Interesting fact #3

Today I want to show you a very distinct boundary on the bridge. It looks a bit hilarious, something like “hey, look here, I’m better” 😀

I prepared three different photos, all of them were taken in Germany because this part of the bridge seems more interesting. As you can see, someone who designed it wanted to make it obvious where the border exactly is. He/she didn’t care that it looks weird and everyone’s laughing at it.

Wouldn’t it be better if we had a normal bridge? Without showing off, it’s really unnecessary.

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Be aware of where you are!

The first thing which shocked me the most when I was walking around Frankfurt (Oder) was that they don’t have many pedestrian crossings. I know Berlin like the back of my hand and I never noticed such a situation, sometimes I’d even say in Berlin there are too many of them and it takes a while to cross a big road because of the traffic lights which change very quickly and without any warning. By the way, Berlin’s pedestrian signals are quite unique because they’re different for each side of the city, East and West. I think it’s the same in the whole country but in Berlin it’s the most significant, especially near Reichstag where within a super-close distance you can see both of them. Germans call the East figure an Ampelmännchen and make funny souvenirs with him, you’ve probably seen some of them.

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West vs East

(source: https://bin.snmmd.nl/m/rn2ygemwc667.jpg)

But back to the topic, on my way to university there are many roads and zero zebra crossings so I was extremely confused about what to do. When I got there, I asked my friends about this and they told me that it’s OK to cross the street wherever you want but when you ignore the red light (if there’s one), you may be fined 5€ or 10€. The main rule is then that you have to give way to cars and wait for a good moment that won’t cause a dangerous situation.

In Poland it’s a bit different. There are many zebra crossings and you have to look for them when you want to get to the other side of the road, the only exception is when there is none of them within 100 meters distance. The fine for crossing the road not where you should do it is not big – 50zl (around 12€).

What’s important, in Poland when you enter a crosswalk, you have the right of way and all cars have to yield to you unless they want to get 10 penalty points and 500zl fine (120€). German drivers usually feel too comfortable on Polish roads what can lead to many serious accidents because Poles are used to not thinking about anything else when they’re on a crosswalk.

Every country has unique traffic law so my advice would be – check it before you go abroad and just know where you are.

(I’m still a bit nervous when I’m driving a car in a different country and I see police absolutely EVERYWHERE – now you know my biggest fear.) 😛

Interesting fact #2

I guess that it’s not the best feeling in the world when you need to buy something to eat and all the shops and markets are closed because it’s a public holiday. Is there something more frustrating? (And sure, of course I know that people working there want to have a day off too, I respect it fully but let the one who’s never been selfish throw the first stone.)

Things are easier when you live on the border – very rarely both countries celebrate the same holidays. So whenever you need butter and you can’t buy it in your country you just have to cross the border and get it 🙂

Plus, German shops are closed on Sunday – so where do you think German people do shopping then..? They can be seen going over the bridge with full bags from Polish supermarkets. The less lucky ones who don’t live near a different country have to think about it one day earlier.

Let’s study!

Since I remember I always wanted to do something connected to languages and law, I just wasn’t sure how to combine these two things. In the beginning I thought about studying International Law in my country or a „regular” Law in a different country but it was almost impossible for me to choose only one option. And then, few years ago, my teacher told me about my current course and I fell for it almost immediately. I know it’s hard to imagine studying in two cities, two countries and two languages (I tried to explain it to so many people) but I hope that after this post you’ll get the idea of it a bit better.

As I wrote earlier, two universities from Frankfurt (Oder) and Slubice – European University Viadrina and Adam Mickiewicz University (Collegium Polonicum) – offer their students few courses that are taught in a close cooperation. These are: German and Polish Law (Bachelor and Master, also known as Magister des Rechts, in Polish and German), German studies (Bachelor, in German and Polish), Cultural studies (Master, in German and Polish), English studies (Master, in English) and International Relations (Master, in English). There are also many different courses offered by these unis but they are an individual offer of each of them and can be considered as a normal course.

I study German and Polish Law and Magister des Rechts. The main reason why it’s officially divided into two courses (study programme is more or less the same) is that in Poland there’s no Bachelor of Law – Law is one of very few courses that can only be studied for 5 years and end with a Magister’s degree (Polish equivalent for Master’s degree) – so studying Magister des Rechts is necessary if you want to work in Poland as a lawyer without any further problems.

In order to enroll for the courses I mentioned above you have to prove that you’re able to speak fluently both Polish and German, C1 level is a minimum. Without any certificate the enrollment process takes ages (I didn’t have one and had to wait for the results of the language exam until October, few days before the start of the winter semester) so it’s better to think about it earlier, 1 year would be enough.

At the beginning it’s not easy to get used to the fact that in one place you’re considered as a German and in the other as a Pole but it’s one of the most important things here. When you attend a lecture in Frankfurt everyone thinks you understand 100% of what’s being said, likewise in Poland. You have to pass the same exams as people studying only German or only Polish Law but they have two great advantages – everything is in their native language and they have much more time to prepare because they have twice less exams. It’s like studying two degrees at once with that difference that it’s all in the same time very similar (it’s law after all) and various (every country has a unique law system).

