Recently I had a ‘talk’ with Michal about the things each one of us does regarding Kazek. Michal pointed out that I am injecting into Kazek the idea that my word does not mean much at all. For example when Kazek comes to our room in the morning to wake us up, I usually respond by saying “alright alright, I’m getting up”. And then I don’t. I lie there for as long as possible and the little dude is forced to come in and out a few times trying to peel his mother out of bed. This has made me think of late about the things that I say I’ll do but then don’t. Like keeping my word to the other Flingers of Far Flung Four to post every week. Clearly I haven’t being doing this of late. I need major sock up-pulling. This was a topic of conversation last night with Titka, who also made a valid point that once you start breaking your word to others, it’s a slippery slope with regards to your own self. And this is so bloody true too! How many times have I said to myself that tonight I’d screen print that diesel engine for the wall? About 234 times. Have I done it? No. Anyway…
Ok so here in the spirit of saying I’ll post every week and not actually doing it, I will, once again try to save face by posting another double banger. Six social behaviours that are either utterly unacceptable in Poland or are the norm. Either way, some still amuse me, others continue to really trouble me. I haven’t had the writing steam to come up with much lately. So this will be just left in point form.
Splitting the Bill to the Last Zloty: Not on. It is considered extremely tight and anti-social to sit there with a bill and calculate who owes who what and who had the steak and who had the steamed broccoli. Things come full circle mentality and all that. I find this form of bill sharing easy and comfortable. There are never awkward moments or grimaces when the evening comes to a close.
Shoes Off: Considered rude to assume you can keep your shoes on when visiting someone’s home. This is hardly news-breaking but what is socially acceptable is for the host to bang on at you to put on some guest slippers should you decide to walk around bare footed. I still find this hilarious. Recently we were visiting Michal’s uncle who informed me, after I refused the slippers, that if I walk around bare footed on the kitchen tiles I will stuff up my joints. It was 37 degrees outside. Michal’s mother still cannot stomach my, and now Kazek’s, bare feet. I have had to sit through many lectures re lack of slippers. I guess Poles must really hate their feet.
The Birthday Flip: When it’s your birthday in Poland you do all the shouting. You’re shouting the drinks in the pub, you’re shouting the dinner for the friends you choose to invite, you pay for the accommodation for your guests should you decide to celebrate by having a birthday away. It’s the whole “Poles are Awesome Hosts” thing they’ve got going on here. Again the full circle concept comes into play. You invite and then you get invited. And so it goes.
No Questions Asked: This is a social norm I really cannot handle. People here don’t ask one another questions. Friends do not ask their friends questions. As bizarre as it may sound, it really is a social norm. It’s as if people are generally disinterested in one another. Six years I’ve been here and there is seriously about a handful of people combined whom I can claim as solid initiators of questions about my life, work, opinions, family etc. It is totally acceptable to offer information about your own life, experiences, share anecdotes, but direct questions or general show of interest in your friend are rare gems indeed. It is amazingly refreshing to meet new people who ask things about you or meet with friends who are genuinely interested in how your week has panned out. I find that I usually have a bag of knowledge about the people I have come to know here, but when it comes to me, my friends here know very little about me. Sad really. We had some friends come for dinner the other weekend. Incredibly intelligent, witty, hilarious anecdotes, live in Warsaw and have interesting jobs in governmental ministries. Throughout the entire evening both Michal and I were asked two questions. Combined! We hadn’t seen them in over a year. Often Michal and I after such evenings feel frustrated and baffled. Curiosity is meant to be a natural state for the human mind, yes? And how can true friendships be formed? With difficulty.
Cake Away: When you’re invited to someone’s house for dinner and you bring the wine or the beer, and the alcohol is not fully drunk, the host will never tell you to take the untouched bottle home. Ever. The host would be looked upon as a freak. I know because I have been that freak. When suggesting once to some friends that they take the unopened wine bottle back with them after we had had dinner at our place, I was met with a burst of troubled laughter like I was suggesting I would come back to their place and clean their bathroom. I remember Michal yelling out “Krzywa, what the hell are you doing?? No need for your mong tendencies here!!”. What is weird though that offering your guests some of the cake to take home that they brought with them is completely fine. Go figure. No alcohol back but cake defo. So who is the mong?
Telly On: In most Polish homes I have been to the television has always been on in the background. It is not necessarily being watched by the tenants of that home, but it is nonetheless on. Like a radio. Everyone goes on about their business to the muffled sounds of the television. I have been to official family gatherings like the name day of an aunt or Easter Sunday breakfast, with a massive spread of food and a stretched out table, everyone sitting around it, chatting, eating, and the television will be there not-so-silently on, watching us all. Maybe someone one day will explain to me why this is socially acceptable.