If you have read some of my previous posts, you will know I have deep feelings for Poland and this country holds a special place in my heart. In this article, I list ten things that Poland has brought into my life that I am truly thankful for.
This is broad so I didn't want to list individuals or just family. Poland has introduced so many wonderful people into my life, some I met in the UK and others I met right here in Poland but they have all become an important part of my life. I have also met some great people, both British and Polish via my 'The super commuting dad' Facebook page and YouTube channel. We have to start with my wife, Kinga. Quite simply, if we had never met, then none of this other stuff would even be part of my life. Kinga introduced me to this country, introduced me to many friends and of course gave me two wonderful children. When me and Kinga became a 'couple', it wasn't just Kinga who came into my life but also her son, Bartek. He has lived with me since he was seven years old and we have a father-son relationship. He is twenty-two now and living his own life but I am thankful for having him. Then there are all my in-laws, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles and cousins. So many friends I have made who are genuinely now my friends - not just friends of Kinga.
Again, this is such a broad subject and I could easily list ten Polish foods that I am thankful for (maybe I will do a post on that later). Food here in Poland in general is awesome. Even the things that should taste awful (such as kaszanka which is a blood sausage a bit like black pudding) taste lovely. Polish food is satisfying and hearty and I am guilty of over-indulging every-time I am here. From Schabowy to gołąbki, I love it all. Pierogi is obviously the star of the show in Poland and my favourite of all is pierogi z kapustą i grzybami (with cabbage and mushroom), but there are so many varieties both sweet and savoury. I love Polish soups and salads and I can't get enough of Polish barbecue meat. If a Polish person offers you dinner - grasp it with both hands.
3) Wroclaw - our second home
You all now know what this city means to me. We did live here for two years and we do own a flat here so it is our second home. I feel as much at home in Poland as I do in the UK. Wroclaw in particular is my favourite - of course it is! So much to see and do, from architecture to museums, the aqua-park and the zoo, the city really is a wonderful place. Last week I walked home all the way from Rynek, it took me almost two hours but on the way I listened to a Podcast and strolled over the many beautiful bridges in the sunshine. Although it was a long walk, it passed by so quickly. I love that I can fly here in less than two hours and that we live only twenty minutes from the airport - it is so easy to get here (obviously when there is no Pandemic)! You can enjoy sport here such as Speedway, Football, baseball and american football. So much to see and do here no matter what you enjoy.
4) Polish hospitality
I talk about this so much. Being offered (or often forced) food is common here in Poland, we all know the story about Babcia over feeding her grandchildren but I think that's pretty common by all people, especially women in Poland. You go to visit someone for a ten minute 'hello' and you end up staying for two hours and leaving the house full of tea, cake and soup. I also like that Polish men like to have 'just one' drink with you when they meet you in a bar. This is so common and they make you feel as though they would be offended if you didn't have just one vodka with them. Of course, this 'one' vodka turns into many more and before you know it, a bottle of wiśniówka (cherry vodka) has disappeared. Polish people will make you feel welcome and that you belong - they are incredibly kind and the most hospitable people I have ever met.
5) Christmas & other traditions
Christmas is the best, especially for kids in a British/Polish family. My kids get to celebrate Wigilia with their Polish family on 24th December where we enjoy all of the traditional Polish food and celebrations. Then, they wake up on 25th and have their traditional British turkey and celebrations with my half of the family.
Polish Christmas is very different to the UK, I remember when we lived here and I brought Christmas crackers over to Poland and my Polish friends had no idea what they were. Christmas is Poland is of course a religious affair for most of the country - for me its about getting the family together and celebrating each other. I love it so much, the traditional dishes spread out across the table and the head of the family wishing us all the best for next year and paying thanks for the year past. I love the tradition of setting an extra place for a stranger who may knock your door and sometimes I ask myself, if someone knocked my door on Christmas eve, would I let them in and eat with them? You bet I would!
6) The language
People say that Polish is one of the hardest languages to learn but I suppose it depends where you come from. People from Ukraine, Slovakia, Slovenia and other Slavic countries seem to be able to pick it up fairly easily - at least, there are lots of people from those countries speaking Polish to a good standard. For Brits, I think it is somewhat harder due to the differences in grammar, cases, pronunciation and of course the accent. I am determined to be fluent one day though. Fluency in my eyes means being able to communicate effectively in all situations and it has been nice during this four week trip to Poland to receive some really positive comments on how my language has improved. I am certainly driven to learn the language and have pushed myself this year to have more conversations in Polish. Kinga puts no pressure on me at all to learn Polish - I learn because I want to. I want to speak with my friends and communicate in a restaurant - I don't want to talk English when I am here. The problem I have have is when I know someone speaks English well, I end up talking English to them. I have to stop this and speak on a daily basis or I will not improve. I am thankful for the language, especially recently as I have been at home a lot due to losing my job which means learning has kept my brain active.
7) Opening my eyes to other cultures
Poland has opened my eyes to another way of thinking. To see things from another person's perspective and realising that the way we do things in the UK is not always the 'best' way. I wrote about this in my article 'I'm having an affair with Poland'. I think it has made me more patient and understanding towards people from different backgrounds and countries. I love learning about Polish culture and traditions and I encourage my children to embrace this too. My attitude towards life and other people has changed a lot over the years and being here in Poland teaches me that individuals from different countries don't always have the same way of thinking as us Brits. Sometimes their priorities are different and this is possibly due to the difficult times Poland has gone through over the years. I mean, if you struggled to buy bread and toilet paper for your family in the 1980's, being a millionaire is probably not top of your objectives. Just being able to clothe and feed your family is a priority so I think Polish people are more satisfied with what they have than us Brits are.
8) Scenery - Lakes, beaches, mountains and forests
I have tried to see as much of this country as possible over the years. I have written extensively about this in other posts but Poland has some amazing scenery and places to visit. We have been to forests in Lower Silesia, cities such as Krakow and Warsaw and we have seen the lakes in Mazury, the ocean and beaches in Gdansk, Sopot, Gdynia and Świnoujście and the Tatra mountains in Zakopane. Poland never ceases to amaze me.
9) Weddings and other celebrations
I wrote a whole post about Polish weddings so I will keep this brief. The Poles know how to throw a party and they also know how to treat their guests. I'm not just talking about weddings (although they are simply the best). Also, Imieniny (name day) celebrations, birthday parties and wedding anniversaries. I've been to some great events in the UK but Poland really does top them. I am thankful that I have been invited to so many celebrations over the years - all of them different in their own way but all of them memorable.
Alright, so maybe this one is a bit tongue in cheek - a little bit cheeky. Hopefully you will have seen my YouTube series '28 Polish beers in 28 days' where I try a different beer each day. Of course, Polish beer doesn't rule my life but I do consume a fair amount when I am here. For me, it is superior to most English beers although we do have some wonderful ale in the UK. I love walking around Wroclaw and finding a new microbrewery, popping in for one or two beers with Kinga and comparing them to others around the city. Wroclaw is great for these small, independent breweries and Polish beer from across the country is generally good. Whenever we visit a new town, I try to find their local beer and Wroclaw being a big city means I can usually find most beers right here. Over the last few weeks I have tried beer from Mazury, Wroclaw, Torun, Szczecin, Poznan and many other places. If you haven't already, go and check out my YouTube channel. The link below is a review of a green beer 'Raciborskie' - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mffz5jvsegU&t=4s.
I have a whole load of other things that I am grateful to Poland for but this is my brief list of 10. Let me know what you love about Poland and until next week - see you later.