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10 Things That Polish People Remember From Growing Up

10 Things That Polish People Remember From Growing Up

In many major U.S. cities, there is a substantial Polish and Polish-American population. Whether it be from Gdansk, Warsaw, Krakow, or elsewhere, the Polish people have made a huge impact on many major American cities, mainly Midwestern ones such as Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, and Pittsburgh. For that reason, we have compiled a list of 10 things that all Polish people remember from growing up.

1. You Cleaned Things Until They Shined, and Then Cleaned Again

One of the unfortunate stereotypes surrounding Polish people in America is that they tend to take on a lot of menial service jobs, such as that of cleaning lady. However, behind every stereotype is a kernel of truth. Polish people mostly maintain pristine homes in which not even fingerprints or the smallest crumb can be tolerated. If you have every found yourself polishing something beyond the point of usefulness, you might be Polish.

2. You Did Not Understand Why People Could Not Pronounce the Jumble of Z’s, K’s, S’s, and C’s that is your last name.

Pronunciation of Polish words and names for Americans and other non-Polish cultures is almost impossible. For example, my American roommate pronounces the beer Zywiec (zivvv-yetz) as Z-iiii-weck. Similarly, for Polish people, you never met a non-Pole who could pronounce your last name properly on the first try, or even after extended practice. Your name is just a mystery to them.

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3. You Have Been Handed Kielbasa, Pierogi, Kolaczki, etc as You Left Someone’s House

For me, the copious amounts of unique food define my life as a Pole. In this case, you have spent all day eating a huge feast at your relative’s house, and you are trying to be polite by leaving quietly and without a scene, as is the Polish way. However, a relative (your babcia, chocha, or someone else-most likely female) comes up to you as you leave and literally puts a roll of sausage in your hand– no bag or anything. It’s for the road and so you get grube (large/strong) right?

4. Paczki Day

If you don’t know this one, you have never been Polish or even met any Polish people. Paczki Day (a.k.a. Fat Tuesday elsewhere) is the day–no, the week– when your babcia (Polish for grandmother) turns her home into a bakery and churns out what seems like thousands of small, doughy, jelly-filled pastries. If it seems like your babcia is cooking for the whole neighborhood, don’t worry. It’s because she totally is.

5. You Find Yourself Avoiding Credit or Recognition For Most Things

When achieving success, Americans love to boast and dance and show-off, but when you get the job done, you put your head down and shrug your shoulders. I recognize this tendency in myself, especially when I played sports as a kid. Other kids would hit a home run and act like they won the Olympics. I would (eventually) hit home runs and shrug my shoulders. Why celebrate accomplishing exactly what you are supposed to accomplish?

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6. You Spent All Day Sunday/Your Entire Weekend In Some Combination of Church/Polish School

Even if you were fairly Americanized, you spent your whole weekend engaged in church and Polish school, learning the language and culture. You basically had a double life, acting like an American in American school and then cultivating some serious knowledge about your Polish roots and language on the weekend.

7. Speaking of Church, Pope John Paul II Was Basically a God

Depending on when you were born, your first memories may be of your Babcia praying to a picture of Pope John Paul II, who was basically a Polish version of 2008 Obama, except better because of his Divine Powers. Every Polish family had a picture of John Paul, the Pride of Krakow, on his or her wall, and, as you learned more about Catholicism in Sunday School, you wondered how the way your family treated him was not in violation of the First Commandment.

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    8. You Didn’t Understand Fashion and Often Wore Loud, Mismatched Outfits.

    Because it wasn’t necessarily immediately useful, you didn’t have time for fashion or other non-expedient appearance-related endeavors. As such, you often wore something like red-and-black checkers button downs with blue-and-yellow polka-dot shorts, not understanding that the tremendous clash Americans often pointed out was actually a real, visual thing, and not just some silly trend that would pass, as things in America often do. And don’t get me started on socks with sandals, regardless of how comfortable they are.

    9. You Spent Whole Summers, or Good Parts of Them, In Poland Itself.

    Depending on your ties to the culture, when school let out, many Polish people took off for the homeland, not to return until the last day possible. Mostly, these trips didn’t feel like a vacation, per se, but rather, they felt like something every culture should do but didn’t– going back to learn who you are and where you came from, so that you could get a better understanding of yourself. Bonus points for anyone who spent that whole summer on a farm in Poland, especially when you usually lived in a major Midwest city.

    10. You Have a Uniquely Polish Energy

    This one is hard to capture in words, because it mostly falls along those lines of “I know it when I see it” tests. But still, when first meeting someone of Eastern European descent, I can tell immediately if they are Polish, simply based on how active, kinetic, and efficient their actions are. Polish people are intensely efficient, and if you see someone who is standing out of the crowd by working harder than others, getting the job done by moving quicker without regard for their own personal well-being–that person is probably Polish, and other Poles would recognize that Pole simply by  body movements and the need to solve problems. It truly is unique.

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    Featured photo credit: Flag/David Ripamonti via flickr.com

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    Last Updated on September 20, 2018

    How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

    How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

    Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

    If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

    1. Breathe

    The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

    • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
    • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
    • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

    Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

    2. Loosen up

    After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

    Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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    3. Chew slowly

    Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

    Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

    Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

    4. Let go

    Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

    The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

    It’s not. Promise.

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    Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

    Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

    21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

    5. Enjoy the journey

    Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

    Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

    6. Look at the big picture

    The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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    Will this matter to me…

    • Next week?
    • Next month?
    • Next year?
    • In 10 years?

    Hint: No, it won’t.

    I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

    Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

    7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

    You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

    Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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    8. Practice patience every day

    Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

    • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
    • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
    • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

    Final thoughts

    Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

    Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

    Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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