be awake! site of seeker for seekers

so you think you are zen? polish citiZEN will test you!

I’ve always known that Polish people have a tendency to be difficult. I guess I just got used to it. I mean, I understand how it works and more or less why it works this way — so my tolerance level is higher. It seems that I’ve even stopped noticing some of these “Polish traits”.

When after 20 years of living in Canada, my fiancé moved back to Poland — his observations on Polish behaviour have refreshed mine.

If you think you are calm and easy going like a zen master, please visit us in Poland. But first, imagine the following situations and see, how you would react if:

1. It’s early morning. You’re at your local grocery store. The store is small and family owned. There is no self-service. You wait in line and all your groceries must be gathered by the lady behind the counter. There are people buying a lot of items — and you must wait for each item to be taken from the shelf by the lady behind the counter and given to the lady at the front of the counter. Everyone knows each other because it’s a neighborhood store, so they end up talking. The “How are you?” turns into a 10 minute monologue on how difficult life is at the moment.

2. The train you are trvelling on, arrives at the railway station. You live a few blocks from the station but you have luggage. You decide to take a cab. You get to the cab and stand next to it. Nothing happens. Finally after a few uneasy moments — the driver comes out and sighs immediately at seeing luggage. Rolling his eyes he complains: “It won’t fit”. It fits with room to spare. We tell him our destination. He sighs again, we see his eyes rolling again, this time in the rear view mirror. Then shakes his head with another audible, exasperated sigh. We ask if something is wrong, why is he shaking his head? He answers: “It is my head to do what I want with it. Here I am doing my job and you are looking for a fight…” We spent the rest of our short ride in uneasy silence.

3. You are sitting at a table for two at McDonalds. Suddenly a woman with 5 kids appears and asks: „Excuse me, are you sitting here?” Almost uncertain what she expects for an answer you slowly reply: „Ummmm…Yes?”

4. Polish people like to stand very close to each other in lines. This comes from Communist times, when people feared, that if they didn’t butt in — the food might run out. But Communism left 20 years ago — and there’s plenty of food for everyone. It doesn’t matter. The lines form so tightly — that it is impossible to take out your wallet without hitting the person standing behind you. How do you know someone is behind you. Besides feeling as if someone is about to mount you — your neck is getting tipsy from the vodka breath.

5. You’d like to buy a train ticket to Berlin. There are six windows at the ancient railway station. Only one sells international fares. You stand in the infamous line. You reach the window. The lady immediately looks at you like a criminal. There’s rarely a greeting and the entire process of purchasing a train ticket is filled with surprising tension. Finally you break the silence: “Excuse me — from which tracks is the train departing?”. Before your questions even concludes — the answer comes back for the 78th time that day: “I don’t know. Ask information.” We find the information booth. Ah! Hello Tight Fitting Line Up!

6. You’re standing in line (I seem to be repeating myself) in a store. Suddenly another cashier opens. In a civilized society, the person next in line gets priority. In Poland, the opening of another cash should be seen in slow motion. Imagines the eyes of those standing in line opening wide, the lips slowly mouthing “Look – another cashier oooooopppppeeeennnnningggg”, the hand slowly raising to point to this life saving phenomena — and the 5 meter sprint begins. Incredible feats of physical strength and agility are displayed by tired looking parents, who leap over others, dragging their groceries and children in the attempt to reach the newly opened cash. It should become an olympic sport.

7. You’re going for a leisurely walk. Never mind the sights, pal. Keep your eyes on the ground. It’s not an accepted practice to pick up after your dog. Oh — and while you’re looking at the ground, remember to keep one of your eyes looking up. There’s been a few cases of old balconies falling to their death — on someone’s head. Enjoy your walk!

That’s enough for now. There’s more! I hope you’ve read this post with the patience and compassion of a zen master. If you’re blood pressure is up — take a deep breath and settle down. Polish people aren’t bad people — just very specific in their ways.

So to all you aspiring zen monks: “Stop hiding in the mountains, test your zen skills in Poland”. Anyone?

(thanks to tommy for helping me in polish researchs!)

8 responses

  1. Very funny! Poland (or anyplace with long lines) is not for me. You guys were brave for trying!

    (Incidentally, I am 1/8 Polish. Just have the nose.)

    June 24, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    • each day is a new test’s day 🙂 it’s not so bad really, if you don’t take these situatnions to seriously. Of course — sometimes this kind of aproach is impossible.

      June 25, 2011 at 8:30 am

  2. i have this polish friend…maybe this will interest him!

    June 24, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    • i hope your friend looks at this kind of topics with reserve 🙂

      June 25, 2011 at 8:27 am

  3. elma7o

    I know that Polish Arabian Horses are the best in the worlds.
    If this assumption is a challenge for a ZEN monk, what kind of challenge to whom will be in our places 

    June 25, 2011 at 10:57 am

  4. Great Blog. I have met lots of great Polish people, and most of my experiences have been positive. I haven’t been to Poland yet, so I can’t speak of it.

    Reminds me of an interesting story. My friend Julian is from the UK but his parents are Polish and he went to a Polish speaking school in England and is fluent. Once he and I went to a popular Polish diner/restaurant in the East Village NYC for breakfast after a night of clubbing. We sat down and the waitress poured us glasses of water and brought the menus over. A few minutes later when the waitress came over to take our order, Julian smiled and spoke to her in Polish. She looked horrifyed and ran into the kitchen. Another younger waitress brought our pierogies and other food and the original waitress was trying to look busy and avoiding us. The new waitress was very sweet and Julian spoke to her in Polish also. We tipped her well and thanked her and left. It was then that I got the explanation..
    When we came in the older waitress had been speaking about us in Polish, calling us “faggots” which I assume was because we were dressed for nightclubbing and werent in the company of women that night. Julian heard and understood everything she said, so when she came over to get our order, he said to her in Polish with mock sweetness. “This faggot would like some pierogies and could we have two burgers also. Oh and the faggots would also like some coffee”

    Hopefully she learned an important lesson about tolerance and not judging people that night.

    June 27, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    • crazy story! i have some “language stories” too. one i know is, that the world is very, very small and wherever you are, pay attention to what you’re saying.
      my second thaught is that some people are able to live in multiculture country like USA or canada and keep being close-minded, intolerant (i don’t know how they do it…).
      to be quite honest, i don’t have many pleasent experience with meeting fellow citizens abroad. but i’m happy to hear from you and other people many good things about polish.
      all best to you!

      June 27, 2011 at 10:39 pm

  5. bows humble~ (~_*)

    testing one’s zen? (smiles) I look forward to more,

    when gazing in a pool of water and see your reflection, is it yourself you see?

    August 22, 2011 at 3:11 pm

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