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Feeling comfy in a brotherly, yet very different country

Feeling comfy in a brotherly, yet very different country
By: Bernat Szloboda

Travelling abroad is always an interesting and exciting adventure that holds many possibilities.

People usually travel further so the difference between cultures is bigger and because of this, the experience is more intense. But is it really true? What if what’s close by is actually farther away?

As a Hungarian we have always been taught in school that our relationship with Poland is really friendly and close. So when I was about to choose a project for my EVS this had a big influence in my decision.

But what is it really like to live in a county, where almost everybody is supposed to be my brother and sister?

I have been in Rzeszów for a couple months now, so I felt like it was time to talk about it.

First of all my initial impressions of the city and country was overall … strange. Because it felt the same as home, especially Rzeszów. It looks really similar to my city where I used to live, even the number of the citizen is almost the same.  But it was different in so many ways. It took me some time to figure out how to interpret all the rules, what I am allowed to do and what I am not allowed to do.

One of things that struck me at first was the aggression of people. And I’m not talking about bare fisted  fights, or showdowns on the street. I’m talking about the healthy aggression that is natural in every country and every humans’ life. A kind of aggression that helps people live a healthy life.

To explain it in a more understandable way, let’s take an example: traffic.

The way people drive, cycle and walk, in one word participating in the daily commuting traffic of a city can tell a lot about their nature and habitats. I was glad to see that here the drivers and the pedestrians think that in order to prevent accidents on the roads both of them have to cooperate on a 50 /50  ratio.

But you also have to show you intentions a bit more aggressively all the time. If you are standing one meter from the pedestrian crossing no driver will take your intention to cross seriously. You have to stand really close and show a motive without a doubt. So I understood that people will take care of you if you are confident and take care of yourself too.

I found this mentality really charming and attractive, because this can be used in almost every other aspect of life. It’s important to be able to live in a community as an independent yet cooperating person who can’t bear life alone. Learning this balance, or golden middle road can be the first successful step towards living life.

So is this similar to the situations I have at home in Hungary, Poland’s sibling?

Well everybody wants it to be like that way, but in reality it is not really the case. Thanks to this I feel a bit more at home in Rzeszów because theoretical ideas are realities here :

– Shared love towards foreigners.

And finally, as far as I’ve noticed locals are actually really curious about foreigners but they don’t really show it. Language barriers play a big role in this, but if they can see you’re willing to try to at least greet them in Polish, they will appreciate it very much. And they will also do their best to try to make themselves understood.

Even though the last one applies to a lot of countries, in Poland it is still different, because the attitude of locals shows that they are not just nice, but that they will really care about you if they find you interesting.

So in conclusion let’s say something about the Hungarian-Polish relations also. How do people react when I tell them my nationality?

Let’s just say, sometimes I can feel myself as a kid at a family event. Everybody is just happy for me to be there even though I haven’t really done anything.  Of course the same applies for a Polish person when they are in Hungary.

I could keep going into deeper and deeper topics about behaviors, habitats, other similarities, or even psychological analysis of the locals, and how does it feel experiencing the similarities and differences, but we would never get to the end of it.

Also I haven’t been in Poland very long and still don’t have enough experience to state facts. But for me personally it feels like the two countries are like (in modern words) version 2.0 for each other.  There are similar rules, really hard languages and mentality. There’s a curiosity towards foreigners, personal independence, cheap beer. So it’s not a question of better or worse, just similar, but slightly different…