1. You know your mama needs you to report every five seconds of your day.
Or you’ll never stop the incessant phone-ringing from coming. It’s how she shows she loves you.
2. Your house has firanki.
And they’re not just any drapes/curtains. They have to be those lace-looking curtains that make it obvious from a mile away that there’s a Polish person living in that house. At least they look nice and let the sun in.
3. You find English tongue twisters way too easy.
As if Polish Cities, and Polish last names weren’t already a mouthful, your parents were always asking you to repeat phrases such as “W Szczebrzeszynie Chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie.”
4. You do not need Angie’s List or the Yellow Pages.
From oil changes, to shortening your trousers, you get it done through extended favors, free of charge from family, whether it’s your grandmother or your distant, three-times removed cousin with whom you still miraculously keep in touch.
5. Your work fits around your family and social life, not the other way around.
Family comes first, no matter what, so you’ll have to put your career and dreams on the slow-cooking back-burner.
6. You do not leave your elderly in assisted living.
They’re not a burden. They’re family, and a Polish family takes care of family no matter if they don’t have a nursing degree. Don’t argue.
7. Your life investment is education.
You may be 100 years old and have 20 different education degrees, but you will still hear your parents nagging you “study, study, study.” Your parents want you to achieve in life and have a secure future, and the only way to that goal for them is through excelling in education.
8. You know that sports and extracurriculars always come in second.
Because mama and papa believe you can’t make a living off of being a writer, photographer, musician, actor, artist or athlete. Good luck convincing them otherwise. They still won’t believe if you show them a million-dollar paycheck.
9. You are taught to save your money from the first day you get an account.
And you are not allowed to spend a cent of it until you move out. Mama and papa will still give you an allowance until that day.
10. You do not move out of the house the minute your first paycheck clears.
You’re only allowed to move out when you have enough money for your own house or if you’re getting married.
11. And your parents move back in with you when your firstborn arrives.
They’re going to help you take care of your kids at no charge, basically raising your kids how they see fit, whether you like it or not.
12. You do not live on credit cards.
You’ve learnt not to cry “I want it!” if you can’t afford it. Instead, you grit your teeth, work hard and save towards your goal.
13. You do not eat TV dinners on plastic plates alone in front of the TV.
You have three home-cooked meals daily, prepared by mama or grandma, served on ceramic plates. You use silverware and sit at a table with table cloth and placemats. Meals are a gathering time for families at the table to talk and laugh.
14. You have five different sets of plates and silverware.
There are the chipped sets that have half missing, which you only use with immediate family. Then there’s the fancy ones that you use for the guests who drop by randomly. Then there’s the extra-fancy and super dusted plates and silverware that only see the light of day at dinner parties and holidays.
15. You have a lot of crystal and silver items.
Bowls, eagle-shaped thingies, platters, and vases. You don’t even know the purpose of half of these items, but they’re in your nice-looking display case, gathering dust.
16. Your back and front yards are a jungle of flowers, vegetables, and fruits.
You’ve got a whole farm and greenhouse mushed together. There’s so much stuff that you spend half the day watering it. You’ve actually thought of opening up your own nursery.
17. You mind your manners.
You wouldn’t dare call your elder by “you” or their first name; you always use their honorific title — “Pan” (Mr.), “Pani” (Ms/Mrs.), “Ksiądz” (father/ Reverend), etc — with their first name. Or, if they’re your family, you use the proper pronoun. If you have a guest, you serve them everything because there’s no such thing as “get it yourself from the fridge.”
18. You downplay compliments.
A: “I love your earrings/shirt/scarf/coat/pants!”
B:“Oh, really? They’re as old as you./ I bought them at a sale 20 years ago.”
A: “Oh, wow! Your car is so clean, it looks brand new! How about you come and clean mine?
B: “PFTTT! Auntie, please put your glasses on. This car is definitely not clean.”
19. Christmas requires a Opłatek (Christmas wafer).
Opłatek is a thin, decorative white wafer used at Wigilia (Christmas Eve dinner). Family members pick up a piece and go around to each other, wishing each other well, and breaking off a piece of each other’s wafer.
20. You have to get your basket blessed for Easter.
The day before Easter, you, your family, and your Polish friends show up at church with a basket filled with bread, meat, eggs, horseradish, pepper, and salt — or some variations thereof — and the priest blesses it with holy water. You only eat the food from this basket for breakfast after Mass on Easter Sunday.