Brad is American and has a big beard but, confusingly, is entirely unconnected with ZZ Top… except in your mind now.
As a guest writer at Polandian I will start with the questions that are almost always asked of me when I meet a Polish person. “What do you think of Poland,” “why did you move here” and, sometimes after I answer the first two, “why do you still live here?” All good questions but not easy to answer. While there are some aspects of life in Poland that drive me quite thoroughly insane there are many aspects of Poland that I love or at least like, especially when compared to the US from whence I previously hailed.
It’s refreshing to see little cars from Fiat, Renault, Daewoo, etc. These efficient, economical supermini cars may not be much fun to drive but they work well for the average person. That being said, I certainly wouldn’t want to own, say, a Daewoo Tincan because then some Polish person will just ruin straight into me at 150 kph and ruin my day. Still, it’s nice to see all the little French diesel-powered cars. A small win for Poland.
How People Drive
I’ve had the good fortune to have driven about 60,000 km on both small roads and big roads in Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, France, England, Scotland, Norway and Sweden and Poles are the most careless drivers I’ve seen, whether I’ve seen them in Poland or outside of it. In the nearly five years I’ve been living here, our old car was hit four times – three while it was parked (two notes had fake phone numbers, one time no phone number at all) – and once we were rear-ended. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen over-turned cars or otherwise totaled cars at the road side and, about a month ago, I had the dubious honour of seeing two dead bodies laying on the roadside. Only in Poland will people witness such carnage and then, less than 90 seconds later, be tailgating before trying to illegally overtake. Virtually any country would win over Poland, certainly the US does.
Smaller Flats and Smaller People
Having a small flats is nice because it means you don’t have to worry about buying much to fill it up, nor spending much to heat it up, nor spending a lot of time to clean it up. Small flats are also nice because most are too small to host your in-laws for an overnight stay. In general, in-laws are usually NOT small but most everyone else in Poland is. I enjoy towering over most everyone else at 190 cm. A solid win for Poland.
Different Political Parties to Hate for Different Reasons
Irritatingly enough, just a few months after I moved here those two squat, plump and rabid hamsters were elected to bring Poland well and truly into the “Dumb and Dumber” phases of its recent political history. They were so bad I had to spend quite awhile figuring out if Bush was worse or not. I did finally conclude that Bush was worse but not by much. So, a win for Poland – just.
The Little Things!
All-GSM mobile phone networks, metric everything, truly free and public health care, bitterly cold and snow-filled winters and how close other countries are. In the US you can drive for a day and not be anywhere else, the mobile phone network will still be rubbish, there won’t be enough snow on the ground and you still won’t be able to afford to visit the hospital. The food in the US is infinitely more varied and as well-made as it is here in Poland but on all other counts, Poland triumphs.
Oh how I miss my little Ruger 10/22 with the 2-10x scope and the two 25 round magazines clipped together for AWESOME GOOD TIMES. I would love it even more if it were here with me because then I could shoot everyone “singing” football songs at 2am, yapping little dogs, people that throw trash on the ground (e.g. everyone) and so on. Despite the fact that all crimes in Poland seem punishable with a 120 PLN fine I have heard that Polish jails are quite unappealing and I’m sure the authorities would frown on a shooting spree – if it was possible to own a gun in Poland, which it isn’t. So I must reluctantly give this round to Poland as jail time would put a damper on things.
The author with his gun and hench-cat. (Cat now part of witness protection program and believed to be living in Nevada)
In the US you get people that are serious about it. There are people there doing things in the US that make the Taliban sit up and take notes. Here in Poland, 98 percent of the population is religious, 99 of the 98 percent are Catholic and about 9 percent of everyone goes to church other than for weddings, Easter or Christmas. It would be better, though, if everyone didn’t lie so much about how religious they aren’t. Poland wins this round because I’ve never seen “God quotes” or a Bible on anyone’s desk at work.
Polish families are VERY close. And very loud. And very interested in how much you paid for your most recent purchase. Like 9 out of 10 Americans who left the house before before the age of 21 I am not particularly close to my family, certainly not by Polish standards where it is quite common to see three generations of family members voluntarily living together. I can only assume this is what makes many Poles such aggressive drivers and such hard drinkers: one must vent all that frustration some how. This round goes to the US.
The “Wild West” Atmosphere.
Many Poles like to think that because their country is at least 1,000 years old and that because they “invented democracy” or whatever that they are way more mature than the US. This couldn’t be further from the truth, what with all the bribery, utterly indifferent politicians, ego-centric fuck-everyone attitudes, the racism, nationalism, xenophobia and often shockingly poor educational standards. This round, surprisingly, also goes to Poland because it’s nice to know that if I’m having a bad day I can act like a jerk and no one will really notice or care. It’s probably not a round that Poland or most Poles would prefer to win but you gotta take what you can get.
I like Poland, even though sometimes it makes me want to scream. I moved here cause of a girl but if I had my preference I would have moved to Norway, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark or Ireland. I’m still here because, really – and I’m being serious for a moment – even when Poland does drive me insane (quite often) I do prefer it over the US. Even to me it doesn’t make a lot of sense but there’s just something about this country…