Monthly Archives: May 2009

Boylemania reaches Poland


Well, if you thought Ant and Dec exaggerated a bit when they opened the final ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ show with the words ‘the whole world is watching’ – you were wrong.

It’s not just Britain, it’s not just the English-speaking world. Poland – where the show has its local version called (rather less patriotically than its British equivalent) “I have talent” – also devoted a lot of time to Su-Bo and how she ‘conquered the hearts and minds of the world’ (not exactly my words or feelings, but never mind).

Less than an hour after Diversity were announced the winners in London, some Polish online papers and portals announced the results as if the show was a worldwide search for the next pope. (Although to be fair, one of my Twitter friends who’s doing doing a night shift in the BBC News newsroom tonight has just told me there’s nothing else on the wires but Susan Boyle).

The show has been analysed with almost the same fervour as many Polish shows, which means that Su-Bo, Diversity or Aidan Davis are almost domestic names in Poland now.

British shows have always been big in Poland – from ‘Fawlty Towers’ through ‘Dempsey and Makepeace’ (oh, yes), ‘ ‘Allo, ‘Allo!’, some fantastic BBC productions of Shakespeare’s plays (with top-quality voice-overs in Polish – a rare thing on Polish TV) to (ahem!) ‘Benny Hill’.

So the fact that ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ gets so much attention is no surprise. The only difference is speed.

Years ago we’d have to wait months if not years for the shows to be shown on Polish TV.

In 2009 it takes minutes for those clips to be available worldwide on YouTube.

Polish travel phrases – polish your Polish, part 14

I’ve been asked by a few people to post something on basic questions regarding directions and asking for help in Polish. And as the summer holiday season is upon us, here are some basic phrases you may need while travelling in Poland.

Let’s start by buying a ticket. Any ticket.


Ticket. The plural is:


If you want a normal one, you need

Bilet normalny.

However if you need a discounted fare, you will ask for

Bilet ulgowy.

Usually if you are at a station you’ll get your ticket from

Kasa (biletowa)

A ticket desk. And if they speak English there, then you’re in luck. Otherwise, try asking for a ticket by saying:

Poproszę bilet do Krakowa

“Can I have a ticket to Krakow, please?”

Poproszę bilet

will do the trick if the ticket desk sells only one kind of tickets, for example tram or bus tickets. Now, you might already have your ticket, but you cannot find the station. Ask for directions:

Przepraszam, gdzie jest stacja (kolejowa)?

which translates as “Excuse me, where is the (train) station?” As everywhere, it pays to be polite to the locals, hence the word ‘przepraszam’ at the beginning. You can also try a similar pharse:

Przepraszam, jak dojść do stacji?

“Excuse me, how do I get to the station?” Which is probably more useful as it’s not train station specific and can be used for all sorts of stations. Obviously.

Right, that will do for now. I’m exhausted just writing this stuff, you must be exhausting trying to put all the consonants together. Most travel phrases next time!

More ‘polish your Polish’ language tips

Higher taxes, less vodka (allegedly)

A selection of Polish vodkas © MichalDAs everybody who lives in Britain knows, people in power love increasing taxes on alcohol and cigarettes in a futile attempt to curb drinking and smoking.

Strangely enough, it would seem it worked in Poland. Of all countries.

This dry press release quoting “the Polish spirits industry organization” claims that

Poland registered a 75-percent drop in vodka drinking alone in the first three months of this year because of excise tax hikes.

Wowzers. Seventy-five per cent?! That seems totally unreal to me, to be honest. But apparently

Poles purchased 21.1 million liters of alcoholic drinks, including vodka, in the first quarter of 2009, which is some 30 percent less than in the same period in 2008.

Now 21 million liters – to put the number in context – is roughly 0.5 liter of any alcoholic drinks per person, including children, babies and people who temporarily live in the UK. And that’s per quarter, which gives you well under 200ml of alcohol per person per month. Now that’s really not much, you have to admit.

Poles have also bought 10 per cent less beer in the same period, the report claims. The reason?

Officials of the industry organization said the considerable drop in the sale of vodka was prompted by the rise of excise taxes by 9 percent as of January, coupled with the smaller purchasing power of Poles due to the global economic crisis.

The report doesn’t state whether Poles have started drinking more wine, but anecdotal evidence would suggest that Poles have in fact switched to drinking other alcohols. In the past decade or so it has become a norm for Polish women to drink beer too, which they hardly did before, at least not in public.

Anyway, it seems Poland has now turned its back on alcohol. I think I need a stiff drink.

How to find Polish food in London

kabanos © Bartolo (via Flickr)Through this blog, of course. Although I do realise my previous few posts on that subject probably only just scratched the surface.

But I’ve just come across a rather impressive selection of Polish places – or venues serving Polish food in some form – on a user review site Qype.

The good thing about it is it comes with user reviews and I have to say I’m so far impressed by the fact that most places got between 4 and 5 stars. OK, quite a few of them have so far been reviewed by just one person, which is hardly sufficient for a balanced review, but it’s fair to say that whenever you have an average score of 4 stars from 6 reviewers, chances are the place will not disappoint.

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I had no idea how many Polish places there really are in London. Some of them, like L’autre in Mayfair, are a bizarre hybrid of Polish and Mexican cuisine, some are serving Eastern European food in general, but the remaining ones are focused purely on pierogi, placki and bigos. Yum!

Qype also does a good job listing quite a few Polish shops in London, so whenever you have this sudden urge to get some kabanos, you know where to look for it online.

Image © Bartolo – via Flickr, used under Creative Commons licence

In search of Europe: Poland

Ahead of June’s European elections, BBC’s Jonny Dymond visits several European states to ask votes about the EU and find out what their expectations are.

Today’s report comes from Poland, where Dymond speaks to people who’ve directly benefited from the EU expansion – either by expanding their existing businesses or by travelling abroad, acquiring news skills and transferring them back to their home country.

One of them, Dobrawa, who worked in London for the years before returning to Warsaw to set up her own hair salon, asked about what she thinks about the call for “British jobs for British workers” replies:

“British people, I’ve got nothing against them, but I do think that they don’t respect jobs. They are too fussy. They would love to be put on a high position and get good money for less hours and everything. In my country, everything that we have is made by hard work.”

Perhaps a bit harsh and simplistic, but even some British TV documentaries I’ve seen in recent months prove there’s a grain of truth in this claim.

Have a look at the whole report from Poland – and other In search of Europe reports – here.