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A recent visit to Poland. First time after 12 years.


RoughFlavors 1 | 100
20 Apr 2012 #1
I just got back from visiting Poland for the first time after 12 years.

I have been regularly in touch with my family and friends throughout that time and, listening to them, I imagined some incredible changes must have taken place since. My excitement and anticipation to go see everything with my own eyes after over a decade was quickly met with disappointment, though. Here are a few observations:

1. While abroad, Poles still pretend not to be Polish. How sad.
2. Other than more signs advertising everything from "Instalacja Kotlow" to "Biuro Rachunkowe Estimate," a bunch of new banks and car dealerships, everything looks the same. In fact, the school I used to go to actually looked better back in 2000.

3. The use of English words is as ubiquitous as it is ridiculously out of place and incorrect (Biuro Rachunkowe Estimate - wtf?!)
4. People are just as rude and wary of strangers as before. One simply sticks out.
5. Nobody thinks twice about littering in the street, flower borders and containers are conspicuously devoid of vegetation but instead full of trash, There's spit on sidewalks. Nothing changed.

6. People complain about everything, as always. They were very proud to tell me about the new Galleria (a mall) but then proceeded to ***** about the prices there, in the very next sentence.

7. Roads are just as bumpy and narrow as before, sidewalks just as crooked.
8. Everyone wanted to know what kind of car I drove and how big my house was. As if they were keeping score.
9. When I was trying to tell them a little bit about the life in the US, it was either, "Oh, yes, we have that, too..." or "Stupid Americans." I gave up.

10. All the programs on TV were copied from western stations. Seems like there was no original programming, other than the news...
11. Clothes continue to be a status symbol. At the same time, everyone shops in consignment stores.
12. Travel agencies seem to focus mainly on third-world countries.
13. Finally, people look tired and pooped. My peers look way older and they seem disheartened. Nobody seems to truly enjoy their lives, everyone is worried and constantly fretting over everyday stuff.

I really don't care if anyone agrees with me or not, but the thought that I came back with was, if I escaped that and made it to where I'm now, I can do anything.
Hipis - | 227
20 Apr 2012 #2
1. While abroad, Poles still pretend not to be Polish. How sad.

Is this because they try and assimilate and try and respect the people of the host country? Brits and Yanks could do with a lesson in this.

I have been going to Poland on a regular basis since I was a kid amd since 2004 been going 4 times a year and I have seen plenty of changes. Even some of the horrible commie era tower blocks have had a makeover. Where did you visit? Oh, and your school has had 12 years of use since 2000.

3. The use of English words is as ubiquitous as it is ridiculously out of place and incorrect (Biuro Rachunkowe Estimate - wtf?!)

Yeah, I wish they wouldn't do that

4. People are just as rude and wary of strangers as before. One simply sticks out.

This sounds more like you have been to London. Are you sure you weren't in London, not Poland? Wow, you even found time to leave London and visit Yorkshire :)

7. Roads are just as bumpy and narrow as before, sidewalks just as crooked.

If they were smooth and straight then you'd say they were lifeless and lacked charachter.

8. Everyone wanted to know what kind of car I drove and how big my house was. As if they were keeping score.

They were sounding you out to see if you had room to take them in once they decide to emigrate :)

9. When I was trying to tell them a little bit about the life in the US, it was either, "Oh, yes, we have that, too..." or "Stupid Americans." I gave up.

Despite reports in the American press to the contrary, Poland is not a 3rd world country situated in the darkest depths of an Eastern European primeval forest. The outside world and 21st century consumerism has actually reached Poland.

How do you know Western stations aren't the ones doing the copying?

11. Clothes continue to be a status symbol. At the same time, everyone shops in consignment stores.

Paris? Milan? Madrid?

12. Travel agencies seem to focus mainly on third-world countries.

You mean like Thailand, Vietnam, Egypt and Alabama? ;)

13. Finally, people look tired and pooped. My peers look way older and they seem disheartened. Nobody seems to truly enjoy their lives, everyone is worried and constantly fretting over everyday stuff.

You mean your peers aren't the 1% the rest of us 99%ers work our socks off for so we keep them in their priveliged life styles?

I'm looking forward to flying out to Poland at the end of next month. I always enjoy my time there :)
MarcinD 4 | 135
20 Apr 2012 #3
In terms of mass changes, there was a lot from 90's - 2000's. In the past 10 years I haven't seen as many overall changes but Poland has without question become more commercial....for better & worse.

Littering is DEFINITELY something that sticks out to me when I compare my experience in US, Germany & Poland. Overall Poland just seems to be taking on more traits of Western Life.......for better & worse.

