Upon first arriving in Poland, my teammates and I made a very important cultural discovery...
Hot dogs here, for the most part, are served in pocket buns.
I know, I know.
Some of you are probably asking, "What's the big deal? It's just a hotdog."
Some of you are probably saying, "Hot dogs are disgusting." And I would agree with you to a point. American hotdogs can be disgusting.
But Polish hot dogs (not kielbasa) ... and in a pocket bun = a magical experience.
For one, Polish hot dogs are very different from American hot dogs. Food is less processed over here. So, the hot dogs are just different. I don't know how to explain it, and I don't know how they are different. BUT they are different.
Secondly, they serve their hotdogs in pocket buns (primarily at gas stations and movie theaters). But it's a thing here.
They put the ketchup and mustard into the pocket bun first, and then they put the hotdog in. And then bon appetite!
It's a beautiful thing.
However, some cultural blunders did occur during the purchase of one such hotdog.
For one, I learned that if someone doesn't understand the word that you're saying because it's in a different language (in this case the word was "mustard"), then saying the word slower ("musssss tarrrrrd") does not mean that they will understand what you're saying.
I didn't realize that I kept repeating the word mustard slowly until Savannah told me so. We had a laugh about it later.
Luckily, a man who understood English was kind enough to tell the clerk the word for "mustard" in Polish for me. I now know that "mustard" in Polish is "musztarda". There isn't a big difference in the word, but it's enough to confuse someone. So thank you kind Sir for translating! (I'm pretty sure he had a good laugh too.)
At least ketchup here is still pronounced like ketchup.
All in all, if you ever get the chance to come to Poland, do yourself a favor and try a hot dog in a pocket bun.
I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.
This past Sunday, I attended my first Polish church service at a local Christian church. It's a very small church in comparison to American churches with an average attendance of twenty. But while it's small and the service is in a language that I barely understand, Jesus shines in this small group of believers.
The worship is in Polish. The sermon is in Polish. The announcements are in Polish.
But language doesn't matter.
Jesus shines in the people.
That's what matters.
When Chelsea, Savannah, and I walked into this church for the first time, we were instantly greeted. People said hello and introduced themselves in Polish and gave us warm smiles and a lot of grace as we tried introducing ourselves in Polish. Despite the language barrier, we were warmly welcomed into this body of believers from a different part of the world.
Eventually the service started, and everyone began praising God in Polish. I could only make out a few words like dziękuję (thank you) and a few others. But I can't tell you how beautiful it was to be surrounded by people praising Jesus in another language.
Since the sermon was in Polish, I had some time to think. And I thought about something that I had never thought about before:
God speaks and understands every language.
Think about it.
God invented language. Genesis even says that He created the world by speaking it into being.
God transcends language. He transcends culture. His love and His truth are universal.
One day, every nation, tribe, people, and language will worship the Lamb, Jesus, like it says in Revelation.
One day, all believers will be praising God in heaven together and united. Language and culture will no longer be a barrier.
I was reminded of that promise this Sunday while worshipping with twenty or so believers. While Poland has very few true believers, people that believe in Jesus as the Messiah, these twenty people show God's faithfulness. That one day, EVERY nation, tribe, people, and language will worship the throne of God.
And that includes Poland.
In a previous post, I talked about some of the cultural norms of Poland. One cultural norm that is very different from in the US is the amount of silence.
Poles are very soft spoken and very quiet. When I say quiet, I mean Quiet with a capital Q.
I mean a library kind of quiet.
I can't speak for the private life of the Polish people, but when you sit on a bench on a street in the city that we're staying in, the street may have a lot of people, but it's just weirdly quiet.
In some ways it's very refreshing, but for a chatter box like me, it can also be unnerving.
My team and I are currently learning about Polish culture before we begin the work that we were called here to do. And one of the things that we are learning about is how to observe people and learn through observation. So one day, we spent an afternoon on the street in the city center just observing people. We were asked to observe things like:
It was really intriguing watching Poles and observing them. But the one thing that stood out the most was the silence.
People walking by themselves were silent.
Guys and girls walking hand in hand were silent.
Groups walking together were silent.
