A few last reflections on overtime on some of the differences between Warsaw and Stockholm, Varsovians & Stockholmers…

To begin with the obvious: the difference in living standards, cost of living, price level, housing etc. Sweden, not without reason, is considered as a role model for the welfare state, with its well-functioning social safety net (incl. five weeks a year of – paid – holiday). Of course this doesn’t come gratis, heavy taxation is the price. Most Swedes do lead a very comfortable life. In Poland one can’t avoid noticing that people really work hard to make ends meet while striving for a better life and it’s not that unusual to have more than one job.

Another major difference between Sweden and Poland is their past. While Swedes neither know nor care about its country’s yesteryear – Sweden has neither been occupied nor at war for more than 200 years – history is very much alive among the Poles, in particular WW II causing the Holocaust and the destruction of Warsaw, followed by almost half a century of Soviet communist occupation.

Which brings me to religion. While Sweden probably is the most secular (Christian) country on earth the Poles may well be the most die-hard Catholics in the world, a human force with decisive domestic political implications which makes for a complicated decision-making. A political situation in part taken advantage of by unpleasant right-wing fanatic elements (e.g. the anti-Semitic Radio Maryja).

Except for native Poles there’s one easy recognizable demographic group, the Vietnamese, the largest ethnic minority, making up 1% of the total population. Very few come from the Middle East and (North) Africa as opposed to Sweden, which due to its very generous and liberal immigration laws has evolved into much more of a multicultural society, though not without plentiful of integration difficulties.

Anyway, being a visitor to Warsaw is quite a pleasant experience; people you meet, e.g. in shops and (as in my case) new neighbours greet you with a Dzien dobry, Good day, a kind of everyday politeness that went out of style a long time ago in Stockholm. The Varsovians have a much more of a people friendly attitude which makes for a less snooty and a warmer environment in general.

Streets, pavements, public transport, not to mention parks in Warsaw are tidy, its inhabitants (except for many a dog owner) refrain from littering. Not so in Stockholm, where the locals contrary dispose of their trash where they stand or on the go; caffè latte mugs, bottles, cans, ice cream wrappings and – most common of all droppings: their used endemic snus (“snuff”). A perfectly normal and accepted(?) behaviour in a country where the population seem to have switched their tobacco/nicotine addiction, from suction to gum bags (observe the bulky upper lip).
Cigarettes still rule in Warsaw though… Everybody smokes, especially the young! Particularly noticeable at open-air cafés, where the open air is substituted by fume.

From one vice to another: drinking. A traditional culture shared by both Poles and Swedes. Preferentially beer (and vodka) and where the aim often is just to get drunk. A discipline that younger Poles master considerately better than their Swedish equals, who usually tend to be pissed already early in the (Friday/Saturday) evening only to get loud and (too) often into brawls. A rather surprising observance I must admit, having imagined that the availability of “Alcohol 24 hours” and the (comparatively) inexpensiveness in Poland would come with more “side effects”. Binge drinking among the local football supporters of Stockholm and Warsaw (Legia/Polonia) and the element of older (homeless?) winos (/beeros?) on the street benches seem however to be more on par. Although the Swedes (and Swedish Finns…) are more aggressively acting out.

Toilets (for men) in cafés, bars and clubs in Sweden are as a rule a disgusting destination for the needy – potty training is obviously another neglected art when using a public lavatory. Fortunately the Varsovians do not have the same urge to soil.

Fashion… is not overly recognizable on the streets of Warsaw, and definitely not so for men. In Stockholm, home of H&M consensus, there is more awareness and people are generally much better dressed (though not that individually).

And almost everybody speaks fairly good English, certainly among ages 20-45. Remarkably few Poles do, at least among the people I’ve met. Perhaps time to limit the dubbing of foreign TV series and films?

As earlier mentioned and posted, Warsaw is a pretty rundown town. Stockholm is not, only pretty. It takes pride of its water, Lake Mälaren, while Warsaw unintelligibly is turned away from the Wisła River. Just imagine some future beach life in the heart of the city!

What Euro Cup 2012 will bring to Warsaw – except for the grand new National Stadium in white and red – remains of course to be seen but it will inevitability be a boost for the emerging new spirit of the city and its inhabitants!

Well, all that said I’ll close this blog by throwing in some mixed leftover pics by yours WaWaBeginner.
Bis: Do widzenia!

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