Monday, February 6, 2012

That’s So Polish: Foreign Stuff Is Better

As I am planning a trip to the USA sometime in the near future (my definition of near future is within the next 5 years), I have been thinking about what I should pack and what I should bring back. Here’s what I have come up with:

What to pack?

As little as possible.

What to bring back?

As little as possible.

Easy enough.

But that didn’t use to be the case. I mean I always packed light for the trip to the US, my baggage usually consisting of an empty bag inside another empty bag. Then I loaded up in the US on clothes, shoes, cosmetics, everything. The stuff was better and it was way cheaper. Not anymore. We’ve got stuff in Poland too, sometimes too much stuff and sometimes it is even good stuff.

I will no longer stock up on clothes in the US. I will probably buy something if I like it or need it but it won’t be because they don’t have any good clothes in Poland. That doesn’t go for Misiu who will probably do what he always does – go to the Gap and buy out all the flat front khaki pants in his size. Shoes are still generally cheaper in the US as are cosmetics, but not enough to warrant “stocking up”.

In the past when we used to go to the States more often, friends and not-so-friendly friends upon hearing of our upcoming trip would promptly present their wish-lists for things we should buy for them while in the US. The things on the lists ranged from make-up, medicine, vitamins, and clothes all the way to CDs and electronics. Sometimes it was because the things were cheaper in the US and the rest because they were “better”. My old boss was crazy about “better” stuff in America and I had to bring back Centrum Vitamins for him and his whole family even though we have Centrum Vitamins here in Poland and they are made in America. (OK, they are 5 times cheaper in America but that wasn’t point).

One of my students wanted Levi’s from the US and begged me to bring him a pair. I searched and searched but apparently 34/36 is a very hard size to come by. (36/30 on the other hand is a piece of cake to find) The best ever was a former student who emailed and asked me to buy him a laptop. He found it on-line at a shop just a few hours (!!!) from my home. He’d pay me when I got back to Poland. Yeah, right.

There is one student that I always accommodate while in the States. When he wants something, he asks me if I would bring it. Then he buys it on-line and ships it to my parents. I unpack it, tuck it into my bag and deliver it here in Poland. If it is something large or valuable (that the company will not ship directly to Poland) I unpack the bill, re-pack the box and post it to Poland sometimes to myself as a gift (because of taxes, duties, whatever). I always get a “thank you”, reimbursement for the postage and usually some little gift. It’s nice. Except the one time I forgot to tell my parents that a package was on the way…and that my student has a very terrorist-y sounding name. The bomb squad was not called and it all worked out in the end.

When Misiu and I got married, we asked our guests not to give us gifts. We wanted to be cool with our guests and not strain their budgets so close to Christmas. They understood that Misiu’s new American wife didn’t want any of their shitty Polish wedding gifts. That wasn’t the case but whatever… water under the bridge. My sister-in-law had been working in Germany around that time and the next time she was in town she “gifted” us with a couple of bags of washing powder…from Germany. I found that to be an odd gift but since I was using Dosia (quite possibly the worst washing powder ever) I was pleased with the gift. Only later did I find out the Polish people are 100% sure that German washing powder is better…even today. Check out the ad at our local kiosk. “Original detergents from Germany. The largest selection around.”


Maybe foreign stuff is better. I mean, I’m certainly enjoying my foreign husband.


MarekFloryda said...

GAP is crap ;)

Stardust said...

There is something you should buy in US;) Mineral makeup made by Colorescience is the best ever makeup and so far as I know is not sold in Poland.
Another one is mascara by Bliss. Also not available in Poland and is again the best mascara I have ever come across:) It forms a tubes around lashes, is smudge and tears proof, but you can wash off with top water.
Other then that, I think you can get in Poland everything else;))

Kasia said...

Polish stuff is great and I miss some of the things here in Scotland! Luckily there's some million online shops selling Polish products in the UK and I'm gladly using them :) Even Merlin ships books at reasonable prices :)
My parents used to work in Germany too and for some odd reason back than everybody thought that stuff bought at Aldi and Lidl was so much better than anything bought in Poland. No joke.