A father and his child were silent.
And if people were talking, it was very quiet.
In public, Poles are just a very quiet people.
Even walking into a store, (whether it was the H&M we visited, a chocolate store, or a book store) the shopkeepers or employees don't go up to consumers. They usually stay behind the counter, or they stock shelves. They might say hello, but they don't come up to shoppers and ask, "How can I help you? Do you need any help? What can I help you with? Can I get you anything?"
Our first time in a store, it was really weird not having someone come up to me and ask if I needed help. But after visiting another store, it was nice to just look around without having someone come up to me.
The thing too is that Poles are very polite and more than willing to help you if you have questions.
It's not bad. It's just different.
Anyways, stores are also very quiet here.
It takes a little getting used to, all of the silence. But what's nice is that it's perfectly acceptable to be sitting with friends and to just sit in silence. It's not awkward for them at all, which is really weird for someone like me with a silence-filler mentality.
At first all the silence felt stifling, but now it feels refreshing.
As I walked down the quiet street with my team, I realized that I was more thoughtful and discerning about what I said. In that, I had to think about my volume, if I wanted to share something that others might over-hear, and if I really needed to share anything at all. It reminded me a lot of James 1:19.
"Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger."
I think that silence or quietness is something that we can struggle with in the US. It often feels stifling. Think about how most people handle being by themselves. They listen to music or put on a movie because they can't handle silence. But sometimes silence or quietness is needed.
So yes, people are pretty quiet here. And I struggle with being quiet or even soft-spoken. So it's been a challenge. But I'm getting used to it.
I never thought that I would visit a concentration camp.
I never thought that I would visit a country that had one.
I never thought that I would be able to handle it emotionally.
Coming to Poland changed that.
Places of death.
of lost hope.
So many lives lost.
So many lives taken.
False hope given.
Torturous death dealt.
Arbeit Macht Frei.
Work Makes Free.
Work does not make one free.
Jesus makes one free.
This camp is filled with the memories of darkness. It is heavy. It is oppressive.
Walking through this camp, you feel the darkness and the heaviness.
It is stifling.
It is almost too much to bear.
Some say that many in charge did not come to justice.
God is the judge.
He alone deals judgment.
This place is an illusion.
The beauty veils the darkness.
Like this place.
Like this country.
Like this continent.
Beauty veils the darkness.
The spiritual oppression.
The dry bones.
Wolves in sheep's clothing.
Oppressed by the Enemy.
The Enemy thinks he's winning.
This place needs help.
This place needs Jesus.
Jesus + Everything = Nothing
Jesus + Nothing = Everything
No "and thens"
Jesus is light.
Jesus will shine in the darkness.
Jesus overcame death.
Jesus loves this place.
Jesus will be glorified.
"After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throng, and to the Lamb!" And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever!! Amen."'
Pray for this place.
Pray for these people.
Pray for Poland.
Pray for Europe.
Pray for America.
I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."
Essentially it means that whenever you are in a foreign culture, it is polite and advantageous to follow the customs of that society or culture.
For most of my life, I didn't have much context for this phrase. But being in Poland, this phrase makes so much sense now.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
When in Poland, do as the Polish do, apart from sin.
The same goes for American culture.
I've only been in Poland for a few days, but already I can see that there are some stark differences between American and Polish culture.
Here is a list of some differences:
There are so many more cultural differences. These cultural differences aren't bad. They're just different. But it's really cool and interesting seeing how Polish culture differs from American culture. There are times though when the differences can feel overwhelming.
This week, Chelsea, Savannah, and I experienced shopping in a Polish mall for the first time during a break from our orientation week. We only went into one store, H&M (which is BIG over here), but it was a great lesson in cultural assimilation and dealing with culture shock.
As a side note: in the city we're in, American visitors are not common and neither is speaking English in public. In fact, most people assume that we're Hungarian because it would make more sense to them for a Hungarian to visit this city than an American.
While we were in H&M, we were stared at because we look different from Poles, and we speak English. Since Poles are generally quiet, we had to be more soft spoken in the store and speak to each other in a lower volume.
