I see you, coming to Wroclaw. I see you, going to your corporate or startup job. I see you, enjoying the warm summer nights with cool beers on the Market Square. I see you, not taking a single moment to take in the city around you. I see you, insulting locals in your own languages, knowing that they don’t understand you. I see you, the superior Expat.
How many of you have looked down and sneered at people with different political views? How many times have you insulted political parties and groups that you didn’t agree with, calling them names that you’ve read in the international press? How often have you complained to your expat friends about Poland being backwards and not able to move into the 21st century? Quite a lot, I suspect. Behind the smiles and false positivity, many of you are looking down at Poland by considering yourselves to be morally and intellectually superior to the local population. I mean, you have a degree from a third rate university in Western Europe in Media Studies and you speak two languages, doesn’t that make you so much better than the rest of us?
What do I mean? Well, we simply don’t live in Poland. Our bodies might be physically in Poland, but culturally, we are not. We are actually living a completely different life to many people, even if we are sharing the same city and the same public transport. We breathe the same polluted winter air, but we will never come into contact with real Poland, no matter how hard we try.
How many of you have bothered to do anything for the local society beyond token gestures? It’s easy to go and volunteer to talk to children for an hour, but how many of you take part in long term projects designed to improve the lives of others? How many of you consistently get up early on a Sunday morning to provide a hot meal for those who have very little? When you are sitting in the latest hipster breakfast café on Saturday morning nursing a dreadful hangover, do you ever stop to think that your breakfast costs more than some elderly people have to spend on food in a week? Probably not.
Even when you do something charitable, it’s very often motivated by personal gain. When you go running in the Great Corporate Fun Run 2017, do you think you have any connection at all with millions of ordinary people in Poland? Of course you don’t, you’re living in a bubble. You couldn’t care less that your Corporate Fun Run means blocking the city for a large amount of ordinary people, many of whom are stuck in traffic and unable to get to work. They’re often paid per hour, so your Corporate Fun Run means taking money away from those that need it most.
Why are you running anyway? It’s not really to do with fitness, is it? It’s rather about being seen to be running in your company colours, suffering through 10km on poorly tarmacked roads just to be able to tell your boss on Monday morning that YOU DID IT while wearing the company colours. Next weekend, you can do the same thing again, and your complete disengagement with Polish society is complete.
The “Polish Reality” for most of you consists of sitting in comfortable, modern, air conditioned offices surrounded by people who think, act and behave in the same way as you. You are the very definition of groupthink, and your minds are permanently closed to understanding why other people may not think and behave in the same way as you. Maybe some of you will even read this article, but I would be shocked if even a single person changes their mind and perspective after reading this.
Wake up Expats, and give something back to Poland.
Michael Forbes is a Scottish man who now lives in Poland. He speaks Polish and is well versed in the ways of the land here. He sometimes ruffles a few feathers, but he is an honest man who stands up for what he believes in and often helps people in need. He may upset people at times, but remember: he is just a man and he is a just man.