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.

Advertisements

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:

IMG_6158

Simple, isn’t it? 🙂

And here’s a Polish equivalent:

IMG_1927

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

Two different worlds?

Do you think you’d be able to distinguish between German and Polish city? If I asked you this question 15 or 20 years ago, you wouldn’t hesitate to give me a simple answer: yes, of course. At that time, Poland looked like a very poor and communist country and things finally changed after joining the European Union in 2004.

From then on, these two countries resemble each other a bit, especially when it comes to small towns and villages. These look pretty much the same which is easy to state for example when you’re traveling by train across both Germany and Poland.

But how does it look like when the cities are so close to each other? After walking around Slubice and Frankfurt (Oder) I have to admit that Frankfurt is visibly more modern than its Polish equivalent. In Frankfurt you can find one big shopping mall divided into two buildings (der Oderturm and Lenné Passagen) where there is a variety of shops both German (ALDI, DM, Teddy, Woolworth, …) and well-known worldwide (Tchibo, Orsay, H&M, Subway, …). Apart from that there are big supermarkets, railway station, small cafes and of course beautiful Old Town.*

If you told me now to describe Slubice as short as possible, I’d call it “one-street-city”. In this town there is no Old Town or anything that could be described as one, the whole city life comes down to Wojska Polskiego Street and its neighbourhood, including one square which is the place for the annual Christmas tree and people’s gatherings. What’s very interesting for such a small city, there is almost every kind of supermarkets (Piotr i Pawel, Lidl, Netto, Biedronka, …) and petrol stations (Orlen, Shell, BP, LOTOS, Aral, …) popular in Poland, as well as hundreds of bureaux de change and tobacco shops. Trust me, it can happen that you’ll see five bureaux de change next to each other. It’s really weird, I think, but somehow they still work and earn money.

Each city offers a cinema but, being honest, none of them is perfect. The one in Frankfurt is quite expensive and you can watch there usually German movies or English ones with German dubbing (the original version is very rare and if happens, it’s only one showing). In Polish cinema there is a very big delay so you can watch some movies one or two moths after the premiere but it’s definitely more affordable. It’s also much smaller so if you want to go there you have to make a reservation earlier and it shows mostly Polish movies or a dubbing versions of the non-Polish ones (plus I’ve never heard of the original version there but I may have missed something).

As there are so many students living there, you’ll see different clubs and pubs. The most popular are Kamea Club and BASSement but there are plenty more to mention. I’ll write a special post concerning social activities and night life in Slubice/Frankfurt 🙂

You can’t say for sure that these cities are like two different worlds because the level of their cooperation on different matters is high. It’s normal to see road signs or ads in two languages (sometimes even three) and shopping in different country isn’t odd. I’d say that Slubice and Frankfurt (Oder) support each other very much and try to do everything to take advantage of their geographical situation.

See you!

*In the future I’m going to take you to the places worth visiting or sightseeing (in my opinion) in both cities. That’ll be a good restaurant or a museum, just to let you have a look at the atmosphere etc. I won’t forget about the photos so don’t worry, I’ll show you everything that Slubice and Frankfurt can be proud of. And then, maybe some trips to other Polish or German cities? Who knows what the future holds.

Is there really a POLGERomance?

English is a very flexible language and that probably makes it so popular among foreigners. If you don’t know a specific word you can try to use your imagination and in some cases you’ll find a word you need or a very similar one which will make you understood to the native speakers. Certainly it doesn’t always work but (in my opinion) it’s worth trying.

I used this method when I was thinking about the name of my blog. I wanted it to show what I’m (and, more importantly, will be) focusing on. One of my favourite English words is “bromance”. It’s such a great mixture of two words “bro(ther)” and “romance”, I love the person who made it up!

Thinking about this word, I started trying to invent my own word, my personal and very first neologism. POLGERomance was definitely the best one that came to my mind. Because I really think that there is something like a romance between Poland and Germany and even if it’s not obvious at first glance, it surely exists.

Of course, people from the East of Poland and the West of Germany might not feel it that much but the closer to the border, the more evident it becomes. People are very attached to their equivalents from the other country, travel a lot, make fantastic friends who help them understand the other culture or live in one country and work in the other one.

Everything I write is based on my personal experience. I can’t be sure that life in other border towns is 100% the same but I’m certain it’s at least similar. If you’re from a city which is more or less in the middle of your country, you may be wondering how it’s like to be so close to two completely different cultures. I’ll do my best to explain it to you but it can’t be done in one post.

For now, let’s just concentrate on some basic facts about the only border towns I got to know quite good, Slubice in Poland and Frankfurt (Oder) in Germany. Until 1945 Slubice was a part of Frankfurt what indicates even stronger connection between these two cities than between other border towns. The German city is much bigger with a population of 60 000 people (comparing to around 20 000 citizens of Slubice). Nowadays, all you have to do to change the country is to cross the bridge. Easy, isn’t it? If you’re lucky you can meet police officers or border guards standing there but don’t hope for everyday encounters.

What’s very specific when it comes to these cities is that there is a high percentage of students and foreigners. Each city has its own university (Adam Mickiewicz University – Collegium Polonicum and European University Viadrina) which are in close cooperation with each other. It means that you can study in two different countries, cities, universities and languages if that’s your wish. What’s more, at the German university almost 40% of students come from a different country what makes Viadrina the most multinational university in Germany.

These are only the basics about the life on the border but we have to acknowledge them to begin our adventure in the upcoming posts.

Take care!