Saturday, September 13, 2008

Poland Progresses!!

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!

19 comments:

Melissa said...

"You friend are kiss." That's so funny. That's exactly the same kind of thing you would find on Japanese clothing. Or food packaging. In Japan, though, you are hard-pressed to find anything colorful. Most of their clothes are in the neutral palate (for adults, anyway).

McEwens said...

WOW, that was quite eye opening! Never even thought there would be guards as you shopped@ Why no drinking fountain? I am sitting here still a little stunned, been to the store in Afica and India and no guards....
I am glad poland is progress! What an interesting life you are living!!

Nathan said...

Americans dress their children as miniature versions of themselves. We make little boys wear button-downs and jeans, sometimes even khakis. (My five year old still needs help with his button-down shirts--they really are impractical, if you think about it, for small kids). We think its cute to see little kids in our clothes, only teeny versions of them. Sadly, by the time girls are about 8 or 9 in America, their choices start looking rather scuzzy (ala Bratz)--a little on the princess/butterfly/streetwalker side.

Poles, by contrast, and I suspect people in many other places where children are less plentiful, make their kids dress emphatically as children--for what seems to us as waaaay too long. Bright colors, leggings instead of jeans, socks and sandals, more bright colors.

In both cases, I think, adults are a bit unfair with their offspring.

On a less philosophical note, where do you get your used clothes, Lisa? Packages from family or donations from American charities? Please explain.

Alison Wonderland said...

This is very interesting. But am I the only one that finds it a bit sad? I'm sure if I were living there I would wish that it were a little more western too but I'm not so I guess I have the luxury of not wanting everywhere to be like here. I say Vive le differance.

Lisa said...

Nathan - I totally agree with you about the unfairness of how we dress our children. I'm just such a sucker for those cute little man clothes. I actually specifically mentioned jeans and button down shirts because I DO think it's a little silly that we have babies wearing those things. And I don't mind the Polish way for Poles, I don't think there's anything wrong with it, it's just not a style I've grown up with.

You know there are loads of little used clothing shops all over Poland with varying levels of quality. I found one here in Mielec that is specifically for children and has all American clothing in good condition and that's were I get the kids clothes. Compared to the price of used clothes in America these are still a little expensive, but still totally worth it.

Alison - Glad you mentioned that (even if I do think you're a little punk for that very comment! :) I mention a lot on this blog that I'm a fairly ignorant and arrogant American (though I try not to be). I am not opposed to Globalization in many ways. A lot of it is my selfishness that makes me wish Poland were more like America, which is why I throw in those little "still no drinking fountains and Golden Grahams" - total creature comforts that Poland is just fine without, but I would love to have. I mean to be a little overbearing about it and kind of sarcastic. Still, I think when we lose the securtiy guards roaming the stores it hopefully means there are fewer problems with stealing etc. I do appreciate your point and would be interested in what other commenters think.

Elizabeth said...

I left a comment, and my computer stopped working, so I'll try again! I love laughing while reading your posts, they are the best! I completely forgot about the shopping cart thing...weird. And,you forgot to mention that little kids always have their pants pulled up all the way to their chins. Cute, but a little odd.

Becky said...

Grocery store guards can't be all that bad, though, right? I mean, let's imagine Walmart had guards. "You there, with the 5 lb. bag of candy corn! Drop it and get outta here!"

Wow. I could actually LOSE weight during the holiday season.

Seriously, though. This was really interesting to a cultural ignoramus like myself.

Me plus 3 Hecks said...

I love to read the tidbits about life abroad. I kind of miss the idiosyncracies of different cultural living. The Ts in India with English on them always made for fun reading material, but I'm with Mcewens on the no-guards thing. I only remember that at the airport in Greece. And that was uncomfortable.

Me plus 3 Hecks said...

Oh, unrelated comment: I just read your Aaronisms and was totally relating to the hands-clasped-in-nervousness to simulate "folding" for prayer time! So funny! It must be a neurological thing at this age. Brody doesn't re-clasp though, so Aaron indeed is much more pious. He breaks loose as soon as the prayer starts and never looks back. :)

Kazzy said...

Hi Lisa. Since I just added you to my blog roll in the last few weeks could I find out more about your time in Poland? How long have you been there? Will you live there forever? Will you post more photos? My husband went for an academic conference about 7 years ago and had a very humble feeling upon returning. He was in Krakow. Sorry if I am misspelling.

Jen said...

I have to say, the fact that you live in Poland fascinates me. And I love that you continue to nurture your American side. After all, you're children's mother is American, so they should understand how the American culture is different than the Polish one, right? I think it's fine for Poland to be Poland, but it's also fine for you to be from America. America is an amazing place, and I think you should be proud to claim it as your own. In a very humble way, of course. Does that make any sense?

jonesfamily said...

I'm all with Kazzy, MORE PICTURES! And video of Aaron "talking"!I'm really surprised to hear about the security guards, not so surprised about the kid fashion.

Marivic_Little GrumpyAngel said...

I grew up in a foreign country but spent all my adult life as an American, so this post was quite interesting to me. I guess, I am able to see things both from non-American eyes as well as American eyes. I don't think you are "an arrogant American" as you say on a follow up comment. My own family and in-laws are recent immigrants (Philippines and Great Britain) But my kids are Americans so when we went to the Philippines and England I understood their perspective of wanting American stuff after the novelty of being in a foreign land wore off. It's normal to want what's familiar when you are away from home. It's not neccesarily a criticism of that country to want things to be like at home.

Susan said...

I love the cross-dressing tots! You forgot to mention the best reason for buying used clothes: NOTHING is better for the environment unless you're going to go au-natural! (which doesn't work well in Poland's winters, I believe.)

As for the water fountains, if the water is potable, they should have them in every country. It's just so hard to have enough water all the time for all the kids IMO. I carry water bottles around with me all the time, but when it's me plus all 4 kids, well, we often need a refill when we're out and about.

Kimberly said...

What an awesome insight! I've never traveled anywhere and I love learning about other countries.

Yay for progress though!

Barbaloot said...

My favorite part of this is "shopping trip to Poland." As if it's just so normal...which I suppose it is if you don't live in America:)

CostCo kind of has guards: they always check your receipt and basket before you leave the store. As if you could have picked up anything else in the two feet between the register and the exit!

Corina said...

I'm so glad to hear how Poland is progressing! Vaughn will be there next month...I'll have to make sure he notices!

Melanie J said...

I would dig it if boys here wore flowery shoes and jeans and stuff. I think that rocks. My son's shoes have skulls on one pair and fire dragons on the other. Testosterone, much? Then again, I wouldn't mind some shoes en fuego, so I shouldn't mock.

Mama Cher, Ok, fine, it's Sharon said...

Please, please, if you find a shirt that says "You friend are kiss" buy it!! I would pay top dollar for that!