Hanna said...

When watching "Friends" I learned that Americans loved German detergents too...

Now are you trying to say that Ross is part Polish?? :)))

robin153 said...

For so many years, there was so little stuff in Poland. I have been living in US for 22 years and still sending goodies to my mom and my brother. They laugh at me. They say they have everything over there. I visit Poland once a year, and promise not to supplement my family. I think we have been conditioned to crave or to share American stuff. Even now, when the same stuff is available around the world. Love your blog.

Anonymous said...

Not to be picky, but your first paragraph should be either "to the US" or "to USA", and the difference should be well known by every English teacher, right?

Kasia said...

I have heard many times that the detergents made in Germany are better than the same ones made in Poland. I wonder if it is true...
I don't really bring much from Poland when we visit - some silver jewelry and Twoj Styl:) I have to check out that mascara by Bliss.
Ok anonymous - can you explain? I don't see what is wrong with "the USA".

cloudik said...

Actually German detergents have a different chemical composition :) Supposedly Polish customers use more of those (and don't read the labels of how much should be used), that's why "power" of washing powder is weaker.

Chris said...

Marek - GAP may be crap ;) but Zara clothes (over here) are not made for Misiu (maybe for half a Misiu).

Star- I have my particular small things like you have which I prefer here or there. Recently I have been into MAC but the Bliss mascara sounds interesting.

Kasia - Believe it or not we had an Aldi in the next town from my hometown in America. I had never really noticed it before but Misiu pointed it out. Maybe somewhere in the world, another nation is envious of our Biedronka (I think it is from Portugal) or our Żabka? My friend who was working in Russia said that Polish juice was considered the best there.

Hanna - I have just recently re-watched that episode! It was Uber-something, wasn't it?

Thanks Robin. I guess it is just a habit to bring or send stuff. We know someone in the US who sent a computer to the family in Poland - not because it was cheaper but because we haven't got computers over here ;)

Chris said...

Anon- The difference is not known to this English teacher. US means United States. USA means United States of America. Both are preceded with "the" as in the United States (the US) and the United States of America (the USA). Right?

Kasia - Hmmm, magazines, good thing to bring back. I can give them to my American friends here and maybe get some favors in return. American magazines are as valuable to them as smokes are to prisoners in prison.

cloudik - I had heard that too, so I tried to be careful with the amount. However, I don't know German and even with the pictures on the bag I still wasn't sure about the amount. Anyhow, my old Russian washing machine washed the heck out the clothes and they came out sparkling clean.

girri said...

I live in Germany for almost 2 years now - and I brought my polish washing mashine with me to Berlin :) recently I was really wondering about the detergents. You see, my washing mashine is an odd thing and you have to add the powder to the washing chamber itself, it wont take it from the dispenser. Back in Poland I had to switch from the Persil powder to the Persil fluid, as the powder never dissolved properly. I use Persil powder here, exactly the same type, but bought in Germany - and it dissolves completely, no problems whatsoever... so I really wonder what the difference between the products is, if it's the same brand but produced in 2 different countries :)
And I am bringing from Poland de-make up fluid from Ziaja (very sensitive eyes), błyskawiczne płatki jęczmienne and boczek. That one for my english boyfriend, he said the polish boczek (does not matter if boiled or smoked) is almost as good as the english one, even if the cut seems to be wrong, the taste is more than right. So, next time I am in Poland, there will be something like 5kg of boczek traveling back to Berlin with me.

Edi said...

Chris, God how I envy you for light packing ability... my bags are always over the limit no matter which way I travel USA-PL or back. I guess I just love American and Polish stuff.... I guess I just love stuff:).Cosmetics, latest gadgets for my family and friedns travel to PL and I cannot imagine a trip to PL without bringing back books, magazines, Polish cosmetics and sponges... tak, tak... polskie gabki sa najlepsze na swiecie:).

AnetaCuse said...

My husband also likes the Gap primarily due to the size availability. For some reason it is close to impossible to buy 32/34 pants in a department store... Exasperating.

