The Culture of Poland, Europe
I have been living in Poland, Europe for the past year of my life. Prior to that, I lived in California, U.S.A. for 28 years. I was actually born in Poland, and my family and I immigrated to the United States when I was three years old for political reasons. In this hub, I am going to be discussing some interesting aspects of the Polish culture I have noticed since living here.
Come, Dine with Us
I have noticed that people in Poland are traditionally warm, friendly and inviting once you get to know them. For instance, they will eagerly invite you over to their homes and lavish you with all kinds of good food and drinks; so much so that it is practically impossible to eat it all. Also, women do most of the food preparation and serving. Some women actually get offended if men attempt to help them out because they see food preparation and serving as a woman’s role.
In the United States I experienced quite the opposite. First of all, friends of mine in the United States rarely invited me over for dinner; and when they did, it was a lot less traditional than what I have been experiencing in Poland. For example, there really was no delineation between a man’s and a woman’s role in the kitchen; and instead of being lavished with a feast fit for a king, I was served a filling portion and told that if I wanted more food or beverages I was free to help myself.
This is not to say that the Polish culture is better than the American culture in this respect, or vice versa. The Polish culture just take s a more traditional approach in entertaining dinner guests while the American culture takes a more logical and “make yourself feel at home” one. It is up to each individual to decide, for themselves, which one of these is better.
Have it Your Way
Poland also has a lot of agriculture, which decreases their need for fast food restaurants. I have only seen a few McDonald’s in Poland, and I have traveled Poland fairly extensively. However, there is no shortage of open markets where farmers sell their produce: fruits like apples, tangerines, and raisins; vegetables like potatoes, carrots and beats; legumes like peas, beans, nuts; and a variety of breads, to name a few.
Prices for produce are relatively inexpensive, as well. However, Polish wages are also relatively minimal, which leads Poles to often budget their finances. I know some people that work hard to earn a meager living. For instance, I know a waitress at a restaurant that gets paid around only seven zlotys per hour. To put that into perspective, that is around $2 an hour.
Follow the Money
As a result of the low wages Poles earn in Poland, many seek work outside of the country. That is why you find millions of Poles in the United States, Canada, England, etc. Polish wages just do not compare to the amount of money that can be made outside of the country. I have family members who currently work in England and Austria. They make decent wages in terms of English and Austrian wages; but in terms of Polish wages they make a killing!
For instance, my cousin who works as a forklift operator in England earns about 9,000 zloty a month (once pounds are converted to zlotys). He would be lucky to earn 1,500 zloty a month with the same type of job in Poland. Not to mention, work is difficult to find in much of Poland (although, the major cities like Warsaw offer more possibilities).
Like my cousin, some Poles who work outside of the country invest back into Poland with the money they earn. My cousin does this by using his earnings to build a house for himself and his new wife, which they are now in the process of doing. Not to mention, with English wages (and many other foreign wages) it is much easier to live in Poland. I will use myself as an example. I am the owner of a two-bedroom flat. My total monthly bills (including food) amount to no more than $300.
Something I found unique about Poland is that many Poles run their automobiles on propane. Gasoline powered automobiles can have an additional propane tank installed in them. However, diesel fuel powered automobiles cannot. The reason why many people do this is because gasoline is just so expensive in Poland, nearly twice as much as in the United States. Currently, gas prices in California are around $3.25 a gallon. In Poland gasoline costs around 5.40 zlotys a liter. This averages out to somewhere around $6.30 a gallon. The generally low average income of the Polish makes this burdensome. With a propane installation, however, this lowers the cost of fuel nearly double.
Maintaining an automobile is costly in Poland. This is one of the reasons why many Poles do not own an automobile. However, public transportation is affordable, timely and reliable here. Mini buses drive around the city all day long. On weekdays, I almost never have to wait any longer than five minutes for a bus to get somewhere in the city; although, buses between cities run less frequently.
You are What You Eat
Even though Poland has a lot of agriculture, I find that it is still behind in knowledge about healthy eating and living. For instance, on Polish tables during a meal it is common to find lots of meat and cakes. In addition, Pork and sausage are really popular in Poland; and people generally think that it is healthy, even necessary, to eat pork and sausage. Polish people generally drink very little water throughout the day as well. Instead, they drink coffee, tea, or some kind of juice.
Also, alcohol (especially vodka) is widely abused here; and many people smoke cigarettes. I personally know some serious alcoholics and smokers (smoking and drinking usually seem to go hand-in-hand). In a television program about the smoking industry I viewed recently, it mentioned that Krakow, Poland has the highest rate of smokers in the world! One out of every two people in Krakow are estimated to be smokers. That’s fifty percent!
The Grip of the Vatican
Roman Catholicism dominates Poland, with an astounding percentage of up to 95% of Polish people being Catholic. Enormously extravagant Catholic churches can be found in many places here; and shrines to Mary, Jesus and the Pope are strewn across the land. Fervent Catholics brave rain, sleet and snow to worship at and even to these shrines.
Poland is a country with traditional customs. It is rich in agriculture but lacking in knowledge about health and nutrition. Many people struggle to make a living here, causing numerous Polish people to seek a living outside of the country and come up with ingenious ways to make the most of their finances, like running their automobiles on propane; and Catholicism rules the land.