Cultural Musings, For Foreigners

20 signs that you’ve been Polonized

After 6 years in Poland, I’m realizing more and more that I couldn’t really stop the Polonization process even if I wanted to. The effects are already deeply ingrained and having a tiny half-Pole growing inside me probably only exacerbates it. Want to know whether you too have been Polonized? Here are some of the tell-tale symptoms to look out for:

  1. When a guy is smiling and talking to you in line at the supermarket and you’re wondering whether he’s genuinely nice or a total freak.
  2. When literally all your “people you may know” suggestions on Facebook are Polish people.
  3. When someone asks you how to say a Polish word in English and you understand it but you have no idea what the English is.
  4. When you meet other native English speakers and you immediately feel uncomfortable because it’s been so long since you met someone who isn’t Polish.
  5. When you drop the niceties (how are ya? hope all is well, blah blah) in emails or on the phone and just get straight to the point.
  6. When friends visit and the first place you take them is to a bar mleczny.
  7. When you’re excited for fall/autumn because it means grzyby.
  8. When you travel and bump into someone you always say “przepraszam” instead of “excuse me”.
  9. When hatchback cars are normal to you and sedans and large SUVs seem strange looking now.
  10. When you want to say something and all you can think of is the Polish word.
  11. When you realize you know more about how official things work in Poland than in your home country. I only have a vague idea how of things like insurance, the medical system, and taxes in America but could probably write a book about those things in Poland.
  12. When you never leave your Polish family’s house without at least dinner for tomorrow and 5 jars of other stuff.
  13. When it’s above 10 degrees and you start eating ice cream with all the other crazies.
  14. When it’s Christmas and you actually drink kompot z suszu. It grows on you.
  15. When instead of saying “oh, Jesus” or “dammit”, you say “o, Jezu” or “cholera”.
  16. When a bureaucratic task seems impossible but you don’t worry because it’s Poland and there’s always a solution.
  17. When someone comes to visit you from the States and they’re all “people look sad here” and you realized that you stopped noticing that.
  18. When you stop greeting people with “how are you” and start greeting people with complaints about the weather, no matter what the weather is like because there’s always something to complain about.
  19. When you start being skeptical of organic food because everyone else is too.
  20. When your doctor tells you to go gluten and sugar-free and your first thought how your mother-in-law will take it and how you’ll survive on Tłusty Czwartek.

Do you have any different signs of your own Polonization? Be sure to write them in the comments for all of us to enjoy!

EDIT: I would like to add after fruitful discussion on this topic.

21. When you start picking up the mistakes that Poles make in English, starting using their intonation, or little ways of speaking e.g. “ah ok” instead of “oh ok”, saying “mega” something, or “make a photo” instead of “take”. And as a result, your friends back home tell you that you talk funny now.

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  • Reply Rita 5 March 2017 at 12:35

    I’m little bit sad that this is about us but is so freaking true 😀
    Uwielbiam ten tekst jesień means grzyby! <3

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 5 March 2017 at 19:26

      Don’t be sad. I’m sure if we wrote a post like this about Americans it would be much worse!

      • Reply fran 28 March 2017 at 17:42

        Yep, even i could do one 10x worse ..

    • Reply Meg 8 March 2017 at 11:42

      are you sure you don’t just LOOK sad? 😀

  • Reply Natalia 5 March 2017 at 12:40

    I really like number 16- it is do true!
    And ice creams, my first was today – 8 degree outside ! 🙂
    Greeting from Poznan

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 5 March 2017 at 19:23

      Hah I knew it! I always see people eating ice cream in March/April and it makes me laugh 🙂 And yes 16 is so so true.

      • Reply Kasia 7 March 2017 at 16:12

        ..and you used Celsius instead of Fahrenheit! You’re practically Polish now 🙂

  • Reply Adam 5 March 2017 at 14:16

    Number 17th. What does it actually mean? In America people look being happy all the time? Maybe they’ve got easier life in general?

