Monday, 4 April 2011

Brits and Poles discuss life in Poland

Most of the text underneath is shamelessly borrowed from this link.

Yes, two articles in one evening.  Haven’t I got owt better to do?  Well, I just was reading through some comments on the article I quoted earlier on The Guardian, that I thought you may be interested.

How Brits and Poles see Poland:

I moved to Southern Poland 2 years ago after 60 years in the UK. I would never return! Its clean, safe, friendly and everyone behaves better than in the UK. Long may it last. Yes, there are problems, poverty, begging, alcoholism and other social ills. The housing is very variable, with most still in 10 storey tower blocks. There are many empty and derelict buildings, and a lot of graffiti.

But, everywhere I have seen, there are no cars with broken windows, no glass strewn across every car park, very few crazy hotrodders driving round the centre uninsured on the pavements (I used to live in Bradford- look both ways before stepping onto the pavement). No syringes in every gutter, no litter! Even the alcoholics are friendly, rarely aggressive. 

Work is hard to find, but people look! A basic standard of living is, by UK standards amazingly cheap. A weeks supply of vegetables is less than 10 pounds, fruit and other essentials cheap, and often fresh as well as local. People are courteous (but often distant), helpful and caring. Society is respectful, and most go to church.
Its not heaven, but I think Poland has the right idea, strategies and future. The UK could learn a lot but its too late I suspect. I just hope that this country does not embrace American consumerism and fall into the same traps as the UK. I am sure that the human commitment to greed will damage life here eventually, but hope that I die before it does!

It's a shame that there isn't an ability to comment on the "Homophobia" article in this section. It's an area where I feel that there is a very long way to go. I know guys in their 20s who are very homophobic, regardless of how liberal they are in other matters. I try and argue against this - I don't tell them what to think as I believe that this is, at best, counter-productive. However, I do try to point out that they wouldn't like to be told where they can or can't place their genitalia, and perhaps they could extend that courtesy to others. I am making slow (read; continental drift) progress.

As anecdotal evidence I can only offer this; my wife has a language student who is gay. He works for a major international insurance company. Despite the ownership of the company being "western", with western attitudes, he feels unable to admit his sexuality as he is convinced he would be sacked. He also felt unable to attend my wedding as he feared that other Poles present might attack him. I tried to reassure him that anyone who attacked him would have to attack me too, and would be promptly ejected, but it wasn't enough. And this is in Warsaw, not in a village somewhere with a brimstone and damnation priest in the pulpit.

Is there progress? Perhaps a little. Is this a dark part of Polish culture which I feel uncomfortable about? Totally.

I would call it a "phobia". Seriously, we are not that cruel. I understand that some people might be afraid of the homosexuals and ignore them, but that's not because they're extremely homophobic. I know from my own experience, that the Polish society is just not familiar with the "concept" of homosexuality. In the past, homosexuals were marginalised by governments and the society and therefore homosexualism is something new to Polish people. I personally became fully tolerant after I moved to the UK four years ago. I believe it works in the same way as the "Polish racism". The fact that many Poles keep staring at people representing different races is only because they didn't have enough time to familiarise themselves with these races.

I strongly beleive that if you give Poles another 10 years, they'll become at least as tolerant as Britons are now. It doesn't mean that all the racists will be converted (which probably will never be the case), but at least the general attitude of Poles will change.

Yes, that was my impression as well. When I was working there a few years ago (my wife is a Pole and I speak the language quite well) I formed a general impression that social attitudes were about what they were in Britain during my childhood in the late 1950s: i.e. changing slowly, but for the better as people travel more, work abroad and become aware that the rest of the world doesn't necessarily share the same values as their own country. If I wanted an analogy it would be with Ireland in the 1980s.


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