Tuesday, February 28, 2017
   
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The Xenophobe's Guide to the Poles

Everything you need to know about Poles in the nutshell - is in this book written by Ewa Lipniacka: The Xenophobe's Guide to the Poles. For all that want to date somebody Polish, to understand his/her Polish family or in-laws better and for there who are going to travel to Poland - this book is a right one. It is not only full of practical information but also very interestingly written and full of sense of humor.

Ewa Lipniacka, the author, was raised in Great Britain after her Polish family came there travelling through Siberia and Palestine. She knows and understands Poland because of her many travels. She has alarge Polish family distributed in different sites all around Poland and ex-Poland (now Ukraine). Ewa looks at Poles and Poland from the external perspective knowing quite a lot about them. She definitively likes Poles but she is able to see them with all their good and bad features, virtues and vices. This external perspective is beneficial for this book. For the Pole who spend his or her whole life in Poland it is impossible to see that some Polish habits may be considered strange in another culture as well as some foreign habits are strange to Poles. By comparing British and Polish cultures - one can understand better how differently people react to the same situation just because of their background. This may help to avoid any potential conflicts while visiting Poland or staying in touch with the Polish family and friends.

British culture seems so similar to American, at least in the respect to the Polish culture - therefore I recommend this book without any doubts to American readers. I have to agree with the author in her presenting of Polish culture especially since I lived in Poland for over thirty years and now I stay in the USA for eleven years. There are many differences in Polish and American lifestyles only visible to somebody who after being ingrained in one culture moved to another and spend enough time "digesting" the both.

Eva is a gifted and critical observer. Her book is also full of sense of humor but it contains also plenty of practical advise about Polish food, history, religion, language, healthcare - almost every aspect of Polish life customs, literature and even environmental pollution including. Eva does not give a rosy picture of Poland but the true one. Still after reading the book you would like to go to Poland and understand better this unusual country and a land of so many heroes.

Let me give you just a taste for a book by quoting a fragment from Ewa Lipniacka's book from a chapter about Polish character:

Polish xenophobia is a self-defense mechanism: essential to the Poles' survival is the obsessive nurturing of language, culture and traditions, all of which are portable and can be handed on "underground".
Polish boarders are a thing of such infinite flexibility. This also explains why more Poles live outside Poland's boarders than inside.

It is not surprising that key national characteristics are adaptability. A good Polish cook is one who can make gourmet coup from the rusty nail. Older Polish cookbooks give recipes of the familiar "take a dozen eggs" variety alongside recipes for "what to use if you have no" . For example, "Almond cake if you have no almonds (use ground beans and almond flavoring)".

This book is published by Oval Books and is available in a practical pocket format. Several books about other nationalities, among them the neighbors of Poland have been published by the same company - check The Xenophobe's Guide to the Russians written by Vladimir Zhelvis to learn how Russians and Poles are similar in some aspects of their daily lives (coping with poverty, communism) but different in other aspects (Russian imperial ambitions).

Check also The Xenophobe's Guide to the Germans by Stefan Zeidenitz, Ben Barkow - very interestingly written about all German talents and also hidden complexes.

These books are very rich in substance in spite of being very concise in format, so if you would like to read it from cover to cover, which I recommend, it would take you more than one evening if you really want to learn something from these books!

Recommended reading(s):

Guide to PolesThe Xenophobe's Guide to the Poles by Ewa Lipniacka (Author)

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