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Poles and Canadians - Habits and Lifestyles

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I intend to write about Polish national vices and virtues and compare them with Canadians features. I have my opinions about people in Canada and they have their thoughts about us as well. It is true that every country has its own special identity and the way of living. Each society has its own norms and what is normal for one country can be deviant for another. Some features seen in other countries we sometimes strongely disapprove of and it is because their ideas or beliefs are different than ours. But we can't treat general descriptions very seriously as it is not right or fair to describe all the people of one country because in one society there live many different people. The habits, style of life of these people may be quite different, it can be right in our opinions and we will approve it, or it can be far from our ordinary norms and we will criticize it.

Maybe we shouldn't make overgeneralizations and describe the features of all the people as one in a single community. But I will put forward some general statements about our Polish people's strongely developed characteristics. Some people may not agree with my opinions because they may see things in a different way. My descriptions and comparisons are based on my own observations while being in Canada.

There are some common features shared by Canadians and Poles, Poles and Canadians very often aim for the same goals but on the other hand we differ in many ways. People living in both countries have vices and virtues, which is quite obvious.

I will start with description of our Polish negative features. One of our vices is that we are too pessimistic, maybe this is not the worst one but we always see things in dark, gloomy colours and we are always complaining about something, what you may notice easily. Especially when you meet someone you know in the street or at another place and you greet them you will listen all the bad and sad news and what somebody is unhappy about. We say that life is too hard on us and everything goes wrong in our lives and moreover nothing interesting happens. I don't know what the reason for our pessimism is and where our optimism has gone. Maybe we are too realistic and we treat everything too seriously. It could be connected with the past economic situation in our country and this caused that we are as that. People in Canada are not as pessimistic as we are. They are much more relaxed and smile more often than we do and they would great a person in the street they don't know.

This is very frustrating that sometimes people in Poland are not very polite to each other in the public places, for example on a bus, an office. This is seen especially when you inquire for information, the person who is giving a reply is very impatient and treats you as if you were only disturbing them and only making problems. This kind of behaviour causes that you are sometimes afraid of asking about something. We are too nervous, people who are always in a hurry. I think the Canadians are more polite to each other, they don't create nervous, unpleasant atmosphere, they often slow down and don't like to be in a rush, they wouldn't hustle you while doing something.

Polish people get irritated very easily and get excited too fast. This can be seen during a strong disagreement or when people are angry about something. Canadians mostly do not react very emotionally, the usually control their temper and may only get crazy while watching hockey games, which is their number one sport.

I think that we Poles are not tolerant enough, however we are more tolerant than we used to be. We sometimes show our preference or disapproval in many cases. We were not tolerant about different than ordinary life style of habits. For example it was long disapproved when a woman was unmarried and had a child and this was seen as something immoral but the people's, view about it has almost completely changed by now not very long time ago. Lack of being tolerant made us too stiff or we were too strict to each other. Canadians are more tolerant than we are and wouldn't be as surprised in many situations as we would be. In general they are rather passive and do not mind what somebody else is doing or wearing. They like to feel comfortable and do not care about other peoples' business and moreover they try to feel relaxed and avoid worries as only they can. It is one of our bad features that we are other interested in other people business. We sometimes find fun in gossiping and spreading rumours. Almost everybody in the neighborhood is interested in other people business and especially some people are awfully curious what somebody else in doing. This is not a very good feature to be very inguistive but we can't say that we do not mind finding out something interesting about somebody. Some people are jealous that the neighbour has a better car or a nicer house etc. I think that is because we are too ambitions, we often try to gain the same things and not to be worse. Some people can't stand it when someone else in doing better than they are but on the other hand it can make them competitive, which may turn into an advantage and become a positive feature and doing this they can improve their financial situation and it often encourages them to be more active and work more. But being too ambitious can make some people unhealthily disappointed or they may become miserable and grouchy to others. Sometimes people like showing off, how well they are doing, that they are better than others or that they can afford expensive things, which is not a very nice feature. For some people it is a real pleasure to show others how well is their financial situation is.

On the contrary, I did not notice this being so in Canada. I think mostly they were happy with what they had and if they could afford buying something more expensive they just bought it, if not, they bought cheaper things. I can't say that they were jealous that somebody had a better car, or a better t.v. set. They didn't feel destitute because of it. For sure, like everybody else they had dreams and plans about getting something exclusive and they strongely wanted to buy something in the future if only their financial situation would improve. But they didn't put it as if they had to have this or that. Polish people are too hard on themselves and sometimes they want too much life offers them. Unfortunately the effects of such strong pressure is not positive but tiring and stressful.

We have some very bad habits and I have to state shamefully about it, it happens that people drink too much. It is very sad that Polish people had opinions of heavy drinkers but I think it has changed. Poles are very sociable and when they meet they often drink alcohol and that is nothing wrong about it, because people in other countries drink alcohol, too, on different occasions. It unfortunately may become tragic and cause many fatal accidents or it often becomes a curse for their families. Some people try to fight drinking but in fact not many end up successful, this is not only in Poland but in other countries as well.

In Canada, it seems they have similar problems with drinking. They drink litres of beer when it comes the weekend. They were watching sport, especially hockey games or they were renting films and watching them, different kinds; comedies, crime, stories or adventure films.

When I came to Canada I was shocked, as telephone booths in the street weren't demolished, receivers not broken, benches and lamps in the parks, were in perfect condition and the same with the bus stops, they were clean and pleasant, not cracked. My conclusion is that Canada is less violent than Poland

Can you believe it, in the west province, Alberta, you were able to leave your car unlocked and your house door open. Nobody would break into and steal anything. It happened sometimes that Indians were sneaking up, got into somebody's place and stole some food from the fridge. Our friends told us about an incident, it was at night, they were falling asleep, then they heard somebody was moving around the house and the noise was coming from the kitchen, he went to look there and he saw an Indian, who was standing next to the opened fridge searching for some food. But they weren't dangerous and wouldn't do any harm to you. I have never heard about such case. In Poland it's not possible to leave your house or a car unlocked in any part of the country.

