What winds up a Pole…

Those who have kept up with Polandian for a while have surely read several rants on various things that make the hackles of English and American people living in Poland rise. Given that over a month has gone by since my last post went off here and that I have had an awful week abounding in situations in which I nearly hit the roof, it is the high time I hit you with a list of ten things that repeatedly hack me off.

1. Unreliability – probably the most infuriating trait Poles have. I have written a comprehensive post about it, so this time I’ll just link to it, everything is laid out there.

2. Keeping hands in a pocket while talking with somebody or speaking to audience. I do not know whether that habit can be easily eradicated, but it surely should be. Dress code flops can be forgiven, but it is much harder to connive at lack of respect, so overtly shown be keeping hands in a pocket. Maybe I am not well-versed in body language, but I tend to tag people with this affliction “snotty”. Do they really try to signal they are more important, or do they not realise they manifest their rudeness by hiding their palms from other people’s eyes?

3. Lack of respect for other people’s time? During an in-company training on holding meetings, coaches have taught me it is crucial within a company and in private life. Punctuality is vital then. Coming late for a meeting means you do not care about other people’s time, which is these days quite often a scarce commodity. The more official the meeting is and the more people attend, the bigger your sin is when you turn up late. Those who run a meeting should peek at their watches as well. Much more infuriating is when an event lasts longer than it should. When a meeting is supposed to be held in alloted time, for instance it should end by 3 p.m., you must not overrun it. Some participants surely have some other plans for time after 3 p.m. and you should bear it in mind. And if you did not get to the point and the meeting has been wearing on for too long, sorry mate, you did not bring it off and need to learn the lesson.

4. Idleness / laziness – another collective disease in Poland. No matter how you call it, there is always a group of people who try to outfox other ones, try to shirk work, pretend they do something, are all mouth to do something and generally when the results of their work are measured, it turns out there is much smoke, but little fire. Actually the “couldn’t care less” approach makes life easier, but usually for a person who practises it, but can be a huge nuisance for people around who sometimes break their backs and the idlers benefit from “sucker’s” efforts.

5. SUV drivers. Even after heavy snowfalls I still have no idea why people need those huge 4WD pricey vehicles to drive around town. After many years of investigations I still cannot make out whether buying big cars has anything to do with inferiority complex, if it is a way to boost ego of people who came to Warsaw from the countryside and purchased SUVs to swank and finally if there is a significant negative correlation between size of the car and size of a certain part of its male owner’s body. Probably the rising popularity of SUVs among women can disprove my theory.
It is not that I dislike them by the very dint of size and market value of their cars. They wind me up for one simple reason – they look down on other roads users and people around in general. They think if their car is bigger they can cut in on other cars, or can occupy two parking spaces. In Warsaw I have observed a quaint regularity – the more expensive a car is, the worse it is parked. Shiny BMWs, Audis and other luxurious cars tend to be parked aslant, occupy two spaces, are parked on lawns or where parking is forbidden. Let’s face it – quite often drivers of those cars are not enough skilled to sit behind a wheel of a sizeable vehicle. And this week I have been splashed with a slush three times by drivers of SUVs. Drivers of other vehicles can slow down when they pass a poor pedestrian by, but SUV drivers do not care.

6. Grannies… I know I should pre-empt you reproaching me over lack of respect for elederly people. I do understand they do things slowly and I will not bemoan their senility, because one day I will reach the same age, but the case is thoughtlessness. On Tuesday I visited a post office in Warsaw to buy post stamps and send Christmas cards. I queued up obediently and watched an amazing scene. An around 80-year-old woman asked for some Christmas cards, she did not know how many she needed, she could not pick any that could meet her expectations, she grumbled about prices, sizes, pictures, colours, etc. This could all have been forgiven even despite the fact the queue was getting longer and a worker behind the counter was getting impatient. She fianlly settled on eight cards and instead of letting a next person in a queue come up to the counter she took out a pen and began writing wishes, while still occupying the counter. The post worker gently asked her to move away because other people were waiting their turn, just to find herself accused by the granny of “belligerence” and “small-mindedness”. Fortunately, people waiting in a queue stood up for the besieged employee. Another quite frequent occurence when older people could use their nuts is getting off a bus. Usually they are lucky enough to be given a seat and know exactly on which stop they should alight the vehicle. Unfortunately, they wait until the bus stops and then stand up and elbow their way towards the nearest door. Usually other passengers are thumped with their belongings, are trampled, sometimes they fall over and eventually the granny fails to make it to the door before it is closed. Then everyone around, including inconsiderate passengers and the brash bus driver is to blame, in a word everyone except them. Outside public transport vehicles it is not much better. Recently they have picked up a habit of walking in the middle of a pavement. I am aware they cannot walk as fast as I do, but they can occupy only the half of a pavement on the side of it, not in the middle, to let other people, who are in hurry, overtake them. It does not take sleight, it takes to think…

7. Relativism & hypocrisy. Almost every Polish driver knows another driver who cuts in on them is a rude clot, but if they cut in on someone else it’s because they are in a hurry. When your colleague prints his private stuff on a company printer he simply steals paper and toner paid by your company; when you do it, it is because you have a profound reason (such as running out of ink in a cartridge at home, or saving on ink and paper). When your neighbour wheels and deals not to pay taxes, this is called tax evasion, when you do the same it is tax avoidance.

