On our little shopping trip this morning Poland taught me something. Did you know entire countries can teach you things? Well, all of Poland gathered itself together in our little town of Mielec and showed me something nice today.
Really, there was no big meeting in Mielec or anything. That was all a bunch of nonsense, but here's what I saw, besides that the weather accidentally thought it was November. Poland is becoming more and more westernized. That's what I learned (okay, I actually learn this over and over). Certain husbands of certain bloggers don't always love the way their country comes off in certain blogs. That's why I'm first going to say that Poland is changing so quickly. The economy is improving very quickly and since joining the European Union the improvements are coming at an even more rapid rate. On to my discoveries (given in long winded, Lisa fashion, try though I did to hold back):
1. I always try to buy my kids used clothing. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, I'm cheap and have a hard time paying even reasonable prices for something new when I could get something similar used and much less expensive. Also, this used to be the only way I could get American style clothing for my children. Poles just did NOT dress their toddlers in jeans and button down shirts*. As I say, you can buy those things now, but if I get them used I can get things from the GAP, Children's Place, and of course lots and lots of Circo stuff, too :).
Well, we used to observe little boys wearing pink or with shoes that had a unicorn on them****. It was pretty normal, especially for kids under age 4 to be dressed in clothes that Americans would definitely consider gender specific, when they were the wrong gender. When I asked for help in shops the ladies would present me all kinds of dainty patterned clothing for my little boy.
Well, today while the lady was helping me find some jeans for David she set out a pair that had some flowers embroidered at the bottom of the leg. I started to point to them and she quickly picked them back up and said, "Oh!! You probably don't want to wear those, do you?!" and started joking with David that he could surely wear them if he wanted them. She recognized that boys don't wear flowers. Of course I'm making this into a bigger deal than it was, but I was more surprised that she recognized it than I would have been if she hadn't.
2. Not sure if it's left over from communist times or what, but when you enter a shop in which you will be choosing your items to buy (as opposed to all those shops, still flourishing, in which you point to the food item you want behind the counter and the shopkeeper gets it down for you--missionaries in Poland used to call these "Poprosze stores" or "'I'd like' stores" because you had to ask for every item on your list.) so when you were in the self service type store, you HAD TO HAVE either a shopping cart or a shopping basket. Just running in to buy a candy bar? TAKE A BASKET. Or security might stop you and make you go get one. At best you would get suspicious/dirty looks from people. I've seen a few stores over the years that display a sign "Do not enter without a basket" but really, this is generally an unspoken rule. Everyone knows it and it's bad manners not to do it.
Today, there was a monster long line in the store we were going to. It was Aaron's nap time, with all that means to a shopping mother, and we only needed a few things. I had no change to use to get a shopping cart (you put in a coin to get your cart and get it back when you return it to the right place--great idea, eh?). There was no way I was waiting in that line just for change, so instead I had Evie take care of Aaron as we wandered around the store, and David and I just filled the cotton grocery bags I always have with me when shopping (except when I forget, which is only maybe 33% of the time) and unloaded them on the conveyor belt. We managed to do this with nary a sideways glance and even the security didn't stop us, although I think that's because they never saw us. (In many grocery stores in Poland you have security guards that pace the aisles with their arms folded across their chests eyeing everyone suspiciously. They are always dressed all in black and have those black leather army boots.)
The fact that both these things happened in the same outing means a lot. I give inward cheers when I have experiences like these. Still no sign of a drinking fountain or Golden Grahams, but excellent progress nonetheless.
* It used to be that it was difficult to find clothing for small children that was not brightly colored, or at least that didn't have a fluorescent colored animal displayed somewhere (think bright pink dinosaurs or construction-zone-vest yellow elephants with inscriptions like "You friend are kiss" or something). Clothing for older kids would just have funky patterns on them.
**** Four stars because I was so surprised. After posting this I went downstairs where David had just come inside with a neighbor boy who is a few months younger than him. This boy was wearing hot pink socks. Just for kicks I glanced at his shoes lying in the hallway; white with little purple flowers. No joke. Other than that he was dressed all boyish. I couldn't believe the coincidence!