We can perceive positive features in Poles, one of them is preserving our traditions. This is shown during holidays especially: Easter and Christmas. Before Easter, on Saturday people prepare a little basket by filling it with pieces of bread, meat, a little salt and eggs. The next day, in the morning at breakfast time we share halves of eggs and eat food from the basket. Easter Monday is a lot of fun, especially for young people. They splash water on each other at home and outside and they completely get wet. We symbolically do it in the family at home. Easter doesn't look very similarly in Canada, they don't celebrate it in the same way. Monday is a day off at Easter time in Poland and in Canada. Canadians celebrate this holiday but not exactly in the same way, they don't follow all rituals. Maybe Canadians' Christmas is a little more similar to Polish Christmas, but still our traditions are different. They don't celebrate Christmas - Eve - which is a very meaningful time for us, with a special atmosphere. There is a special way of preparing a table for that day, such as putting one extra plate for someone unexpected who might come that evening and we put some hay under the tablecloth. We don't start our supper until the first star appears in the sky, actually when it gets dark. Canadians also have a Christmas tree as we do and they decorate their houses beautifully, and the streets look very impressive and they generally spend Christmas with their families and they give presents to each other similarly like in Poland. Canadiens celebrate holiday called Halloween, it takes place on 31st October. That day they have parties Young children go home to home and collect candies saying treat or trick. Canadians' important holiday is thanksgiving, celebrated in October. All the family meets together, sitting at the table and having roasted turkey, enjoying the time, talking to each other in a pleasant atmosphere. But in Poland November first is all Saints Day when we go to the cementary to light candles.

We, Poles have our own culture, for example traditional and folkloristic clothes different in each part of Poland, also folk songs and dances. In Canada there are also folk songs and dances, I mean cowboys (or farmers,) real cowboy wear cowboy, boots, clothes, hats and ruffles, you can see them in the streets, they have their own culture and habits. You can hear country music in the radio all the time. You can see Indians in the streets but hey lead their own life, although they are part of Canadian culture. People who come from different countries have their own culture they brought from their country and preserve.

The history is very important and meaningful to us and to them, too. We have very old and rich history. Poles are proud of many famous names of Polish names: M.C. Skłodowska a name known in the world, F.Chopin, general Kosciuszko also famous in other countries and our Polish writers: H. Sienkiewicz, A. Mickiewicz. Canadians also have famous people, for example: Bell, the telephone inventor or MacKenzie.

We can say that our Polish social life is very rich, which is quite positive feature. Generally Polish people don't like to stay at home alone but they usually go out and visit friends or invite them to their place. We like to entertain ourselves and go out to the theatre or to the cinema. There are of course some people who like to stay at home where it is quiet and enjoy reading or watching t.v. Poles like discussions on many subjects, they get especially excited about politics and our present economic situation in Poland. Many people are debating and even quarrel fiercely. For example in my nieghbourhood there is a group of companions who meet regularly and loudly discuss many problems. They always have a subject to talk about. It is sometimes very funny for spectators because their discussions look very serious and noisy. People in Canada maybe don't socialize as much as we do. They sometimes prefer to stay home or go for a walk and they also meet their friends and go to the bar together but they rather don't join any big discussions, they only mind their own business and don't care much about politics. They are nice and polite but very often closed in themselves and in their homes. When they meet a neighbour or someone they know they greet shortly and that's it. Generally this situation is getting similar these days in Poland. People in Canada who work in an office wear suits, they go to a bar for much and after work they change their clothes to truck suit and go jogging in the park. I observed this in Ottawa. I enjoyed living there very much as there were many beautiful parks and beaches on the river.

Poles are very hospitable and often invite guests and have a good time, we prepare some delicious food, bake different cakes and we have supper. We are famous for our hospitality. Poles like having a good time, meeting friends and finding occasions to celebrate something and organize a party. In Canada they very often celebrate a birthday in a restaurant, sometimes at home but in Poland mainly weddings are held in a restaurant.

I'd like to mention about Polish chivalry, I mean about being kind in relations between man and woman, when man tries to be polite or to impress a lady. For example he lets the woman enter the building first or kisses woman's hand. Sometimes man does these things because it is his habit and he was brought up in this way to be a gentleman to show respect or because he only wants to show off how great gentleman he is. Canadians don't seem to pay much attention to this but I noticed that some men wanted to impress a woman were more polite than others, that is like everywhere.

In general Canadian people are very nice to you, they are open, ready to talk to you friendly. I have good memories especially when I lived in the Alberta province. They treated you very warmly with sympathy, invited you at their place to the party, you could feel comfortably being with them. It was easy to make friendship with Canadians. And only an environment, the wild nature was severe sometimes, wild animals, and you could go many kilometers through Canada and there were only farms and nothing more. The winter wasn't friendly, especially in the north-west part, which takes about ten months, from September or October and lasts almost to May or June. Winter temperature rises up to - 45oC.

As I remarked before, people in Poland and in Canada have positive and negative features. In every society there live good personalities and people who disguise others. There is no community where all people are the same but most of them are ordinary people whose manners, the way of living do not surprise anybody, they comply with common standards of living and behaving. I wrote what I think about the vices and virtues of Polish and Canadian people and I put down my general opinions in this matter.

Anna Minkiewicz
Centrum Kształcenia Ustawicznego w Częstochowie

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