I have now been in beautiful Poland for one week and it just keeps getting better and better. Although many things are the same, many more are vastly different. Perhaps most easily noticeable are the differences in food and how and when it is consumed. Breakfast or ?niadanie, is served at the usual time, but is comprised of a variety of meats, cheeses, spreads, and of course, bread. Most of the time these are compiled into elaborate sandwiches. No sandwich is complete without butter. After breakfast comes, I kid you not, second breakfast or drugie ?niadanie, served around 11 am. The first time I heard this I felt like such a nerd when thoughts about the Shire popped into my head. Second breakfast is almost always tea with some kind of sausage. Lunch or obiad, which really means dinner, is served around 3 pm and typically has 3 courses: soup, salad, and a main dish which always contains meat followed by dessert. Sometimes pasta dishes are served in addition. The fourth and final meal of the day or kolacja is optional and is traditionally served around 9 pm. It is similar to breakfast in that it typically consists of a sandwich. Toast with jam is also popular. Meals are typically consumed without a beverage, but are always followed by tea. I constantly baffle my host parents by drinking water with each meal and throughout the day. Poles find the idea of drinking plain water very odd, instead opting for juice or tea. Beverages are almost never refrigerated.
In addition to food, symbols can have very different significance. While skyping with my real mom in the U.S., I was doodling stars on a pad of paper absentmindedly. When my host mom saw it later, she gasped and asked hesitantly if I was a pagan or a satanist - it was then that I found out that in Poland, a 5 pointed star is still widely regarded as a pentagram, an ancient symbol which in some cultures signifies the occult. I hastily assured her that I was indeed Catholic, like I had said previously.
Polish people, especially the baby boomer generation, absolutely hate the cold and will not dress in typical summer clothes unless it is well above 25 degrees C (about 77 degrees fahrenheit). I was not aware of this and was confused by my host parents' reactions when I bounded downstairs in a sundress and sandals on what I understood to be a beautiful day (20 degrees celsius or 68 degrees fahrenheit and sunny.) Since then, I have done my best to explain that we have very different ideas of warm and cold and that I do understand how to dress for the weather.
Each day continues to be an adventure and I look forward to sharing them with all of you.