Culture Shock :: Poland

28 08 2008

The Polish culture hasn’t really been all that difficult to get used to. Which may be why we’ve stayed here for almost two months now. However, there are always going to be some things that stand out at as a little different. Maybe not better, maybe not worse… just different. Here are a few:

:: Staring Contest ::

One of the first things we noticed while traveling in Poland is the free and seemingly mandatory Staring Competitions that the locals offer you while walking down the city streets. At first we thought this may have been because of our big backpacks and maybe our general style of dress. Though slowly we started noticing that we received these stares regardless of the variables in which we tested. Shoes/Sandals. Pants/Shorts. Backpacks/Day bag. Etc. The stares were the only constant. These aren’t the kind of stares we’re used to in the U.S. either. They aren’t threatening, friendly or accidental (normally U.S. stares are either intimidating, coupled with a smile and nod, or the starer immediately looks away once they realize you saw them looking at you – either accidentally or curiously ). Here in Poland the stares are intentional and seem either curious or neutral but either way, the Polish always win the competition. I suppose they are just more open about their curiosity of others?

:: Well Behaved ::

Unlike American’s who believe the world is a stage and we are performing, the Polish are much more well behaved in public. It’s rare to see kids running around screaming and climbing on benches, fountains, or trees. It’s not likely that you’ll catch some young adults roaming around drunk and stumbling over each other while screaming out obscenities (we did see one older drunk guy the other day, but other than his stumbling he was quite orderly). At first, someone used to the U.S. would assume that these people are all unhappy and boring because of the lack of smiles and laughing in the streets. However, once you get used to the way the Polish act in public, the loud obnoxious British-stag parties start to seem very… well… loud and obnoxious. And once you get to know a Polish person or get them in a more private setting, they definitely loosen up and make you feel right at home. Just try not to be the over smiley (not a lot of smiling on Polish streets), loud, obnoxious tourist and you’ll fit in fine.

Granted these probably aren’t all Polish people, but try to find a smile anyway. This was a festival in Gdansk.

:: Cabbage and Beets ::

The addition of cabbage and beets into almost everything is the most noticeable food difference when coming from an american diet. Similar to the corn addicted diet of the United States (with it’s cornflakes, corn meal, corn chowder, corn on-the-cob, cornbread, high-fructose corn syrup, etc) the Polish use Cabbage as an ingredient in or as a side dish to almost everything they eat. I’ve even heard that they even put it in their burritos at the “Mexican” restaurants out here. As for the tasty and colorful beets, they come in soup form, side dish form, and even sugar form (I think they may

even use it in their soda instead of high-fructose corn syrup that we use?). I have never seen so many bright purple colored foods in all my life and I’m not sure how I’ll live without them when I leave. Oh so tasty. In this difference I think the Polish win, cabbage and beets are a healthier addiction than corn which can barely even be digested.

Polish beet soup Barszcz and a Polish Burger with Cabbage of course.

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2 responses

28 08 2008
dad

How much would anyone smile if they knew they were destined for a lifetime of cabbage and beets as a major portion of their food intake?

Just kidding. I actually like cabbage and I like beets. I’m sure they do all sorts of creative things with them and I couldn’t agree more about their being much better than corn in any number of facets.

As for the staring, it’s my experience that in some subtle way we Americans always somehow reveal our national identity. The Polish citizenry probably just doesn’t want to take a chance on missing the opportunity to observe some of the strange/unfortunate behavior for which we Americans are internationally famous (see: ugly American). We’re counting on you and Gage to let them all down (although a certain train-related activity probably went a long way toward reinforcing their “strange behavior” bias!).

29 08 2008
greenunicorn

I’m pole. First think what is appearing in my head after read this text is: LOL 🙂
Especially after read part about Cabbage and Beets. Maybe I didn’t pay attention at the amount of cabbage and beets in my diet, but I think you a little over-color it 🙂 For instance about soda from beets, I heard that it exist but I never seen it.
Anyway, It is very interesting to reed about “my world” from different point of view .
I see you write more posts about Poland, I have to reed it later.
ps. sorry for my English, it can not be the best.

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