Photo: powazny

The latest in Matador’s series on how to piss off perfectly nice people sets sights on the Slavs of northeast Europe.

Since the population of Poland seems bent on colonising the Western world by taking over its service sector (waitressing, dish washing, babysitting), chances are you’ll find yourself in a position to get on a Pole’s nerves. Here’s how you can go about it.

1. Suggest we’re Russians.

Typical. You see the blond hair, the blue eyes, the big cheeks, you hear the thick accent, and there it goes: “You from Russia?”

Capital offence. Due to certain historical circumstances, we do not like this association at all. Also, because Russia is bigger and everyone’s more interested in what happens there. It’s like Canadians and Americans, or New Zealanders and Australians — only with centuries of conflict and oppression operating as subtext.

Of course, it’s not that we don’t like the actual Russians. We are, after all, nothing if not magnanimous and gregarious, even though they hurt us so much in the past, the evildoers…. But we don’t harbour bad feelings. No, we aren’t prejudiced at all — and if you suggest we are, we’ll take issue with that too!

2. Label our food ‘so-so’.

Poland isn’t known as a gourmet country. We like simple, filling, comforting stuff, like pork chops with potatoes or sauerkratz dumplings, and a lot of thick soups to fend off the winter cold. But anyone visiting Poland should be legally obliged to praise our fare. We are ridiculously proud of the quality of our staples — keep your baguettes and bruschettas, for we and only we are the keepers of the real, natural, nourishing bread in all its shapes and varieties.

Dairy…okay, so we don’t make hundreds of varieties of cheese — we prefer simple white cottage cheese and curdled milk (which is wasted by the rest of the world as milk gone bad) — but we take great pride in complaining about the EU directives which demand that all milk should be pasteurised, when everyone knows only fresh milk straight from the udder can be good. And sausage — we’ll give you pastrami and salami, but in terms of good old sausage with a lot of fatty bits and gristle, we’re the best. Period.

3. Feign (or admit) ignorance of Poland’s location.
    a)“Poland?” “Yeah, y’know, Poland. Erm, Europe?” “Aaah. Didn’t know that Poland was in Europe!”

    b) “You’re from Poland? That’s great! Now, let me show you how to use a fork and a knife!”

    c) “I’ll let you try our national beverage, I’m sure you don’t have it where you come from. It’s called tea.”

    d) “Poland? Wait, that’s where polar bears are from, right?”1

      1All of the above are real-life conversations.
4. Suggest that anyone else has suffered as much as the Poles.

Yeah, so we’ve been through some major crap. The 19th and 20th centuries in particular were not too peachy. Other nations just love to pick on us. Especially the Russians. And the Germans. Unluckily, we’re stuck between the two. We’re always victimised. Poor us. Pat our backs and nod sympathetically. We’ll tell you it’s not that bad, but that’s only because we’re well-mannered and don’t like to belabor the point. But it’s true. And it doesn’t matter that sometimes we can only blame ourselves. It’s still not fair.

5. Imply that other countries are worse off.

On a related point, we do take major pride in being The World’s Number One Victim. In times of peace, when our neighbouring countries are not very obliging in providing a reason, we’ll find our own excuses. “Bad roads in Uganda? Dude, have you seenour roads?” we’ll say with a gleeful smile.

And maybe other governments are corrupt, but no one can be as primitive, classless and ineffective as a Polish politician! This is why we have such strong characters — because we have to put up with all this nonsense! Change it, you say? Naah — we wouldn’t have anything to complain about then, would we?

6. Dare to imply that Polish people are not the best.

Despite all of the above, just try to concur and join the choir of poignant Polish whiners and you’ll be dealt with swiftly and unmercifully. We Poles are the best. We didn’t have a country for a whole century and in the end we got it back. We can drink so much alcohol it should kill a normal person and still drive a car2. We even had bears fighting for us in WWII3! So yes, we may be the worst country in the world. But all the others are much worse than us.

    2 fact
    3also a fact
7. Suggest that other nationalities can drink more.

This is the big one. The Death Star of any Pole-befriending scheme you might be hatching. No one has better vodka than we do. And no one — no one — can drink more of it than us. We’re ready to prove it any time, any place, for as long as necessary, until we’re completely drunk, inebriated, plastered, pissed, sloshed, and out of it. But we’ll be the last ones standing.

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