Poland is the most polite country I’ve visited in Europe.
- Men hold doors for women and the elderly.
- People on public transportation willingly give up seats to pregnant women, elder!y and handicapped passengers. (Unlike my experience in Dublin)
- Children greet visitors and say “good bye” when visitors leave.
- Drivers actually STOP for pedestrians in crosswalks (and honk at jay walkers).
- You hear people saying “thank you” all of the time.
- Bus drivers help with you with directions.
- Husbands understand that household chores have no gender designation. They help with childcare and cooking.
On my first day in Warsaw I wanted to ride the tram but could not find where to purchase tickets. When I got on the tram I asked “bilety?”with a shrug, as if to say “where do I get a ticket?”. The tram was jammed and a lovely older woman gave me 2 tickets, showed me where to validate them but would not take any money for them. Fortunately I have been able to return the favor for two Japanese students in Warsaw for only one day; and “paid it forward” for a visiting Ukrainian woman.
- People in shops actually show you where to find things, not just point to a section of the store. Have a headache, looking for aspirin? Just put your hand on your forehead and look pathetic, a clerk will take you to the correct place immediately.
- In TK Maxx, on an extremely crowded Friday evening, I could not find the location of the shopping baskets. An employee saw my quandary and simply said “stay here” and she returned in less than a minute with that all important retail sales equipment – a shopping basket. (It is much too crowded with merchandise to have carts in this store).
I think I want to live here!
Polish people are eager to learn English and travel to Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Miami. Sorry LA, Dallàs, Boston, Seattle and DC. Participating in several Angloville English Immersion programs here has led me to believe that travelers from Poland have four cities on their bucket lists. And, I was surprised it was Miami and not Orlando/Disney World. One person actually said “Disney World is sooo passe today, we want fun and sun in Miami”
Unfortunately, McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, PizzaHut and Starbucks have invaded Poland, which may be a positive for young Poles, but not so much for the over 30 crowd who seem to flock to Asian and Indian eateries.
Have you ever told a denegrating Polish joke? Perhaps you were just unaware of the hundreds of contributions Polish people have made to improve our world. Here are a few. Let’s start with ones you may know.
- Nicholas Copernicus, renaissance mathematician and astronomer who formulated the model of the universe against popular and church beliefs, that the sun and not earth was the center of our known universe.
- Frederic Chopan, composer. In case you are not familiar with his music go to YouTube, The Best of Chopin.
- Marie Curie, yep, she was a Polish girl named Maria Skiodowska before she married the French physicist Dr. Curie. She is the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize in two categories, physics and chemistry.
- If you want to read about an extremely interesting and diversified man, check out Ignacy Jan Paderewski, composer, diplomat, philanthropist, and vintner on Wikipedia.
- Thank Polish-American Stephen Poplawski for your blender, which made lives easier in 1922 when he received his first patent.
- More modern would be Albert Sabin who created the Salk vaccine, our weapon against polio.
- Who has not heard the name Lech Walensa who led the shipyard workers in a revolt against communism through the Solidarity movement and became the first president of Poland.Lech Walesa bio
- Lesser known is Mieczslaw Gregor Bekker, an engineer who worked with General Motors to develop the Moon Rover.
- And, if you have ever used a Q Tip, you can thank Polish-American Leo Gerstenzang who then advanced his invention for the medical profession, creating one that could be sterilized using an autoclave.
- People in New England can give a big shout of thanks to Polish Marie Elizabeth Zakrzauska for establishing the New England Hospital for Women and Children and for also establishing the first general training program for nurses in America.
- And, yes, there are also theatrical and literary Poles like director Roman Polansky and four Nobel Prize writers: Henryk Sienkiewicz for The Deluge, although he may be better know for his book Quo Vadis. Also on that list is Wladyslaw Reymont for The Peasants, a 4-volume national epic; and Czeslaw Milosz for The Captive Mind and last but not least the poet Ms. Wislawa Szymborska.
- In a previous post I wrote about the 3 math students from Poznan who were instrumental in breaking the Enigma Code that brought WWII to an early end.
- Last on my list (although there are hundreds more) is Pope John Paul II.
Poland is no slouch in the yummy food category either, with bakery windows full of tortes, hand made breads in every flavor and grain you can think of. Then there are the cookies and morning danish, pastries and cakes. Yes, cakes for breakfast and Charlotte Rousse
for lunch. Oh yes, and the hand made chocolates, coffees, and slurping good hot cocoa. One more thing you might enjoy is Hazelnut vodka or a Mleczny Orzoch (Bailey’s, hazelnut liquors and shaved chocolate).
So, the next time you hear someone starting to tell a Polish joke, you have enough ammunition to say “Hold it right there partner, no Polish jokes allowed here”.
Next stop Torun, home of Nicholas Copernicus and gingerbread, yummmm