Overhearing Polish Posted by Anna on Jan 24, 2009 in Culture
My trip to the islands (and I don’t mean the UK and Ireland here, though we did stop in London briefly) was delightful. I didn’t want to come back home. And Mister has started making plans of quitting the life as we know it and starting a new one on the beach in Antigua. Or maybe in St. Lucia. Or St. Kitts. He hasn’t made up his mind yet.
Normally, during my travels, I always run into some Polish people somewhere. Be it in Kolkata, or in Nepal, or in Dubai, or anywhere pretty much including Bhutan, there are fellow Poles to be met along the way. But not this time. In the Caribbean the closest to Polish that we got was a Slovakian wife on vacation with her British husband.
London, on the other hand, even though we only transferred between Heathrow and Gatwick felt just like Poland.
I have a confession to make here. I’ve never actually been to the UK. Back in the olden days I used to change planes at Heathrow every now and then, but that was it. And this time I’m not sure if commuting between Heathrow and Gatwick actually counts as “being” in the UK. Technically maybe – yes. But only technically.
Still, both airports felt oddly familiar. Polish could be heard everywhere. Now, I knew there were a lot of Poles working in the Kingdom, but I’d never realized just how many.
The woman at the Scandinavian Airlines desk, Agnieszka, upon seeing my passport the first question she asked was “Pani mówi po polsku?” But because I didn’t feel like translating for my husband I told her to continue in English.
The girl at Krispy Kreme, Monika didn’t say anything at all (at least not to me) when I pointed at the donut I wanted. She was too busy talking on the cellphone.
The waiter at Ponti’s, Łukasz was simply delightful. He owned the floor. He sashayed (because saying that he “walked” would be an injustice) between the tables and chatted with everyone in that curious mixture of Polish and English: “Proszę Pani… errrr… Madam, your coffee już coming.” We left him a nice tip. He was fun.
There were Polish women working everywhere, in every store and café and behind every counter, or so it seemed. There were Polish guys (many of them in hard hats) walking back and forth.
What surprised me was how careless they were when it came to talking about others in Polish. With almost a million Poles in the UK, don’t they think that some of their customers, even if they appear to be speaking English, might actually be able to understand them? That’s what happened at one of the places, which mercifully will remain nameless.
We couldn’t quite decide what we wanted and the girl behind the counter was getting restless. She had to momentarily pause the conversation with her co-worker and was not happy about it. When we finally made our selection and were about to pay, she remarked to her colleague, “No w końcu! Daj tej babie resztę i niech spierdala.” (Finally! Give this broad her change so she can get the hell out of here.) And then turning to me with a big smile on her face she added, “anything else?”
Needless to say, I gave her a piece of my mind. Po polsku.
What would you have done?