    Or we are just sad, pessimistic people living in the worst country ever and there is no escape from here, from polish destination.


    • Reply Leah Morawiec 5 March 2017 at 19:22

      Yeah in America people walk around with smiles on their faces. Seriously it’s like a different look entirely. We want people to think we’re like nice people or something so we walk around maybe not smiling with our teeth but just a bit. It’s hard to explain but there’s definitely a difference. But that’s only on the street of course. It has nothing to do with how people actually behave when you’re with them. That’s what my friends were referring to. Just people walking on the street.

      • Reply Adam 5 March 2017 at 19:33

        Ok I agree, in Poland there’s almost no culture like smiling to everyone, maybe we need more sun and darkness are too long in autumn and in winter. 🙂

      • Reply fran 28 March 2017 at 17:46

        it is hard to get used to that in Poland.. esp. in the stores.. no fake have a nice day!! thank you.. come back again… but i am getting over it because it allows me to be a bitch in the stores when i don’t feel like fake USA smiling.

    • Reply Adam 7 March 2017 at 18:47

      In Canada people hate you because you don’t smile because your housband left you, you have no job, no cash, no hope and your child have cancer. Maybe in USA it is similar:)

  • Reply Piotr 5 March 2017 at 14:54

    Great post-I simply couldn`t stop smiling during reading! There is practically everything spot on really. I especially would agree with small talks and complaining, I would include picking mushrooms, getting jars from your whole family members ( legendary Polish hospitality!) or being a sugar freak too. Donuts eaten on Fat Thursday ( could I translate this in that way? ) are just a heaven in mouth! Have you ever tried ones with a wild rose jam? Ice-cream when it`s about 10 degrees outside? I have to say it seems to me a bit weird. I have almost never met a such situation to be honest. By the way, I read many times that polonized foreigner is too westernized for Poles and too Polish for their compatriots. It is true? What does it look like from your perspective? It would be really nice to know.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 5 March 2017 at 19:26

      Yes Fat Thursday is definitely the correct translation. It’s such a nice day 🙂 The lines are crazy long! People really take it seriously. Hah for sure Polonized foreigners are somewhere in the middle. My friends say I talk differently, act differently and talk about different things. And I think they’re right. But definitely I’m a little too friendly to strangers here and would like to have more interactions or close relationships with people who aren’t my friends but who I see frequently like e.g. the postman, my neighbors, doctors, etc. It’s for sure the American in me who wants those kinds of relationships.

  • Reply Witek 5 March 2017 at 17:29

    #21 – Parking on the sidewalk is completely normal.

    #22 – The same car that was “too small” and had “good” mpg in the US is now big and a gas guzzler.

    #23 – Driving 10 mins to get to downtown now seems far away.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 5 March 2017 at 19:20

      Hah ok I’m loving #23. That is really true. I live outside the city center now like literally 10-15 minutes and people are always like “Oh that’s so far. You have to drive everywhere” and I’m like oh come on in Florida I lived 20 minutes from everything and it was no big deal. Of course I had to drive everywhere! Hah and every car on American roads would be too big here. How could you park those giant things in the city center here? Can you imagine?

  • Reply Grzegorz 5 March 2017 at 19:04

    I lived in Poland from 1990-96, and I would also add you lose your American body language which is assertive and take on a more passive one. You begin to assimilate into the culture. Also you begin dressing like a Pole. Even though I left Poland 21 years ago, I still say words and names with a Polish pronunciation and at times I can only think of things by their Polish names.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 5 March 2017 at 19:17

      Yeah but 6 years is a long time! Enough to change a person. It’s crazy that you still think that way though. I wonder if I would be the same if I moved back. Probably so. I think it’s inevitable to dress the way other people do around you just like it’s inevitable that you pick up their language habits. I have a bad habit of that which is terrible because I speak to 2nd language speakers in English all day long!

