Saturday, August 7, 2010


I really didn't mean to be silent for such a long time! It turns out, however, that holidays can keep you very busy. We left Gabon on 8th July and spent two weeks in Poland and two weeks in Galicia. Europe surprised us. Suddenly, we could melt into the crowd, unnoticed. So many products to choose from. Such low prices. Everything was comfortable again, the context so well known. But being away from our two countries for a long time also made us see how different they are from each other: we spent two weeks in a typically Polish home, followed directly by two more weeks in a very Galician environment. And we jotted down several differences we'd used to pay little attention to before. Turns out you don't need to travel as far as Africa to talk about cultural shocks!

Early Bird or Night Owl?
In Gabon we sort of follow the Polish timetable - a great adjustment on Jandro's part for which I will be eternally greatful. We get up at 6 am (for work, of course) and go to sleep between 10 and 11 pm (sometimes - in my case - as early as 9:30 pm!). That is more or less what we did when staying with my parents. In Galicia, however, in the summer the sun sets after 10 pm. It is customary to dine after this hour and meet people even later; a friend might ask you to join him for a drink at 11 or midnight. It is virtually impossible to go to sleep before 1 am and most people go to bed much later. As I'm no night owl, we would compromise and try to get home around 1. Result: we would always get home earlier than Jandro's parents.

The art of eating
In Libreville we start our day with a big breakfast, we have hot lunch at 1 pm and a light dinner around 7 or 8 pm. As my parents don't have lunch at home on workdays, we could follow this framework without a problem, spending as much time at the table as we wanted. Anyway, in Poland having meals together is not such a big deal during the working week: every family member has a different timetable and we simply eat when we get home. On the other hand, we tend to gather for a family Sunday lunch, which includes a soup, a main course and a dessert (during the week there is only one course and the dessert is nearly always skipped). On such occasions we spend some time together at the table, chatting and enjoying one another's company. In Galicia, however, every meal is a celebration. It always consists of two courses, bread, wine, coffee, dessert(s) and spirits. You spend the average of two hours (up to three) at the table, which is a special family time. It is crucial to be home in time for lunch, this being the central point of the day. The food is delicious but you always eat too much. And the hours spent sitting at the table, talking, do not help you burn all these calories. Result: two kilogramms more in two weeks.

My cousin's mother-in-law's daughter is pregnant again
In other words: family. Family is important in Poland. You visit them a few times a year and spend holidays with them. They stick up for you and help you. You like your family. In Galicia family bonds go beyond what you can imagine. Family members visit one another sometimes more than once a day (!) and you often hear gossip as the one in the heading. They meet up socially or go out together several times a week. Jandro has more first cousins than my entire family put together and during our stay in Galicia we must visit them all at least once. And, Jandro's town being as small as it is, you meet everybody anyway by simply going to the fish market. Result: Jandro's aunt made us a delicious empanada de xoubas to take to Poland.

Of course, we had already made note of all this before. Nevertheless, being away made us realise how much we both adjusted: we are neither typically Galician nor typically Polish anymore. We created a sort of a new space - no man's land - in which we share our respective cultures, taking from them the things we both accept and like. And as much as I like being at home, it will also be fun to get back to that special space of ours.

Pictures from here and here.

Photos from Poland and Galicia here.

1 comment:

  1. As to the food in Poland, at my parents' place dinners (so the meal at 2-3 PM) are eaten together with everybody present also on normal weekdays.

    And I sooooo understand what you're saying in this post!