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lost in translation //

C’mon people now,

smile on your brother! Kasia Rusiniak

After a year and a half of living in Poland, I recently got to go home for a month, in December. I went home last Christmas as well, but that was after only a few months here; but on my visit home now, I’d been away for long enough that I actually experienced a strange sort of reverse culture shock. I’ve lived in Canada practically my whole life and while I was brought up in a Polish household, my social upbringing was, for the most part, pretty darn Canadian. So it was completely normal and expected that when I first arrived in Poland, though I’d visited a few times over the years, the cultural differences definitely took some getting used to. But what I wasn’t ready for, what I didn’t expect at all, was my reaction to Canadian culture when I went home this December. Oh, what a difference a fresh pair of eyes makes! As Poland made me appreciate Canadian culture, Canada helped me appreciate Polish culture. Of course, the beauty lies in a rarely achievable fine balance. One of the things which I’ve had to get used to here is the general attitude of any customer service staff. While being assisted, be it in a clothing store, Saturn or the post office, I often feel bad, a little guilty, like I’m interrupting someone’s free time. I feel like I’m being granted a favour when I dare to rudely interrupt the girl having a coffee and talking on her cell phone behind the counter to ask if perhaps, she’s not too busy, if she wouldn’t mind, could she kindly please check if they carry these jeans in my size? My response is a moment of stony silence, an areyou-kidding-me glare, hand on hip, a big sigh and a notsubtle-enough roll of the eyes before she sullenly struts away to do my bidding. This response varies little from store to store, the only real difference being the age of the woman rolling her eyes. A year and a half ago, I found this attitude jarring and a little offensive; I resented the fact that I was nice and smiley, that I said hello and thank you and was greeted by stony stares and cold silences. (I should note that of course, as with everything, there were exceptions, though I did find this to be the general rule or code of behavior.) It wasn’t

50 lounge magazyn jakość ma znaczenie

long before I dropped my mild exterior, stopped smiling at strangers and became one of them, one of the gray faces. On my recent visit home, faced with an unquestioning friendliness from strangers and store attendants, I first caught a glimpse of what I’d heard others suggest: that this Canadian friendliness was false, a hoax. That it’s all just a seemingly nice fake exterior. I’d always loathed falseness above all else, and now I was seeing this falseness, this fake friendless of Canadians with my very own eyes – and I was aghast! How could they? How could this entire nation be so shallow, so fake? I was – momentarily – crushed. But a few days after my arrival, I started to relax and stopped suspecting ulterior motives. I remembered what I’d missed… that soft friendless, laid-back and easygoing and it didn’t seem so strange anymore. So what if it was faintly contrived? What if it was just a little for show? It felt nice and it felt good and if my day can be brightened, my mood lightened by a stranger smiling at me and faking it, then hey, I’ll take it, I’ll take two! What harm is there in just a smile if it means that my interaction with a complete stranger which could be frustrating and infuriating may in fact turn out to be something mildly pleasing and if all goes well, downright nice! So I’m going back to my Canadian ways, I will start smiling at strangers and become eerily cheery again; let them stare, let them wonder! If I’m lucky, it’ll be infectious .

Lounge Magazyn No. 08  

Luty / Feb '09

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