  • Reply Aleksandra 6 March 2017 at 16:27

    Can’t stop laughing, it’s so funny when you have been living in Poland since the beginning of life Hope you like it here

  • Reply Sandra 6 March 2017 at 18:13

    Jesień means grzyby! ♡! <3

  • Reply Adam 7 March 2017 at 18:32

    Lol:) bar mleczny. I have never been.
    Also – you have no old tree which can ruin your house or kill your children if you think that you can always cope with biurwy z urzędu. “This tree is going to fall. Can I cut it?” “No, because I am podła biurwa z urzędu. Just take care of it and it will be alright, plebejski śmieciu”. Seriously. If you are foreigner you are not much more that tourist in North Korea (or earlier in Soviet Union). It is not so simple to cope with office – for polish buisnessman is somethimes better go hundred miles to other city once a week that register their firms in their towns. It depend strictly on who works in the public office.
    The example with tree is my brother in law experience in “most kindly town in Poland”. And in my town – they made “historical district” just for vegance that too few people was on consultation about “Plan zagospodarowania przestrzennego miasta Sulejówek” – of course in those district there is not any historical building. “Daj mi władzę a sobie poradzę. Alleluja i do przodu”:)

  • Reply GoHa Samo H 19 March 2017 at 16:47

    Oh.. I bought ice cream yesterday.. it was ~8*C, windy and raining outside. But it was worth it!

    As for #17, it always struck me how polite ‘americans’ are. And I then always wonder if the one which whom I spoke was whether polite or honest 😡

    For me (but I have not much experience) americans are not honest for some reason I do not understand. Is honesty considered as bad behavior?
    “Oh you lost your leg? How wonderful! You look beautiful now. I always wanted my leg removed! :* ” 😀

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 19 March 2017 at 18:22

      Hah I guess it’d be more like “oh no I’m so sorry. Well at least you didn’t lose the other one too” or “lots of people manage really well with one leg” so we’d try to put a positive spin on it, you know?

      • Reply GoHa Samo H 19 March 2017 at 18:33

        Uff, that’s good that I was wrong 😀

  • Reply usia 21 March 2017 at 19:26

    12 Is soo true (even my friends sometimes leave my Mum’s house with edible stuff, not to mention my In-laws-my freezer is always full 🙂
    24 You say pierogi instead of pierogis (always bugs me in US movies)
    25 When somebody looses his leg you don’t comment, you just pour him a shot ?

  • Reply Basia 26 March 2017 at 19:41

    I’m from Albany, NY and have lived in Poland since 2009 (I’m 19 now 😉 ) and I can totally relate to most things on your blog! Nice to know I’m not alone here, thanks for that! 🙂

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 26 March 2017 at 20:17

      Hi Basia! It’s always nice to know you’re not alone! Was it hard for you to adjust? I guess you went to school in Poland so that could have been a big challenge.

  • Reply Ina 31 March 2017 at 22:57

    When you say ,,no” to just about anything you agree to with you American friends on Skype…and they’re puzzled because they thought you’d be happy to hear they are thinking of visiting their parents or something. Or you stop saying ,,question” words like did, are, won’t and so on…because czy and intonation. And you’re mom asks why aren’t you happy when she comes and visits and you’re walking in the city…and you have to let her know because you aren’t going to stand on the street smiling. What will people think??? Loved your post!

  • Reply Kamil T. 26 June 2017 at 09:19

    Hi Leah, I like you son.

    Before giving birth you certainly should pick a hospital carefully. In Bonifratrzy in Katowice you can even visit the room where you’re going to give birth in – a separate room for each woman. I can’t imagine other option!

    I like your point about paying for a private room, a nice option to consider next time.

    Take care!

  • Reply Jendrej 23 April 2018 at 20:28

    18. reminded me of this little comic:

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 7 May 2018 at 09:45

      Hahahah I love this. I have to use it! It’s like freaking perfect weather right now but everyone is talking about how windy it is. It’s so absurd!

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