- Car/Home status symbols
- Weary of strangers trying to take advantage
- The TV programming

Not sure where you call home but the ''rude/cold local Polaks'' is the normal treatment between people here in California. While we were crossing the Polish border (from Germany) & stopping for food with my cousin from Wroclaw......she commented on how rude the locals on the typical tourist stopping areas were. To me it was the usual American treatment but for her it was unacceptable. Comparing Polaks to Germans.... I think you would be naive to not notice a subtle difference in SOME city areas. There are ''proste" or in English ''simple'' Polaks which we would label village people. Ignorant to the world around them (Usually shaven head). There is a reason that I've gotten in fist fights in Poland & not other European nations. But ultimately it depends where you visit IMO. The more suburban the place.....the more proste Polaks you will encounter. And considering the smallest city I spent extended time in Germany has been Hannover....how can I compare? My father had the same depressed outlook when he visited his hometown for the first time in 8 something years. He said the people were still doing the same crap & complaining about the same problems but I think this is the norm for most ''little suburban/village people''.

When I was in Poland last year I remarked to my family & friends about how each street corner has a Pharmacy & Liquor store (irony)

My experience & what I'm being told from family members still living in Poland is that the talk of ''Poland being the most improving Economy in Europe'' is a two sided sword. Yes Poland is becoming more wealthy BUT who is benefiting from the wealth..... as poverty levels in Poland are out of wack. Poland would probably be wiser to slowly rebuild in a more North European way vs Western Europe.

The EURO CUP coming up in a month will be huge. I really hope Poland comes out looking well as a whole.

On the subject of Polaks pretending to not be Polish. The 2nd post made a great point that Polaks make much better immigrants than other cultures but that in some ways means you have to leave your past culture behind. In terms of the Polaks in San Diego.....this is very apparent. My questioning of American policies & Capitalism (Rat Race) puts me in the minority within this group. On the other hand, I recognize that Muslims & Jews are connected through religion but you can't compare the immigrant social circles. Polaks are constantly competing against each other (Well I immigrated this year & look at my car outside). This is especially obvious in the only Polish Church (community) in San Diego. The competition between families was rather sickening. On the flip side you have Muslims & Jews who have trouble assimilating but yet help each other out.
OP RoughFlavors 1 | 100
20 Apr 2012 #4
Let me explain the piece about Poles pretending not to be Poles. When I was waiting for my connecting flight in Frankfurt, I noticed a Polish looking guy. Then he pulled out his cell phone and called his dad to tell him to pick him up when he arrived in Katowice. In Polish. Then he sat down next to me and pulled out a book. In Polish. But when I said Dzien dobry, he pretended not to understand, and replied in German. I laughed and I asked him why he was reading a book in Polish, he said, "Ja sie ucze polski." So I replied, Jak sie polski ucze to dzien dobry umie, nie? This had nothing to do with assimilation. It's just an inferiority complex.
Sebastian 6 | 108
20 Apr 2012 #5
1. While abroad, Poles still pretend not to be Polish. How sad.

I don't know about every Pole, I guess its like that with every nationality. You will have Germans, French, British, Americans, Filipinos, etc, pretending to not be their nationality. Its in every country and culture. But maybe a reason as to why some Polish people pretend not to be Polish could be because of an inferiority complex. I used to be ashamed of being Polish, but not anymore. I WILL admit, there are certain things about Poland which I am ashamed of. I wish Poland could be like a normal Western European country, which is highly developed, wealthy, with less backwards peasants, and less clowns in the Sejm, and less Catholic influence in politics and society, but right now its not. In the future it will be normal, hopefully. But overall, I am not ashamed to being Polish, but there are certain aspects of Poland which I am ashamed of.

2. Other than more signs advertising everything from "Instalacja Kotlow" to "Biuro Rachunkowe Estimate," a bunch of new banks and car dealerships, everything looks the same. In fact, the school I used to go to actually looked better back in 2000.

Hmm, I disagree with you here. I have been to Poland in 2001 and 2011, so I have seen some big developments and changes in these 10 years. yes, there are still things which have not changed very much, but regardless, there were changes. New motorways, Stores, bridges, airports, train stations, and many renovations to buildings and the parts of the old town. Although one thing which I believe Poland needs to do in 30 years time is demolish commie-towers. Many of them look decent with renovation, but many stick out like a sore thumb, and it gives Poland a poor and cheap look and feel. There are tons of new modern apartments and houses being built fortunately.

3. The use of English words is as ubiquitous as it is ridiculously out of place and incorrect (Biuro Rachunkowe Estimate - wtf?!)

I noticed this, but to be honest, it doesn't bother me. Its a bit strange, but I wasen't too bothered.

