NEW WRITER – Why I Live In Poland (Despite The Fact That It Often Irritates The Hell Out of Me)

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.

Smaller Cars
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.

Guns
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.

IMG_0327s2

The author with his gun and hench-cat. (Cat now part of witness protection program and believed to be living in Nevada)

Religion
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.

Family
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.

To Summarize
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…

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44 thoughts on “NEW WRITER – Why I Live In Poland (Despite The Fact That It Often Irritates The Hell Out of Me)

  1. Nice post. You’re writing reflects a lot of my thoughts as an American living here (Wroclaw), especially the last bit about preferring Poland to the States.

    It’s a shame that so many Poles have a hard time recognizing some of the amazing things we can see so clearly. And yes, they can drive you insane too…in and out of the car.

  2. Scatts says:

    I love this stuff! The whole idea of guest writers is fantastic. Jeez, Polandian is so wonderful I can’t explain how glad I am to have found this place.

    (Some highly intelligent person hacking into scatts account)

    [not me at all, no no no, honest]

  3. elmer says:

    What the hey? I know she hasn’t been around for a while, but no mention of Basia?

    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Basia&search_type=&aq=f

    Not the “Pani Basia” down the last, but the real Basia.

  4. Brad Zimmerman says:

    I disagree with everything the author has said!

  5. bribery, utterly indifferent politicians, ego-centric fuck-everyone attitudes, the racism, nationalism, xenophobia and often shockingly poor educational standards

    Sorry – what country are you talking about here?

  6. Lon says:

    Hey great to hear from a fellow American. I loved the comment about missing your Ruger 10/22… mine with same same 25 rd mags are locked up at parents while I travel and such. Love Poland myself and still trying to figure out when I will stay longer than a vacation. Look forward to reading more. What city do you call “home” in Poland.

  7. Brad Zimmerman says:

    Michael: Poland.

    Lon: Krakow. I’m looking forward to writing more as the topics and time present themselves.

  8. Brad Zimmerman says:

    Christian: Wroclaw is a very pretty city. I had a chance a few years ago to visit for a few days and quite thoroughly enjoyed it. I still think that Wroclaw is one of the few non-coastal cities that has a well-defined character – a strong sense of “who” it is.

  9. island1 says:

    So it’s true. All Americans have guns. And they miss them.

  10. island1 says:

    “Who” it is being a German city trapped in Poland.

  11. island1 says:

    She does seem to go to extremes sometimes.

  12. Lon says:

    Jamie – as to guns it is a very American issue… I miss going to the range or Wilderness (not National Park) and letting loose or just having a Sig next to my bed at night as I fall off to sleep.. But Ill live without for now until we have to kick the Brits out again.

    Mike look forward to reading more from Krakow. I should know in the next few weeks if this is the year for Poland and if I do will probably start off in Wroclaw… will see what the next few months have in store. How long have you lived in P-land now? Sorry you have to share Krakow with Jamie.

  13. Malcolm says:

    Actually, it’s a Polish city trapped inside a German city trapped inside Poland.
    And if you’ve ever tried to catch a train in December, you’ll also get trapped…

  14. […] via Polandian | NEW WRITER – Why I Live In Poland (Despite The Fact That It Often Irritates The Hell O…. […]

  15. […] Polandian | NEW WRITER – Why I Live In Poland (Despite The Fact That It Often Irritates The Hell O…. I hope it never occurs to you that it’d be hard to be, ahem, ‘racist towards Poland and […]

  16. miglanc says:

    “who” was somethink like that: http://bi.gazeta.pl/im/2/4548/z4548492X.jpg in 1945.

  17. Wroclaw is awesome, and you’re right, it has a good understanding of what it is, with enough David Lynch-like fuzzy corners to keep things interesting.

    It’s always great to hear someone else’s take on living in Poland. Thanks for writing.

  18. uratroll says:

    i lol’d irl.

    you really think US food and education are better? troll?

