Life in Poland

Going “Home”

We are very slowly preparing ourselves for our visit “home” this summer – first visit in 7 years. From arranging substitutions at work, asking somebody to water our plants, deciding what to pack and preparing our girls for the long flight – we are really busy. Oh, we should go to the dentist before we go too. Oh, and we have to get an insurance policy in case we get sick in the US. Oh and this and that and another hundred other little things, but they all add up. But c’mon, it’s not so bad really. I mean it is not as daunting as it is for Olivia who has to sell her house in America and move with her husband and children to Poland for good. We will survive.

From past experience, I am sure that I am going to suffer from a bit of reverse culture shock (everything is in English!) and I will also be bombarded with questions about Poland from my friends.

Here are some of the typical things I get asked by friends, family and acquaintances. What shall I tell them?

Poland or Holland?

What’s the difference between Poland and Holland?

Where is Poland?

Is Poland near any “good” countries?

Poland’s as big as which state?

Did anything good ever happen in Poland, I mean, in history, ya know?

Do they speak Russian in Poland?

They speak Polish?! I didn’t know they had their own language! How long they had that?

Do you go to Auschwitz a lot?
Do you have grocery stores? McDonald’s? Frozen pizza?

Don’t they have food in Poland?

followed by Why’re you so skinny? Is it ‘cause of the rationing?

Do you have indoor plumbing?

Do you have hot water?

Have people in Poland heard about the internet?

Do people have cars in Poland?

How much do you earn?

How much do people earn?

How much does gasoline cost?

followed by Jesus Christ! How can anyone afford to drive over there?

So, what d’ya mean, you have public health care? So like you can just go to the doctor and leave without paying?

So, what d’ya mean the doctors didn’t give you anything for the pain when you had your kids?

Is it hard to get used to driving on the left side of the road?

It must be cool to be so close to Paris. Do you go there often?

Where’d you learn how to teach foreigners English?

How come your husband has a British accent?

and my all-time favorite…

Have you heard this one? A Polak, a Jew and a cowboy go into a bar…

I can’t wait!

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  • Reply
    April 20, 2012 at 11:43 am

    When are you going? I'll be happy to come and house-sit for you! 🙂

  • Reply
    Marek Cyzio
    April 20, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    Expect one more question – \”hey, I met this Polish guy/gal once, her name was XXXX, do you know him/her?\” Apparently everybody here think Poland has about 5000 people max and everybody knows everybody. My funniest story about Poland is when I tried to explain the location of my home country in Kroger:- so Poland has a border with Germany?- yes, WWII started when Germany attacked Poland!- ooh, I did not know that. Is that war over?Yeah, I gave up after that question…

  • Reply
    April 20, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    dwakoty – we can arrange a little house swap :)Marek- My husband had almost the same situation in the US. \”I have a friend from Poland. His name is Przemek. You know him?\”My husband also told my friends that the scar on his face is from WWIII.Sometimes you just have to give up.

  • Reply
    Marek Cyzio
    April 20, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    By the way – this YouTube video about Poland is now quite popular – be prepared!ttp://

  • Reply
    April 20, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    Chris, I hope you planning to visit NYC. Let me know

  • Reply
    April 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    I know the answer to one of these questions. \”Poland’s as big as which state?\”. New Mexico. Hth.and yes, I am wondering how anyone can afford to drive over there, too.and actually, WHY don't you come to Paris more often?

