Anthony Kyprianou is a British Cypriot IT engineer and a travel enthusiast based in Warsaw. He moved to Poland 4 years ago, having spent most of his life in the UK. Little did he expect that the Polish adventure would make him want to finally settle in and put down the roots.
What’s the story behind your dual citizenship?
My mom is Irish British and she went to Cyprus with the army during the Turkish invasion in the 1970s. That’s how she met my dad who was in the Cypriot army at the time. I was born in Cyprus but when I was about 1 year old, we moved to the UK and that’s where I was raised. I definitely feel some Greek heritage running through my veins, but I’d say I’m really native British.
How did you find yourself in Poland?
I initially came here for holiday with my close friend Richard. It was his birthday and we caught some cheap flight for a weekend in Wroclaw. Long story short, I ended up going to a bar by myself and meeting a guy. And there was just this instant attraction between us, so eventually I extended my stay to spend more time with him and went back home a week later. We stayed in touch and after a while he visited me in the UK. At the time I was planning to move to Cyprus for some time and he said – ‘Why don’t you just move to Poland and we’ll see how it goes?’ So, I took a leap of faith and came to Wroclaw. And it was a brilliant decision. I lived there for 2 years and then I moved to Warsaw for work. I’m very happy here and I was not expecting that.
I did a lot of traveling before. I even spent 3 years in Australia and never have I ever thought about settling somewhere else than England. I used to be a little bit of a drifter with a strong base in the UK – I was always just jumping on the next plane to check on another place. Then I came to Poland and I really loved living in Wroclaw (it’s such a beautiful city). And now I enjoy living in Warsaw even more! I just feel like I want to stay here. And I even got a dog! /laugh/ Her name is Gypsy and, as opposed to her name, she is a truly grounding force for me.
What’s the main difference between living in Wroclaw and Warsaw for you?
I struggled a little bit with meeting people who spoke English in Wroclaw. They of course did, but not well enough to have kind of a deeper connection. When I decided to give Warsaw a try, that changed completely. Before in Wroclaw I was asking people if they spoke English. In Warsaw I had to stop doing that because I felt I was offending them a little bit. /laugh/ Everyone just seemed to be shocked by that question – ‘What do you mean, if I speak English, of course I do!’ /laugh/ So, as a foreigner I think that Warsaw is a much better fit in terms of work and meeting people.
What is it exactly about Poland that you like so much?
There are a lot of things, but my answer would be – feeling home. I’ve been living here and feeling happy for quite some time now and I was thinking about what it is about Poland that makes it possible. I couldn’t really put my finger on it for a long time and then I realized it’s a sense of being home, feeling that you belong, which is a really strange thing to say for me. I’ve never really felt that before. And I did even try living in Cyprus and, even though my family is there, it still didn’t feel right.
What’s your personal experience of life in Poland as a gay person?
People ask me about this a lot, especially my British friends who want to know why Poland is so homophobic and my answer always surprises them. My personal experience has been nothing but great here. When I first came to Poland it was the time of protests against the new abortion law and I vividly remember seeing all those crowds on the streets – almost all generations of straight and gay people, women, men, kids, families. It really brought tears to my eyes and it was really wonderful. The picture of Poland painted in the media has nothing to do with how the society functions and how people treat each other here. Sometimes it really shocks me how the general climate of life in Poland is misrepresented in the news. Sure, I’ve heard about some cases of homophobic or racist behaviors but they happen everywhere in the world. Of all the countries I visited, Poland really is the safest. I have never experienced difficulties here because of showing up with my partner and I have never felt excluded because of that. I always try to show this beautiful side of Poland to everyone I know, especially through my Instagram.
How about England – do you miss it at all?
I honestly don’t. I traveled back for Christmas and I even thought I was going to see if I would maybe consider going back. I immediately slipped back into some kind of pressure – everyone is very stressed there, especially after Brexit. I feel like living there really wears people down.
Certainly, the work culture and commuting are much more challenging in London…
Definitely. I don’t think anyone in Poland would even consider commuting for like 1 hour. They would rather change apartments to live closer to work. /laugh/ And in terms of work or rather general lifestyle choices – Poles have much more in common with Australians. They are much more outdoorsy people than the British. They go to the mountains, they go to the seaside, they ride bikes. Poland is such a vast land with so many different kinds of terrain and nature. There are just more possibilities here and much less tension in general. People enjoy their lives and that’s what attracted me here as well.
What about things that are not that great about Poles? Anything comes to mind?
The one thing I struggled with at the beginning here was that I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t really connecting with people, at least not how I would have liked to. The answer was that when I first came here, I thought people were really rude and blunt. And being British I really couldn’t understand that. I was very confused as to why they were being so rude to me, but after a while I understood more and now I kind of think that you really need a little bit of both – more politeness but also a little bit of bluntness too. Everyone can learn something from others.
What would you say we should try and learn from each other – the Poles and the Brits or the Cypriots?
Poles are very stoic and this is what I’m learning from my Polish boyfriend every day. I guess that speaks more to my Greek temperament. He’s just so calm and that really chills me out, keeps me grounded. But on the other hand, he can be too serious sometimes. And that’s when I get to teach him how to laugh more at himself or the circumstances – to cheer up!