Anglicized Polish souls find some things irritating back in Poland

Grace is a new guest on Polandian. Apparently she’s living across the water in god’s own country and fears for those Poles foolish enough to venture back home.

Tormented by the realities of emigration, Poles often meet together to share their nostalgia for the homeland they’ve left to provide some serious financial injection into their accounts. While enjoying Polish beer in Polish company they cry for “bigos, pierogi”, not having to twist their tongues in order to produce a Polish version of ‘th’ or the rolled ‘r’ that seems to be easier for the Polish mouth!

Sooner or later the time comes for many to go back to Poland. Oh, what a relief! No more changing weather, queues everywhere, council tax, driving on the wrong side of the road, long application forms one has to fill in to get many things….
Easy Jet, Wizz Air, Ryan Air have worked hard in the past few months bringing all the ex-immigrants back to their homeland.

Now, sitting, possibly over the mentioned bigos, pierogi, or anything else that smells and tastes of Poland, the Poles suddenly realize they are baffled with the known realities seen now through eyes that are used to foreign sights.

What are some of the things Poles returning to Poland may miss about the UK? They don’t have to go very far from their homes to start feeling a different nostalgia…. Crossing a street, for example, suddenly is not as obvious as one might expect; here you are approaching the traffic lights, let’s say, somewhere in Wroclaw and want to press the button for the light to go green for pedestrians…. Sorry, love! No buttons provided (they are an extremely rare occurrence in Poland)! You are subject to the timed traffic lights… Just a little thing, but gives some sense of control to pedestrians so often ignored or even bullied by drivers….

Back in Poland no more pressing buttons to announce your desire to cross a road!

While in the UK many of us Poles complain about the numerous breaks during work hours. We just like getting on with it, don’t we? Now, having come back to the longed for Polish ways of life and work, one begins to want to go out of the work place to eat lunch with friends or colleagues and let the pressurized brains rest… Yet, it is hardly ever practised in Poland, so you may as well forget about the one hour lunch break and e.g. baked potatoes of all kinds common in the British Isles.

So, you are coming back from work, having spent long hours in the office of your Polish employer. You want to do some quick shopping, or perhaps eat your lunch 5 hours after its due time (in the British reality)… the first thing that may strike you is the gloomy, if not hostile, welcome you get from shop assistants or restaurants’ workers. It strikes you because you’ve gotten used to the proverbial British politeness. Now, you’re not thinking about how genuine the politeness of the Brits is, just that it actually makes getting through your days easier and more pleasant when you deal with people who, at least, make the effort to seem friendly. Perhaps the clouds are less frequent in the Polish skies, but they are regular on Polish faces…. and now it annoys you more than before!
Many ex-immigrants hear a cry in their minds:

Well, it’s not impossible, you know! Practise the friendly, polite attitudes observed in the UK and you will surely get a positive feedback… sooner or later (maybe later rather than sooner, but someone has to start the manners reformation, right?) ;)

One last thing I can think of now is the multicultural society. Many Poles will miss that for sure. That makes mixing with people the whole lot more interesting, probably more challenging due to cultural differences, but certainly mind opening. If all the Poles going back to Poland manifest enthusiasm about foreign cultures, we may soon see our society transforming into something like this:

Tolerant Poles, open for immigrants from overseas to come and settle down in Poland, would surely be one of the most positive fruit of Polish people mixing with other cultures while staying in the UK! :)

As they say, the grass is always greener elsewhere. When in Poland we tend to moan about everything around us, so we leave… and then we miss what we had moaned about… So, we come back and miss what the foreign lands had on offer…. There is just one word to call it – LIFE!

Grace, as she likes to be called, has a blog called Anglopole’s Ponglish World. She also administers the Active English forum on


22 thoughts on “Anglicized Polish souls find some things irritating back in Poland

  1. ilyich ulyanov says:

    If it’s not one thing, it’s another thing.

    There has erupted quite a controversy about blogging/kvetching endlessly.


  2. geez says:

    Hmmn, Wlodzimierz, I think I follow you (well, what you wrote above, not all your other crazy shit):

    From the Atlantic —

    Is Google Making Us Stupid?
    What the internet is doing to our brains

    by Nicholas Carr

  3. simon says:

    One thing about traffic lights: in Poland the buttons don’t seem to work even where they are provided. The lights seem to work on a timer anyway. I’m not sure what the idea is, because obviously someone took the time and expense of installing the damned buttons in the first place.

  4. scatts says:

    A cynic might say the buttons were ordered to increase the order value (and subsequent brown envelope) despite the fact they were never intending to use them.

    Others might say they were ordered to ensure no blame could be attached for not ordering them.

  5. Pawel says:


    Stay in Britain!

  6. island1 says:

    ilyich: I don’t really see the connection between a highly revealing blog about somebody’s personal life and a few comments about differences between Poland and the UK. It’s not fair to categorize that as kvetching.

  7. ilyich ulyanov says:

    Please read the woman (not the Grace woman) blogger’s article in the NYT as well. Her blog is just plain insidious. Her article there… well, you decide.

    And life is so unfair. But I kvetch. Probably eminates from watching too much Seinfeld.

