After eight months living in Poland and also after travelling throughout whole Poland (I travelled Poland more than many Poles), I think I got enough knowledge about this amazing country so I can write a bit of how life is in Poland.
Many people intending to go abroad ask me about Poland and it's not good to just reply them: "Poland is really cool!" - I have to explain why.
First I have to say that this is my second time in Poland, I was here during february and march of the year 2007 to work voluntarily on a project about tolerance. We had a team of twenty five people from abroad and also a polish staff who arranged all the partnerships with schools, preparations for us and all support needed. During those two months I travelled many small cities and villages in Poland, always being hosted my polish families, which is, definitely, the best way to get to know polish way of living and culture.
Polish people are very receptive to foreigners (as much as Brazilian people, or sometimes even more). They even have a common proverb that goes: "Gość w domu, Bóg w domu" -- meaning: "Guest at home, God at home ". Enough said. They like to pay a beer or a shot of vodka as gesture of courtesy. Even somebody who had met me for the first time offered me such courtesy. As far as I concern, good manners consist on the gentlemen inviting ladies for a drink (and paying, of course) -- Sometimes it happens the opposite way. I feel a bit embarassed when some girl pays me a drink and doesn't let me pay back. One way to avoid this situation is by inviting first. ;)
One thing very kind from polish culture is the way they sing the 'birthday song'. The beginning goes: "Sto lat, sto lat, niech żyje żyje nam, jeszcze raz, jeszcze raz..." -- Meaning: "100 years, 100 years, live, live for us, once again! once again...", they wish a hundred years of life for those who have birthday. So kind! My workmates sang that to me also on my birthday. I hope I can make it even further than a hundred years. :)
One more thing about birthdays' celebrations in Poland: During the 18th birthday of a girl there is some funny ritual (at least from boys' point of view) which consists on "punishing" the girl at midnight by hitting her butt with the belt. Really cool. I practiced my spanking skills once during one of these parties. :P
What else to say about Polish habbits? Mmm... Oh! Very important issue: 80% of the people smoke! The corridors of the dormitory I live are very "foggy" of so much smoke. I can't understand how come a lot of people in Poland reach very old age (almost "sto lat, sto lat") smoking so much like this!
Another issue is: They don't brush their teeth after lunch! When one of them saw me and the other Brazilian guy (who works in the same company as me) brushing teeth, he said: "You guys are very weird!". :P
If you are a gastronomic tourist think twice before coming to Poland. Food is boring here. Polish food is mostly based on potato and chicken. When it's not chicken it's pork, but normally not cow meet, unless you want to spend more money and get decent food at restaurants such as: "Sphinx, The best food by Tom Malton". By the way, who the hell is Tom Maltom? Some famous British cooker? No! Just a Polish investor called "Tomasz Morawski" who made-up some story about being a gastronomic traveller in the past and now he has this chain of restaurants. Nice food, nice fake story. :P
One more warning, especially for south-americans: In Poland they think "barbecue" is to bake sausages! On a polish barbecue there are only sausages. forget about the south american style (specially brazilian style) barbecue. :P
I have to admit there are some nice polish dishes, such as "pierogi", "bigos" and "naleśniki" but about the sausages I'm serious, and to proove I'm not lying, check this campaign:
* Kielbasa means "Sausage" in polish.
In Poland people don't drink water. They mostly drink coffee or tea (I'm not talking about alcohol). One day I woke up very thirsty and my hosts offered me coffee or tea. I wanted something cold. I asked for some cold juice, and there was no juice at all, so I asked for cold water and they got me some mineral sparkling not cold one. Bleargh. Also, one annoying thing is that they don't care if the beer is warm! Normally, If I don't get a so stupidly cold beer, I give it back to the waiter and ask for a new one. Here they even drink heated beer (almost boiling, with honey) - Definitely not for me. :P
Everything you heard is true. If you don't drink, you will drink. The polish equivalent to the brazilian "Caipirinha" is the "Cytrynówka"! There is always somebody carrying a bottle of Cytrynówka at every party. Be aware. :P
Quite different from Brazil. At least on IT field. All of my workmates are very friendly and are always trying to help. People work as a team and there are no competitions among workmates. They always try to help each other. Time is flexible. So I'm free to get to the company late, as long as I also leave the office later. Company also offers the second breakfast, coffee, tea. I think I was lucky to find this company. I don't know if this comment applies to all companies in Poland but I believe most of the companies provide a good atmosphere to work with high productivity.
