Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Poland Report Card

Thailand and New Zealand have received their reports. It is now time to see how Poland stacks up.



Oh, I’m back in Canada and it is fantastic.

Food B-
 I don’t want to offend anyone here (which I feel will happen inadvertently) but I didn’t fall in love with Polish cuisine. To be fair, I don’t think Canadian cuisine, whatever it may be, is the best but Polish food didn’t really do it for me. They are in love with soups. Seriously. If you love soup, just move to Poland and you will never worry about anything again the rest of your life. They love their meats and vegetables. Nothing wrong with that. I just found it a bit bland and boring. I gave Thai food a B+ (I made a mistake in retrospect) so that leaves Poland in the B,B- area.

Price: A
Poland is cheap as. Not sure how much my rent was because it was so low. Metro tickets, eating out, clothes, all great deals. Keep it up Poland.

Location: A-
A few hour flight gets you anywhere in Europe and into Africa and the Middle East. Beautiful Ukraine and Germany are right there and Moscow is a stone’s throw is you want some cigarettes and bazookas.

Weather: B
Definite room for improvement on the whole cloud front and getting dark at 3pm in the winter. Conversely, nobody is complaining when the sun is rising at 3:30am during the spring. Winters aren’t terrible but the whole darkness situation is a deal breaker for me.

People: A-
Now this is a tricky one. My friends: A+. My students while they aren’t in my class talking about snapchat, A. Absolutely random Polish person you might encounter on the street while they give me a dirty look for my unique laugh? Let’s say a conservative B. When I first arrived in Poland, my roommate told me that Polish people are a little harder to get to know and open up to you but once they let you into the group, you’re in. I came to realize this was true when I was let into the group of our fearless leader, Michael. They treated the three Canadians the same as their Polish friends even though they knew we wouldn’t be around forever. They were better friends to me than I was to them. The quote that stands out from saying goodbyes was, “You know how I know that you like us Bert? You don’t pretend to like us.” This might not sound endearing to me but he was trying to say that (hopefully) that I’m sincere and don’t fake wanting to talk about things I don’t want to talk about. I feel total happiness, joy and gratefulness for the friends I met in Poland. It’s what I’ve thought about since coming back. That and my bicycle.

Safety: A
I had zero safety concerns whilst living in Poland other than needing to be on the lookout for wild boars. There are police at the metro stops, police randomly around town and I never felt unsafe. The first night I wandered around Warsaw, I saw two mountain of men yelling and trying to fight each other. I thought I was in for some real trouble the next year but luckily, no issues.

Activities: A-
There are definitely things to do in Poland. Wakeboarding, snowboarding, lakes, forests, concerts, museums, Old Towns, partying, walking tours, bowling, paintball, etc. Standard big city and quirky small town things to do. One activity that I have yet to experience is a Polish wedding. Apparently, they are legit and might be the best Polish experience to take in. I’m hoping to cross this off next July.

Transportation: A
While my main mode of transportation was my favourite orange bicycle, Uber was a mainstay. We could get from our house to the centre of Warsaw in about 20ish minutes and it only cost $10. I’d rather not look through my Uber receipts from the last year. Metro is cheap and accessible along with buses and blah blah cars. Cheap airlines (check-in online and print your boarding pass first!!!) take you anywhere in Europe and trains that are insanely efficient, comfortable and affordable. Europe kills Canada in this department.

Beauty: B+
Poland has beautiful lakes, mountains and countryside. Not all that different from a Canadian landscape. I give the edge to Canada.

Nightlife: A
Poland knows what’s up in the partying department. No 2am closing times, no 8 hour LCBO times to deal with and limited, if any, cover charges. Polish people love their vodka, shot bars and jut overall going for it. My only advice would be to never, and I mean never, drink moonshine with a Pole. You’ve been warned.

Girls: A

Health Care: A-
I’m pretty stoked that I didn’t go to a hospital this entire year! I did get strep throat and went to a dentist once but my knowledge here is limited. If you got sick in Poland though, they’d take good care of you then try to feed you moonshine as a celebratory drink; don’t do it! You’re going to do it aren’t you?

Environment: C+
Recycling didn’t seem to be a huge priority while living in Warsaw and I didn’t feel a big push to be green. They do have some wind farms on the way up to Gdansk but overall, progress could be made.

Politics: D
Poland is a country that is becoming more divided by the day. They have a very right wing President and Prime Minister that don’t have the backing of the majority of Polish people. They aren’t overly inclusive to immigrants and the LBGTQ community. This is the biggest issue that Poland is facing and it doesn’t look the problem is in any way improving. Brexit might also have a negative effect as well as more refugees needing sanctuary. They do have a large Ukrainian population and Ukraine is incredible so it can’t be all bad.

Overall quality of life: B+
Safe, tons of travel, forests, rich history, resilient people, beer, gorgeous women that I never talked to, mild winters, Wroclaw and Magda Hoffman. Polish people love studying and most people have a great grasp of English so navigating life there is manageable.I never have or will regret my time in Poland. Being a little more environmentally friendly, being more inclusive and having a slightly smaller gap between rich and poor would be an overall plus. No doubt I will be visiting again before too long. Polish people all over the world should be proud to wear red and white, cheer on their Polish football club and drink every German they meet under the table.

Final grade: A-
Nothing wrong with Poland. People are always a little shocked and confused when I tell them I was living or have lived in Poland. The main question is: Why? I feel privileged to have called Poland my home and honestly feel more Polish than my half Irish, Scottish ancestry. I don’t care for their accents and more Polish people love me than Irish or Scottish people do so when people ask me my heritage, I will speak the truth but tell them my DNA might lean Irish and Scottish, but my heartbeats Polish.

“It has been said that Poland is dead, exhausted, enslaved, but here is the proof of her life and triumph.” 

Henryk Sienkiewicz