“Coucou, my Polish adventure”
“Let’s try to cheek-kiss with freshly known Polish people to greet and not to make them uncomfortable” – a talk with Fanny Garel from France
Fanny, I would like to start with a question about the vision of Polish people in French people’s eyes. What do you, as a representative of French society, think about a typical citizen of our country?
- For most of us, Poland is just one of the poorer parts of Europe. In French mentality, there is still a strong association with post-soviet times. When I said for the first time that I’m going to visit Poland and take part in the Erasmus project here, my friend’s reaction was like: “Why? What is interesting there?” French people think that there is such a huge gap between the two of our countries.
Were your friends worried about you?
- No, come on… Regarding politics, Poland has been known as such a conservative country, including people with very conservative minds. In France, people don’t know that lots of Polish citizens can be in opposition to the government. I think that it can be connected with a stereotypical view of a woman – who is just sitting at home, preparing meals for her family and taking care of children.
Except for this view of Polish reality, you found something interesting here, something that made you stay and choose our country for your Erasmus destination, even for a whole term.
- Exactly. Firstly I had visited Cracow because I was interested in the history of this city. My school in France organized a trip to this place so I took the opportunity. Being there, I realized how nice and developed this city is – probably even more than cities in some parts of France. After that trip, I became aware that lots of people were wrong about this country. That’s why I’ve started to appreciate Poland and learn my first Polish words…
… and the first words were?
- Classic set like “dzień dobry” and “dziękuję” – and of course some bad words.
So can we say it was a “love at first sight” with Poland?
- In a way it was. After that journey. I’ve started to read about this country, meet with people, talk with locals. and that’s how it came to my interest in Poland.
After some time here you probably noticed differences between people’s behavior, comparing Poland and France. Could you indicate on the main disparities?
- That’s such a stereotypical question. What is noticed for sure is that boys here behave often like a gentleman – you know, they allow women to go first. In the beginning, it was a bit weird for me, because they do this all the time, even in impractical situations. About girls, they attach so much importance to their looks. I know that it’s typical for the 21st century, but I think it’s stronger visible here.
I often hear that Polish people are reserved, distanced, and you need to know us better to make us open. Do you agree with this opinion?
- Yes, you’re right – I’ve noticed something like this. My first idea is the way you welcome each other. In France, as you probably know, we kiss each other to greet, even when it’s our first meeting. Okay, it depends on the situation of course, but it’s much easier for the French. I was surprised when I met a girl my age and she gave me her hand to welcome. I thought: “okay, that’s weird but I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable so let’s do that”. Nevertheless, Poles are friendly and helpful, you just need to get to know them better.