Sunday, October 6, 2013


I recommend two articles from about… What else?
Admit it, you thought I was going to write religion, didn’t you?

The first one,nowa-fala-american-dream-mlode-pokolenie-pokochalo-stany-zjednoczone describes the fascination some young Poles have with America and American culture. It’s worth reading.
Sometimes my younger students (under 30) ask me about some musical artist or some movie and are shocked when I haven’t heard or seen it. Sometimes I have never even heard of it. I have heard more than once with a laugh, “Are you really American?” I don’t know…I don’t think knowing whole dialogues from “Scarface” by heart is necessary for me to prove myself as an American. Gawd, if you don’t know “Ciemność widzę” does that mean you’re not Polish enough?
I recently referred to a very popular American television series that I have never seen as “Waking Bad” and almost get my ass kicked by one very loyal Polish fan. Sorry, bitch.*

The next one,my-tez-mielismy-swoj-american-dream-czy-mlodzi-maja-powod-by-zachwycac-sie-stanami includes experiences from Polish people who emigrated to America at different ages for different reasons at different times in history and with different results.
Are they living the American Dream?
I don’t know what the American Dream means for Polish people but for me it means the possibility to markedly improve your educational and financial status through your own hard work. Following that definition, most economists would agree that the American Dream is dead.

I think I have written a lot about what can be surprising or irritating to people moving to Poland**, but what can be surprising or irritating for those people moving to America. Well, a lot things.
The fact that you can work and work and work and have nothing. That losing your job can put you in dire straits, not only with your bills and bank but with your health care and your children’s health care. Not that it only happens in America, but that it shouldn’t happen in America of all places. At least that’s we think before we go.
The fact that health insurance is very expensive and not guaranteed.
The fact that your employer doesn’t have to give you vacation days.
The fact that people over a certain age can be found in all kinds of jobs, meaning that some jobs are not just reserved for the young.
The fact that there are plenty of poor people in America. That people go hungry. That one street away from the beautiful and modern city center is a street of burned out buildings with people sleeping on the street.
That people smile at you on the street.
That university is so expensive, but mortgages are cheap.
That you can wear jeans and sneakers to church.
That gasoline is so much cheaper, but everything is far away.
That food is so much cheaper and portions are so much bigger.
That people throw away perfectly good stuff and them buy new stuff.
That a person who has never been to Poland but has one Polish family member from three generations back thinks that he is Polish too and call Poland the “old country”.
That people will drive from one end of a strip mall to the other instead of just walking.
That doing business in America is like entering another mindset.
That nobody will steal your hubcaps and you can live a pretty calm life until the moment you get shot.
Enjoy the articles. I think I will go to the new American diner in town to enjoy my Polish dream.

*One character from that show calls everybody “bitch”. I’m rude, but not that rude.
**Drinking age is 18. People will help you get your baby carriage on/off the bus without even asking. Cashiers almost always ask for exact change. You can buy raw milk from a machine without getting arrested. Old ladies crowd you everywhere you go and like to jump line. You are supposed to sit in your assigned seat at the movies. You don’t get a bill from the hospital after having a baby. If you forget to pay your ZUS, they block your entire account not just the unpaid amount. Bread is still pretty good. You can walk more places because there usually is a sidewalk. Priests and nuns work at school. Dog poo bombs are everywhere. People don’t smile on the street but they do say hello/good-bye when entering/exiting stores, the doctor’s office, post office, etc. If you drop something you should pick it up and blow on it. If you have to provide a urine sample, you need to bring the sample with you. They play the dirty versions of all the foreign songs on the radio and your 7-year-old will sing along to “…this is fucking awesome.” I could go on and on but you get the picture.


zutor said...

as far as I'm concerned: this song shows my attitude. maybe I'd use some additional strong vocabulary.

Chris said...

Ahh Rammstein, not even an oldie but definitely a goody. (it's a saying "oldie but goody")

Kat said...

Chris, I've been reading your blog for a long time during my stay in the U.S., and now I'm on the cusp of returning to Europe... Thank you for your insightful posts, especially this one! It stirred up many emotions and thoughts, and a need for extensive discussion with friends... I should write that stuff down! ;)

Chris said...

Kat- Thanks for the kind words and enjoy your return to Europe. In our family, we run through the pros and cons of "here and there" at least once a year. And I even have a list. Yes, I have written it down. It helps me keep from idolizing one place over the other (and it is easier to discuss with friends...but then they think you're a geek for making a list). Good luck to you!