One of the most important factors I haven’t written about yet is money. In Poland studying is basically free but in Germany every semester you have to pay a fee which is about 250€ and includes insurance and a semester ticket in the area of your university (in my case I can travel around Berlin/Brandenburg region for how many times and however I want). Being a Polish student gives you 50% discount for train and public transport tickets but you still have to pay for it. What’s great, when you study for example German and Polish Law you have two student IDs and may feel a bit more privileged than your peers who study only in one country.

One of our lecturers told us recently that the way of teaching in these two countries has changed significantly over the past years. From what I can say, there’s a slightly difference between Polish and German lecturers but I think it’s easily explicable. In Slubice the lecture is usually once in a few weeks and takes 5 hours so the teachers don’t have much time to ask questions or have a good contact with all the students and usually just talk for the few hours while in Frankfurt the lecture is every week and is much shorter what gives us the opportunity even to joke around with the lecturers and talk about things not strictly connected with law.

I tried my best but if you still have any questions regarding my studies, feel free to contact me, I’m sure there’s something I missed as it’s part of my everyday’s life and I’m totally used to it.

See you!

Are we all the same?

There’re so many countries and cultures around the world that it’s hard even to name all of them. And what about getting to know some of their most important features of character? If that’s on your bucket list, you may be facing the impossible. But let’s go back to being serious (and rational)!

It’s obvious that the easiest way to learn something about other cultures is traveling. OK, the question may be – how much time is required to do it? Is one week or month enough? In my opinion, it depends. You can spend a whole year in one country but remain reserved and closed towards its inhabitants (staying in a 5 star hotel, eating food you already know, not talking to strangers) and leave it possessing the same amount of knowledge as before. In the opposite, you can have only one week off but want to experience the new culture to the fullest and you’re not afraid of living in someone’s house (couchsurfing is here an option!), trying traditional food or going to a party without knowing anyone else. It’s all about your attitude!

As I’m supposed to help you with discovering German and Polish culture, I’d love to tell you something about their citizens. But before we begin, a little disclaimer may be necessary. Certainly I don’t know everything about everyone in Poland and Germany (yet :P) so it won’t be a pure psychoanalysis. You’ll „learn” what to expect when traveling to these countries. I don’t want anyone to feel offended, it’s not a 100% description of people in both countries – if you’re different (as a Pole or German), it’s OK, there’s always an exception to the rule.

Polish people are way more spontaneous, they live in the moment but it doesn’t mean they’re irresponsible and don’t care about their duties. In fact, many of them are conscientious workaholics who always meet deadlines (sometimes in the very last minute but – who cares? :P) and try to do their best. Sometimes you may get the impression that they seem to think that if you work hard, you can party harder. I can’t say it’s not true – parties are for them very important but only when they have free time.

They are very open to other people but you won’t experience it in the Polish streets. They rarely smile at strangers what may look like they’re unfriendly but once you talk to them, you’ll usually be rewarded with a big smile and a nice chat.

As a nation, Poles tend to endlessly complain about everything, especially about other people’s (mainly Poles’ as well) behaviour. But when someone’s trying to hurt them in any way, they become united and together try to overcome all the difficulties. This shows a very deep attachment to Poland and other Poles generally but it needs to be activated, it’s not constant.

There’s one thing more – Polish women are the most beautiful in the world so be quick because someone may „steal” your future wife! 😀
(Talking about stereotypes, there’s one about German women but don’t believe everything someone says, it’s definitely NOT a principle.)

On the other hand, Germans might make an impression of being very relaxed and open as they always smile and wish you good day or week but it’s rather something they believe everyone should do. I’m not saying they’re unpleasant or unfriendly, absolutely not! I just think they feel life’s better when you’re nice and you should keep your problems private and not let anyone else sense it’s not your best day.

You can rely on them if you’re not sure about something, they’ll always do their best to help you, usually you won’t even have to ask for it. It won’t be a problem for them if it’d take more time than they thought it’d be and you’ll never feel that they think you’re stupid or that you’re wasting their time. It’s very noticeable in their education system and at schools or universities where you know that the teacher (or lecturer) works to help you and is there only for you, not because he needs money or something else. (That’s one of the biggest differences between Polish and German education system but I’ll write about it in a special post.)

The reason why they like to look so friendly on the outside is because they preserve their privacy very much. Once you enter their friends or family circle, you’ll see they’re wonderful people with a great sense of humour. But don’t come across the idea of going to their home without announcing your visit earlier because they might become uneasy.

I have to say these two nations in general are incomparable. You can’t say which one is „better” as everyone is different and irreplaceable. There’s something about both of them and I’m sure when you meet someone from Poland or Germany, you’ll know at first hand that he/she is valuable and may be your very good friend.

Interesting fact #1

When you’re crossing a border and you’re a driver, you probably try to find a road sign which would tell you about a speed limit in a specific country. They’re all different but I’d never thought that they can be SO MUCH different.

Here’s what you need to know when you’re going to Germany:

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Simple, isn’t it? 🙂

And here’s a Polish equivalent:

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I noticed it today when I was walking around with friends 🙂 But I like the idea of writing about some “interesting facts”!