Tuesday, January 19, 2010

All about Poland

Some time ago Jason Renshaw wrote a memorable post called ‘Tell me about Turkey.

Actually, it wasn’t the post but the comments that created a major storm in the blogosphere. Some people got offended, the others had only positive impressions to share.

On the whole, what I’ve read gave me a lot of food for thought. One of the conclusions I came to was that we all seem to glorify our own motherland, especially having immigrated to a different country.

Poland is a nice place to live in or visit but it surely isn’t heaven. I’d also risk saying that the state of ELT is pretty good there. You can’t teach English without qualifications, for instance.

Yet my opinions will always be subjective. That’s why I’d like to know what you think about it.

What’s you first impression of Poland?
Are there any stereotypes about Poland in the place you come from?
What’s it like to be a teacher there? What are Polish students and schools like?
How about Poles themselves

Both positive and negative comments are most welcome J


  1. Here are some diffrences I've noticed between Poles and Brits. They're generalisations of course, but in my experience mostly true.
    1. Poles wear hats and coats in winter. Brits don't and them wonder why they get cold.
    2. Poles eat the green part of spring onions. Brits eat the white part.
    3. Poles shake hands every time they meet. Brits only the first time and never with family or friends.
    4. Poles drink very weak tea with lemon. Brits drink very strong tea with milk.
    5. Poles think draughts and breezes are unhealthy. Brits think they're healthy.
    6. Poles often work from 7-3. Brits often work from 9-5.
    7. Poles and Brits eat at completely different times to each other.
    8. Poles don't eat bread and potatoes or pasta together. Brits do.
    9. Poles are mostly mono-cultural. Brits are mostly multi-cultural.
    10. Poles are probably more conservative than they think they are. Brits are probably less conservative than they think they are.

  2. I love living in Poland, i'm proud to be British but I wasn't excitied in the U.K. in Poland it's different, I feel an energy of optimism.

    Teaching is demanding here, you can't just walk into a job and people know the difference between a good teacher and a bad one.

    but I disagree with Julian on one point, I still see loads of girls wearing skirts in the winter! how do they do it? I feel guilty walking around in my duvet sized jacket...

  3. Oh! You ask some very good questions...

    First Impressions - Dark, cold, misty, "what have I done?", large concrete style apartment blocks dominating my view - a little nervous to tell the truth.

    Stereotypes - No, actually. Because I had never thought about living there until I was there, I didn't really hear or take notice of any stereotypes. The only thing I was told a few days before moving there (by an English fellow) was that the food was "stodgy"!! (Ironic really!)

    Being a teacher there - Exciting, challenging, a learning experience in itself. It was a time I will always refer to as a reference point as it was my first appointment!
    Students - In General enthusiastic, inquisitive, fun, enjoyable, respectful and insatiable in their need to learn...I think any subject, not just English.
    Schools - I only worked in a private language school and a local high school - both I found I had to battle through (as in people in charge assumed I could understand the baffling systems and Polish! In the end I worked it all out, but it took some struggling through!), but I enjoyed the experience in the end.
    The Poles - Funny, warm, hospitable, enjoyable, lovely, entertaining, welcoming. I felt more welcome and helped by all my students than my DOS at every step of the way (even though my DOS was Polish also, I guess she felt a bit above the "ordinary Pole"??). I loved my time in Poland and go back there often!
    Also, I agree with Secret agent - Polish women have an uncanny ability to wear very short skirts in very cold temperatures...a skill I could never master!
    Great post Anita!
    :-> Shonah

  4. It's true - I've never mastered wearing a short skirt in winter either. Must be because I'm English.

  5. I've never mastered it either - does it mean I'm not Polish? ;)

    Thanks for the comments guys!

    Are there any bad experiences you've had?

  6. I'm not sure that people really do glorify their motherland that much, only (as you said) when they have emigrated somewhere else or feel that it is being attacked. I certainly prefer Britain much more when I'm not there and although I'm by no means a patriot, I will stick up for it if I feel it is being attacked unfairly!

    I've lived in Poland for the last two and half years and will try to give my balanced honest perspective.

    My first impressions of Poland was that every other car seemed to be a Fiat Bis (which was a very old small car that my Mum used to drive). Compared to England there were also a lot of high-rise flats and more graffiti was visible.

    I suppose in Britain, the stereotypes of Poland are that it it's very cold (definitely true this winter), grey (not really true, especially judging by all the pastel colours to be seen in an average Polish city) and has stodgy food (well yes, but talk about the pot calling the kettle black!)

    I suppose Polish people are also thought to be a bit miserable (might be true for old people but not everyone else), have poor English language skills (true I'm afraid but it's changing slowly) and are hard workers (true in the UK, not necessarily so in Poland).

    As I've only ever worked in Poland, it's difficult to compare schools here to other countries. I'd say Poland has both it's fair share of well run schools and it's fair share of not so well run schools. There's certainly a fair number of Callan schools which is always a bad sign in my opinion.

    Again, it's difficult to compare students - I've taught lots of Italians in summer school but it's a different environment and so comparisons aren't really fair. I would perhaps say that teenagers are generally more studious here than in England and there seems to be a lot of pressure to do well in exams.

    And Polish people? Well, like British people they can be a bit reserved and it's quite difficult to get to know Polish people well. It is true that they're not known for their politeness and friendliness towards strangers.

    I would also agree with 10. of Julian's post. The Catholic church still seems to have a huge influence over society and let's face it, the Catholic church isn't particularly liberal.

    However, I think there is divide in both generations and in rural and urban areas. There was an interesting documentary which you can see on You Tube which I think reveals a lot about attitudes in Poland towards religion.


    I also think that Polish people like complaining a lot! Nobody is as critical as Poland as Poles themselves. Whether it be about roads, corruption or whatever. There really are a lot worse places to live.

  7. Dear all,
    I too followed the Turkey Comment War with fascination especially since I've never been there and don't know any Turks.
    However I did live four very happy years in Poznan, Poland. Apart from a certain northern Europeans diffidence and seriousness, and rather unphotogenic cities (blame Hitler and Stalin for that), my memories are entirely positive:

    Fantastic students, a very cosmopolitan urban middle class, gorgeous girls, snowboarding near Zywiec, the duck with dumplings, the pancakes with cream and berries, the vodka in the unlabelled bottle with the wax seal... y tak dalej. I could go on all day.

  8. Thanks a lot for the comments!

    I agree with everything you've written but the 'gorgeous girls' part is by far my favourite ;)

  9. Well, I've only been to Poland once and it was only for like 15 minutes because I climbed a mountain in Slovakia and crossed the border. That's right, I illegally entered Poland and so I had to spend my time hiding from the authorities :) All I saw was mountains, snow, and ice.

    Other than that, I am 50% Polish and there are a lot of Poles in Wisconsin. Like the comics above, I heard hundreds of Polish jokes usually commenting on a supposed lack of intelligence. 99% of these jokes I heard from my father, uncle or grandfather though as Americans could care less if you came from Poland or not.

    The Polish people I've met in my travels have definitely been some of my favorites though. They are always up for a good time and tend to have a very interesting perspective on life that I largely identify with.