In the company I work, whomever gets married wins free weekend in a Polish Resort, sponsored by the company.
By the way, The company I work is PGS Software.
Poland has many nice places to visit:
Krakow is the top touristical destination in Poland, which is also close to Auschwitz where the concentration camps are located.
Check my photo gallery here
Zakopane (close to the Slovak border) is the "winter capital" of Poland. It is situated in the Tatra mountains and it's really good to practice winter sports.
Gdańsk (north of poland) is the "summer capital" because it's on the Baltic sea, so people go to the beach and try kite-surfing.
Every city has its own beauty, nice and cozy city centers. Cities' infrastructure is great for tourists. Nice hotels such as Mercure, Holiday Inn, Sofitel, Radisson are waiting for their guests.
Warsaw is not so touristical but has a lot of history and it's also a nice city for shopping. I recommend. :P
I faced polish winter twice, and I can tell that global warming has been being severe to the poles. I only heard many stories that during winter temperatures use to go below -30c and so on... Now, it's past. The minimum I've seen was -11c (in Warsaw). Last winter, during the spring break, there was a lack of snow. People were frustrated because they couldn't go ski. I was also a victim. I tried the Karpacz mountains, no luck.
And the snow layer does not prevail. It stays for two or three days after snow shower and melts completely. If you think you are going to have the snow layer during all the winter, forget it. :P
Tornadoes doesn't appear much often. Some tornadoes in poland can be seen on Youtube. I've seen only one electric storm during these eight months. No earthquakes or sandstorms. Hehe, perfect weather! :)
Polish language is not a germanic language, so don't think that knowing german will help. It's rather a slavonic language from the same group of Czech, Slovak and Serbian languages. Grammar is considerably difficult comparing to english. Verbs have full conjugation, and words are subjected to declension cases, even nouns must be declined. One example of how strange it can be:
Title of the movie in english: "Apocalypto by Mel Gibson"
Title of the movie in polish: "Apocalypto Mela Gibsona"
- Who's Mela Gibsona? Gibson's sister?
Another classical example of how the declension cases can make you go crazy:
"To jest mój dobry polski kolega" - meaning: "This is my good polish friend" but
"Czy znasz mojego dobrego polskiego kolegę?" - "Do you know my good polish friend?"
In english, all the pronouns, adjectives and nouns don't change. But in Polish...
The phonetics are very strict, with lots of "Shh" sounds, if you don't pronounce properly you become totally misunderstood.
"Nie płacz!" = Don't cry!
"Nie płać!" = Don't pay!
"Cz" has the sound of "Ch" as in the word "Cherry"
"Ć" has the sound of "Ch" as in the word "Chip"
Believe me, if you change just a little bit the pronunciation they will not even suspect that you wanted to pronounce the other way. This example of "don't cry" or "don't pay" is a real example in which I myself have been through.
Verbs have only four tenses: past, present, future and conditional. (bye bye present-continuos)
As they don't have the present continous, poles express themselves by using the simple present. This habbit is also propagated when they speak english. One of my workmates every day says: "I go home!" to express the immediate acting of going back to home. "I'm going home" fits better.
I recommend the book: "Polish language in 4 weeks with Audio CD"
This "4 weeks" from the title can be understood as "4 months" (at least). :P
Things are cheap over here! Polish economy is growing so the Zlotys are becoming stronger against Euro and American Dollar.
McMeal - 12 zł to 13 zł
Beer - 2zł to 3zł (supermarket) / 5zł to 6zł (pubs, discos)
Train ticket from Krakow to Warsaw - 70zł to 80zł
Monthly ticket of urban transportation - 90zł (in Wrocław for example)
1 liter of CherryCoke - 3,50 zł
1 USD = 2,13 zł (on 22th of April - 2008)
My rating for Poland and its people: 9,3 (out of 10)