Wednesday, 19 December 2007


I don't normally go in for the socio-anthropological "hmm that's interesting" let's-observe-the-Poles type posts: 'What do Polish people eat?'; 'Weird things that Poles do on a Sunday'; 'How many Polish people does it take to change a lightbulb?"* and so on.

However, I can't seem to go anywhere without running into Polish yuppies.

Perhaps I'm just overwhelmed by all the Very Grown-up Parties, and I ought really to be quaffing pints with scruffy Erasmus students on the Rynek. So-and-so owns her own architectural design firm, someone else just bought a new car, this couple are building a house in *insert semi-suburban location outside Krakow* etc. etc. It's all too intimidating.

People seem extremely anxious to emphasize that Poles Are Not Poor. British friends and family are often concerned that I'm living in a hovel under the steel works, or scratching around on a dirt floor in a hut somewhere, and they seem to have the impression that all Polish people are longing for gainful employment as an *insert rubbish job like waitressing/taking out the bins and so on* plus the chance to practice their English and save a few bob by sleeping four to a sofa in Hammersmith.

Poland is Posh, people! Think about Karachi! Or Beijing! Or Mexico City! See what I mean?

Some people are keen to point out the various enormous houses on their street: this neighbour went to the States for four years to earn money to build his house, this neighbour went to Sweden and so on.
This is all very interesting, but really not necessary. I grew up in Sevenoaks, where, if you take your bike out on a warm afternoon in May and cycle around the wide lanes on the outskirts of the town, you'll see scores of enormous houses. At least, you'll see the hedges and the driveways. Rather than having gone to Sweden or the States for several years, Daddy (and possibly Mummy too) spent twelve hours a day glued to Reuters on four screens somewhere near St James' Square.
All this is characteristic lower-middle-class jealousy, largely because It's My Town I Was There First and because they probably bought their enormous houses from some posh yet impoverished local character that my Dad used to know, paying off their entire mortgage with their Christmas bonus and inflating the property market beyond all belief so that I can't buy a flat there.

Not unlike the bloody Brits buying up property in Kraków.

You even get yuppie students- like the ones at Durham or St Andrews. They eat sushi and buy nice wine (and recycle the bottles), watch art-house films and speak trendy English littered with London or Manchester-style colloquialisms (if you listen carefully you may hear a dropped 'h' or a glottal stop).

Sometimes it's just facade. I learnt that the guy whose posh PDA I commandeered to check the rugby results back in October is a surgeon and earns about half as much as I do**. Fortunately for him his wife has her own business and his parents own half the city. But it sort of shows something about appearances... or the fact that the most essential jobs often aren't rewarded... or about Poles relying on their parents (see Italy for details), etc.

Oops, I just realised I've copied this post from Dat Blog's musings on the Polish Bobo. I don't think that Yuppies are quite the same though. For those of you who didn't have to translate horrid dossiers on Contemporary French Culture at university, 'bobo' is short for 'bourgeois-bohème'. They are sort of faux-bohemians who have high-powered middle class professions but act all fey in a sort of mômes de la clôche way so that people think they are cool. For a taste of real Bohemia, please see any given bench in the Planty at around six in the morning. Bring your own Special Brew...

Incidentally, the French bourgeois-bohème is traditionally leftward leaning in values, while Polish and British bobos are shifting distinctly to the centre-right. As CG remarked, it's the style of doing things that's changed over here, not the content. David Cameron, anyone??

* i) I wouldn't know, all the electricians are elsewhere and the ones that stayed can't for example find their way up the stairs in our building
ii) At least four otherwise it's rude, plus a fifth person to propose a toast and pass round the orange juice afterwards
iii) Two: one to change the bulb and look henpecked and a second one to wear a purple beret and shake her umbrella until he gets it right
iv) Only one, so long as he conjugates it correctly.
vi) And for the traditionalists: CHANGE???

**i.e. not an awful lot...

*** I've realised that if you scan over the latter half of this post it looks as though it's all about BOOBS. 'Polish and British boobs are shifting distinctly to the centre-right'. In spite of all those babcia-owned bielizna stores. Don't worry, I'm on holiday from tomorrow. The system is suspended and normal, sensible service will resume shortly.


Michael Dembinski said...

How many feminists does it take to change a lightbulb?


Bag Lady said...

Yeah, young Poles are just as pretentious and ambitous as the rest of us but as for the older generation ......completely different kettle of fish.

They will paint such a grey and dismal picture of themselves as being "hand to mouth" poor. My auntie was so adept at this that I always left her some money after staying with her for a few days.

I would later find out that "auntie" has a health and beauty regime that Posh Spice would envy. Apparently, she goes to a private physio for "arm manipulation". She also has her feet massaged, eyebrows waxed, nails manicured.......all of this is private of course.

I also have friends in Czestochowa who watch after the pennies so much that we have a stand off each time I try to help with the washing up. I fill a washing up bowl with water and wash the dishes that way but they feel this is wasting water and so splash a few drops of water onto the dishes instead. They cry poverty all the time but have since bought three apartments in Wroclaw !