The biggest lie my Polish students tell me is that they don’t like disco polo music – you all love it and you know it! Nothing gets your feet tapping faster than the rhythmic beats of disco polo and pure vodka flowing through your bloodstream. From a wedding reception in a palace to a barn in a farm, disco polo music is adored by the lot of you. But it’s the alcohol that makes us like it, right? At least I won’t lie about it; I love it – disco polo, I mean!
Pouring a drink
But speaking of alcohol, there are quite a few cultural differences between the way alcohol is consumed in England and Poland. When I came to Poland, I had a lot to learn. Let’s just say the boys taught me. I remember sitting on a sofa around a table with some friends. My whisky glass had recently emptied, so I took the bottle and poured the whisky into my glass. “Zobacz, on sam sobie leje!” I looked up and saw all their eyes fixed on me, and then on my hand with the bottle still in it. Did I do something wrong? Yes, I apparently did. Now I know that in Poland you should always pour other surrounding people’s drinks before you finally pour your own. Today, like an eagle, I keep a watchful eye on everyone’s glasses as I down the last drop.
Another difference is the synchronisation of drinking vodka. Straight vodka, not mixed with anything soft. It’s a wonderful thing. You pick up your shot glass, look at everyone surrounding you while they also hold their glass up and their eyes meet yours, a slight nod of the head, a little smile, another slight lift of the shot glass, “zdrowie!” That sense of unity and bonding is the reason you are drinking together in the first place. In England, my friends around just seemed to want to drink to get drunk, and be in their own little world.
Speaking of being in our own little world, birthdays and alcohol in England are the exact opposite. Back in England, my birthday’s didn’t cost me a penny. All my drinks were paid for by my friends with the devilish aim to get me drunk; of course, there were successful in their endeavour. Here, it’s the opposite! If you’re planning a night out with your friends on your birthday, then it’s better not to look in your wallet or on your bank account the morning after – that will only make your hangover worse. The idea here is on your birthday, you buy everyone else their drinks for the whole night. They are all guests of honour – very expensive guests!
The most shocking difference for me was when I went to a wedding. Alcohol was on the table available to all! That might seem normal to you, but it’s not in England. In England at most weddings, usually after dinner, you would have to get up and go to the bar alone or with a companion or two. Fortunately, alcoholic drinks are free – until they are not! That’s right, with most weddings in England it is likely that after either a budget limit or an exceeded time, you will have to pull out your own wallet and pay for an alcoholic drink yourself. Yes.
What is certainly wonderful about Poland is that you can actually have this conversation:
Do you mind if I drink and you drive this time?
But you drank last time!
I don’t remember that?
You don’t remember anything from that night!
In England, the one who drove to the party is most likely the one who has to drive back. It’s all down to who is insured on the car. In Poland, the car itself is insured, whereas in England, the driver and car are insured together. If you want to have another driver insured on your car, you have to ring up your insurance company and pay for it – you have to arrange the date of it in advance. Try doing that at 10pm in the middle of a party.
On the other hand, one drink? You mean I can’t even have one drink? In England we are allowed to have up to 0.8 in our blood. So most English people are happy to see their friends at the weekend, have a pint of beer while watching a good game of footy, and then safely driving home. Here when I invite friends over and they stay for a good few hours, they won’t even drink a small bottle. They’ll be driving later, much later, but they still say, “no thanks, I’m driving.”
One thing I do miss, though: “I’ll have a pint!” We have pints in England. A pint, that’s 568ml. It does hurt me a little when I buy a beer at the pub and they fill my glass a mile away from the top, or at least that’s what it feels like. We have our beer filled so far to the top that it overflows and we have to take a big gulp at the bar before we walk off with our golden treasure. This is, however, compensated by your percentage of alcohol in beer. You have on average 5.6% while we have 4%, or 5 if we are feeling adventurous.
One thing of which I am deadly certain, English or Polish, alcohol and disco polo will always get the party going! My personal favourite: Jesteś Szalona.
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VOCABULARY – SŁOWNICTWO
pure – czysty
flowing – płynący
wedding reception – przyjęcie weselne
adored – uwielbiany
pour – polać
apparently – podobno
surrounding – otaczający
like an eagle – jak orzeł
slight nod – lekko skinąć głową
sense of unity and bonding – ooczucie jedności i więzi
the devilish aim to get me drunk – Diabelski cel, aby mnie opić
endeavour – przedsięwzięć
hangover – kac
guests of honour – goście honoru
available – dostępny
companion – towarzysz
fortunately – na szczęście
either a budget limit or an exceeded time – limit budżetowy lub przekroczony czas
most likely – najprawdopodobniej
insured – ubezpieczony
in advance – z góry
overflows – przelewać się
deadly certain – śmiertelnie pewny
get the party going – kręcić impreza
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