    More substantively, read some of my nifty keen articles at:

  8. anglopole says:

    Hello to you all and thanks for all the comments;
    Many people have already pointed it out that Poles like complaining;) I have to agree with Island, though, this my blog that I started not long ago is not really aimed as a platform for my kvetching tendencies:) It is only natural to see all those little things in a foreign country that irritate us simply because they are different than in our homeland. Obviously, sooner or later, we all get used to nearly everything. Life is made of the endless sequence of little things and I want to write about those that appear on my way here in the UK, that make me stop and think about cultural differences:)
    Also the underlying meaning of this article of mine here can be: satisfaction/happiness is a choice – we can be happy where we are at the particular moment if we choose not to focus on what gets our goat…

  9. island1 says:

    ilyich: Aha… a Seinfeld fan, why didn’t you say so sooner my dear fellow – all is forgiven.

    Think I’ll give the NYT woman a miss if it’s as bad as you say it is.

  10. ilyich ulyanov says:

    The article in the NYT is so narcissistic and so much about nothing (ala Seinfeld but at least Seinfeld admits it and thus it becomes funny) that it’s worth reading and getting sick over just because it was published as a cover story for the NYT Magazine.

    And as I’ve noted, it’s become quite the controversy revolving around blogging in general — as shown in the original link way above.

  11. anglopole says:

    I’d say it’s quite a skill to write something about nothing and make people smile while reading the nothing put in words;)

  12. ilyich ulyanov says:

    Then at least consider what sooo many people wrote in response to that article in the NYT Magazine.

  13. island1 says:

    Nope, Google is just making it obvious how stupid you were to begin with.

    Not you geez.

    Google tells me you might be an ancient Ethiopian language.

    How smart is that?

  14. ge'ez says:

    In the universal spectrum of things, I figure I am pretty much a dummy.

    I didn’t need Google to come to that conclusion.

    But thanks to Google and your –>, I found the magazine Geez and looked into the language.

    Cool. Smart. And note my new nom de plume.

  15. Jolanta says:

    A few words on behalf traffic lights buttons and those who install them.

    In my part of the country (Krakow) there seem to be too many buttons in the streets. I am a lazy creature of habit and I would rather wait for the lights to change than press the button myself. Of course, preferences are a personal thing. I must admit I have never come accross such a button that does not or would not work.
    Actually, a friend of mine works for the company which takes care of a large number of traffic lights ( and the buttons) in Krakow. I know for sure that once the button is pressed the green light cannot appear immediately because such a sudden change would be hazardous to drivers and pedestrians alike. So the light response has to contain “the inertia factor”. What is more, most of Krakow lights are either operated by tram drivers who are getting near them or respond automatically to the presence of a tram on the track, which slows down the process of lights change even further.

    Frankly speaking, I do not think that the British buttons work faster (they do only on empty roads). The last thing, the traffic lights company which operates here is a branch of … a British firm.



  16. anglopole says:

    Thanks for your input about the buttons, Jola:) I originally come from Wroclaw, and, to my knowledge, there aren’t too many button controlled traffic lights there. From a driver’s perspective they are a very useful thing, as when there is no pedestrians wanting to cross a road, the traffic is flowing undisturbed, unless on a crossroads with a different kind of light… Also, I remember when visiting Wroclaw, I had this stupid urge to press the button when wanting to cross the roads… and not having the buttons to press I flet deprived of this cute illusion of being in control of the traffic… silly, I know…. but, yup, many people get used to the British invention of traffic light posts with buttons:)

  17. anglopole says:

    Thanks again for all the comments. If you like discussions of various topic, do log in where I moderate an English speaking group, Active English:)

  18. island1 says:

    I’ve always wondered about the buttons in Krakow. In the UK we have separate crossings controlled by lights (not all of them, but some), you press the button in the knowledge that the traffic will stop as a direct result of you pressing the button (eventually). In Krakow every crossing with a button that I’ve seen is just part of the existing lights at junctions—surely the lights are going to change anyway according to the whatever schedule they work on, pressing the button makes no difference as to when you can cross the road. I don’t see the point of them.

  19. Jolanta says:

    Island, are you sure you aren’t mistaken? In Podgorze district where I live some lights stay red for ever if no one presses the button. It must be the same in other places (?).
    I am meeting THE lights expert soon so I can get any details you want from him ( if you are still interested in two weeks’ time).


  20. island1 says:

    Jolanta: Amazing coincidence this coming up now, I was just having a conversation about traffic lights the other day (as you do) I realized I know absolutely nothing about the way they work. Is there a central computer controlling them all at once or is each set operating on a simple timer that never varies? When do they all turn flashing orange and give up for the night (something we don’t have in the UK)?

    Most important question of all!! Why has the timing on the pedestrian lights for crossing Aleje (at the top of Karmelicka, west side) been changed so that it’s now impossible to cross both lanes in the time available? Takes about half an hour to cross the road now! I bet he loves questions like that :)

    Yes, the red light on the pedestrian light will stay for ever if you don’t press the button, but when you do press the button it won’t turn green until the traffic lights at the junction change to a state that would make it same to cross anyway. I suppose they just act as an indicator that the main lights have changed in you favor, pressing the button tells the system there’s somebody to indicate to but doesn’t make any difference as to when the lights change in your favor. I can’t believe I’m getting into this.

  21. Jolanta says:

    Island, I can’t believe either but I will ask the expert all the above questions.
    I may be wrong but I think there are two major traffic lights companies in Krakow right now, perhaps their lights are a little different?
    The expert knows both systems and I shall drag out of him what he knows.


  22. island1 says:

    Aha, the plot thickens.

    In my view this is the meat and veg of proper cultural understanding, apparently meaningless stuff that you wouldn’t otherwise pay a moment’s attention to.

    My breath is bated, or is it baited…?

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