  19. loli says:

    clearly the us of a :)

  20. Brad Zimmerman says:

    URATROLL: Re-read the article, please.

    Re the food: “The food in the US is infinitely more varied and as well-made as it is here in Poland.”

    The food in the US *is* more varied. In Portland you could easily find many examples of very well-made Mexican, Caribbean, Mediterranean, German, Spanish, Indian, Japanese, Thai, Creole, French and, of course, American food like steaks, burgers, etc. Not to mention Italian food. Hell, in Portland there were carts where you could find crepes, Polish food, Czech food, even bangers and mash from the British guy that ran the British cart! No such thing here.

    Re the education: “often shockingly poor educational standards.” Again, I didn’t say that the US’s standards are better, did I? Just that I’m often shocked at how poor the educational standards are here. Even at the university level I find that Polish students do little more than recite facts and figures but very little interpretation of those facts. What does X mean? Often Poles do not know… but they do know that X exists.

    My opinion on this is that Polish educators need to have some more faith in their students and, frankly, to expect more out of them. In this age where facts are easy to come by it is the art of interpreting them that is so crucial… I would suggest to Polish educators that they spend more time focusing on what those facts mean by themselves and in relationship to everything else.

    If I were to comment on the US’s education system I would say that there’s plenty of interpreting going on but there is a very broad array of subject matter and that it might be better to focus on the core subjects.

    A strong liberal-arts education is, I believe, an excellent base from which to climb towards virtually any subject. Being able to organise one’s thoughts, knowing how to study and learn… these are just as important as having a bit of knowledge. If one stops learning after university then they’re missing out on a lifetime of education.

  21. iceteajunkie says:

    Ireland, really? As one of those Poles that moved to Ireland some time ago *and stayed, when exchange rate plummeted (and perhaps intend to stay much longer), I’m having a lot of fun, comparing those two countries, trying to evaluate the overall “score” :) And as for driving goes, for example, I think Ireland has horrible standard of driving sklls – *but* – most of the people are aware of the fact that their skills are crap, and drive defensively. Which is far better than my fellow brethren in Poland, that don’t posses decent driving skills *and* are unaware of that. Still, it could be worse. It could be Kenya.

    Anyway, while Poland has a lot of twitchy and ugly bits (people’s attitude, “religion”, crappy infrastructure and politicians), it’s been only after I’ve moved to Ireland that I’ve realised, that there are some things in Poland that are far better than the Mythical West’s (here in Ireland :). Things like banking system, GP’s knowledge, or public transport – I’ve learned that yes, I should HAVE NOT complained about those :D

    I’m not even trying to mention the food, because that’s very subjective matter. (but what is it with Germany and Poland being only countries that got the idea behind sausages right? :)

    Still, so far, Ireland is my country of choice. I guess mostly because of the overall attitude of people. 50 years of communism made Polish people cautious and distrustful – which hurts a lot, and influences all of our behaviors.

  22. Bartek says:

    Ranting, ranting, I live here not because I have chosen to. But I’ll take issue with you.

    1. Smaller cars? It’s not because people like them but they drive them because they cannot afford to have a bigger one. Make, model and age of a vehicle still are important in Polish social pecking order.

    2. How people drive? It’s because of complacency. Every Pole will tell you he is an excellent driver, especially a man. Plus they take for granted that accidents will happen, but not to them. And not every Pole runs away from the car park where he damaged another car. My father last October slightly scratched a brand new Skoda Octavia and waited for an hour for an owner of that car to come, plead he had scratched the car and give his all details of insurance policy.

    3. Smaller flats – again what we can afford to have. Some posts and comments on it on my blog.

    4. Politics, yes when it comes to stupidity, Mr Bush managed to beat midget twins, but not taken together.

    5. I prefer the metric system, GSM network could offer a better quality. And someone who advocates superiority of public health care.

