I don't really like to be in Poland and that's frankly the truth...
March 20, 2013 6:51 PM   Subscribe

Jodie: Life in Warsaw. A short film about an American woman trying to grow happiness, living in the socialist-era housing estate where her husband grew up.
posted by Flashman (8 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I've been to Poland for work. It's a nice country. The people are kind and I continue to enjoy working with them.

I couldn't imagine living there, but that's a separate issue entirely. There are plenty of places in the United States where I couldn't imagine living either.
posted by fremen at 8:07 PM on March 20, 2013

Jodie seems a little odd. But then I guess we're all a little odd in our own ways.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:09 PM on March 20, 2013

That was really interesting. I wish it were longer. What she talked about resonated with me, namely because my own wife lives outside of her culture, but she doesn't seem to mind it much. That said, returning home (Japan) is profoundly pleasurable for all of us.

On the other hand, I've known a lot of people in Japan, usually women, who were like Jodie, but to the nth degree. At least she has found some way to express herself and connect with her surrounding through gardening. There are many expats who never get that far.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:23 PM on March 20, 2013

That was lovely. I also wish it were longer.

Living away from home is such a strange experience. It's also liberating; you're different already, might as well be a bit extra kooky.
posted by third word on a random page at 1:06 AM on March 21, 2013

It seems odd to me that y'all find her odd. If she lived back home in the USA she'd just be an introverted organic gardener. (She'd wouldn't be quite so lonely, of course.)

I was reading the comments on some of the articles in the earlier thread about Travel Guidebooks. There's this attitude a lot of people have about visiting another country, that the best kind of experiences involve socializing with "local" people, drinking, clubbing, carousing with the Greeks at the taverna, etc. That kind of travel is clearly valorized above solitary tourism. If you just tromped from your hotel to the cathedral to the museum to the ancient ruin without chatting with someone you met on the bus, You're Doing It Wrong.

But just look at the wide variety of personalities in our own country who all find happiness in their own ways! There are those who have a good time with superficial extraverted socializing; those who, like Jodie, find personal projects to fulfill themselves; and those like me who function best when we can have deep conversations with like-minded people, full of connections to shared cultural references. The first kind do just fine anywhere; the last kind may find other cultures fascinating but really only live well in their own.

The language barrier is another issue which she doesn't touch on. Unless you are a gifted language-learner, you might achieve communicative competence but not a deep and natural comfort. I can speak some pretty off-beat languages, but I've also recognized that I bonded young and profoundly with English. If you're used to making your way in life using your command of language, you'll be dysfunctional abroad; you'll sound "dumb" and prefer to remain silent.

I'm always a bit envious of people like Meatbomb who travel the world and bloom where they are temporarily planted. One must be able to do without "bosom friends" (as Anne Of Green Gables calls them). Otherwise you end up like Jodie.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 2:53 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

Living away from home is such a strange experience.

And a source of great frustration. There comes a point at which you have to stop thinking as an expat, stop longing for some other place, look around you and say "This is home now."

After almost two decades of living "abroad" I no longer consider myself an expat; I am an immigrant. This totally changed my views on everything. I'm still and will always be foreign, but I am no longer a foreigner. When people ask me where I am from - my accent gives me away - I always say "here." I have noticed as well that this attitude has changed the way people view me and accept me. I am permitted to complain about the country as a native without being seen as some critical foreigner who doesn't understand. And I have wonderful contact with other immigrants from all over the world with whom I now have something in common.

deep conversations with like-minded people, full of connections to shared cultural references.

Deep conversations are not a problem, like-minded people are not really like-minded, and shared cultural references non-existent. What I have gained far outweighs what I have lost. My cultural references are by necessity new and it makes it easier for me to relate to people younger than myself. Only my wife gets my Airplane and Caddyshack references and that's good enough. My kids get all of the new ones and look at me oddly when I say "this one goes to 11."

Tens of millions of Europeans did this when they immigrated to America. I figured it shouldn't be so hard for an American who has immigrated back to Europe - and it hasn't. You just gotta make the leap from expat to immigrant.
posted by three blind mice at 4:42 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Frankly, plenty of people who were born where she lives also don't like to be in Poland.
It is said that the giant housing projects at least provided roof over the head for millions that needed it after the devastation of war and subsequent population boom, but any other way of providing it would have been better than that. And initially it has been done in many other ways - small apartment houses, terraced houses, detached houses, you name it, depending on location. But the crazy centralization of everything made the gigantic factories of prefabricated houses an obvious choice, especially so because the regime didn't care about the social atomization that followed living in the huge apartment buildings that looked much like prison blocks without guards and bars - perhaps even counted it as a benefit.
posted by hat_eater at 6:37 AM on March 21, 2013

I always thought Poland to be fascinating, beautiful and tons of nice people. Sure the cities can be drab..but get out off the beaten track a bit and it's a totally new story !
posted by Fredric Katz at 11:12 AM on March 21, 2013

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