8. Ignorance, ubiquituos ignorance. But it does not prevent anyone from holding their head up high. A general old truth is that every Pole is an expert in every field. They are all best traffic engineers, economists, doctors, always well-read and well-travelled. This plague is particularly pernicious when it affects journalists. I am still waiting for a week when I do not find a single arcticle in a newspaper or in the Internet without a single factual error. Polish journalists are more and more often cutting corners when doing their work, they do not substantiate facts and hope nobody twigs. Fortunately enough, their “slip-ups” do not pass unnoticed and they have to correct their errors.

9. Cheating on exams. I took an exam on Wednesday. I had not had any for some half a year and surely in that joyful time I forgot how it feels. The hell begins some twenty minutes before students get into the room. Some students gather and begin to moan that they have not learnt at all and are totally unprepared. Then of course they get best grades. Brushing aside the “I’m unprepared” bleating, things get much worse when sheets with questions are handed out. Every (in)decent student tries then to look over someone else’s shoulder to check someone else’s answers. This is not yet the worst, the worst is when I cannot concentrate on the exams because some jerk jostles me and asks for a correct answer. It particularly hacks me off when they clamour for help because they work and consequently could not attend classes and did not have time to study for the exam. It was their choice to pursue career and earn money, I also combine studies with work, but it is not a reason why someone else should pass exams instead of me. When will Polish students finally realise this is sponging on people who work hard and this is theft, intellectual theft?

10. Grumbling, but not lifting a finger to improve anything. Back in the joyful times of middle school I first heard the phrase “Change the world, by changing yourself”. It would be quite practical to start revamping the workings of the world around from improving workings of small things. All my neighbours complain my street should be clear of snow. Indeed it should, but before a tractor with a snowplough sent by local authorities arrives, every healthy man should take a shovel and remove snow from a short section of road in front of his house. Thus after an hour the whole street would be clear of snow and all men, instead of sitting and staring at the box would have physical exercise. I recently cleared twenty metres of my street of snow and an hour later my neighbour scattered the snow from his drive there. I did not shatter my shovel on his head just because I want to stay out of trouble…

Cool! What a relief to take it all off my chest. Is anyone around who has not been insulted yet?

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45 thoughts on “What winds up a Pole…

  1. bob says:

    Good one Bartek – just wonder if you would want to change the title – is is really: ‘what winds you up about Poles’? vs ‘what winds up a Pole’? Or perhaps: “As a Pole, what other Poles do that wind me up”?

    Bob

  2. Livio says:

    I adore your English.

    I was going to write, you grumble just like a Pole, but it was suspicious you did, until I noticed you’re the only Pole behind Polandian :] .

    Excellent text. I can’t add anything or even agree more. This is something we need to teach to our children.

  3. Another Ewa says:

    Blimey, it must be difficult being a saint.

    My most annoying thing about Poland: that Poles are always quick to blame everyone else and are not willing to take any responsibility for themselves.

  4. Lilo says:

    11. Anger issues combined with the reluctance to recognize and/or manage them.

    12. MMC young able-bodied man pain

  5. Bartek says:

    I thought about the title before published and didn’t change my mind. It is a bit misleading as it was meant to be.

  6. Bartek says:

    Thx Livio,

    it seems it would be wiser to teach our (unborn) children what not to do, rather than what to do

  7. Bartek says:

    The most difficult is to have a patience of a saint.

    Good observation!

  8. Bartek says:

    MMC? What does it stand for? Me not understand :( (perhaps because I’m not English)

  9. bob says:

    Ha Bartek – Trying to wind up non-Poles I see!

  10. Kuba says:

    I think you got to everyone. You must be in politics.

  11. Agnieszka says:

    hope it’s not too chilly up there on your cross!

  12. Bartek says:

    Take it back and perish the thought!

  13. Bartek says:

    Not yet on a cross, but having a heavy cross to bear – physical exercise always warms one up!

