Ten years have passed since my wife Nati and I decided to leave Poland to live abroad. At the time we didn't think how long it would last. After ten years in the Netherlands, Singapore and the UK, I still unable to answer that question.
Of course, it seems natural that everyone would like to live in their homeland. It's no different with me. But the years spent abroad have made me a little detached from it. They gave the impression that I no longer fit into the place I call my homeland. I'm a guest in it. My idealized image of Poland often does not match the realities that I have to face when I am there.
Nevertheless, I decided to describe a traditional, average citizen of Poland. I will try to make sure that this Pole, when we stand face to face with him, will not be so angry or suspicious that we do not know what to do - to punch between the eyes and quickly run away, or to catch his neck, squeeze and kiss?
In a book, I read some time ago, it says “There is only one more unhappy nation that smiles even less often than the Irish, they are Poles. “. After all, the book did not concern neither Poland nor Poles, except for this one mention, but the sentence hits the nail on the head. To be precise, the book is set in America in the 1920s, probably in Boston, and all Irish people may feel offended. However, there is no reason, because as you can see, there is a more gloomy nation.
Yes, a Pole passing by on the street is an unhappy sight. A grim man and someone constantly dissatisfied. He likes to complain - about everything and everyone, and the question “how are you doing?" is usually answered "so, so". He doesn't like and can't show emotions or externalize them. He's hiding them deep. Fear and sadness are out of place, and their public display is inappropriate and an expression of clownery. Laughter and joy are reserved for frivolous and irresponsible people. So, the Polish faces are dominated by seriousness and clenched lips.
Otto von Bismarck, Chancellor of the Second Reich was supposed to say “Let the Poles rule, they will finish themselves off”. Norman Davis, on the other hand, said “Poles are primarily patriots. Many times they have proved that they are ready to die for their homeland; only a few are ready to work for it”.
If you are going to war, which I do not wish for anyone, have Poles at your side, or at least make sure that they are not your enemies. It is a stubborn, extremely memorable and fierce nation.
The Pole fights and argues with everyone; with the neighbor, mother-in-law, with everyone who has a different opinion on any subject. In the discussion, he will admit that everyone is right, provided that it is his own right.
He belongs to a group of secretive and closed individuals, who, however, are very kind to any praise, whether it is for the nation, the country, the society or directly for the hero of this text :).
With tolerance for his differences, he is fragile, although he prefers to think of himself as being exactly the opposite. He accepts people of a different skin colour, but only if they do not get in his way, are obedient, penal and do not have high expectations, and most importantly, they do not object and do everything to be invisible. A Pole also tolerates people of all sexual orientations and rather does not penetrate into the emotional life of others. Perhaps because sex is an embarrassing subject for him. However, it is important that such people do not show affection in public places and do not emanate sexuality.
THE POLE DRINKS A LOT
In this particular case, the words refer to Poles, but in principle, the opinion applies probably to the majority of the inhabitants of the so-called Eastern Bloc countries.
If the verification of the thesis were based on my person, I could say - nothing more wrong. I don't want to bleach. After all, alcohol was created for the needs of people and like many people, I also like to drink. However, not intensely enough to make my person a confirmation of opinion. Yes, yes, Poles do drink alcohol. But more than other nations? I would say that in comparison to some societies and the level of alcoholic collapse that I have seen, the Pole performs poorly. Almost like a church choir boy.
So why did the Pole earn such a low-friendliness of PR? Until recently, Poles tasted mainly strong alcoholic beverages. The leading role, like the party and socialism in the former USSR, was played by vodka, sometimes spirit. Currently, which seems to confirm the survey results, Poles drinks less. The model of alcohol consumption has also changed. A Pole drinks it less and more often moves towards low-percentage alcohols. He likes wine and drinks more and more beer.
POLE AND RELIGION
Poland is a Catholic country and a Pole is a very religious person. Another stereotype describing Poland and the Pole, which I had the opportunity to come across many times during conversations. Often my attitude to the question of God, faith, church causes surprise. How come? You come from Poland and do not believe in God, Jesus?
But yes, Poland is a seemingly very Catholic country, and a Pole is someone seemingly very God-fearing and deeply submerged in the Roman Catholic faith.
Why seemingly? Because looking at the issue from the side, following media reports that reach abroad, you may get such an impression.
Poles visit churches in large numbers and willingly participate in religious ceremonies. However, this is more of a cultural rite than a spiritual one. Participation in a Sunday mass in many homes is usually a routine, a kind of event, and to a lesser extent a question of reflection, need for community or communion with God. It is such a phenomenon, a kind of social spectacle, quite incomprehensible for a foreigner without any additional explanations.
