’s Polish men.

Polish women are strong, sexy, highly educated, extremely competent and amazingly beautiful. They lead difficult lives where they are still treated as the minority, take on the majority of the domestic work, are the primary caretakers of the children, manage the home, and often the household finances, and they look damned good while doing it.

It is no surprise to me that Expats flock to Polish women. Whether is the beauty, the snotty Polish Princess attitude, the sexiness, or the sheer work that Polish women are willing to put into their relationships, it seemed that every Expat guy I met was dating or married to a Polish girl. Many, in fact, moved there to be with their Polish girlfriends, or wives.

The sad truth is that there are many Polish women out there that lose their shit when it comes to Western men. Walk into any bar or club and speak just about any foreign language fluently, and women will be all over you. I’ve heard tons of stories from guys, including my brother about women being all over them in the clubs. I’ve witnessed it on countless occasions. There are many girls that considered having a Western boyfriend as something to be to be proudly displayed in front of their family and friends.  Whether it is the perception that Western men make more money, and thus can be better providers, or simply that they treat their women more kindly, or just the idea that they are somehow strange and exotic, whatever the reason, Polish women go ape shit over foreign men.

You find these women everywhere. Bars, clubs, and every Expat event you could imagine.Why were they even there? An Expat event is for Expats, one would think. Seldom, would you find flocks of Polish men at these gatherings, but Polish women?  My friends and I always knew which ones came for honest culture exchanges (there are those that do) and which ones came on the prowl. It was so obvious. Upon being introduced to a foreign women these ladies would not acknowledge us at all and size us up with calculating eyes, or briefly speak to us and then immediately home in on any men speaking English. The sluttyness of their dress, their provocative manner, circling around the men like choice pieces of meat; they might as well have carried a sign.

That makes it tough for Western women. If you don’t want to date into the local culture, then options are limited. And the options that are available are fascinated with the locals, and most emphatically, not with you.  If you’re a typical Western woman you’re pretty casual in your dress, relaxed, and are trained to wait for a man to approach you.  Girl, you gotta learn to ruthlessly compete.  

You might think that this works both ways. That local men would be just as interested in Western women, but it doesn’t.  Some are. Most are not. Many Poles consider Americans and Brits to be sloppy, fat, slovenly, lazy, and just too damned uppity to deal with.  There is no doubt in my mind that many thought of me that way.

The Expat lifestyle, by its very nature is transient, and not especially conducive to forming relationships.  Many men and women just aren’t in a place in their lives where forming strong attachments is a good idea. Why bother when you’re only there for six months or a year? Short term dating and friend with benefit arrangements I’m sure you’ll be able to find.  But if we’re honest with ourselves we can admit that most women don’t want that. They’re tough to maintain without feelings getting involved.

So, yes,  it’s difficult being an Expat woman. No question about it. It’s a lonelier road then you might ever imagine.  For women, it boils down to your values, and how flexible you are about them.

Me. I’m not flexible at all, and I don’t want to be. I shouldn’t have to be. I won’t be.

Every Expat woman out there has their own take on dating abroad and these are mine.

I would love to hear some of your stories.