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Friday, February 4, 2011

An Open Book

A friend told me how she was so amazed at how Americans will get on TV and expose all of their private affairs. I asked her to elaborate and she explained that when the twin towers collapsed on 9-11, she found it shocking that Americans were on TV crying about the lost of their loved ones. It was the combination of crying and how soon they were crying. The disaster had just happened and the survivors of those killed were already on TV.

The discussion moved on to a more "extreme" versions of this type of TV - Jerry Springer, Oprah, any number of "reality" television, etc.

I am unsure if this type of behavior is American or if it is just capitalism rearing its ugly head. My Polish friend suggested that this type of open emotional behavior is definitely not part of Polish culture. From my short tenure here, I tend to agree. I do know that in the work-related circles I move through, there is very little talk of private life. The Poles I meet at the workplace are very guarded about their private lives. When I lived in the States, my colleagues spoke continuously about their private lives ... particularly their sex lives and "sexcapades". I don't know if this is American or if it is just the people I worked with.

Poles seem very stoic to me. Not unkind, just stoic. My guess it has much to do with the regime that was in power here some 20 odd years ago. My fiance tells me that in those days, one had to be careful of one's reaction as well as what one talks about in mixed company.

As I learn more and more about this country and its culture, I am beginning to make the connection of the recent history and the present behavior of people here. When I observe behavior so very different from my own, I no longer judge. I must admit, I did judge. After all, I am an arrogant American in many ways. But judging allowed no chance of understanding and learning. So now, I look, observe and ask questions.

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