For this occasion, a Pole dresses festively and penalizes himself in the church. It's like hoping that God will check the attendance list there. Religiousness of the Pole is rather indulgent and devoid of deep reflection.
In turn the church, as an institution, has won special favours and has a strong position in social and political life. In times of the so-called “iron curtain", it was treated more favourably by Polish authorities than institutions of this type in other countries of the Eastern Bloc.
Although it has been subject to constant control and censorship of activities, it has nevertheless enjoyed a relatively large margin of manoeuvre.
The humanitarian aid sent to Poland from Western countries went through church institutions. Under his wing, the banned opposition activity often developed. This made the position of the church very strong, although the contribution and the actual role in the opposition activity were significantly mythologized. Moreover, the position of the church was strengthened by the election of Karol Wojtyła as the “Polish" Pope John Paul II.
Although the faith of a Pole may raise doubts, one should not mock his religiousness. This is a sensitive point, because a Pole treats his spiritual affiliation very seriously and does not allow to joke about it.
In general, jokes that affect a Pole, Poland, Polishness, Polish customs, vices, traditions, history, etc. should be extremely cautious. The Pole has a low level of acceptance of jokes on this ground. He is very sensitive to his own ego, to his own pride, and treats jokes - especially those duplicated by foreigners - as a kind of insult to honour.
Not just my own, but the harm done to the entire homeland in this way. He is convinced of the historical role of the Polish nation and I do not advise anyone to rectify this reasoning. That is why it is easy to offend him and he can quickly move from extremes to extremes - from worship to hatred.
POLE AND OTHER NATIONS
A Pole certainly loves America. We don't know why, we don't know where it came from, but he loves America with platonic love. What's funny, he's pretty sure that America reciprocates.
He is rather suspicious about people of Arabic origin and anyone with a skin tone other than white. It also has limited trust in the people of the United Kingdom, whom it treats as traitors. Great Britain is still accused of abandoning aid in 1939 when Hitler's Germany attacked Poland. He has a pretty mockery opinion of the French.
The former Eastern Bloc countries are treated with superiority and contempt. He feels a sentiment towards Hungarians, built on the historical past, but he cannot explain it exactly. He likes to tell jokes about the inhabitants of the Czech Republic. He is not a fun of Germans and Russians, but only in an anonymous version, as an impersonal crowd, because if he meets one of them on his way, he will host them as best he can.
About twenty years ago, when as a young boy I was visiting the Royal Castle in Warsaw, a guide told us that people who assimilate with Poland and Poles the fastest are Italians. They grasp our culture, language and Polish reality most quickly, without forgetting their roots at the same time.
All I've written so far is a big generalisation. And although it is a base for studying social phenomena, I am aware my words are a bit ridiculous and in many contexts exaggerated.
So, there is a contradictory image of a Pole, if you take my words for granted. What to praise our Pole with? Yeah, I'm sure there are many things.
Poland was the first country to crumble the concrete of the socialist system in the region, and “Solidarity"; forced the regime's government to talk and make concessions in order to achieve the first free parliamentary elections after World War II in 1989. Again, unfortunately, as a result of mutual animosities, internal disputes and the fact that one of the two is diminished by the other, the fact has been completely forgotten on the world's pages of historical memory. It is remembered, however, that the fall of the Berlin Wall is considered to be the limit date of the end of the Eastern Bloc era. And it happened long after the events in Poland.
And although sometimes it is difficult to imagine and pin it together, recalling the earlier words treating a Pole, it happens that he can be gallant. Despite the fact that Poland is a country with quite traditional views in terms of male-women relations; a country dominated by patriarchy, where women still have a relatively weak social position, a Pole is able to express - perhaps sometimes for a show or for the need to value himself - his chivalry.
I appeal to myself because some behaviours I will mention in a moment are not customary in other countries, they are not encountered. Holding a door entering or leaving a woman's room, letting her through first when she enters, offering help if she is carrying something heavy, etc. I do not see similar reflexes in other nations, and these manifestations of this Polish gallantry, I say specifically in my case, meet with a nice response, often with a smile and disbelief.
And finally the famous Polish hospitality. If you have a Pole among your friends, I suppose you have managed to experience that. Poles are quite eager to visit their friends' homes. If they invite a guest to their house they are able to give him/her almost everything. Guests are the most important at home and must be satisfied and pleased.
I end my story about a Pole here. Is that someone nice? I think it's best to find out for yourself what I'm trying to convince you to do. A Pole is not as scary as they describe him :)