Monday, July 31, 2006

Poland, again

Okay, so I'm back in Poland again, so let's do a little update. First, one thing that I didn't realize before I came here that seems obvious in hindsight is that when you learn a new language and are exposed to a new culture, you tend to be immersed the popular bourgeois aspects of it.

So what is Poland like, at least Krakow in the year two thousand and six?

Well, the underlying concern is the standard of living, and it underlies just about all the issues in the public arena today; money, jobs, European Union, emigration. Obviously these are important concerns the whole world over, but it has a special flavor here. Whereas an American might think to himself "What is my best career direction and how can I best leverage my talents?" a Pole would say "How can I support myself and my family right now?" Unemployment is at roughly 20%, and millions of young people (and others) have left for greener pastures. The point isn't necessarily that life in Poland is completely dire, but rather that Polish society and individual Poles have a very interesting road ahead that will define their standard of living, and the contingencies of it dominate the thoughts of Polish society.

By contrast, the nature of Polish culture and how it is expressed in today's world as opposed to Communist times (what I am interested in) is much less important.

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