Yes, “Do I no like that”, to borrow a mysterious phrase (mysterious in that I’m still not sure whether it’s a question or not) coined by the former England football manager Graham Taylor. Dared by an assistant to do a Yoda impression whilst out on a drunken binge? In a word, no. Drunken binges may not have been unknown to the England ‘stars’ at the time- though I believe Carlton Palmer was not a big one for the booze (comfortingly,I notice he is included in the category ‘living people’ on Wikipedia), but I digress. In fact, the Taylor quotation was used here to introduce the topic of dislike, just as it was originally used by Taylor to show his dislike at seeing his team handed another embarassing defeat. That’s right, I’ve been in Poland long enough that I feel entitled to have a bit of a rant about some the less pleasant aspects of life here.
Before I do so, let me just precede the rant with the disclaimer that anything you read here should be taken in combination with the knowledge that I have been here a fairly long time and, all in all, in can’t be bad or I would have left and not come back at some point.
Number 1 on my list is the Polish habit of ‘kombinowanie’- so alien to us English that there’s no direct equivalent in our language. It’s basically a general reluctance on behalf of the Poles to actually follow any rules, especially those that make life more difficult or fun, selfishness masquerading as sticking it to the man. For some, it’s so deeply ingrained that they will defy the rules as a matter of principle, even when it means making things even more problematic/expensive. Case in point, the man who spend around 600zl (around £130) on bluetooth equipment to cheat on an English test. By far the most annoying side of this problem is the atmosphere of distrust it has created in society at large. Many everyday tasks are much more difficult than they need to be, because it is expected that people will cheat or bend the rules: a more perfect self-fulfilling prophecy can scarcely be imagined.
Closely related to this is the general obsession with wealth and financial success. Maybe this would be less irritating if I had any of either, and it is sort understandable that people would want to make the most of new opportunities given the recent history here, but at this level it’s got to be unhealthy. Many people here spend far too much time working and/or trying to make or save money by some means, and not as much time as they should with their families, the church (still a major part of society here, albeit increasingly less than before) and make a lot of their decisions on an economic basis ahead of other factors.
Being constantly bullied for small change in shops gets extremely tiresome after a very short time too. Where are all the coins in this country? I used to dread payday in my first job here, as I was paid in cash and frequently this would include some 200zl notes, the largest denomination here, which go down extremely badly in almost every situation. The only uses I could safely put them to were paying the rent and buying my monthly bus pass. I’ve received many dirty looks for paying for my shopping with a 100zl note in the past, and even once was asked for ‘something smaller’ when handing over a 10zl note for a few items in a shop totalling 6zl and change.
Also annoying is having to wait for the green signal to cross the road. Perfectly normal in North America maybe but still seems totally nonsensical to me. If there are no cars coming, why can’t I cross? Stupid.
Before any Poles start hating me, the plus sides are far more numerous and important, this post was just meant as a reminder that life isn’t perfect here, just like anywhere.