  • Reply
    April 20, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    Marek- I didn't have to prepare myself for anything because I drive on roads like that everyday 🙁 If it wouldn't jepordize my incognito status, I would give you my street on streetview – more holes than road.Star- We probably won't be visiting NYC 🙁 Just passing through the airport.ds – Really, New Mexico? Ok, I will add that to my answers. When I'm at the gas station I wonder myself how I or anyone else can put up with such prices. And I was waiting for you to comment!!! If I ever get anywhere close to Paris, I will let you know 🙂

  • Reply
    April 20, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    I have gotten some of those, but not recently. Of course they always think we speak Russian.One time somebody told me that they knew a person from Croatia and that I should meet that person so that we can talk in our language. Right!And my neighbor's son asked me one time why I was talking \”backwards\” to my son.In Poland everybody wants to know what the retirement age is in the US. I have no clue:) Maybe I should find out before I go to Poland in June…

  • Reply
    April 21, 2012 at 3:30 am

    I have no idea what it would be like to go home after 7 years. That would be so nerve wracking. And to know that you might not get to return for a while. So many expectations! Have ya'll thought about converting your car to natural gas? Is that something people do often? We have been thinking about that option for ourselves.Martin recently read an article that said the worst road in all of Malopolskie voivodship is right outside our house! So we have that to look forward to, at least we know it won't get any worse …I hope your time is enjoyable and peaceful in the U.S.!

  • Reply
    anka skakanka
    April 21, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    I see that the questions never changed since 2004, when I went to US. After answering where Poland was, I heard \”oh, that's close to Japan!\”. Yes, very… (rzut kamieniem LOL)Hope you have great time back at home, and that will just confirm, that at the end of the day, you are happy in such a poor and strange country as Poland 😀

  • Reply
    April 22, 2012 at 8:29 am

    Kasia – \”talk backwards\” – that is adorable! The retirement age in the US is 65 for men and women. The current retirement age in Poland is 60 for women and 65 for men but will be changed to 67 for all. Welcome (back)to Poland! Are you coming for a long trip? Olivia – We used to have a car that ran on natural gas. At first it saved money but now the price difference between gaz (natural gas) and benzyna (gasoline) isn't as great as before. Also you have to factor in the price of converting the car and consider that you are not permitted to park in underground parking structures which is a must for me in the city. And about the roads, you get used to the holes after awhile ;)princeska – How did you not laugh in their faces?! Yes, Poland and Japan as neighboring countries were both deeply affected by the tsunami.

  • Reply
    Tomek Cejner
    April 22, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    How long you plan to stay in US? After two to three weeks you may feel uncomfortable – that's the sign you became Polish (or European) 🙂

  • Reply
    anka skakanka
    April 22, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    Hahaha, never thought about tsunami LOL :DI did laugh at their faces but they must have thought I was just being so cheerful, adorable and excited maybe 🙂

  • Reply
    April 23, 2012 at 2:02 am

    I did not know that about the underground parking. That is good to know. I also didn't know that i had become so expensive to use. I always figured the money saved in using gaz was enough to offset the initial cost of converting the car… hmmm… lots to think about.

  • Reply
    April 26, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    haha, enjoy! I can hear several times a week: hey you have an accent! Are you from Russia? (no, I'm from Poland.) Oh, but isn't it in Russia? Or, Oh, you're from Poland? What state is it in? (Poland, Ohio)Or, hey you're from Poland? So can you speak polish? (yes) Really? Say something! (mowie cos) That's so cool, when did you learn speaking polish? Ah, gotta love Texans. Now I actually say I'm from the Shire in the Middle Earth. Then next question usually is: Oh really? Is it cold in there? :)))Are you coming to Texas Chris? Let me know! 🙂

  • Reply
    April 26, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    @Rinonka – where in Texas are you? I have no idea why people here think that it is super cold in Poland. I always say that Poland is not Siberia – but they probably have no idea about Siberia anyway:)@Chris – we will be in Switzerland June 6th through 10th and then in Poland through the 22nd. Actually – my longest trip so far. Thank you for the info re: retirement age in the US!

  • Reply
    April 26, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    Kasia, I live in Dallas area.

  • Reply
    D A
    May 5, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    A few years back my Polish-born mom went on a work-related trip to Poland with a group of Danish colleagues, one of whom remarked, as they were strolling around in the city centre, \”it's very nice of the Poles to have written all their shop signs in Danish (read: Latin) letters so we can read them, too!\”What the heck…? 😀

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