Being a Greek in Poland

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My fellow Greek friend, I have been to Lodz two times for Erasmus and I feel like I know this city by now as if it were my village. So, I have prepared this list for you, to prepare you for the culture shock that awaits you and give you a few tips: how to survive in Lodz as a Greek person. My fellow foreign friend, this is a great chance for you to learn a few things about me and my culture (especially if you are considering Greece as an Erasmus destination- which I really hope you are doing). My fellow Polish friend, please, don’t be offended; we love your country nonetheless!

Weather

Let’s start with some of the bad news! Lodz is cold in the winter (okay, maybe all year round; July 10 this year Lodz had 9 degrees, wind and heavy rain and I arrived with a summer dress from Athens, lucky me). The average temperature is 0-5 degrees all winter- starting from September. Good news is that probably you won’t have to experience -20 (the most extreme temperature was -7 last year when it snowed- DO NOT MAKE THE MISTAKE TO GO FOR SNOW WARS, YOU WILL GET COLD AND GO TO THE HOSPITAL, BELIEVE ME). Also, try to get used to the idea that you will not get much sun. During the winter, you get light from around 8-9 until 3.30, which can be pretty depressing, so invest in fairy lights for your bedroom, buy many packs of hot cocoa and a good blanket. Also, try to wake up very early at least once (I know, it is difficult, but it is worth it) and go for a walk in the morning. The city will be empty and full of fog (amazing).

Athens vs Lodz

Roads

Now some good news! It may surprise you, or it may not, but in Poland, it is very safe (and easy) to cross a road. There are crosswalks everywhere (crosswalks are those white lines that you rarely find in Athens) and drivers respect them no matter what. More good news:
even if there is no traffic light (which is usually the case), they will stop and wait for you to cross. There are bicycle lanes and sidewalks (with no parked cars). So far, so good. Now it is time for a fair warning though! Obey the law. Don’t cross when it is red! Don’t cross if there is no crosswalk! Police officers and city guards can easily spot you (You don’t want to pay a fine, right?)

Public transport

More good news, my friend! If you live in Athens or Thessaloniki you know what true suffering means; 40 degrees in the summer with a packed bus (like 250 or 608, yes, I study in Philosofiki) that gets stuck in traffic for hours on end. In Lodz, it is not like that. There will be times where you will be all alone on the bus or tram (and you will not know where to sit). Also, you will never need to run in order to catch a tram or a bus. Who cares? The next one will be there shortly, there are after all many different routes for the same destination. It is very rare that you will have to wait for more than 20 minutes for transportation in the centre of the city. Also, in Lodz, there are public transportation 24 hours. Night buses come every thirty minutes all night (not like 500, which is more an urban legend than an actual bus route). Friendly advice: don’t forget to buy a ticket (usually you can buy inside the tram with card) and validate it, otherwise there is fine waiting for you. Also, try to be quiet. If a Greek friend/relative calls you when you are in the tram, decline. Because you WILL SPEAK LOUDLY, in a foreign language in a tram full of Poles. Recipe for disaster (they will stare, they will shush you etc).

Try to be quiet in polish public transport!

Food

My fellow Greek friend, food in Poland will be a challenge for you. Fruit and vegetables are usually of low quality. Cucumbers, tomatoes, apples, oranges, grapes, bananas etc are usually tasteless (I mean it is expected in this cold) and they go bad within 2-4 days. Mushrooms, cabbage, carrots and onions are very good (and they are found a lot in polish cuisine). Supermarkets here don’t have a lot of Greek products, but you can find feta or halloumi or even kritharaki, olives, honey and other treats in rear occasions from the brand Ellios or Tolonis (for yoghurt). Anything really special that you love and cannot live without (for me paximadia (rusks), nounou milk and pita bread for souvlaki) bring from home.
Polish cuisine is a lot heavier, with more butter, meat, sausages, potatoes and cabbage.
There are a lot of soups and of course pierogi. Give it a try, it may surprise you (if it doesn’t, there are so many restaurants with foreign cuisine in Lodz, so you can always go there). On the bright side, supermarkets here have so many different (occasionally weird) flavours for snacks, fizzy drinks or juice (like cactus). In a nutshell, your food experience will NOT be boring!

Greek food (right) vs Polish (left)

Service in restaurants and cafés

Restaurants here are a whole new experience! In Greece, the waiter brings water, bread, salt, pepper, oil and vinegar when you sit down (NOPE), they the waiter comes back to take your order (WELL, SOMETIMES), then they bring your order and when you are all done, you ask the bill, they collect used plates, you have dessert and then you pay and go (NOPE). In Lodz the majority of cafes are self-service, meaning you go to the cashier, you order, pay, wait for your drink and then sit down. In restaurants, they will usually come for your order, but that’s as far as they will go. Don’t be annoyed when they take your plate or glass if it is empty (even though everyone else is still eating/drinking). Be patient with the language barrier and install google translate app (so you can take a photo and it will instantly translate the menu). Don’t expect to joke around with the waiter or exchange a bucketload of polite smiles.

There are huge differences between polish and greek resto!

Language

English situation in Poland is a bit tricky. Most people only know polish, so it will be harder to communicate. Try to learn some basic Polish words, just as good morning, thank you, excuse me etc. Use google translate (honestly, google translate and google maps will become your two new best friends). Now, let me tell you something about young people that surprised me. They typically know English. Maybe some struggle with it, but they know it. However, they may be very shy and self-conscious that they avoid using it. My polish friend told me that if someone asks her something in English on the street, she pretends she doesn’t know. (Yes, when she told me I was shocked. In fact, I told her that there is a special place in hell for people who refuse to help desperate, lost, poor Erasmus people -she helps now).

Try to learn some Polish words, it’s really useful!

Smile

Last but not least, let me tell you something about poles; they don’t smile much. They don’t walk around speaking loudly on the phone, laughing and smiling for no apparent reason, or saying good morning to you (when it is not necessary). When there is no sun, how can they walk around smiling after all?

Poles are not the most smiley nation!

Feel free to contact me for any of the following reasons:

  1. As a Pole you are offended
  2. As a Greek, you have more questions
  3. As a foreigner, you want to ask about Erasmus or trips in Greece
  4. Literally any other reason
    Fb: Έλενα Παπαδοπούλου
    Insta: elle_ch_papadopoulou