  14. Steve says:

    Why do Poles continually attack Poland and Poles when they know that Poles generally don’t do the thing that they’re complaining about. In the case of your list, they are complaints made equally in England about ‘that type of person’, etc rather than the English generally. I’d be surprised if the same isn’t true in the USA, France, etc. That they are ‘things that make the hackles of English and American people living in Poland rise’ (me to) is a foreigner’s bias when complaining, but we’re just being ignorant. I hate it when Poles do the same to themselves and ‘our’ country.

    However, I’m pleased to tell you that SUVs are far more justified in Poland than in England. I regularly raise the suspension on my Citroen out here in the Polish countryside going along churned up dirt roads, during snowy weather, etc. Any car that has the chassis high above the ground is fully justified. On the other hand, they’re just status symbols for the moronic, pretend-to-be rich in England. (Not for the English generally, of course.)

  15. I’d have to agree with Steve here.

    Even by Polandian standards, this is an unusually pointless article.

    Such things as unreliability, idleness, hypocrisy, ignorance, grumbling and grannies are universal human traits, probably found to a greater or lesser extent in every society on Earth, and are in no way confined, or even generally confined, to Poland.

    I would also say that the need to urinate is not a specifically ‘English’ condition, although may Steve vehemently disagree with me on this point, and sympathise with Poles in England who believe this to be the case.

  16. Bartek says:

    OK, most traits described above are across-the-border, probably except cheating on exams.

    I do realise SUVs are sometimes justified, but the post is about their drivers’ behaviour.

  17. pomyśl says:

    Bardzo ciekawy opis wad każdego możliwego mieszkańca Ziemi.

  18. richardlith says:

    Cheating in exams is not limited to Poland. It isa problem in almost every country in Eastern and Southern Europeamd with the internet is now universal.

    There is a Tolstoy story that describes cheating in exams, can’t remember which.

    Your really are being too hard on Poles, what you describe are human failings that occur everywhere.

  19. Grze$ko says:

    Steve, it’s just another Polish trait, criticising everyone around (apart from one’s all-knowing and wise self).
    QED

  20. Grze$ko says:

    “A general old truth is that every Pole is an expert in every field. ”
    Looks like we’ve just found an expert on Polishness.
    Self evident really, well done, made me laugh.

  21. Mal says:

    These are obviously global problems. But the extent to which all this happens depends on the social penalties you face, and the liklihood of getting caught. For example, if the granny gets shouted at by the queue every time she holds it up, she’ll maybe learn. If the bad driver never gets a ticket, he’ll continue to drive like an ass unless fear of the law overtakes his hubrice.

    So, while we get bad behaviour in all countries, it will vary depending upon the acceptance and fear of punishment of each of those crimes in each country. Poland has many social problems, but they’re not going to be the same as those in Britain – which certainly has enough of its own.

    From this we get the enjoyment of comparing and contrasting what annoys us in each country and venting it with a good moan. THAT is certainly not just a Polish thing – although you may have evolved it into an art form :)

    The most interesting Polish trait for me is patriotism.
    I was talking to a hungarian last week, who described Hungary as being a tiny country with no world influence. I can’t imagine any Pole admitting that Poland is anything less than the centre of the known universe. I blame Kopernik :P

  22. GEG says:

    The SUV thing and driving? Just like the states. It’s completely wrong if you are cut off, but when you cut someone off, you have a *reason*. Some things I guess are just universal.:) The granny thing? I agree completely! They can have some pretty sharp elbows too!

  23. Paulina says:

    So called “national features” are always controversial. But you presented in a smart way what Poles think about the other Poles;)

  24. Lon says:

    Enjoyed reading your post. Hope you feel better now that you have shared your burden.

    I thought you comments on old people, time, and test cheating to be informative. When it comes to cheating, being 40, I guess I am old school in that we do our own work and sink or swing accordingly.

    I wonder what you think about this guy… he sounds great, I would vote for him. Loved the comment about Danish whales. http://blogs.wsj.com/new-europe/2010/12/10/polish-president-likens-afghanistan-war-to-animal-hunt/

  25. Kasia says:

    I think your article wasn’t well thought-out. Poles keep their hands in their pocket? are always late? – those aren’t really specifically ‘Polish’ traits. Also I agree with the author of the first post that the title makes no sense. Besides: what the hell are you doing on an expat site writing crap about your own kin? That’s what really winds ME up about Poles – SUCKING UP TO BRITS and AMERICANS even at the expense of sacrificing your own honor. You speak great English? – well, great job! Now do something productive with it, not self-defeating!

  26. Sylwia says:

    In the Communist era schools there was a custom to elect people like Bartek the school president. I wonder what they do now.