P.S. It seems to be a prevalent Polish trait to ask people for really inconvenient favors like hauling extra s**t over the Atlantic.

tranikowa said...

I agree with Aneta on Polish people asking other people about bringing inconvenient stuff.
I also had to bring Centrum to Poland. For my mom, aunt and grandmother. But I am 100% sure it was about the price. I was also sending big size (Wal-Mart or Costco) M&Ms.
Now we live in Norway, and guess what- I am shipping to myself lots of American stuff. Sometimes it is not cheaper if you add shipping costs etc. Recently, I bought some organic junk food for my children, so my other son (who has never lived in the US) can try some American organic 'junk food'.
I am buying American (well Texan) salsas and other stuff. I wish I could buy more and it could be here quicker. Sometimes it is just nice to sit, eat some M&Ms and know that someone made an effort and bought them just for you, so you can have few seconds of pleasure. Sometimes it is just nice to use the same cosmetics I was using in America and close my eyes and imagine I am still there. I guess I miss it.
My husband is planning a trip to the US sometimes this year. He will be taking 3 bags and I will make sure they are full of American things ;).
I am surprised you didn't write anything about Dobre, bo polskie.

Chris said...

girri- So maybe there really is a different skład of the washing powders and liquids. Maybe it is based on usage or preference and not quality?? I have a new washer and I still can't figure out how much detergent to use. Who knows what 3 kilos of laundry looks like or 7 kilos? Obviously I know that 7kilos is more than 3 kilos but as a pile of laundry, I can't figure it out. And about the boczek - you are good to your boyfriend - smacznego.

Edi- If you are in need of some gąbki, I can send you some ;) I think my light packing may have something to do with my light shopping. After spending a few years working retail, I really don't like to shop. It may also have something to do with the fact that I am poor ;)

Aneta - Misiu also likes the size availability esp in shirts/jackets. At Zara there is usually one XXL and the sleeves are always too short. At GAP XXL is not the biggest size they offer and the sleeves are just right. Your husband wears 32/34? And you live in the US...kudos!

Tranikowa - "Dobre, bo polskie" I was thinking about that too as a contrast to the premium foreign brands. I just couldn't think how to cleverly work it in to the post. Maybe it is silly of me, but I used to look for the sticker on Polish brands. Do they still even have that campaign? I also like to receive something and know that my mom bought it and sent it to us with love. I also like to use my Polish face creams when I visit my parents. It just makes me feel good.

Kasia said...

@Chris - do you like nivea:)? As I commented on another blog recently - I don't like nivea - it used to be the only cream you could buy during the communist times. I guess it brings bad memories for me, plus it is too greasy. But it seems that quite a few of my Polish friends like - the good old nivea:)

Chris said...

Kasia - I prefer Nivea Soft to regular blue Nivea. You are right, it is pretty greasy and cannot really be worn under make-up. It makes a nice night cream though. I remember that my friend in high school had an exchange student from Germany and she was crazy about blue Nivea as well. I think it holds sentimental value for a lot of people even of the "bad times".

Anonymous said...

Hi, foreign stuff IS better - especially detergents, but not only, see:,75248,11124385,Czym_sie_roznia_polska_i_bulgarska_Coca_Cola__Gorsze.html

Great blog, BTW.

Anonymous said...,75248,11124385.html

Chris said...

Anon- Thanks for the link and thanks for the compliment. I have long suspected the quality issues as raised in the article. I think it applies to other products as well. I am sure my toaster is second quality. It just looks messed up. And now I am wondering about books. I am reading the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris in English, published in the UK, sold at Empik in Poland. There are so many typing errors that I cannot believe it. Maybe these were the "mistake" books?

Anonymous said...

I live in Szczecin, 5 km to the border. German detergents are better than Polish ones because German market is more demanding (bardziej wymagajacy. It's obvious that the same brand can differ in different countries - I mean quality or taste. Everything depends on what the customer is ready to buy. If he is ready to pay more for something weaker, the production is cheaper...