4. People are just as rude and wary of strangers as before. One simply sticks out.

Hmm, this one, you are somewhat right. I found that the most rude people were the older people, over 50 years old, and the very elderly. But the good news is that the young generation are changing. The teens, 20 something year olds and even people in their early 30's are nicer and friendlier than the older generation who lived through communism. Communism had a part in this I believe. For example, customer service. When my dad had to buy something in a store in the Galeria, the people working in the store were in their mid 20's, and they were very friendly, and the customer service was pretty good! I noticed that the older people working in stores provide ****tier customer service. But it is improving with the younger generation.

5. Nobody thinks twice about littering in the street, flower borders and containers are conspicuously devoid of vegetation but instead full of trash, There's spit on sidewalks. Nothing changed.

I didn't notice any littering when I went. Poland was actually pretty clean IMO, there was not much garbage and litter on the street.

6. People complain about everything, as always. They were very proud to tell me about the new Galleria (a mall) but then proceeded to ***** about the prices there, in the very next sentence.

Sadly, I agree with this. It is improving with the younger generations however. They do not complain nearly as much as the old people. But the older generations complain way too much. Thank God my parents are the exception. They never complain, and they got annoyed with relatives who were complaining. They just had a neutral face on the entire time, telling them to stop complaining and to actually do something about it :)

7. Roads are just as bumpy and narrow as before, sidewalks just as crooked.

It's quickly improving. By the end of this year, and the middle of 2013, there will be a lot of new motorways opened up, and I noticed local roads are improving as well. New sidewalks are being built, as well as tram lines. The roads are **** when you get to the small villages however. In the big city they are good, and getting better, but there are the occasional streets where they are incredibly bumpy. My uncle went on a roadtrip with his friends a year ago to Ukraine, and the roads there were like Polish roads in the 1970s lol, actually even worse. So he isn't complaining :) I still think however, that the motorways should be built faster, but hey, at least its getting there.

8. Everyone wanted to know what kind of car I drove and how big my house was. As if they were keeping score.

I noticed this as well. I actually sensed a hint of jealousy at times, when they asked me on the vacations I went on.

9. When I was trying to tell them a little bit about the life in the US, it was either, "Oh, yes, we have that, too..." or "Stupid Americans." I gave up.

I didn't notice this. I didn't notice them bashing Americans.

10. All the programs on TV were copied from western stations. Seems like there was no original programming, other than the news...

There are some Polish tv shows on air you know lol. They may not be the best in the world, but there are Polish shows.

11. Clothes continue to be a status symbol. At the same time, everyone shops in consignment stores.

Well obviously Polish people aren't exactly the best dressed Europeans, they are poorer people. At the same time, if one has the money, nothing wrong with buying nice clothes. Nothing wrong with wanting to dress good and wear the latest styles.

12. Travel agencies seem to focus mainly on third-world countries.

I didn't notice this. I'm sure some Polish travel agencies focus on all countries in Europe and abroad. But I did notice that my Polish relatives and a few friends over there, when they go to countries in Europe for vacation, they went to the poorest European countries for vacation. Instead of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Holland, etc, they went to Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Macedonia for Euro trips. They don't have much money, so they can't afford to have a 3 week Euro trip in Western Europe.

13. Finally, people look tired and pooped. My peers look way older and they seem disheartened. Nobody seems to truly enjoy their lives, everyone is worried and constantly fretting over everyday stuff.

Its usually the poorest people in Poland who look grim and tired looking. With a **** salary and unemployment, I'm not surprised really. But the middle class Poles and younger people look normal.
ShortHairThug - | 1,103
20 Apr 2012 #6
Let me explain the piece about Poles pretending not to be Poles.

Interesting theory based on a single incident. To be honest, I would do the same if I'm not in the mood for a casual conversation with a complete stranger on a long flight. Believe me I know your type, met plenty of them on a long distance flights, they have nothing to do and they bore you to death all the way through the flight. Have you consider the possibility that people would rather relax and not to have to put up with an annoyance like that? Food for thought next time someone gives you a not so subtle hint.
phtoa 9 | 236
20 Apr 2012 #7
People complain about everything, as always

Its not hard to figure that you yourself are a pole!
Foreigner4 12 | 1,769
20 Apr 2012 #8
Interesting that you post your personal observations and it seems to have irked the majority of respondants...you're probably on to something:/
MarcinD 4 | 135
20 Apr 2012 #9
Sebastian makes a GREAT point about the younger generation. In terms of Europe, I am not sure you will find a more contrasting group of older & younger generations than Poland. One example is the distinct drop in religion when it comes to the younger generation. Another being that people are FINALLY learning English in schools versus obviously Russian during Communist rule but also French as of recently. Hey I love France but comparing the benefit of learning French & English is not comparable.

I'm not saying the older generation are lesser people just that they grew up in COMPLETELY different times & that made them hardened, bitter & cautious people.
mactifosi 1 | 11
20 Apr 2012 #10
Sorry but you sound like a really strange person.
Why don't you tell us where you went?
In my opinion you are talking total bull****.
I am not Polish btw.