We also had to figure out how to convert the cost of the items we were purchasing from the Polish złoty to the American dollar to decide if we wanted to buy them. European sizes are also very different from American sizes, so we had to figure out how to convert the sizes of jeans and pants into American sizes. Even figuring out what some of the store signs meant was a challenge.
And when we paid for our items, we didn't have exact change, which is something Poles value. But luckily, the woman ringing up our items extended grace to us. And she even smiled when we said thank you in Polish.
Our trip to H&M was only one instance of trying to assimilate into Polish culture as visitors. It was challenging and humbling. I definitely felt like a small and helpless child, but the Lord was with me through the whole process.
Learning to "do" as the Polish "do" is definitely a learning process, and it reminds me a lot of Jesus.
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
Jesus was the Son of God, yet he became a man. He experienced what it was like to be fully human and assimilated into Jewish culture. He was raised like a Jew, he thought like a Jew, and he acted like a Jew. He entered into the world of the Jews. He was God incarnate, yet he humbled himself by becoming a man.
Essentially that is what the Lord is calling Chelsea, Savannah, and I to do. We're called to image Christ and to enter into Polish culture, to learn from them, to think like them, to act like them, and be one of them this summer.
Obviously, we're still Americans and we'll always be Americans. Even if we were to live in a foreign culture for the rest of our lives, we would still retain aspects of our American culture. However, if we really want to learn from the Poles, if we really want to become a part of their lives while we're here, then when in Poland, we should do as the Poles do.
And sometimes that looks like making a sacrifice like eating second breakfast (hehe). Or even drinking Coca Cola without ice.
All in all, I'm really looking forward to seeing how the Lord uses our time in Poland to draw us to Himself, showing us our need for Him in this foreign land, as well as His grace when we make mistakes such as when we speak Polish. And hopefully by the end of this summer, we'll really learn how to "do" as the Poles "do," learn from them, love them, and share our love for Jesus with them.
Savannah, Chelsea, and I with a Polish knight/cavalry while in the city of Krakow.
Read more about why the Polish cavalry wore wings as part of their uniform here.
Poles love lody (ice cream). We love them and their lody!
Dzien Dobry (hello) from Poland! I am finally here with my team! For the next few weeks that I'm here, I will be posting about what the culture is like here in Poland and what the Lord is teaching me.
But for my first post in Poland, I wanted to share about my Hobbit moment, the moment I felt like Bilbo Baggins on the way to my first international journey.
There is a moment in the first Hobbit movie that I absolutely love.
It's the moment when Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, runs after the dwarves and Gandalf. As he runs through the Shire to catch up with them, someone asks him where he's going, and he responds with, "I'm going on adventure!"
That moment in the movie perfectly captured how I felt as I boarded the plane for my first international adventure/journey with the Lord. It was a rush of excitement and a little fear. I had never been on an international flight before. I had no idea what to expect from a nine hour flight. I also had no idea what to expect once we landed in Frankfurt, Germany to catch a connecting flight to Poland.
In the end, it was a great flight. In fact, it was a movie lover's dream with access to a lot of recently released films. Choosing which movies to watch and whether to watch them or sleep was my biggest dilemma.
But we landed safely, and I got to spend nine hours in the Frankfurt airport with my team before our flight to Poland.
We learned some German from a family that was headed to Scotland.
I mistakenly tried to have passport control scan my passport... the officers laughed at me. You can watch a video where I explain what happened. It was very comical. Just click on the photo to go to the link.
We also slept in the airport.
Savannah ended up playing with several Indian children while Chelsea and I napped. They had story time with her.
We spent twelve Euros on chocolate and water.
We also made up cat phrases.
In the end, we were pretty exhausted when we landed in Poland after over twenty four hours of travel. But we are here now and we're excited to see what the Lord has in store for us this summer! That's pretty much it for my Hobbit moment, but for now...
Do widzenia (d-oh veedzenia), Goodbye! :)
P.S. One of the free movies on the flight to Germany was the second Hobbit movie! I felt so loved by the Lord!
Shalom! I'm Madi, a laughter-loving, movie-going, spontaneous-dancing, follower of Christ. Join me as I seek glimpses of God's grace in the ordinary and everyday.
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