    6. Guns, once again you refer to my blog. This is a topic for a longer discussion.

    7. Religion – stats and reality go separate ways. Around fifty per cent of Poles practise what they declare to believe in. The clout of church is on the wane.

    8. Family – oh yes, this is very apt, but young Poles more and more often leave the nests. And those three generations living under one roof can be seen in the countryside, seldom in capital and big cities.

    9. Wild West. You view is angled, as in any country in Poland we have bribery, racist and people who want to benefit at the expense of other (indeed too many of such individuals). Poor education? How did you deduce it. and how about the US? Who produced the “morons who took second mortgages because they believed property prices would only rise”?

    10. Summary – I’ve never been to the states, but from what I’ve read and heard about it I’m happy to live where I live.

  23. Kuba says:

    The food in my humble opinion is better in Poland. Just try getting varied cuts of meat in the US. The only way I get good sausage is make it.
    Education must be in some trouble many are opting to home school. Most schools at the Universtity level teach only the liveral view of the world.
    Family is a lot tighter in Poland, most grand parents live at home not put in one.

  24. Szymon says:

    Yes, we Poles often have a hard time recognizing those amazing things you see so clearly. This is because we make our comparisons to the UK, Germany and other prosperous EU countries, not to the USA like you do. Things like all-GSM mobile phone networks are standard across Europe, so there’s nothing to be particularly happy about that. As for smaller flats and smaller cars – Europe is just more crowded than America, space is more expensive here, so are cars (and petrol!), that’s all.

    And the fact that an average German earns thrice as much as an average Pole makes us somewhat jealous and bitter. Despite that, crime rate in Poland is relatively low, *violent* crime particularly so – maybe we indeed vent our frustration driving cars rather than shooting people. BTW, it is possible to own a gun in Poland, but access to guns is quite restricted.

    As for educational standards, I wouldn’t call ours poor, *especially* not when compared to American ones. The only part of Polish education which really sucks is languages, maybe that’s what caused Brad’s opinion – relatively few Poles speak acceptable English (or any other foreign language for that matter).

    Just my 0.02 PLN.

  25. Decoy says:

    Hey Brad, nice topic and one that is particularly thought- (and comment-) provoking.

    For what it’s worth, the ding-dongs and schamozzles in Decoy-land as much better than in ZZTop-land, so nah, nah! Anyone who says otherwise is a troll living under a bridge with only a computer and an internet connection for company!

  26. Brad Zimmerman says:

    I think there are too many comments to respond to them individually now so I will say this:

    If anyone here takes issue with my personal opinions and experiences here in Poland then I am sorry, but my experiences are what they are. One can argue almost anything either way but I stand by what I’ve written. If you don’t like it, you are welcome to be the change that you wish you would see in Poland …or just write a pithy piece about it all.

  27. Beata says:

    “…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.”
    Chances are, that car would be as small as yours ;-)

    Nice post, Brad. Would write more, but the Canadians just scored a goal against the Yanks, so I got to go and root for our boys!

  28. island1 says:

    Well as long as you’re going to Wroclaw we should be safe :)

  29. Justine says:

    “Again, I didn’t say that the US’s standards are better, did I?”

    Let me do some interpreting ;)This:”they are way more mature than the US. This couldn’t be further from the truth…” (and then listing a bunch of stuff) implies a comparison between Poland and the US. You argue Poland is not as mature as US because it has bad education standards, which does imply you believe US standards are better. Now, I do believe you have a point when you say Polish education is too focused on facts and not enough on critical thinking. And I suspect good US universities beat Polish universities. But with plenty of very crappy examples that can be found in the US, I don’t think we would lose on this one overall. It may be one of the constants of moving into another country – natives always look stupid. I can assure you we have the same feelings in Canada. Maybe it’s because those who move, almost by definition, have more knowledge about the world that those who never did.

  30. ajuc says:

    About educational level – in States there is big hoop – their universities are better, but everything under that level is bad.