1. Poles pretending not to be Polish - sorry but what crap is that, Poles abroad stick out a mile.

2. No improvements, I have no idea where you were,must have been some village in the middle of nowhere.

3. In English we have borrowed many words from other languages - you used quite a few in your post lmao

4. I think people were just rude to you, to seem to have a condescending attitude which Poles ******* hate.

5. Littering - most Poles don't litter, it's one of the things that really sticks out here.

6. same in every country

7. true in some cases, but there have been huge improvements in main roads - country roads in the states are also ****.

8. same as in any other country

9. your condescending attitude again

10. same as in any other country

11. thank god we dress better than Americans, with some style - we have all the major European clothing chains in the major cities.

12. same as other European countries

13. you were not in any Polish city I know
OP RoughFlavors 1 | 100
20 Apr 2012 #11
Interesting theory based on a single incident.

I told that story to my family and friends when I arrived and they gave me tons of similar examples of when they were vacationing abroad and met other Poles who didn't want to be Polish. Lol, my mom told me about another airport incident in Milan, where she hear a family speaking Polish and went to ask them a question about something, and the parents pretended not to understand what she was saying but the kid replied to her in Polish, which earned him a smack in the head from his dad....

Besides, I don't see how a simple Dzien dobry can be an annoyance. It's basic politeness, imo. If two Americans met in a distant country, or two Germans, or two whoever, they would exchange a Hello.

Poles pretending not to be Polish - sorry but what crap is that,

LOL, dude, you obviously personally associate with Poland yet you make a point to say you're not Polish.

same as in any other country

In most countries I've been, it would actually be considered somewhat rude, almost like asking about how much you make or how much money you have in the bank.
nynicki - | 31
20 Apr 2012 #12
Its not hard to figure that you yourself are a pole!

Lol,good one,I got that impression too.Looks like her visit was a nightmare;)
I can not believe she didn't have any positive experience.
I go to Poland every year and sure lots of things that irritate me but overall the positive outweigh the negative.
Better luck next time.
OP RoughFlavors 1 | 100
20 Apr 2012 #13
I can not believe she didn't have any positive experience.

well, your assumptions are far from correct. I was happy to see my family, old friends, neighbors and some teachers. in case you missed it, my point was that not a whole lot has changed, and the changes that did take place were not all positive.
Sebastian 6 | 108
20 Apr 2012 #14
Just curious Rough Flavors, which village/small town in Poland did you visit?
OP RoughFlavors 1 | 100
20 Apr 2012 #15
none, as far as villages go. one of the largest towns in Upper Silesia, about 200-250,000 people. and a few smaller towns around.
Sebastian 6 | 108
20 Apr 2012 #16
I'm guessing Gliwice and Bytom. But those cities are shitholes, no offense to your city. Bytom is one of the ugliest cities in Europe. Many Polish cities are improving quickly, but Bytom still looks extremely worn out and gray.
OP RoughFlavors 1 | 100
20 Apr 2012 #17
Upper Silesia in general has never been the most picturesque of regions. Nevertheless, my family has lived, worked, and died there for generations, and I've always been proud of it. It is ugly there, but there is beauty in ugliness when you understand your history and your roots, and all the struggle and hard work that went into that ugly neck of the woods... I guess I just wish things had gotten much better over the past 12 years than they did.
nynicki - | 31
21 Apr 2012 #18
and the changes that did take place were not all positive.

I don't know about Upper Silesia I've been the only once,but the whole area looked kinda depressing:/
I visit mostly Wroclaw,and it has changed quite a bit.Beautiful airport,new football stadium,Rynek and townhouses nicely renovated,new Multimedia Fountain,Wroclaw Main Station is being renovated as of right now,lots of pubs and restaurants,even the dreaded Osiedla got a facelift.

Yeah people can be a pain,don't you know complaining is our national sport:)
The one thing I hated is people would bump or run into me and they just kept walking,no sorry,no smile,nothing.And how could I forget the annoying drunks either on the street,bus,trams,a real turn off.

Roads need improvement,I was scared to drive or be driven in Poland,but not so much because of the roads but all those crazy drivers.

You do have some valid points but I saw many positive changes,couple more years and Wroclaw will look like any Western city.
rybnik 18 | 1,462
21 Apr 2012 #19
Nevertheless, my family has lived, worked, and died there for generations, and I've always been proud of it.

My father's family too. The towns remain dreary it's true. The modernization, outside of a galeria here and there, hasn't reached the Zabrze's and the Zory's of the region. I do love the forests though......btw, I had recently returned to Wrocław and Upper Silesia last October after 25 years!


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