Polska you will be missed (mostly)!
Well, it's nearly the end of my 3 year stint in Poland and what a ride it's been! From the misty summits of the Tatra mountains to the dingy back-streets of Lodz, I am still amazed by the cultural and historical depth of this fantastic country as well as the openness and hospitality of its people. Here are some things about Poland which I've learned and that I'm going to miss, in addition to a few things that I'm quite frankly glad to see the back of:
First things first. As a Brit it took me a while to get used to the direct, no holds barred approach of the people and in the beginning I often mistook this for rudeness. I discovered that it is quite normal for someone to be openly analytical about your character, particularly in the workplace but also when enjoying a casual brew down at the local watering hole. I later however began to appreciate this feature of Polish character, almost forsaking the British propensity for over-politeness. We Brits waste a lot of time beating around the bush and come on, WE (the customer), say thank you when paying for things. It doesn't make much sense when you think about it, does it? Better to be open and accepting of your flaws than closed and defensive as we Brits often come across. The second thing which took me aback was people's genuine fascination about the fact that you are a foreigner. Try to impress a Brit with your stories of travel and more often than not you'll be shrugged off as some kind of hippie drifter. I recall on many occasions; starry-eyed onlookers enthralled by the fact that an Englishman would even consider embarking on a voyage to such a god-forsaken and misbegotten land (in their opinion - yes they are always complaining too). Thirdly and perhaps most importantly is the local cuisine. Going from a full-English and ready-meal diet to a country which cares about the quality and sourcing of general supermarket goods was a huge shock, to brain and bowels! I remember my first encounter with the forest-mushroom soup (which takes more than 24 hours to prepare by the way) - I couldn't stop eating the damn thing which turned out to be fine because the average Polish host will prepare enough food to feed an army AND sink a battleship. The duck's blood soup and herrings in jelly didn't go down so well but hey, don't knock it 'till you've tried it!
Some things I won't miss are the pothole-riddled roads and the stone age rail system. If I had a pound for every time I've had to repair my bike or got lost at the train station I'd be a fair bit better off than I am now! Furthermore both road and rail systems seem to be in a constant state of repair yet never seem to reach completion. I gather this is due to a lack of proper budgeting but who knows? I'm also not going to miss those bleak -20 degree winters which seem to last an eternity and in which every joule of energy is slowly sapped from your body and everything outside grinds to a halt. Those walks to work when the tram broke down were great! Finally, bosses "cheaping out" on wages and health benefits (while cruising into work with a flash new rolex) was another biggie for me and I can sympathise with the average emigrant. If you want your employees to flourish and be productive, surely they have to feel valued and taken care of, not exploited. Sort it out bosses!
So there we have it. A very brief look at the up-sides to life in Poland and with a little bit of nit-picking on the side. I hope to expand on this in the future but for now that is all I have time for. Poland you have been good to me and you will be missed! Over and out.