Disclaimer: I was born and raised in Poland. I've lived in this country for 25 years. This article is my personal view on some of the aspects of the life I've had there: pieces of my love, pieces of my experiences, some of my grudges.
It's not about Poland. It's about my experience.
1. Potatoes are sacred.
Polish folx may have even a bigger obsession with potatoes than Germans. Yes, we're talking about the plant that was for decades a part of abbey's, castles' and aristocrats' gardens (as a plant that was considered to be exotic, beautiful and had healing properties) and took decades to get popular. Potatoes came to Poland probably around the year 1683 and now people name them in so many different ways that it's hard to keep up. See: kartofel, barabola, bulba, bùlwa, grula, компера, perka, pyra, rzepa, swapka, ziymniok, zimjok. In 2017 we produced 9,17 million tons of it and have 107 variants.
We even have a Muzeum of the Potato in Poznań - a city that is sometimes called a "potatoland".
2. It's not as religious as you might expect.
More than 90% of Poles declair they are catholic. How many of them regularly practice their religion, you might ask?
In the youngest grup (people born in 1997 and later) the percentage hits a low point of 23%.
The report of the Katholic News Agency suggests, that lately exposed sexual scandals (if that's what they want to call sex crimes) in the church are reducting religiosity and church's authority.
3. It's queerphobic.
Poland is a country with such big issues with queerphobia that it has the inglorious last place among the European Union countries in the ILGA-Europe ranking on legal and policy situation of LGBTI people. And it holds the inglorious place for two years now!
There are people who have PTSD symptoms after attending the 2019 Pride March in Białystok ("We thought they wouldn't attack children", said a kid that got beaten up by a group of men far older than him).
You will find a lot of accepting, wonderful people in Poland and a strong LGBTQ+ community as well - don't be fooled into thinking it's all bad.
But it's not exactly a safe place for us.
4. We have a Fat Thursday and we love it!
It's the last thursday before lent (so 52 days before Easter). It's literally a day of indulding one's sweet tooth, traditionally with Pączki (yes, we don't write nouns with capital letters, but this sweet thingy DESERVES IT) and faworki. The history of this glorious day tracks back to the pagan times - it was a day of celebrating the end of winter and welcoming spring.
I mean: a day when all the bakeries are making EVEN MORE wonderful sweets. How exactly am I supposed to live without it?
Also: if you've never tried Pączek and you like sweet pastry, try it, you'll fall in love. They come with any filling you can possibly imagine.
5. We like beer more than wódka.
The stastistics are clear: in 1992 wódka was the most popular choice of a drink. From the year 2000 more than a half of consumed ethanol in Poland had its source in BEER. Poland is the third biggest beer producer in the EU almost all of it produced for the country, not for export.
Historically speaking, Poland had 243 beer breweries in 1922. Now (as in: January of 2022) we have 272 small(er) breweries (the four companies owning 90% of beer industry are excluded from this number).
My favourite one will always be "Czyste złoto" (Pure Gold) by Deer Bear: yes, a Pils with actual golden glitter in it.
6. We have a lot of hilarious quotes of politicians, but you have to like dark humour.
Like our current minister of education - Przemysław Czarnek - who, during Andrzej Duda presidental campain said (being a member of parliament at the time) on the national television: "Let us defend the family from this kind of corruption, depravity, absolutely immoral behaviour. Let us defend us against LGBT ideology and let us stop listening to those idiocies about some human rights or equality. Those people are not equal to normal people and let's end this discussion."
He only got a REPRIMAND from the Deputies' Ethics Committee (he didn't show up for the Committee meeting and didn't provide any explanation for his absence).
And yes, he later became our minister of education.
No, no fun at all. The most scary part of all of this is that the hate-spreading, degrading, queerphobic, sexist behaviours of politicians shape the society, set the standards and leave people with a very justified feeling of unfairness, their rights being violated and helplessness, because protests bring little respit and almost never an actual, tangible change.
We have tens of dozens of memes with inappropriate things politicians and other officials say – it’s our way of turning the scary reality into humor.
7. We have it all – the sea, the mountains and seven desserts.
Okay, I got a bit too enthusiastic about the last part – yes, there’s seven of them, two already turned into a full-blown forest and one is getting there really fast. That leaves us four actual desserts.
How cool is that?
As for the mountains, we have Świętokrzyskie Mountains (with the famous Bald Mountain, where - as legends say - Witches' Sabbaths took place), Karpaty - and in there the famous Tatra Mountains (my personal favourite – don’t tell my mum, she’ll make me go on a trip with her and this amount of walking is just EXHAUSTING) and Sudety. Our highest mountain is Rysy (2499 meters elevation, but the funny part is: the highest point of the mountain reaches 2501 meters, but it's already in Slovakia).
And the Baltic Sea? Don’t get me started. I’ve been living in Gdańsk for 6 years, I love the Baltic Sea more than chocolate.