Well, a few months ago, I returned to Chicago to take another trading job, and my study of Polish has suffered somewhat, though I am still perservering. I have already tried to answer this once on the blog, and I stand by what I wrote:
But this is still incomplete. It only dealt with big-picture issues and sheds very little light on what an American visiting Poland is likely to see.
It is worth noting that my trips to Poland are strictly as a tourist. I am something of an enthusiast of Polish culture, but my name notwithstanding, I know very well that I am not Polish. So my interest in Poland is not about blood and roots.
Instead, Poles (like many foreigners) are in some way tougher than us. We all know that in America, the rough edges of life have been smoothed away by a combination an affluent economy and the nanny state. But this post is not intended to be some "Woe are they" tearjerker either, just the opposite in fact. It's really about the fact that people endure all sorts of privation with just a minimum of complaining, and without allowing it to interfere with completing their daily business. You might be tempted to think that this is because they don't know any better, they haven't been exposed to anything different. But that's not so. Poland exists in largely the same cultural orbit that we do, and travel has been liberalized for some time.
This is not intended to be some generic celebration of multiculturalism or the universal brotherhood of mankind. The Poles are very much "like" us, except that in some ways they have more resources than us, and in others they have less.