Saturday, September 24, 2011

Managing my expectations Part 2

Martin put his stamp of approval on the list from yesterday. It was a fun exercise. Most of the elements came from a bunch of emails from some very generous souls, who have shared their ex-pat experiences with me. It was eerie and at the same time reassuring how many points were almost word for word the same from complete strangers answering my question of, "what's it really like in Poland."  And as much as the list and the accompanying paragraph were a bit, how should I say, general, the spirit of the exercise came through.

So now I have a different list. While I have gotten many emails detailing the little idiosyncrasies of Poles, the cultural norms which seem foreign and at times undesirable perhaps, I have also gotten a lot of encouragement about how much I am going to like it there, and why. I also have my own memories and perceptions, and here it all is, in list form:

- Poles are chivalrous
- Poles are hospitable and warm
- Polish food is delicious
- Poland around the holidays is beautiful
- Poles are loyal
- Poles are spiritual
- Poland is beautiful
- Poland is safe
- Poles are determined
- Poles are hard-working
- Poland has an undying spirit
- Polish schools are rigorous and challenging
- Poles take time to enjoy the little things
- Poles can talk about "real" things
- Poland is "the savior of Europe"

I'm not gonna lie. I am not looking forward to the negative or difficult aspects of the culture. I have expressed to Martin several times that I am worried that if the general attitude of the country is sort of a downer or I have to worry about a pretentious bus driver correcting my Polish around every corner, that I may just become a depressed mess. Discouraged and beaten down by all my inadequacies and faux-pas's and at the same time, the general feeling of just not "fitting in."

The funny thing is, I have never actually experienced a lot of the negative cultural tendencies that Martin and others have warned me about. In fact, I would be more inclined to pass along my little "happy list" above than yesterday's post. My experience has been of Martin's family in Poland. A happy and content group of people, always welcoming and warm, ready to give you the shirt off their back if you feel even the slightest chill. They are devout, and good. The men kiss your hand and open your door. The women care for your children and fill you with delicious food. They love unborn children and the elderly. And the youth, at least the ones I know, really believe in something.

I can't figure out yet if I will be able to see all of the good for all of the not so great.The beautiful forest, for the crooked and thorny trees  I hope I don't become bogged down in the "you just can't do that in Poland" and press on to the "well, if you're gonna do it after all, I'll help you til it's done." I hope I will be able to brush off the cold and the dark and the paranoia. And embrace the undying spirit that lies underneath it all.

And, in keeping with the spirit of yesterday's post (which just means silly Youtube videos). Here's a cheerful little diddy that our family loves.


  1. All of the above - true. You are going to have such a great experience moving here with your husband and children. You will understand your husband more and add a new dimension to your family.

    If you want to get your exposed beams "fix", I've posted something just for you on my blog.

    Take care

  2. It's going to be great, Olivia. Polish people love to downplay things, and then you discover that they're wonderful and beautiful and smart and delicious but somebody was just afraid they'd sound like they were bragging :)

  3. I think I am just imagining the worst always so that I can be pleasantly surprised in the end.

  4. Hello! I'm from Poland, I’ve found your blog quite recently.

    I would advise you not to take any generalizations for granted. It relates to your previous entry as well. Remember that every society is diverse when it comes to social backgrounds, norms and belief systems. Poland has it's flews and highlights just like every other country in the world!

    You shouldn't burden yourself with too many preconceptions. They might do more harm than good. Come here, live here, observe and draw your own conclusions!

    I would never claim that any of the observations in your mentioned is entirely true or false in regard to Polish society as a whole. In each society in the world you will find certain people that do exhibit these traits. The best thing to do is to add a quantifier in front of each of these sentences.

    It may take you some time to get used to Poland, but don't be afraid of differences once you get here! Embrace them all, the ones that you will appreciate, as well as the ones that you won't be too fond of! It's the only way to experience an adventure in a foreign country!

    Take care and don't worry so much! ;)

  5. All good advice! And I'm not too stressed...these are just musings after all, everything is meant to be a little tongue-in-cheek. ;)

    Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!