    In Poland primary and secondary schools are better (look at experiences of people going with kids to the West – in Poland we teach more math and other hard sciences to kids earlier, althought after the Gimnazjum reform things are worse). So I would say – in US there are more disproporties in education level – but on the average, in Polish people are better educated (at least when it comes to math).

    Still, our universities are, mostly, poor substitutes of real Academia. Most teachers know less about new discoveries/technics/etc than interested in subject amateurs, and there is no pressure for them to change anything.

    We live in a dream named “Masters degree for everybody”. And everybody will have it, but for what, when it will mean nothing?

  31. Megan says:

    Good summary of why I want to move out of Poland.

    One remark, healthcare may be public and free but if you have any income, you’re better off with private clinics. Unless you find waiting for months for a doctor visit an acceptable standard.

  32. uratroll says:

    ok, then you have 2000 ways to get diarrhea and/or to get fat due low quality ingredients.

    congratulations to you for the well made variety of crap you’re eating over there!

  33. uratroll says:

    re education:

    bold words from someone whose nation created the america’s got talent kind of shows.

    fact: the average american does not read any books in his life.
    fact: the average american does not know which other 2 countries the usa shares borders with.
    fact: the average american thinks europe is a country somewhere in africa.

    you as an american have no right to complain about the education system of any country in the world.

    and please don’t shoot me lol.

  34. Kuba says:

    hogwash

  35. Tony says:

    “you as an american have no right to complain about the education system of any country in the world”

    Since you Poles are such geniuses, I’d love to see you build a highway that doesn’t melt in the sun. :-)

  36. Anonymous says:

    She hasn’t been in Poland for that long.

    However, I find her opinions to be far more realistic and than yours.

    And her attitudes far less patronising and condescending towards Polish people.

  37. Finch says:

    I don’t see what there is to complain about me having so-called “extreme” opinions. I don’t make, or even ask, anyone to read my blog. I’m glad I don’t update it anymore…

  38. haneczka14 says:

    I lover your reasons:-) As far as I remember, everything but religion is like you describe it. Well, I haven’t been in a church on a regular Sunday in a while (20 years?) but I just don’t like the influence it has on the real life in my home country…
    One thing though – in the area of US where I live people seemed not to understand me when I used the world “flat” for an “apartment” – is it any different in Oregon?
    Cheers from the other side of the big water!

  39. Anonymous says:

    Your blog, as far as I’m concerned, isn’t in any way extreme.

    You just write the truth as you see it. Of course, this is your truth.

    You are not obviously fuckwitted, in the manner that ‘polka on the island’, and ‘anglopole’ clearly are.

    I wonder why island apparently has sympathy for the posters mentioned above, but not your (perfectly reasonable) blog.

    There is no ‘polite’ response to holocaust deniers with a poor grasp of history who need to be told, in the clearest and most unambiguous manner possible, to STFU.

  40. John says:

    I live in Poland. Living a much improved quality of life after spending 32 years of working in the UK in an office style environment, OK I could have done this there but I would have needed to win the lottery.
    1. we (my lovely Polish wife and I) jave ovr 8 hectares of farmland.
    2. 2 houses.
    etc. etc. and i can speak english and some German to locals.
    This is the countryside and it is not the best like in the east but more beautiful.
    I think Hitler/Stalin tried to ruin Poland but I think that Poland has survived extremely well.
    Pity that the smallheads have bought powerfull German cars, it happens.
    I am very happy here and if you wanna visit, why not?
    I speak French, Italian and German but Poish I wish:-)

  41. John says:

    Sorry for the typos, I am on the Polish beer, like GOOD!

  42. Jim Kowalski says:

    Boiska na Sycylii e pszenicy ale jeść z Aten Scythia. Scythia stał się bardzo greckich i demokratycznej a następnie stał się Polska. Grecy i Rosjanie stał się zbyt dużo pod dyjabła.

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