  27. Norman says:

    “They think if their car is bigger they can cut in on other cars, or can occupy two parking spaces” – not. That’s just a stereotype. :]

  28. Katie says:

    Oh, not everyone are cheating!
    I concede that I’ve stopped to cheat on tests at the beginning of high school (well, except for Latin, I simply wasn’t able to remember all these conjugations, declinations etc) and now, at the university… well, I think that doesn’t make sense to cheat – I need that knowledge for my future job. The bulk of my fellow students behave in the same way. So don’t popularize these awful stereotypes, please.

  29. scatts says:

    I just wanted to say in answer to the question raised that the most likely answer is a snake. A snake “winds” up a pole while most other things “climb”.

  30. Bartek says:

    Apologies for the substantial delay in responding. Not that I’ve taken umbrage. I appreciate all comments, including those from readers who pulled me up for some remarks in the article. That’s what the comment box is for. You gave me some food for thought!

  31. Bartek says:

    Thank you for the pun mate! Very insightful!

  32. Bartek says:

    Maybe the problem is that the stereotype I popularise is that cheating doesn’t exist in Anglo-Saxon countries. I heard it many times, but didn’t attend any school there, hence I might be wrong.

  33. Bartek says:

    That’s not the stereotype, you won’t hear it. It’s my private observation, derived after years of moving around Warsaw.

  34. Bartek says:

    They run companies, lots of them work at banks. Soem have gone into politics…

  35. Bartek says:

    I agree I didn’t think. I just wrote it and published. About other accusations I’m in two minds – it surely wasn’t nuzzling up to anyone.

  36. Bartek says:

    Thx, this was the pivot

  37. mellowandy says:

    Maybe but everyone, but the stereotype exists for a reason.
    I have overseen many exams in Poland where the students have a discussion amongst themselves as to what answer they wrote!! It’s an exam, not a class discussion.
    I have taken exams away and made some classes sit it again because of the blatant cheating.
    I have also had students and friends claim that exams in Poland are harder and that the students have to learn more than in other countries. This is why they cheat. Yes of course that MUST be true….!!!! Exams at Oxford University are simple and easy (this is why this uni is world famous for it’s high and demanding entrance selection and academic excellence), unlike the more complicated Jagiellonian versions which are of course, far harder.
    My ex girlfriend, who’s Polish, studied in Lublin and Krakow and regularly complained to me that she was in the minority of people who had actually studied for the exam.
    I have heard about, and seen myself, students going into exam rooms with written out notes that they use in the exam!!! Unbelievable, but for two reasons. The cheating aspect and the fact that it is so blatant and obvious.
    Saying all this I have heard that the situation is changing for the better. A meritocracy ideal on exams is becoming more the norm. Let’s hope so :)

  38. What'sWrong? says:

    You know, if it’s so bad for you to stay here, in Poland, why you are doing that? Just to complain about things?

  39. What'sWrong? says:

    Anyway the article is good, could you tell me where is the difference between avoidance and evasion?

  40. Bartek says:

    tax avoidance is resorting to legal methods to pay lower taxes, whereas tax evasion involves illegal methods

  41. Ang says:

    I love, love, love the one about the old woman. i would have relished such a scene if i wasn’t in a hurry anywhere. When i first came to Poland, the old women especially, were the most precious things ever! gossiping behind my back about my black locks and which part of the Africa i could possibly have come from. The first person to ever speak to me in English was a man probably in his 60’s. I say, no one’s perfect… and for Poles far from it. Don’t get way ahead of yourselves… these are boundless human traits in every nook and cranny

  42. “5. SUV drivers. Even after heavy snowfalls I still have no idea why people need those huge 4WD pricey vehicles to drive around town. After many years of investigations I still cannot make out whether buying big cars has anything to do with inferiority complex, if it is a way to boost ego of people who came to Warsaw from the countryside and purchased SUVs to swank and finally if there is a significant negative correlation between size of the car and size of a certain part of its male owner’s body.”

    Ever heard of the chelsea tractor plague, Bartek?

    When in London, go to Fulham/Hammersmith/Chelsea/SKensigton/Hapstead and see it for yourself.

  43. anna says:

    I agree 100 % with your point of view.

  44. anna says:

    You have forgotten to add a word Western . How do you know that Dutch , English , German , Italians or French don`t cheat . I have seen them cheating many times , they don`t differ from anybody else. The problem is different . In USA or Canada for example they never give you a test it hasn`t been done earlier during a course . So everybody knows exactly what to expect . If they study hard the tests done during a semester , there is no chance to fail.
    In Poland students on the exams are suprised by questions they have never had a chance to study before .That is a big difference and the reason for some not to play fair.

  45. anna says:

    What else will you write next ? About Christofer Columbus discovering America . If you find your native country so uncomfortable to live in , get the fu** out of here

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